Archive for July 16th, 2010

Immigration Reform: How to Lie With Numbers

Some activist group called America’s Voice have produced a bunch of exciting-looking infographics suggesting that the “immigrant-targeting” approach to law enforcement Joe Arpaio – sheriff of Arizona’s Maricopa County – have resulted in a fifty-eight percent increase in crime in the county between 2002 and 2009. They would like you to believe that SB 1070 would lead to a “surge in violent crime” statewide – or perhaps even nationwide, if other states follow suit.

ZOMG!

First of all, this is patently disingenuous, in that – despite the promises and claims of politicians – law-enforcement policies have relatively little (if any) measurable effect on the number of crimes committed. There is no magic method of keeping people from beating, robbing, or killing one another, and to imply otherwise is a wee bit dishonest.

Second, as far as I can tell, Arpaio and Maricopa County have only aggressively enforced immigration laws since 2005, making the 2002-2009 figure irrelevant.

Third, the numbers quoted by “America’s Voice” don’t appear to be correct. Per the official state data they link to, Maricopa County had 224,905 “index crimes” in 2002, and 164,094 in 2009. That’s NOT a 58% increase in crime, obviously. (On other pages, they claim the increase is in “violent crime”… but that’s not true, either.)

The ONLY index crime that was higher in 2009 compared to 2002 was arson, which went from 924 to 1084 – a seventeen-percent increase.

For the past three years – 2007-2009 – almost all categories of “index crimes” have decreased year-to-year in Maricopa County:
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Published in: 'D' for 'Dumb', Geekiness, General | on July 16th, 2010 | No Comments »

On eBay Fraud

I like eBay, don’t get me wrong – it’s like the 24/7/365 garage sale of the bizarre, where you can simultaneously buy a car, aircraft parts, custom-tailored clothing, long-obsolete computer equipment, lumber, and loose gemstones… all at four in the morning, wearing only pajamas. Great fun, right?

Sure. But you have to be kind of naive to overlook the fact that it’s the dumping ground of choice for stolen property… and a chaotic sea of almost endless fraud. Caveat emptor doesn’t even come close to covering it.

I’ve got a friend who reckons that about twenty percent of all eBay listings at any given moment are technically fraudulent – that is, they (knowingly) misrepresent to greater or lesser extents the items for sale. I don’t know how accurate that is, but my guess, based on years of experience with eBay, is that it’s certainly in the right ballpark.

I know a lot of people who – wary of fraud on eBay, and rightly so – won’t buy anything above a certain dollar value there; be it $20, or $50, or $100, or $400. I’m sure there’s a lot of fraud at higher price points, especially with computer and electronic equipment. But I’m constantly surprised at how much fraud there is with sub-$5 items.
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Published in: Geekiness, General | on July 16th, 2010 | No Comments »