A Geek With Guns

Chronicling the depravities of the State.

Archive for the ‘Corruption Corner’ Category

Let the Rationing Begin

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According to socialists nationalizing healthcare brings a utopian world where everybody can get access to any medical care they need for free. While nationalized healthcare may look good on the surface but when you scratch off the thin venire there is an ugly world or rationing underneath:

The NHS has recently released treatment guidelines stating that patients who are obese or who smoke will be banned from receiving “non-urgent” surgeries unless they first lose weight or quit smoking. While the NHS claims the new guidelines will increase the level of personal responsibility taken by patients, the healthcare bureaucrats behind this rule also acknowledge that it will help to free up limited healthcare resources.

Contrary to popular belief, the goal of a government is to make money for the members of the government. It does this through expropriation. In order to maximize its profits, a government needs to convince the people it’s steal from that it’s a legitimate entity, which requires throwing them bones. “Free” healthcare is a pretty large bone. By setting aside some of its stolen money a government can convince a lot of people of its legitimacy, which allows it to keep stealing for longer. But “free” can quickly begin to cut into the government’s profits. Once that happens the government begins finding ways to curtail the “free” goods or services.

The National Health Service (NHS) is going for the low hanging fruit by cutting off smokers and obese individuals, which will likely enjoy popular support since both conditions are voluntarily brought on by the individual. However, the rationing won’t stop there. At some point the NHS will likely being to issue guidelines against treating people with certain “undesirable” traits such as genetic conditions that cause an individual to be more prone to develop a debilitating condition. To make matters worse, the British government won’t refund any tax dollars to those who are deemed ineligible for “free” healthcare, which will deprive those individuals of money they could spend on private healthcare options.

Written by Christopher Burg

November 9th, 2017 at 10:00 am

Your Vote Matters

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A lawsuit has been brought against Georgia election officials because of the sordid state of the election system they utilize. Apparently some people are a bit touchy about using an election system that is insecure and could enable tampering. Coincidentally, shortly after the lawsuit was file, the server in question was wiped:

A computer server crucial to a lawsuit against Georgia election officials was quietly wiped clean by its custodians just after the suit was filed, The Associated Press has learned.

The server’s data was destroyed July 7 by technicians at the Center for Elections Systems at Kennesaw State University, which runs the state’s election system. The data wipe was revealed in an email — sent last week from an assistant state attorney general to plaintiffs in the case — that was obtained by the AP. More emails obtained in a public records request confirmed the wipe.

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Wiping the server clean “forestalls any forensic investigation at all,” said Richard DeMillo, a Georgia Tech computer scientist who has closely followed the case. “People who have nothing to hide don’t behave this way.”

Weird.

And, of course, nobody is sure who ordered the server to be wiped and I won’t be surprised if the culprit is never discovered. Then again I’m a cynic who assumes the lack of security of Georgia’s election server was seen by officials as a feature, not a bug.

Written by Christopher Burg

October 27th, 2017 at 10:00 am

Spain’s Clever Plan to Thwart Catalan Secession

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Spain has decided that it has had just about enough of the Catalans wanting to split. In response Spain has decided to take away the regions autonomy:

Spain is to start suspending Catalonia’s autonomy from Saturday, as the region’s leader threatens to declare independence.

The government said ministers would meet to activate Article 155 of the constitution, allowing it to take over running of the region.

Catalonia’s leader said the region’s parliament would vote on independence if Spain continued “repression”.

I’m sure this will convince the Catalans to stop striving for secession. After all, people who are actively trying to secede tend to respond really well when more of their rights are taken away from them.

Written by Christopher Burg

October 20th, 2017 at 10:00 am

It’s a Feature, Not a Bug

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A judge recently discovered that there is no backup for the evidence database used by the New York Police Department (NYPD):

As part of an ongoing legal battle to get the New York City Police Department to track money police have grabbed in cash forfeitures, an attorney for the city told a Manhattan judge on October 17 that part of the reason the NYPD can’t comply with such requests is that the department’s evidence database has no backup. If the database servers that power NYPD’s Property and Evidence Tracking System (PETS)—designed and installed by Capgemini under a $25.5 million contract between 2009 and 2012—were to fail, all data on stored evidence would simply cease to exist.

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Last year, NYPD’s Assistant Deputy Commissioner Robert Messner told the City Council’s public safety committee that “attempts to perform the types of searches envisioned in the bill will lead to system crashes and significant delays during the intake and release process.” The claim was key to the department’s refusal to provide the data accounting for the approximately $6 million seized in cash and property every year. As of 2013, according to the nonprofit group Bronx Defenders, the NYPD was carrying a balance sheet of more than $68 million in cash seized.

Convenient. In fact this is convenient enough for me to suspect that the lack of a backup is a feature, not a bug. Government agencies always seem to find a way to design a system in such a way that it is difficult for it to comply with data requests that could reveal embarrassing information about it. I’m sure NYPD would rather not have everybody knowing just how much cash it has stolen from people over the years. If there is especially corrupt activity going on in NYPD, which wouldn’t surprise me, being able to trash the entire evidence database would also be handy if a thorough investigation into the agency was started.

Written by Christopher Burg

October 19th, 2017 at 10:30 am

What’s Mine is Mine. What’s Yours is Mine Too.

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The United States is a nation of laws and in a nation of laws everybody is equal under the law! If I had a dollar for every time somebody has said that to me, I’d own my own private sovereign island. But I don’t receive a dollar for every time somebody says that to me and everybody isn’t equal under the law here in the United States. If you’re an employee of the government, you have some special legal privileges. For example, if you work for the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), you can confiscate somebody’s property even if they haven’t been found guilty of a crime:

Oh Suk Kwon, who left South Korea for America in 1976, served as a fleet mechanic in the U.S. Army. After four years in the military, decades of working in an electrical plant and as an auto mechanic, after raising the kids and seeing them off to their adult lives, Kwon finally bought a gas station in Ellicott City in 2007. It meant everything to him.

Just a few years after he opened it, zealous government investigators fishing for criminals seized all of the station’s money on a hunch — and wiped the family out.

No, they weren’t money launderers or terrorists or mobsters or tax evaders. The government found no evidence of criminal activity.

But after the investigation ended, after the gas station went under, and Kwon’s wife died amid the stress of it all, after he moved from his neighborhood in shame and the Internal Revenue Service changed its policy so no other small business would get steamrolled this way — the agency won’t give Kwon his money back.

That’s $59,117.47 the IRS is holding on to.

I’ve mentioned the IRS’s use of laws against structuring, breaking up single deposits greater than $10,000 into multiple deposits under $10,000, to attack small businesses. Structuring laws were supposedly passed to thwart tax evaders but most individuals accused of structuring were doing it because a bank teller told them that if they didn’t break up their large deposits, they would have to fill out a bunch of additional paperwork. In other words, they were accused of a crime they didn’t even know existed.

But the IRS hasn’t given a shit about intent. The letter of the law has allowed the agency to confiscate money from small businesses (large businesses can afford a dedicated legal team and are therefore more of a hassle for the IRS to go after) so it has done exactly that. When it is later revealed that the accused individual was committing structuring because they were unaware of the law and were even advised to do so by their bank teller, the IRS points to the letter of the law to avoid having to give the back.

If everybody was equal under the law, the people could steal money from the IRS just as it steals money from them. But everybody isn’t equal under the law. The IRS and other government bodies can steal from you but you cannot steal from them.

Written by Christopher Burg

October 18th, 2017 at 10:30 am

Why Government Licensing is a Bad Idea

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Everybody seems to be a fan of government licensing until a politician they don’t like abuses it or threatens to abuse it. Donald Trump became upset with NBC because it reported that he said that he wanted a tenfold increase in nuclear weaponry. I wasn’t at the meeting so I can’t say one way or another whether he said that. However, in response to the report, Trump threatened to bring the weight of federal regulations down on NBC:

WASHINGTON — President Trump threatened on Wednesday to use the federal government’s power to license television airwaves to target NBC in response to a report by the network’s news division that he contemplated a dramatic increase in the nation’s nuclear arsenal.

In a story aired and posted online Wednesday morning, NBC reported that Mr. Trump said during a meeting in July that he wanted what amounted to a nearly tenfold increase in the nation’s nuclear weapons stockpile, stunning some members of his national security team. It was after this meeting that Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson reportedly said Mr. Trump was a “moron.”

Mr. Trump objected to the report in a series of Twitter messages over the course of the day and threatened to use the authority of the federal government to retaliate.

Libel and slander are usually dealt with in court. Normally if somebody believes that they have grounds to retaliate over what somebody else said or wrote, the courts would be the place where they would take their case. But most of us aren’t high ranking members of the State. Those that are have access to other forms of retaliation that doesn’t involve potential roadblocks like juries. One such form of retaliation is licensing. If you’re involved in a business that is required to be licensed by a governmental body, pissing off any petty bureaucrat could result in your licensed being revoked without so much as a bench trial.

I’ve seen a lot of self-declared leftists decry Trump’s threat. A few of them have even recognized that this form of licensing can allow the government to violate the First Amendment. Unfortunately, I expect this recognition to disappear once one of their guys is in power again. At that point self-declared rightists will again recognize the dangers of government licensing and the cycle will continue. Until enough people can recognize the dangers of government licensing for longer than their opponent is in power we’ll never see this practice dismissed.

Written by Christopher Burg

October 12th, 2017 at 10:30 am

You Have a Right to an Attorney… Except When You Don’t

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When somebody is arrested they’re given a Miranda warning, which, in addition to a few other things, informs the arrested individual that they have a right to an attorney. However, an individual’s right to an attorney, like every other right, is subject to change whenever it suits the State:

With its case falling apart, the prosecution did something drastic: It asked presiding Judge Andrew Hague to dismiss Rodriguez’s public defender on the grounds that it would not seek jail time. This meant Rodriguez was no longer entitled to a lawyer.

Since the vast majority of misdemeanor cases in Miami-Dade County do not end with a conviction (or subsequent jail time) the prosecutor’s decision not to seek jail time was a minor concession. The public defender objected, arguing that Florida law required Judge Hague to determine whether her removal would disadvantage Mr. Rodriguez. The judge ignored this request and discharged the lawyer.

On April 27, 2016, Rodriguez had his day in court, representing himself. Things did not go well. Rodriguez unwittingly waived his right to a jury trial after Judge Hague failed to explain what was happening. The prosecution’s case rested entirely on the testimony of the arresting officers. But because Rodriguez did not know how to follow up with the public defender’s requests for discovery and depositions, he was unprepared to challenge the officers’ testimony. To make matters worse, Judge Hague repeatedly and loudly berated Rodriguez for not knowing how to ask questions like a lawyer.

This case can be added to the stupidly long list of cases that demonstrate that the court system isn’t about justice.

Being a defendant or a prosecutor in a courtroom requires arcane knowledge. It’s not enough to argue your point, you have to argue it using the proper incantations. Failing to do so will bring the wrath of the man in the muumuu on you. He will declare your statement inadmissible. This is why representation is critical. You need a guy on your side who possesses the arcane knowledge of the courtroom. Without him, most people will be steamrolled by the other side.

Written by Christopher Burg

October 4th, 2017 at 10:30 am

Like You and Me, Only Better

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You know how I periodically rant about law enforcers being above the law? The Star Tribune is running a multiple part series on Minneapolis law enforcers who have been convicted of criminal offenses but still hold their job:

They are among hundreds of sworn officers in Minnesota who were convicted of criminal offenses in the past two decades yet kept their state law enforcement licenses, according to public records examined by the Star Tribune. Dozens of them are still on the job with a badge, a gun and the public’s trust that they will uphold the law.

The cases reveal a state licensing system that is failing repeatedly to hold officers accountable for reckless, sometimes violent, conduct.

In Minnesota, doctors and lawyers can lose their professional licenses for conduct that is unethical or unprofessional — even if they never break a law. Yet law enforcement officers can stay on the job for years even when a judge or jury finds them guilty of criminal behavior.

As the article notes, people in many fields have their licenses taken for far less than being found guilty of a criminal offense. Furthermore, those individuals don’t even hold the same authority as a law enforcer. A doctor generally isn’t in a position to shoot or kidnap you and they certainly aren’t in a position to shoot your family pets.

Why are law enforcers given so much leeway? To answer that question, we need to point out the primary purpose of law enforcers. The primary purpose of law enforcers is not to serve and protect. They’re revenue generators for the State first and foremost. In order to encourage law enforcers to generate as much revenue as possible they are given a lot of privileges. Departments are often given a share of the loot their officers bring in. When a law enforcer is accused of wrongdoing they are given a paid vacation instead of being left unpaid during the duration of the investigation. Officers who commit an act of violence are usually treated more kindly than you or I would be under the same circumstances. It should come as no surprise that law enforcers are also allowed to continue generating revenue for the State even if they have been found guilty of the very crimes they are supposed to uphold.

Written by Christopher Burg

October 3rd, 2017 at 10:00 am

Judges and Science

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With all the talk about the importance of science you would think debunked forensic science would receive more coverage. Forensic science can literally be a life or death matter in some states for some crimes. Unfortunately, the courts are setup in such a way that the validity of forensic techniques is not determined by researchers in the field but by men in magic muumuus:

Giannelli, who served on President Barack Obama’s now-disbanded National Commission on Forensic Science, looks at how six forensic fields for which there is little to no supporting scientific research (or in some cases, that scientific research has discredited) — bite-mark comparison, arson, microscopic hair analysis, firearms and toolmark analysis, fingerprint analysis, comparative bullet-lead analysis. These fields vary in scientific credibility and probative value from little to none (bite-mark comparison and bullet-lead analysis) to possibly valuable, though the extent of which is still unproven (fingerprint analysis).

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But it’s quite a bit worse than that. The fact is, judges continue to allow practitioners of these other fields to testify even after the scientific community has discredited them, and even after DNA testing has exonerated people who were convicted, because practitioners from those fields told jurors that the defendant and only the defendant could have committed the crime. In the few fields where the courts have finally admitted that they got it wrong, for the most part there has been little effort to systematically review all of the cases that those mistakes may have affected. It has largely been left to defense attorneys and nonprofit legal groups to find those defendants and file claims on their behalf.

Of course, none of this should be surprising. We don’t ask judges to perform regression analyses. We don’t ask them to design sewer systems, hit fastballs or compose symphonies. We know they aren’t qualified to do any of those things. Judges are trained to perform legal analysis. No one goes to law school to become a scientist.

Judges should not be expected or even allowed to decide what types of forensic science are valid and what types are invalid. They lack the training and the background to determine such things. However, I’d hazard a guess that few in the legal system have any interest in putting qualified people in charge since that would likely reduce conviction rates and therefore cut into the State’s profits.

Written by Christopher Burg

September 29th, 2017 at 10:30 am

When Being Arrested is Enough to Land You in Prison

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A man is currently sitting in prison because he was arrested. Mind you, he wasn’t found guilty of anything but being arrested violated a condition of his parole so he’s not rotting in a cage again:

In March 2016, a year after Smith’s arrest, prosecutors dismissed the other charge against Smith — the drug crime — after the man who claimed the package of pot pleaded guilty, court records show.

“Your case is dismissed,” a judge told Smith, according to the transcript. “That’s the end of that, so, for you.”

The problem: Smith’s arrest was a violation of his parole. Such violations can send him back to prison. It doesn’t matter that the charges were dropped. And the ultimate arbiter of whether Smith violated his parole isn’t the judge or prosecutor, but the Tennessee Board of Parole. And that group of seven people, all appointed by the governor, has decided to keep Smith in prison.

Just another day in the freest country on Earth.

The whole point of parole (ideally, not in practice though) is to release individuals who haven’t demonstrated themselves to be dangerous on the condition that they behave themselves. However, including the stipulation that a parolee avoid being arrested takes control away from them because, as we all know, a law enforcer can arrest you for any damned reason they please. As the old saying goes, you might avoid the charge but you won’t avoid the ride.

Written by Christopher Burg

September 22nd, 2017 at 11:00 am