A Geek With Guns

Chronicling the depravities of the State.

Archive for the ‘Corruption Corner’ Category

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

Justice in the United States

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When I discuss the justice system in the United States, I use the word justice with a heavy dose of sarcasm. Justice, at least in my book, implies that a wronged party has been compensated for the damages they suffered by the party that wronged them. Here in the United States justice tends to imply that a governmental body has been compensated for the damages suffered by another party:

T-Mobile USA has agreed to pay a $40 million fine after admitting that it failed to complete phone calls in rural areas and used “false ring tones” that created the appearance that the calls were going through and no one was picking up.

“To settle this matter, T-Mobile admits that it violated the Commission’s prohibition against the insertion of false ring tones and that it did not correct problems with delivery of calls to certain rural areas,” states an order issued by the Federal Communications Commission today.

T-Mobile will pay the $40 million fine into the US Treasury. FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn criticized the commission for not getting refunds for customers.

According to the Fascist Communications Club (FCC), T-Mobile wronged rural customers by inserting false ring tones on their lines and failing to correct issues that resulted in calls not being delivered. To punish T-Mobile the FCC fined it $40 million. However, that entire post is going to the FCC. The wrong parties, the rural individuals who had to deal with false ring tones and calls not being delivered, won’t receive a penny. T-Mobile isn’t even required to issue refunds.

This isn’t uncommon. Government regulators often accuse companies of harming individuals. The result of such accusations tends to be fines that are payable to the accusing agency while the parties that the accuser claimed were the actual wronged parties go without compensation. That doesn’t qualify as justice in my book. It’s just a scam for government busybodies to line their pockets while pretending to represent “the people.”

Written by Christopher Burg

April 18th, 2018 at 11:00 am

Backing the Thin Blue Line

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Backing the thin blue line, at least in Minnesota, is an expensive proposition:

Over the past 11 years, at least $60.8 million has been paid out statewide to people who have made misconduct allegations, according to data compiled by the Star Tribune.

From 2007 to 2017, jurisdictions in Minnesota have made at least 933 payouts to citizens for alleged misconduct. And they’re on the rise. The average has grown from about 50 payouts per year to around 100.

It’s just a few bad apples though!

If so much money is spent on police misconduct, why hasn’t the government made efforts to restrain its law enforcers? I think history can illustrate the core problem here. Let’s rewind to Ancient Rome. Ancient Rome, like pretty much every regime throughout history, declared that individuals within its territory owed it taxes. Unlike the modern United States though, Ancient Rome had no government tax collectors. Instead it contracted the job out to publicani. Tax collection contracts required collectors to raise a specified amount of money to send to Rome. What made these contracts lucrative was that the collectors were allowed to keep any additional money that they raise for themselves. If, for example, a contract required collectors to collect 1 million sestertii and the collectors collected 1.5 million sestertii, they were allowed to keep the extra half million. As you can imagine, this system was rife with corruption. Tax collectors squeeze every sestertius they could from the population. While the populations being bleed would often complain to Rome, Rome was reluctant to restrain its primary revenue generators so the abuses continued.

The same holds true for modern governments. Law enforcers are a major revenue generator for governments. While $60.8 million may sound like a lot of money even spread out over 10 years, it’s certainly a paltry sum compared to the amount of revenue generated by Minnesota law enforcers in the same span of time. Until the amount being paid out for misconduct allegations exceeds the amount being generated by law enforcers, that status quo will continue.

Written by Christopher Burg

April 17th, 2018 at 11:00 am

Reinforcing the Status Quo

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Cop apologists are quick to say that the time to resist a “bad apple” isn’t when they’re violating your so-called rights or curb stomping your face, but in the courtroom after the interaction is concluded. Were the courts just, such advice may be valid. However, the courts are not just and more often than not affirm that heinous acts performed by law enforcers are legal:

The Supreme Court just ruled that a police officer could not be sued for gunning down Amy Hughes. This has vast implications for law enforcement accountability. The details of the case are as damning as the decision. Hughes was not suspected of a crime. She was simply standing still, holding a kitchen knife at her side. The officer gave no warning that he was going to shoot her if she did not comply with his commands. Moments later, the officer shot her four times.

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As Sotomayor argued in dissent, the court’s decision means that such “palpably unreason­able conduct will go unpunished.” According to seven of the nine Justices, Hughes’ Fourth Amendment right to not be shot four times in this situation is less protected than the officer’s interest in escaping accountability for his brazen abuse of authority. According to Justice Sotomayor, “If this account of [the officer’s] conduct sounds unreasonable, that is because it was. And yet, the Court [] insulates that conduct from liability under the doctrine of qualified immunity.”

Worse yet, this decision wasn’t a surprise. And it certainly isn’t an aberration.

This is yet another in a long list of Supreme Court cases that affirm that officers have the privilege to shoot whomever they want for whatever reason they want. This is also why I call bullshit on the earlier mentioned argument commonly made by cop apologists.

If you wait to resist a “bad apple” until a later court case, you may be permanently disabled or even dead. To make matters worse, the court will be more likely side with the “bad apple” than you. Of course fighting with a “bad apple” carries its own risks. The “bad apple’s” buddies will likely join their comrade in beating your ass or summarily executing you. Furthermore, if you do survive, you will likely be tossed into a cage by a court. When you’re so-called rights are being violated by a law enforcer, you’re really stuck between a rock and a hard place and have to decide how to proceed based on the information at hand at the time. However, your list of options shouldn’t consist solely of rolling over and letting a man in a muumuu later affirm that what the officer did to you was perfectly legal.

Written by Christopher Burg

April 11th, 2018 at 10:30 am

The Power of Transmutation

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It turns out that black men have the power of transmutation:

It does not matter what it was to begin with. A wallet. A pipe. A cellphone. It makes no difference. The phenomenon remains the same every time.

In the morning, it is very clearly a cellphone. Anyone who looks at it can see it.

In the afternoon, it is still very clearly a cellphone. It sends texts. It makes calls. Its screen lights up.

But in the evening, the transformation occurs. A police officer sees the cellphone, sees that the hand holding it belongs to a black man, and suddenly, quite without warning, it becomes a gun.

When a law enforcer shoots a (usually black) man who is holding something that is obviously not a weapon, cop apologists will quickly claim that one doesn’t have time to determine whether the object in an individual’s hand is a cellphone or a gun in a potentially life or death situation. The first problem with that argument is that it doesn’t hold for nongovernmental agents. Were I to shoot a man holding a cellphone, I would have a difficult time arguing that I was justified in the use of deadly force. The second problem with that argument is that it assumes the situation was life or death before the officer decided that the cellphone had transmuted into a firearm. Most situations entered by law enforcers don’t start as life or death. They might start off rather tense but they usually only escalate to a life or death situation with time. Oftentimes, the situation seems to escalate because of the law enforcer’s actions, not the individual they’re interacting with.

If this kind of situation only happened rarely, it could easily be explained as law enforcers legitimately mistaking a harmless item a hand for a weapon. But it happens with not insignificant frequency, which indicates that there may be a trend of law enforcers claiming that they believe harmless items are weapons so they can act on their desire to use violence.

Written by Christopher Burg

April 10th, 2018 at 10:00 am