A Geek With Guns

Chronicling the depravities of the State.

Archive for the ‘Corruption Corner’ Category

It’s Good to Be the King

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It’s good to be the king. When you’re the king, you don’t have to put up with insults from your subjects:

When body-camera footage of an aggressive or abusive police officer goes viral, the response from law enforcement groups is often to caution that we shouldn’t judge the entire system based on actions of a few bad apples. That’s fair enough. But what does it say about the system when the cops gets away with their bad behavior? What if, despite video footage clearly showing that the cops are in the wrong, sheriffs and police chiefs cover for them, anyway? What if local prosecutors do, too? What if even mayors and city attorneys get into the act?

Adam Finley had such an interaction with a bad cop. He was roughed up, sworn at and handcuffed. When he tried to file a complaint, he was hit with criminal charges. The local police chief turned Finley’s wife against him, which (according to both Finley and her) eventually ended their marriage. The fact that video of the incident should have vindicated him didn’t seem to matter.

This is a really good story to read because it illustrates a lot of facts about modern law enforcement, the power of authority, and local government. Even though body camera footage clearly showed the officer was abusing his authority, Finley had his life ruined because the people tasked with overseeing the law enforcer covered for him. This shouldn’t be surprisingly since all of the people tasked with overseeing the law enforcer work for the same government as the law enforcer. But many people still make the mistake of believing that government oversight of law enforcement is an effective check against abuse when, in fact, government oversight of law enforcement is merely the government overseeing itself. Whenever you give an entity the power to oversee itself, it has a strong tendency to find that it did nothing wrong.

Body Cameras Are for the Benefit of Prosecutors, Not You

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For decades there has been an continuously increasing number of reports of law enforcers abusing their power. Unfortunately, many of these reports boiled down to he said, she said because of the lack of evidence. Moreover, when he said, she said reports involving law enforcers crop up, the courts that are tasked with overseeing them (but also happen to work for the same employer), tend to side with them. This tendency spurred a call by many for police body cameras. While there was some push back from the law enforcement community regarding body cameras, most departments seemed to roll over with comparatively little resistance, which should have been a red flag that they knew something that we didn’t.

Now that body cameras have been widely deployed for some time, we finally have enough evidence to establish a theory about why so many law enforcement departments rolled over so easily. They recognized that body cameras were valuable assets when prosecutors needed evidence and malfunctioning junk when law enforcers might be shown in a bad light:

Techdirt has the goods on a pretty crazy story out of Albuquerque. Five police officers were at the scene of a fatal shooting. All five were wearing body cameras. And miraculously, none of the five captured usable footage from the shooting on their body cameras.

A sergeant on the scene claimed to have turned his camera on, but the camera didn’t record. He’d later say his camera had never malfunctioned like that before. Ditto for another officer whose camera weirdly captured footage so pixelated that it was unusable — again, no one had ever seen that problem before. A third officer says his camera malfunctioned just before the shooting. Mysteriously, the camera has not had a problem since. A fourth said his camera mistakenly became unplugged. Analysis showed it had been turned on eight minutes before the shooting, then turned off just moments before the fatal encounter. A fifth officer’s camera captured 10 seconds of vague footage. It should have captured at least 30, given the camera’s buffer function. He had failed to turn it on.

Regular readers of The Watch may recall that this isn’t even the first time five police cameras all conveniently malfunctioned at a critical time.

Five officers experiencing body camera malfunctions during an incident involving a fatal shooting is pretty much unbelievable in of itself but if you read the rest of the story, you’ll learn that this sort of thing has happened on numerous occasions. Strangely enough I haven’t seen any reports where multiple body cameras have malfunctioned during incidents that reflect well on the officers involved. If the reports of malfunctioning body cameras are to be believed, then the malfunction must be caused by law enforcers performing questionable actions.

Realistically body cameras were never meant to be tools to hold law enforcers accountable. They were sold as such so community members would support their adoption but they were really meant to collect additional evidence to assist prosecutors. And this scam works because the body tasked with holding law enforcers accountable just happens to be the same body for which the law enforcers generate revenue. Did you really think that government bodies were interested in potentially hurting their revenue by pissing off their revenue generators?

Written by Christopher Burg

July 11th, 2018 at 11:00 am

Taking Children to Court

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The immigration laws in the United States are asinine but you can’t fully appreciate the absurdity of the entire immigration system until you look at the court system that deals with immigration issues:

As the White House faces court orders to reunite families separated at the border, immigrant children as young as 3 are being ordered into court for their own deportation proceedings, according to attorneys in Texas, California and Washington, D.C.

Requiring unaccompanied minors to go through deportation alone is not a new practice. But in the wake of the Trump administration’s controversial family separation policy, more young children — including toddlers — are being affected than in the past.

[…]

The children being detained under the new “zero tolerance” policy, though, are facing immigration proceedings without mom or dad by their side.

“The parent might be the only one who knows why they fled from the home country, and the child is in a disadvantageous position to defend themselves,” Toczylowski said.

This is a perfect example of bureaucracy run amuck. There is no logical reason to have a three-year-old child appear in a courtroom. They likely have no idea why they were dragged into this country. Mom and dad probably just told them one morning that they were moving. But the letter of the law says that that child has to appear in court so they are dutifully dragged into court by the government goons who are just following orders.

Bureaucracies may be the worst invention humanity ever developed. Through the system of bureaucracy personal accountability is disposed of entirely. Whenever you’re tasked with doing something stupid or illogical in a bureaucracy you just need to respond with, “Those are the rules. I’m just doing my job.” If you find yourself questioning the morality of what you’ve been tasked with doing in a bureaucracy, you can just tell yourself that the rules were written by really smart people who know better than you. The invention of bureaucracies enabled far too many people to act as mindless automatons.

Written by Christopher Burg

June 29th, 2018 at 11:00 am

Voting Other People’s Money to Yourself Must Be Nice

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Affordable housing is a hot topic here in the Twin Cities. Most people believe that there isn’t enough and that the solution is to bulldoze a bunch of existing infrastructure so it can be replaced with luxury high-density residential buildings. However, the politicians in Washington DC perceive a similar problem in their area but are coming up with a different solution:

Democratic members of Congress want taxpayers to subsidize their housing, signing onto legislation that would allow them to deduct living expenses for members of the House of Representatives.

Rep. Bennie Thompson (D., Miss.) introduced a bill that would ban members of Congress from sleeping in their offices and would change the tax code to allow House members to deduct their spending on housing in D.C. up to $3,000. The deduction would not apply to senators.

Thompson has also proposed turning a vacant building near Capitol Hill into apartments for House members at the expensive of taxpayers, which critics have dubbed a “Congressional Animal House.”

Being able to vote other people’s money to yourself must be nice. You can’t find a place to live in a price range you desire? Just vote to force the taxpayers to build you an apartment complex. While you’re at it, you might as well vote yourself a special tax deduction for housing that doens’t apply to anybody else. After all, you’re far more important than the little people from whom you’re stealing so it’s not only OK, it’s the moral to do!

Written by Christopher Burg

June 26th, 2018 at 10:00 am

Just Drug ‘Em

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The Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) can’t keep itself away from controversy. Fortunately, the latest controversy doesn’t involve another unarmed person being gunned down. Instead it involves people being drugged against their will, oftentimes without any crimes being committed:

Minneapolis police officers have repeatedly requested over the past three years that Hennepin County medical responders sedate people using the powerful tranquilizer ketamine, at times over the protests of those being drugged, and in some cases when no apparent crime was committed, a city report shows.

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The number of documented ketamine injections during Minneapolis police calls increased from three in 2012 to 62 last year, the report found, including four uses on the same person. On May 18, around the time the draft report was completed, Minneapolis police Cmdr. Todd Sauvageau issued a departmental order saying that officers “shall never suggest or demand EMS Personnel ‘sedated’ a subject. This is a decision that needs to be clearly made by EMS Personnel, not MPD Officers.”

This story involves two groups of bad actors. The first group is the usual suspects, MPD officers. The second group are the Emergency Medical Services (EMS) personnel who administer the drugs simply because an MPD officer asked them.

Not surprisingly, both MPD and the EMS people involved have issued statements that absolve themselves of responsibility. MPD at least tried to smooth things over by announced that it has put a new policy in place. While new department policies seldom change actual behavior, it’s a step better than the shut up slaves statement given by Hennepin EMS Medical Director Jeffrey Ho:

The draft report prompted sharply different reactions among local officials. A statement included in the report from Hennepin EMS Medical Director Jeffrey Ho and Minnesota Poison Control System Medical Director Jon Cole dismissed the findings of the report as a “reckless use of anecdotes and partial snapshots of interactions with police, and incomplete information and statistics to draw uninformed and incorrect conclusions.”

“This draft report will prevent the saving of lives by promoting the concept of allowing people to exhaust themselves to death,” Cole and Ho wrote.

Pro tip: if you’re going to claim that a report is based on anecdotal and partial information and are in a position to provide the information that supports your claim, you should release that information. Failing to do so makes it look like your statement is nothing more than an attempt to cover your ass.

The fact that MPD requested the sedation of a subject isn’t the real red flag of this story. There are circumstances where sedating somebody is the best option for everybody involved, including the suspect. However, the rapid increase in the number of sedations is a red flag. Going from three in 2012 to 62 in 2017 is a drastic increase in just five years. Statements from officials and policy changes aren’t going to answer the important question of why was there such a dramatic increase?

Written by Christopher Burg

June 15th, 2018 at 10:30 am

She Totally Had It Coming

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Remember the officer who protected and served the shit out of a 20-year-old woman on Memorial Day? He claimed that the reason he took the woman to the ground and began pummeling her was because she spat on him and kicked him in the nuts. While such an excuse doesn’t justify such behavior, he did claim that his body camera footage would exonerate him. That footage was released but I’m having a tough time seeing when she spat on him or kicked him in the nuts:

What I see are a few officers harassing a girl and her getting agitated and walking away. Then I see one of the officers pursue her and eventually rush her. When that happens she puts up her hands defensively, probably instinctively, and is quickly taken to the ground and pummeled. It’s possible that she kicked the officer in the nuts when he rushed her but that would have been self-defense, not assault, as the officer had no grounds at that point for rushing her.

Instead of exonerating him, the body camera footage proves that the officer lied about the situation. Now the question is, will any meaningful punishment befall him for lying and assaulting a woman? I’m guessing there won’t be.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 31st, 2018 at 10:00 am

Without Government, Who Would Traffic Children

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Remember this story about how the federal government “misplaced” almost 1,500 migrant children? I mentioned the possibility that some of these children may have ended up with human traffickers. It turns out that my predication was accurate:

The Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations opened its inquiry after law enforcement officials uncovered a human trafficking ring in Marion, Ohio, last year. At least six children were lured to the United States from Guatemala with the promise of a better life, then were made to work on egg farms. The children, as young as 14, had been in federal custody before being entrusted to the traffickers.

“It is intolerable that human trafficking — modern-day slavery — could occur in our own backyard,” said Senator Rob Portman, Republican of Ohio and the chairman of the subcommittee. “But what makes the Marion cases even more alarming is that a U.S. government agency was responsible for delivering some of the victims into the hands of their abusers.”

Not only did human trafficking happen in your backyard, Senator Portman, but it was enabled by the very government you help run.

But those six children weren’t the only ones who ended up in the hands of traffickers:

In addition to the Marion cases, the investigation found evidence that 13 other children had been trafficked after officials handed them over to adults who were supposed to care for them during their immigration proceedings. An additional 15 cases exhibited some signs of trafficking.

The report also said that it was unclear how many of the approximately 90,000 children the agency had placed in the past two years fell prey to traffickers, including sex traffickers, because it does not keep track of such cases.

Of course the agency doesn’t keep track of such cases. It looks bad if even one child in an agency’s care ends up in the hands of a human trafficker. If it kept track of such cases, the numbers would likely add up pretty quickly and the agency would look absolutely terrible.

Time and time again we’re told by statists that government is necessary to protect the vulnerable people in society. But who protects the vulnerable people from the government? Since the United States government has declared a monopoly on justice and hasn’t bestowed the power to oversee it to any other agency, there is no recourse in cases like this. Sure, some government officials are “investigating” the matter but history shows that investigations rarely result in any meaningful punishments or changes. At most the heads of a few agencies will be required to step down (after which, they’ll probably be hired by a lobbyist group and receive an even higher salary). After that the entire matter will be swept under the rug.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 29th, 2018 at 11:00 am

Lies, Damned Lies, and Government Claims

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The Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) has claimed that law enforcers are being thwarted by dastardly criminals 7,800 times because the contents of modern smartphones cannot be easily decrypted. It turns out that the FBI has significantly exaggerated the number of devices that it has been unable to unlock:

Last year FBI Director Christopher Wray said it had failed to access 7,800 mobile devices, but tonight a Washington Post report reveals that number is incorrect. According to the Post, the accurate number is between 1,000 and 2,000, with a recent internal estimate putting at about 1,200 devices, and in a statement, the FBI responded: “The FBI’s initial assessment is that programming errors resulted in significant over-counting of mobile devices reported.”

7,800 versus 1,200? That’s only an exaggeration of a factor of 6.5, no big deal.

Lying is nothing new for the FBI, which raises two interesting questions. Why does anybody take what the FBI says at face value and why aren’t members of the agency fired when they lie? Everything the agency says should be taken with a giant grain of salt. Moreover, when agents lie to the public (you know, the people they supposedly serve) and Congress, no punishment is ever issued, which encourages agents to tell more lies.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 24th, 2018 at 10:00 am

All Are Equal under the Law, But Some Are More Equal than Others

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One of the supposed foundations of the United States governmental system is that all are equal under the law. Anybody who has read about the country’s history knows that this claim is utter bullshit. Even today the various governmental bodies use their power to create laws that directly target subsets of individuals. The government of Seat Pleasant, Maryland is being sued because it decide that not everybody is equal under its tax laws:

The owners of a discount market, a Chinese takeout restaurant and a liquor store say officials violated the city’s charter and state and federal laws when they created an ordinance that sent the property taxes of certain businesses soaring.

Steven Franco, who owns the discount market, said the “special revitalization” tax is a part of an attempt by Seat Pleasant’s leaders to lower the value of the properties so the city can buy the buildings for its own use.

“You can’t attract business like this,” said Franco, whose city property taxes last year jumped from $5,991 to $55,019, dwarfing the $18,269 property tax he pays to Prince George’s County. “It’s backward economic thinking.”

This situation isn’t unique. Municipal governments like to wield their property tax powers to run out business that they find undesirable. Of course they never claim to be doing as much when they’re writing such taxes since that could cause them to appear unfair. But everybody knows that there is an almost infinite number of ways to discriminate without appearing to be overtly discriminating. If, for example, you want to run liquor stores out of town, you simply hit the businesses in their neighborhoods with “revitalization” taxes that you claim to be aimed at “restoring” some parts of the city. This works well because many liquor stores are in poorer parts of town that city officials claim to want revitalized.

It’ll be interesting to see how this lawsuit turns out. I wouldn’t be surprised if the court sides with it’s fellow government employees.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 4th, 2018 at 10:30 am

Government Granted Monopolies are Good for Business

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Few markets in the United States are as ripe with corruption as the medical market:

A drug that treats a variety of white blood cell cancers typically costs about $148,000 a year, and doctors can customize and quickly adjust doses by adjusting how many small-dose pills of it patients should take each day—generally up to four pills. At least, that was the case until now.

Last year, doctors presented results from a small pilot trial hinting that smaller doses could work just as well as the larger dose—dropping patients down from three pills a day to just one. Taking just one pill a day could dramatically reduce costs to around $50,000 a year. And it could lessen unpleasant side-effects, such as diarrhea, muscle and bone pain, and tiredness. But just as doctors were gearing up for more trials on the lower dosages, the makers of the drug revealed plans that torpedoed the doctors’ efforts: they were tripling the price of the drug and changing pill dosages.

Before some socialist reads this and thinks that they’re going to be oh so clever by posting, “See? This is what happens under capitalism,” let me explain how this kind of behavior is enabled by government.

In a market unrestrained by government interference, news stories like this would result in competitors making cheaper alternatives to the drug in question. However, in this case the manufacturer has a patent, a government sanctioned monopoly, on the chemical makeup of the drug, which makes it illegal for other manufacturers, at least in countries that recognize the patent, to make a product using that same chemical makeup. If a drug manufacturer wants to triple the price of their patented products, there’s nothing to stop them because no competition exists.

If you look at drugs that are no longer patented, there are usually several generic alternatives to the name brand drug. These generics have the same chemical makeup and therefore do the same thing but they usually cost a fraction of the cost of the name brand version. Once a generic is on the market the original manufacturer can either keep their prices absurdly high and lose a bunch of business or bring their prices down to a more reasonable level in an attempt to compete.

Unfortunately, so long as manufacturers can patent chemistry, they can set their prices as high as they want.

Written by Christopher Burg

April 20th, 2018 at 10:30 am