Archive for January 6th, 2010

Arizona to remove speed cameras?

That’s a headline you’d never see in New South Wales, but it’s the state of affairs in Arizona where the whole implementation seems to be so badly botched that the speed camera program may very well be axed.

PHOENIX (AP) — More than a year after Arizona became the first state in the country to deploy dozens of speed cameras on highways statewide, threats to the groundbreaking program abound.

Profits are far below expectations, a citizen effort to ban the cameras is gaining steam, the governor has said she does not like the program, and more and more drivers are ignoring the tickets they get in the mail after hearing from fellow speeders that there are often no consequences to doing so.

“I see all the cameras in Arizona completely coming down ” in 2010, said Shawn Dow, chairman of Arizona Citizens Against Photo Radar, which is trying to get a measure banning the cameras on the November ballot. “The citizens of Arizona took away the cash cow of Arizona by refusing to pay.”

The Arizona Department of Public Safety introduced the cameras in September 2008 and slowly added more until all 76 were up and running by January.

Supporters say the cameras slow down drivers and reduce accidents, but opponents argue that they are intrusive and are more about making money than safety.
[..]
The cameras led to more than 700,000 tickets to drivers going 11 miles per hour or more over the speed limit from September 2008 to September 2009, the most recent data available, according to the Department of Public Safety. The mandated fines and surcharges on all those tickets would total more than $127 million, but they had generated just $36.8 million through September, Lieutenant [Jeff] King [photo enforcement district commander for the Department of Public Safety] said.

Some of the people who got those tickets are contesting them in court and could end up having to pay the fine, but many of them have gone unpaid because drivers know they have a good shot at getting away with ignoring them. When people get tickets, they can pay without question, request a court date and fight the ticket, or simply ignore the ticket because law enforcement cannot prove they received it. The ticket becomes invalid if a violator who ignores it is not served in person within three months. It is nearly impossible to say how many people have ignored their tickets because courts do not track the figure.

Yeesh. Over here the authorities just assume that you receive the notice and suspend your licence if you don’t pay. It seems to me that this is the main cause of the apparent failure of the speed camera program. If the tickets were enforced, people would be paying them.

Somebody really stuffed the implementation of this program…I wonder who it could be?

While certain to increase, that $36.8 million in revenue through September will still fall far below the $120 million a year that former Gov. Janet Napolitano hoped to put in the state’s coffers when she ordered up the program in early 2007.

Oh…well that explains it. Janet Napolitano, the Obama administration’s National Security Nit-Wit (as Mark Levin so accurately put it yesterday)…the woman who said “the system worked” after a terrorist managed to get explosives on-board an aeroplane and use them on a flight in to Detroit on Christmas Day. The only reason many people didn’t die on that day is the heroic actions of other passengers.

Clearly Janet Napolitano’s definition of “work/worked/working” in the case of national security and for speed camera programs differs from the definition which can be found in English dictionaries.

Samuel

January 6th, 2010 at 07:32pm

112 Emergency’s grand finale: tonight 8:30 on SBS Two

Alright, I have a confession to make. I am totally addicted to 112 Emergency. It is possibly the most awful soap-opera-dressed-up-as-an-emergency-show ever to grace the small screen, but it is so bad that it is good…and the soap opera side of it has improved significantly of late.

The show is basically a drama series about a fictional “joint co-operative unit” of police, ambulance and fire brigade personnel in Düsseldorf, Germany. The show only lasted on series in Germany, but appears to have been a nightly show as it has about a hundred episodes. I get the distinct impression that the writers knew ahead of time that the show was being axed as they appear to have written a show which should compellingly tie up all of the loose ends in tonight’s final episode.

The main plot at the moment revolves around the corrupt station manager Nils Sellman who replaced, on a temporary basis, Martin Carstens when he fell in to a coma. Martin’s main enemy was head administrative woman Dr. Kristin Driesen who wanted to run a tight ship with a tight budget, constantly getting in the way of Martin’s plans.

When Sellman came on the scene, he managed to blackmail Dr. Driesen so that she wouldn’t get in the way of his enormous spending. Sellman is being bribed by medical equipment supplier Rhine Rescue to drastically overspend the station’s budget so that the government (aka “the ministry”) will deem the joint co-operative unit a failure and shut it down in favour of separate stations…a move which would apparently result in more sales for Rhine Rescue. In return, Sellman would get a place on the Rhine Rescue board.

Dr. Driesen, seeing through the plan, arranged to get Martin treated in some foreign hospital so that he would come back to work, however Sellman took credit for Martin’s transfer and won the support of the staff by also promoting them and offering them a lot of overtime pay.

Ingo Bender, chief firefighter, also saw through the plan and, after Dr. Driesen disappeared around the time of her miscarriage, became suspicious of all the stuff arriving from the “expensive” Rhine Rescue. He attempted to get station secretary Jenny Sauer (at least I think it’s Jenny) to assist him in uncovering the truth…but as her boyfriend is a police officer and was promoted by Sellman, this was difficult. She eventually came around.

In recent times it has become apparent that Sellman’s accomplice, his secretary Franka Tiefenthal, is being used by Sellman. He has pretended that she is his lover and that he will divorce his wife for her. In truth, he intends on dumping her as soon as the station is shut down. Jenny and Franka hate each other, which has made it hard for Jenny to get any information our of Franka.

In the last few days, Bender, Driesen and Jenny managed to plant a recorder in Sellman’s office, which recorded a conversation he had with the Rhine Rescue salesman, outlining how much he dislikes Franka and his plans for her. This conversation was played to Franka, and she then, after a lot of sobbing, agreed to bring Sellman down by giving Bender, Driesen and Jenny access to the incriminating documents.

Tonight is D-Day. The ministry will shut the co-operative unit down if nothing is done, so tonight our fabulous foursome must somehow get Sellman arrested before the ministry make their decision. There might also be a wedding between a paramedic and one of the other staff…who knows.

Tonight should be enthralling. I know that I won’t miss it for the world. 112 Emergency, SBS Two tonight at 8:30.

Update: I had to bolt earlier as I had already gone over my lunch break by a couple minutes when I published this. I do have a little bit to add.

The show’s emergency scenes are, to say the least, laughable and unrealistic. Nobody (with the exception of a would-be murderer the other night) has ever died on this show and the emergencies always seem to involve some bizarre hocus-pocus field medicine and end up with everyone standing around smiling at each other while the orchestra plays. In fact the show was scolded by medical professionals when it aired in Germany for its incredibly dangerous and wrong depiction of medical procedures…it looks like the writers thought it was science fiction and just made it all up.

I mentioned earlier that the show is based in a fictional joint co-operative unit…and when I said fictional, I meant fictional. It’s not the non-existent police station type of fictional…it’s the “there is no such thing as a joint co-operative unit” type of fictional. This certainly gives the writers more room to make stuff up (such as the blind woman answering every emergency telephone call in Düsseldorf and sending half the town’s emergency personnel to every incident.

Early in the series the acting was so bad that it was funny…now the emergency scenes are so much worse that they are funny.

The other night when the would-be murderer was shot by his victim and died, he was found in a park. The police and ambulance attended (one ambulance with two paramedics plus two police cars with one officer in each). When the paramedics declared the man dead and the police recognised the MO of the crime and wanted the paramedics to come with them to the victim in a nearby house, some other paramedic who looked more like a bush than a person and has never been seen before, suddenly appeared from nowhere, couched over the dead man and agreed to stay with him.

Last night a man dialled 112 simply be taking his phone out of his pocket. The mind reading phones must work well in Düsseldorf.

Station-manager-in-a-coma-induced-exile Martin Carstens has, despite appearing in nothing except the opening titles for about the last month, been at the top of the credits for every single episode.

But my favourite bit of all is something which hasn’t happened much lately as, with Martin out of the picture, Ingo Bender has spent more time at the station and less time out fighting fires (why a fireman fills the duties of a policeman is beyond me, but we won’t go there). It seems that the word for “out” (as an indication that you have finished your radio message) in 112 Emergency German is “ender”. Back when Bender was out fighting fires he would often yell something hysterically in to his radio and then exclaim “Bender ender!”, usually this would happen a few times in the space of a minute.

Alas, tonight, Bender’s show does come to an ender, and I am going to miss it. I think I will have to contact SBS about buying it on DVD. The show is clearly an attempt to steal the format of Third Watch (a show of which I am a huge fan), and is so hysterically funny in its awful attempt to do so…and so mindlessly addictive, that my DVD collection will not be complete without this show.

Samuel Ender!
Ender update

Samuel

January 6th, 2010 at 03:24pm

Hot year? Hot decade? Here’s the cold hard facts

Some of you may have noticed that Mick posted a comment yesterday asking me to “explain why we just had the 2nd warmest year on record and the warmest decade?” which, in many ways, I am thankful for. You see, the farce of hot year/decade alarmism is a story which I noted while I was away last month (along with about four or five others) which I never got around to writing about (again, like the others) and Mick reminded me of it, prompting me to more-or-less write the story as a reply to his comment.

It deserves a wider audience than being a mere comment though…so I’m posting a slightly updated version here to share with you all.

The simple answer to why the last decade has been measured as being the hottest on record is the after-effects of the el nino event in the late 1990s stayed with us for much of the decade. As it happens, much of the decade was above average, but was not rising. Temperatures overall have not risen since the el nino event, and have in fact dropped in recent years. The complex answer is much more convoluted than that, but can still be boiled down to that simple answer.

If you’re interested in a full summary, take a look at http://wattsupwiththat.com/2009/11/10/countdown-to-an-unprecedented-warm-decade-2-months-to-go/ which, back in November before the UN started making noises about hot years and decades, examined how el nino affected the temperature record and, if the el nino affect is taken out of the record, the temperatures were quite normal.

You may also be interested in some information about how the temperature records have been altered to “hide the decline” (to quote the leaked CRU emails). http://wattsupwiththat.com/2009/12/08/the-smoking-gun-at-darwin-zero/. This quite clearly shows that a number of methods used to “adjust” the temperature records are erroneously inflating records so that instead of showing their natural downward trend, they show an upward trend.

There are a couple follow-ups to that post as well. A search for “Darwin zero” on Watts Up With That will show them to you.

I’m also trying to find the graph which shows global temperatures but I don’t think the monthly update has been issued yet…and I’ve misplaced the end-of-November report. That said, the US data is interesting:

(click to enlarge)
source: http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/oa/climate/research/cag3/na.html — change the end year to 2009 and hit submit. I’ve also unticked the trendline generation from this graph as it appears to be drawing a straight line from one end of the graph to the other…something which is completely useless on any graph with variable up and down points. Direct point-to-point trendlines are only accurate on graphs which only go up, only go down, or do not move at all. They are generally misleading on variable graphs.

An honest analysis of that data would say that we’ve really just been recovering from an abnormally cool temperature in the 1970s, we were then hit with el nino warming, and we’re just cooling off again. In fact, that graph shows something even more interesting…the UN weather agency (admittedly using a different dataset) are very very wrong to claim that we just had one of hottest years ever. But I’m not surprised by it…the Australian Bureau of Meteorology claimed that 2008 was abnormally hot, a claim which is false. It’s funny how that press release never made it in to their online archives.

For a more in-depth analysis of that data (from a couple months ago) see http://www.worldclimatereport.com/index.php/2009/11/09/another-normal-year-for-us-temperatures/

Admittedly this is a huge answer to a simple question, and I apologise for not being briefer, however like most things in climate science, the answer is not as simple as the question.

Samuel

3 comments January 6th, 2010 at 12:27pm

Las Vegas court house shooting: the details

Given that I spent so much time this morning tracking the news coverage of the Las Vegas court house shooting, I thought it would be a good idea to bring you the actual story courtesy of Channel 13 Action News.

My sincere condolences to the family of Stanley Cooper, the court security officer who was killed in the gunfire.

I appreciate that, for the vast majority of readers of this blog, this story is not particularly relevant as most readers of this blog are Australian, however it does tie in with my previous story about the delay in getting this story out nationally and to the world. Regardless of whether this story is relevant to you, watch the video…what is extraordinary about this is just how good the local news coverage is in the United States, especially when compared to local news coverage over here.

Las Vegas as a city, has a slightly higher population that Canberra (an extra couple of hundred thousand people) and, when you include the surrounding areas, is probably in line with Perth. Despite this, the local news coverage over there is far more thorough and regular than what you will find anywhere over here. Many TV stations have multiple full-length local news bulletins each day, for example. Additionally, this level of coverage is mirrored in many places right across the US…and yet it seems that we can only get this level of detail over here when a dust storm invades Sydney.

I suppose that a lot of this can be put down to the fact that the US has a much greater concentration of inland settlement than Australia, and as such has much more room and incentive for a competitive news business. In many ways I consider this to be one of Australia’s great problems…we are so coast-bound that we inhibit our own growth and prosperity as a nation. If more people lived inland, our coastal cities wouldn’t be choked and over-stretched, the potential for inland industry would grow significantly and, best of all, would probably lead to a self-fulfilling increase in inland rainfall based on more water being used and evaporating, which in turn helps our farming industry to sustain population growth.

Anyway, back on topic. I tip my hat to the staff at Channel 13 Action News. Your coverage of this story was excellent.

Samuel

January 6th, 2010 at 12:25am


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