A Geek With Guns

Chronicling the depravities of the State.

Archive for the ‘Corruption Corner’ Category

Nothing to See Here

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The judge presiding over the Mohamed Noor case has announced that no audio or video recordings of the trial will be allowed:

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A Minnesota judge says there will be no audio or video recording allowed during the trial of a former Minneapolis officer who shot and killed an Australian woman.

Mohamed Noor is charged with murder in the July 2017 death of Justine Ruszczyk Damond, who was shot after she called police to report a possible sexual assault behind her home.

If I were in the judge’s position, I’d do the same thing. Noor really put the Minneapolis justice system in a bind. Most law enforcers have the decency of fabricating some kind of plausible (if you use your imagination) justification for their unnecessary use of force. Noor just flat out executed a woman. Letting him off is going to require jury instructions that no judge would look good giving and certainly no judge would want to be recorded giving. At least that’s the only explanation of which I can conceive that explains the recording prohibition.

Written by Christopher Burg

February 26th, 2019 at 10:00 am

If We Screw Up, It’s You Who Pays

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What happens if you’re arrested by a law enforcer under suspicion of possessing drugs, forcefully subjected to a anal cavity search (after an x-ray turned up nothing), and then found innocent of all wrongdoing? You receive a $4,595.12 bill for having the inside of your asshole inspected:

They collaborated to sedate a suspect and thread an 8-inch flexible tube into his rectum in a search for illegal drugs. The suspect, who police said had taunted them that he’d hidden drugs there, refused consent for the procedure.

At least two doctors resisted the police request. An X-ray already had indicated no drugs. They saw no medical need to perform an invasive procedure on someone against his will.

[…]

When they were done, the hospital lawyer overruled its doctors. The lawyer told his doctors that a search warrant required the doctors to use “any means” to retrieve the drugs, records show.

So St. Joe’s medical staff knocked out the suspect and performed the sigmoidoscopy, in search of evidence of a misdemeanor or low-level felony charge, records show.

[…]

So, was it worth the risk? The X-ray was right. The scope found no drugs.

And when they were done, St. Joe’s sent the suspect a bill for $4,595.12.

Will you look at that? The radar shows a lawsuit coming in fast!

In a just world the law enforcers would be punished for trying to force doctors to perform a medical procedure that wasn’t necessary. The judge would be punished for issuing a warrant without any probably cause (a gut feeling and divine inspiration don’t qualify as probably cause). And the hospital’s lawyer would be punished for ordering the doctors to perform an invasive procedure even though an x-ray had already proven that the suspect had no drugs hiding inside of his ass (a hospital’s lawyer is supposed to keep the hospital out of legal trouble not embroil it in situations that will obviously result in a lawsuit).

However, this isn’t a just world. I suspect that the hospital will be punished but I’m all but certain that the law enforcers and the judge will get away scot-free.

Written by Christopher Burg

December 21st, 2018 at 11:00 am

A Plea Bargain Is Not Proven Guilt

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Last week major media sources published stories claiming that a woman was guilty of being a spy for Russia. However, if you spent a few seconds reading the articles, you quickly learned that she wasn’t proven guilty by a jury. She signed a plea bargain:

A Russian woman accused in the US of acting as an agent for the Kremlin to infiltrate political groups has pleaded guilty in a deal with prosecutors.

The key part in that sentence is, “in a deal with prosecutors.”

Imagine you’re brought before a prosecutor. The first thing they show you is the long list of charges that they’re bringing against you. If you’re found guilty of even some of the charges, you’re looking at decades behind bars. However, the prosecutor is willing to cut you a deal. If you sign an admission of guilt, you will only face five years in prison. You know that you’re innocent by do you believe that you’ll be able to convince a jury of that? Even after the judge gives the jury instructions that will stack the odds against you? Even if the prosecutor has an unfair advantage because their transgressions against court procedure often go unpunished? Even though many of the laws you’re accused of violating are so vaguely written that it’s nearly impossible for anybody to argue their innocence against them? Wouldn’t it be better to take the five years in prison rather than the very likely decades you’ll face if this case goes to a rigged court?

These are the questions one must ask themselves when a prosecutor puts a deal in front of them. In my opinion it’s one of the most corrupt aspects of the American judicial system. At a minimum I wish news agencies would reflect this ridiculousness by clearly stating in both the headline and the article that the suspect wasn’t found guilty but merely signed a plea bargain.

None of this is to say that this woman isn’t guilty as Hell. She very well may be a Russian spy. But I don’t believe signing a piece of paper under duress is the same as proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Written by Christopher Burg

December 18th, 2018 at 10:30 am

The FCC’s Wealth Redistribution Plan

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The Fascist Communications Commission (FCC) has revealed its latest plan for wealth redistribution. The agency wants to tax successful online businesses so it can give that money to Internet Service Providers (ISP):

A Federal Communications Commission advisory committee has proposed a new tax on Netflix, Google, Facebook, and many other businesses that require Internet access to operate.

If adopted by states, the recommended tax would apply to subscription-based retail services that require Internet access, such as Netflix, and to advertising-supported services that use the Internet, such as Google and Facebook. The tax would also apply to any small- or medium-sized business that charges subscription fees for online services or uses online advertising. The tax would also apply to any provider of broadband access, such as cable or wireless operators.

The collected money would go into state rural broadband deployment funds that would help bring faster Internet access to sparsely populated areas. Similar universal service fees are already assessed on landline phone service and mobile phone service nationwide. Those phone fees contribute to federal programs such as the FCC’s Connect America Fund, which pays AT&T and other carriers to deploy broadband in rural areas.

As somebody who grew up in a rural area and still has family in a rural area I can say with some certainty that ISPs aren’t using the money they’re getting from these taxes to provide rural communities with broadband Internet. Fortunately, there are methods for rural communities to get broadband Internet and, best of all, it doesn’t require any wealth redistribution.

The claim that the taxes will be used for rural broadband initiatives is just another euphemism to avoid calling the tax what it is, plundering the pockets of plebs to line the pockets of ISPs with good government connections.

Written by Christopher Burg

December 14th, 2018 at 11:00 am

The Walls Have Ears

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It’s tough to avoid the gaze of Big Brother. As this article sent to me by Steven demonstrates, Big Brother even watches where he’s not supposed to:

KANSAS CITY, Kan.– The federal public defender’s office has asked for the release of 67 inmates from a Kansas federal prison and plans to seek freedom for more than 150 others because authorities secretly recorded conversations between prisoners and their attorneys that are supposed to be private.

Most of the federal inmates are being held on drug or firearms-related cases.

The practice first came to light in a prison contraband case during which criminal defense lawyers discovered the privately run Leavenworth Detention Center was routinely recording meetings and phone conversations between attorneys and clients, which are confidential under the Sixth Amendment to the Constitution. A court-appointed expert was brought in to independently investigate whether prosecutors had improperly listened to the recordings.

Once again we have a demonstration of the fact that the Constitution is nothing more than a piece of paper. It is incapable of enforcing the rules that it displays and thus powerless to stop individuals from violating those rules. Here is where constitutionalists tend to point out that while the rules were violated, now that the violation is known it is being corrected. To that I point out that the violation isn’t guaranteed to be corrected and, more importantly, even if the violation is corrected, those who are in prison because of those violations can never get the years of their life back (and will likely receive little in the way of compensation).

This is not to say that parts of the Constitution, such as the Bill of Rights, aren’t nice concepts but to point out that they are simply concepts. Far too often people, especially libertarians and conservatives, fall into the trap of attributing almost godlike powers to it. So while the Constitution guarantees certain protections against state surveillance, those guarantees aren’t actual guarantees and you must operate as if you are under state surveillance even when you’re in situations where you’re supposed to be legally protected from it.

Every Vote Matters

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Another national election has concluded. That can only mean that Florida is steeping in electoral shenanigans again:

The elections board in Florida’s Miami-Dade County has collected a set of mysterious ballots in the Opa-locka mail facility after Democrats raised concern about the uncounted votes.

The uncounted ballots have emerged as one of many battles over the fiercely contested Florida elections that moved this weekend into a recount phase.

Suzy Trutie, a spokesperson for the county’s supervisor of elections, told CNN there were 266 ballots in the shipment and that the votes will not be counted. Florida law requires all ballots sent by mail to arrive at the election facility by 7 p.m. on Election Day, and these ballots did not meet that standard, Trutie said.

There are two possible explanations here. The first is that these votes were somehow lost in the mail. The second is that these votes were conjugated out of thin air when it a race was so close that ballots had to be recounted. Neither explanation supposed the advocate of democracy’s claim that every vote matters.

If the first explanation is true, then the votes of the 266 individuals who voted on those ballots don’t matter because they weren’t received by the legal deadline. If the second explanation is true and the people arguing that those ballots should be counted get their way, the power of the legitimate votes that were cast will be watered down.

It turns out that creating a pseudonymous voting system that is also secure is a task that has so far eluded the people of the United States. So long as that continues to be the case, your vote really can’t be said to matter.

Written by Christopher Burg

November 14th, 2018 at 10:30 am

Jim Crow Never Went Away

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If you ever need an illustration of just how stupid the average voter is, find a voter who is complaining about racist government policies and ask them how they plan to change it. 99 percent (a conservative estimate, it’s probably higher) of the time the voter will tell you that they’re planning to beg the government to change its policies. If you point out how stupid that idea is, they’ll point to the elimination of slavery and the striking down of Jim Crow laws as proof that their strategy works, which should prove to you that the person you’re conversing with is extremely gullible (on the upside you probably just found a buyer for that bridge that you’re trying to offload).

While the government has said that it eliminated slavery and Jim Crow laws, it really just changed some legal definitions. If you’re being held against your will and forced to provide labor, you’re not legally considered a slave, you’re legally considered a prison laborer. Likewise, there are no longer laws that overtly treat people differently based on the color of their skin, instead there are algorithms that do the same thing but provide plausible deniability:

But what’s taking the place of cash bail may prove even worse in the long run. In California, a presumption of detention will effectively replace eligibility for immediate release when the new law takes effect in October 2019. And increasingly, computer algorithms are helping to determine who should be caged and who should be set “free.” Freedom — even when it’s granted, it turns out — isn’t really free.

Under new policies in California, New Jersey, New York and beyond, “risk assessment” algorithms recommend to judges whether a person who’s been arrested should be released. These advanced mathematical models — or “weapons of math destruction” as data scientist Cathy O’Neil calls them — appear colorblind on the surface but they are based on factors that are not only highly correlated with race and class, but are also significantly influenced by pervasive bias in the criminal justice system.

As O’Neil explains, “It’s tempting to believe that computers will be neutral and objective, but algorithms are nothing more than opinions embedded in mathematics.”

For the record, when people were celebrating California’s decision to eliminate cash bail, I predicted that it would result in this outcome (although I didn’t predict the use of algorithms, I did predict that since the decision to let somebody out on bail would be the sole decision of some bureaucrats, nothing would actually change).

Plausible deniability is the staple of modern politics. A politician who wants to pass a racist policy just needs to make sure that race is never mentioned in their law and when the policy results in the politician’s desired outcome, they can claim that they had no way to predict such a result. Additional plausible deniability can be added by handing decisions over to algorithms. Most people think of algorithms as mysterious wizardry performed by the high priests of science and are therefore impartial and infallible (because, you know, scientists are always impartial and never wrong).

However, algorithms do exactly what they’re created to do. If you want a machine learning algorithm to perform in a certain way, you either write it to do exactly what you want or you provide it learning data that will skew it towards the results you want. When the masses wise up and realize that the algorithm is racially biases, you can just claim that the complexity of the algorithm prevented anybody from accurately predicting what it would do. Their ignorance will make your explanation believable to them and you can claim that you’ve now made improvements that should (i.e. won’t) lead to more impartial results.

Written by Christopher Burg

November 13th, 2018 at 11:00 am

Spending Money to Make Money

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You know the old saying, you have to spend money to make money? It’s especially true in politics:

Weapons makers are moving last-minute money to the Democratic congressman in line to chair the defense industry’s key House committee, as he is under assault from a fellow Democrat, who is attacking his pro-war record just ahead of a rare intra-party general election.

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Sensing an opportunity to influence the race and the potential future committee chair, major weapons contractors have given the lawmaker last-minute campaign support. Lobbyists and executives associated with General Dynamics, one of the largest weapons makers in the world, have given over $10,000 in recent weeks, in addition to the $9,500 from the company over the last quarter.

In just the last week of October, Teresa Carlson, an Amazon industry executive overseeing the company’s bid for a $10 billion military IT contract, gave $1,000; Bechtel, which managed Iraq reconstruction contracts, gave $1,000; Rolls-Royce, which manufactures parts for a variety of military jets, including a model of the controversial F-35, gave $3,500; and Phebe Novakovic, the chief executive of General Dynamics, gave $2,700.

If you’re going to the polls tomorrow, remember that your vote is meaningless. Your options will consist of a list of curated politicians who might disagree on minor details but all agree that the government must continue to oppress you. Moreover, consider your politician’s position. If they have to weigh the value of the single filled in oval on a piece of paper that you offer versus thousands or millions of dollars in campaign contributions, who do you think they’ll choose to appease?

Written by Christopher Burg

November 6th, 2018 at 10:30 am

Making Security Illegal

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A recent court ruling has potentially made secure devices and effective security services illegal:

The Canadian executive of a 10-year-old company that marketed its purportedly secure BlackBerry services to thousands of criminals (who paid at least $4,000 per year, per device) has pleaded guilty to a racketeering conspiracy charge, federal prosecutors in San Diego said Tuesday.

[…]

As the Department of Justice said in a Tuesday statement:

To keep the communications out of the reach of law enforcement, Ramos and others maintained Phantom Secure servers in Panama and Hong Kong, used virtual proxy servers to disguise the physical location of its servers, and remotely deleted or “wiped” devices seized by law enforcement. Ramos and his co-conspirators required a personal reference from an existing client to obtain a Phantom Secure device. And Ramos used digital currencies, including Bitcoin, to facilitate financial transactions for Phantom Secure to protect users’ anonymity and launder proceeds from Phantom Secure. Ramos admitted that at least 450 kilograms of cocaine were distributed using Phantom Secure devices.

[…]

At the time of his arrest, the Department of Justice said that the Ramos case was the “first time the U.S. government has targeted a company and its leaders for assisting a criminal organization by providing them with technology to ‘go dark,’ or evade law enforcement’s detection of their crimes.”

From what I could ascertain, the reason Vincent Ramos was arrested, charged, and declared guilty was because he offered a device and service that allowed his customers to actually remain anonymous. This is what most Virtual Private Network (VPN) providers, I2P, Tor, and other anonymity services offer so will one of them be the next Department of Justice target?

I’m going to take this opportunity to go on a related tangent. Ramos was charged because his devices and service were being used by other people to facilitate illegal activities such as selling cocaine. Ramos himself wasn’t, as far as I can tell, performing those illegal activities. Since the illegal actions in this case weren’t performed by Ramos, why was he charged with anything? Because the illegal activities being performed with his devices and service were related to the drug war and the drug war has served as the United States government’s excuse to go after anybody it doesn’t like.

Anything that can be tacitly tied to the drug war can be punished. If an officer doesn’t like you, they can claim that the cash you have on hand is evidence that you are participating in drug crimes and use civil forfeiture to seize your stuff. If your roommate is dealing drugs without your knowledge, prosecutors can claim that you actually do have knowledge and charge you with a plethora of crimes. If you offer a product that anonymizes users, prosecutors can charge you for aiding drug dealers. All of the supposed civil rights you enjoy suddenly go out the window when the word drugs is involved.

Written by Christopher Burg

October 4th, 2018 at 11:00 am

Incentivizing Law Enforcement

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There are many ways to encourage and discourage desired behavior. The two most common methods are rewards and punishments. You reward behavior you want and punish behavior you don’t want. These two methods are used in every walk of life, even law enforcement. Many municipalities have been encouraging their law enforcers to pursue fines. Unfortunately, an individual can only do so much so when law enforcers are encouraged to pursue fines, they necessarily must put less time into other activities such as solving crimes:

Alongside the Black Lives Matter movement in the past several years, civil rights advocates have begun pointing out that the way municipalities collect fees and fines often disproportionately affects low-income communities of color, especially when those communities aren’t well represented in local governments. In 2015, as a follow-up to investigations of police bias in Ferguson, Mo., the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department released the Ferguson report, which painstakingly documents how the police department in that city relied overwhelmingly on fees and fines collected from people in ways that “both reflect and exacerbate existing racial bias.”

But here’s another result of fee and fine enforcement that has never before been measured: Police departments that collect more in fees and fines are less effective at solving crimes.

In addition to fines and permits fees, fines are a major source of revenue for cities. Moreover, city governments make nothing when burglaries, rapes, and murders are solved. When these facts are considered, it’s not surprise that municipalities encourage their law enforcers to pursue fines instead of solving actual crimes.

One of the most common criticisms of privatizing police is that doing so would result in the police pursuing the interests of those who hired them. What most critics of police privatization don’t recognize is that socialized police also pursue the interests of those who hire them, which is why today’s law enforcers spend most of their time enforcing laws that profit city governments. If police were privatized, you could actually hire them to solve burglaries, rapes, and murders. So long as police remain socialized, the chances of that happening are effectively zero.

Written by Christopher Burg

September 25th, 2018 at 11:00 am