Archive for the ‘Corruption Corner’ Category
The collapse of Venezuela continues unimpeded. A couple days ago the Venezuelan government announced that it was arming loyalists, likely in expectation of massive civil unrest. Yesterday that same government decided to seize an automobile plant from General Motors:
GM (GM) described the takeover as an “illegal judicial seizure of its assets.”
The automaker said the seizure showed a “total disregard” of its legal rights. It said that authorities had removed assets including cars from company facilities.
“[GM] strongly rejects the arbitrary measures taken by the authorities and will vigorously take all legal actions, within and outside of Venezuela, to defend its rights,” it said in a statement.
Authorities in Venezuela, which is mired in a severe economic crisis, did not respond to requests for comment.
This isn’t surprisingly. Only a fool would believe that the Venezuelan regime can be propped up much longer. Since the Maduro and his cronies don’t come off as fools, they’re probably preparing for the collapse of their regime. A lot of historical rulers when put in the same position started grabbing anything of wealth they could so they could enrich themselves before fleeing the country. I wouldn’t be surprised if Maduro seizes more valuable production facilities so he can sell off the assets to enlarge his bank account so he has a comfortable nest egg for his eventual escape.
What’s worse than a government? A government that is made up exclusively of governments. A lot of criticisms have been made about the United Nations (UN) by both advocates of limited government (I realize the term is an oxymoron but bear with me) and anarchists. Statists have written off these criticisms as conspiracy theories but the crimes of the UN are becoming so grand in scale that they’re now impossible to sweep under the rug:
United Nations peacekeepers in Haiti sexually abused nine children over a period of three years, an Associated Press investigation has found. It’s the latest in a long series of sex abuse scandals to plague U.N. peacekeeping missions worldwide.
From 2004 to 2007, 134 peacekeepers from Sri Lanka operated a child sex ring, luring children on the poverty-stricken island with candy and bits of cash, according to the AP. After a U.N. report incriminated them, most were sent home, but none faced jail time.
One victim told U.N. investigators, “I did not even have breasts,” according to the AP. Over a period of three years, beginning when she was 12 years old, she was forced to have sex with over 50 peacekeepers, the AP said.
And people wonder why I fucking hate the UN.
Mind you, this type of behavior isn’t unusual for invading military forces. In fact, the UN is supposed to act as a check against national militaries performing crimes like this. But when you’re an unaccountable organization you tend to attract the most wretched people and eventually, no matter how good the people who started the organization were (in the case of the UN, not that good), your organization turns into a criminal gang.
Since the establishment of the Westphalian sovereignty, national governments have existed basically unchallenged by everything except other national government. The UN is made up primarily of some of the most powerful government, meaning it is also almost entirely unchallenged. So long as this state continues the crimes of national governments, at least the ones strong enough not to be preyed on by other national governments, and the UN will go almost entirely unchallenged. Fortunately, the Westphalian sovereignty is starting to wane. Nongovernmental organizations, private military companies, freedom fighters, terrorist organizations, multinational companies, and other groups are gaining power while national governments are losing it. There may come a time once again where national governments can be held accountable by other organizations and shit like this UN child sex rings can finally be dealt with swiftly and harshly.
One form of propaganda I’m getting tired of is character assassination. Whenever somebody runs afoul with police officers the tough on crime folks and the media begin performing a thorough background check. Their goal is to find something, anything, that can be used to justify the actions of the police officers.
David Dao, who was roughed up by airport police on behest of United Airlines, is now in the media’s crosshairs and, not surprisingly, they found some dirt on him:
Dao was trying to regain his medical license when he worked at the practice from August 2015 to August 2016, Nadeau said. Dao had surrendered his medical license in February 2005 after being convicted of drug-related offenses, according to documents filed with the Kentucky Board of Medical Licensure last June. Broadcast and print coverage of Dao’s arrest, conviction and sentencing made his name familiar to some Kentuckians.
What?! Mr. Dao was convicted of a drug-related offense 12 years ago? Well that changes everything! He totally had that beating on United coming!
The absurdity of this practice is difficult to overstate. What does something that happened 12 years ago have to do with the beating Mr. Dao received last weekend? Nothing. But it gives the tough on crime people and propagandists something to latch onto to justify their view of officer infallibility.
And this practice becomes more absurd every year. At one point stories might be run if a victim of police brutality had a history of violence. Then stories might be run if a victim had a history of drug use. Now stories are run when somebody was convicted of a crime over a decade ago. At this rate it’s only a matter of time until the media starts playing Degrees of Separation from Hitler.
“Up next, on CNN, we present a chilling story. Our researchers have discovered that the unarmed man who was gunned down by police after he was handcuffed and placed in the back of a squad car only had 37 degrees of separation from Adolf Hitler!” Mark my words, we’re going to start seeing stories like this (although, perhaps, not exactly this) run when people have been brutalized by police officers.
Here we go again, another story of corruption at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF)! This time the agency that likes to sell guns to Mexican drug cartels was caught using an off the books bank account for some rather luxurious expenditures:
WASHINGTON — Agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives used a secret, off-the-books bank account to rent a $21,000 suite at a Nascar race, take a trip to Las Vegas and donate money to the school of one of the agent’s children, according to records and interviews.
Agents also used the account to finance undercover operations around the country, despite laws prohibiting government officials from using private money to supplement their budgets, according to current and former government officials and others familiar with the account.
Before you make the mistake of assuming that those expenses were related to an investigation:
Other expenses, such as renting a 16-person suite at Bristol Motor Speedway in Tennessee, had no obvious connection to law enforcement operations. A.T.F. agents, along with some community members, used the suite in 2012 for the Irwin Tools Night Race, a Nascar event, according to two people who worked closely with the bureau at the time. A receipt obtained by The Times shows the suite cost $21,000.
Agents also donated money from the account, according to documents and interviews, including thousands of dollars to the high school and volleyball team of the daughter of an A.T.F. agent in Bristol. The agent, Thomas Lesnak, is now retired and did not respond to messages seeking comment. He has previously dismissed suggestions that anything was done improperly.
It’s good to be the king’s men and family of the king’s men!
Although every government agency is corrupt, the ATF seems to excel at corruption. There doesn’t seem to be a year that goes by where the agency isn’t caught in some kind of major scandal. The story notes that this latest incident shows the lack of ATF oversight but this is really a minor offense when it comes to the shenanigans of the agency. And if arming Mexican drug cartels didn’t result in more agency oversight this certainly won’t.
What this story really illustrates is how ineffective it is to give an organization a monopoly on holding itself accountable. The government maintains such a monopoly. The consequences of this have become obvious. When an agency is caught doing something corrupt no punishment, or at least no noteworthy punishment, is dispensed. Usually a hearing happens before Congress. During the hearing some members of Congress pretend that they’re shocked to find corruption within the agency in question. The hearing will be followed by a few days of government officials appearing on news channels berating the corrupt agency. Then, after the week’s news cycle is over, the entire matter vanishes from the headlines and people’s memories.
The road to Hell is paved with good intentions. Oftentimes people will discuss the intent of a law versus the letter of a law. This discussion usually happens when it comes to light that a law that was passed with good intentions ends up being abused by enforcers following the letter.
In an effort to thwart tax evaders (which qualifies as good intentions to statists although I’m not sure why), a law was passed that required individuals and businesses to report all bank deposits greater than $10,000. It’s a little known law, which means many small business have been running afoul with it. Since the intention of the law was to catch tax evaders you would think that these accidental violations would result in little more than a notice being sent to the offending businesses alerting them of the law’s existence so they wouldn’t violate it in the future. But the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), not surprisingly, has been following the letter of the law, not the intent:
While structuring is technically a crime, it’s something of a secondary one. The reporting requirements were enacted to detect serious criminal activity, such as drug dealing and terrorism. They “were not put in place just so that the Government could enforce the reporting requirements,” as the IG’s report puts it.
But according to the report, that’s exactly what happened at the IRS in recent years. The IRS pursued hundreds of cases from 2012 to 2015 on suspicion of structuring, but with no indications of connections to any criminal activity. Simply depositing cash in sums of less than $10,000 was all that it took to arouse agents’ suspicions, leading to the eventual seizure and forfeiture of millions of dollars in cash from people not otherwise suspected of criminal activity.
The IG took a random sample of 278 IRS forfeiture actions in cases where structuring was the primary basis for seizure. The report found that in 91 percent of those cases, the individuals and business had obtained their money legally.
Structuring is the crime of breaking up bank deposits over $10,000 into multiple deposits under $10,000. That’s right, breaking up larger deposits is a crime in the United States because of the “good intentions” of a few politicians.
But the IRS doesn’t care what the intention of the law was, it only cares about the letter of the law. Instead of using the Bank Secrecy Act to pursue individuals and organizations trying to conceal illegal activities by breaking up larger bank deposits, the IRS has been pursuing individuals and organizations who have been performing perfectly legal activities. By doing this the IRS has managed to seize millions of dollars from innocent people.
Is there any reason why the IRS is despised by basically everybody? Is there any reason why libertarians flip out whenever a seemingly innocent law is passed?
I doubt the IRS will suffer any punishment for this since it was technically doing its job by enforcing the law. But this story should serve as a warning to people who often let the intention of a law cloud their judgement. When it comes to enforcement the intention of a law doesn’t matter, only the letter.
A few police departments have finally started firing officers who have committed especially egregious acts. Is this a trend towards holding police accountable? Not so much. As I’ve mentioned before, the system has many redundant defenses against change. While a few police departments are finally stepping up to the plate, at least when it comes to the especially bad cases, the police unions are ensuring those few departments remain unsuccessful:
A St. Paul police officer fired for kicking an innocent bystander three times while a K-9 dragged him in circles should be allowed back on the force, an arbitrator has ruled.
The decision, dated April 3 and disclosed Wednesday, came on the same day that the St. Paul City Council voted to approve a record $2 million settlement with the man who was attacked, 53-year-old Frank A. Baker.
Police unions getting bad cops reinstated isn’t new. In fact, police unions are one of the biggest roadblocks between police officers and accountability. No matter how heinous an officer’s actions are, a police union will step in to protect them from meaningful discipline.
Is there any question about why I’m so cynical?
Ignorance of the law isn’t an excuse so everybody must be free to acquire copies of the law to ensure they’re in compliance with it, right? Not in Georgia. In Georgia there are two sets of published laws. The first set is the freely accessible one. The other set is an annotated version copyrighted by the State of Georgia. Carl Malamud dropped over $1,000 to acquire the annotated version so he could publish it for the world to see. This made the State of Georgia very unhappy so it took the matter to court. Not surprisingly, the State’s court sided with the State:
Open-records activist Carl Malamud bought a hard copy, and it cost him $1,207.02 after shipping and taxes. A copy on CD was $1,259.41. The “good” news for Georgia residents is that they’ll only have to pay $385.94 to buy a printed set from LexisNexis.
Malamud thinks reading the law shouldn’t cost anything. So a few years back, he scanned a copy of the state of Georgia’s official laws, known as the Official Georgia Code Annotated, or OCGA. Malamud made USB drives with two copies on them, one scanned copy and another encoded in XML format. On May 30, 2013, Malamud sent the USB drives to the Georgia speaker of the House, David Ralson, and the state’s legislative counsel, as well as other prominent Georgia lawyers and policymakers.
In Georgia’s view, there were two separate works at issue: the actual text of the laws, which were available to the public, and the annotations, which were copyrighted and owned by the state. The annotated code includes things like judicial decisions related to particular sections.
Now, the case has concluded with US District Judge Richard Story having published an opinion (PDF) that sides with the state of Georgia. The judge disagreed with Malamud’s argument that the OCGA can’t be copyrighted and also said Malamud’s copying of the laws is not fair use. “The Copyright Act itself specifically lists ‘annotations’ in the works entitled to copyright protection,” writes Story. “Defendant admits that annotations in an unofficial code would be copyrightable.”
Ignorance of the law isn’t an excuse but knowing the law is only possible if you’re willing to pay a sizable fee for a copy. If that isn’t a catch-22 targeting poor individuals I don’t know what is.
What makes this decision even more egregious is that the copyrighted material was funded by tax victims. The laws themselves are created by politicians who are paid with tax dollars and the annotations include things like judicial decisions, which are created in courts funded with tax dollars. Georgians are paying the State of Georgia to create these documents and then have to pay again if they want to actually read them. It’s a good example of double-dipping.
Mr. Malamud is appealing and it’ll be interesting to see where his case goes.
What’s the difference between a criminal gang and the State? Scope:
The Drug Enforcement Administration seized more than $4 billion in cash from people suspected of drug activity over the last decade, but $3.2 billion of those seizures were never connected to any criminal charges.
A report by the Justice Department Inspector General released Wednesday found that the DEA’s gargantuan amount of cash seizures often didn’t relate to any ongoing criminal investigations, and 82 percent of seizures it reviewed ended up being settled administratively—that is, without any judicial review—raising civil liberties concerns.
In total, the Inspector General reports the DEA seized $4.15 billion in cash since 2007, accounting for 80 percent of all Justice Department cash seizures. Those figures do not include other property, such as cars and electronics, which are favorite targets for seizure by law enforcement.
All of this is possible through civil asset forfeiture, which allows law enforcement to seize property if they suspect it’s connected to criminal activity, without having to file criminal charges against the owner. While law enforcement groups say civil asset forfeiture is a vital tool to disrupt drug traffickers and organized crime, the Inspector General’s findings echo the concerns of many civil liberties groups, which say asset forfeiture creates perverse incentives for law enforcement to seize property.
Civil forfeiture is a euphemism for armed robbery. With the exception of a few states, assets stolen via civil forfeiture don’t have to be tied to a crime in order to remain in the State’s possession. This is because civil forfeiture is based on the concept of being guilty until proven innocent. Unless you can prove that the stolen property wasn’t tied to a drug crime, an impossible feat, the State will keep it.
In eight years the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) stole $4.15 billion in cash and that figure doesn’t even include all of the other property stolen by the agency. All without having to find anybody guilty of a crime.
When it comes to police are there just a few bad apples or is the entire system rotten to the core? According to people who make excuses for any officer misdeed there are just a few bad apples. But if you look at how the system deals with those bad apples you quickly realize that their claim is false:
Almost five years ago, Darren Rainey, a mentally ill black man serving a two-year prison sentence for drug possession, was locked in a shower by prison guards at Dade Correctional Institution in Florida after they said he defecated on himself in his cell. The water was allegedly turned up to a scalding 180 degrees and he was left in there for hours. He entered the shower at around 7:30 p.m. and was pronounced dead two hours later.
We could debate and wonder about all of this, but one horrific detail is not debatable. When Darren Rainey was removed from that shower, his skin was falling off of his body. This is not normal — particularly in light of the fact that “confinement in a shower” was ruled as one of the primary causes of his death.
That Darren Rainey died on their watch, in a shower that they put him in for hours on end, with skin falling off of his body, and they didn’t even lose their jobs or law enforcement certification, and that many of these staff members are still working in law enforcement is incomprehensible. What worse could happen on a staff member’s watch in Florida than this?
Here we have a few bad apples who locked a mentally ill man in a shower, with water far hotter than the legally allowed hottest temperature of 120 degrees, until he died. At the absolute minimum that’s a negligence-related death that would probably get most people charged with manslaughter. Yet those few bad apples were protected by another bad apple, Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernández Rundle, who didn’t prosecute the officers after seeing the evidence. Those bad apples were also protected by the bad apples who are charged with personnel matters who should have fired the officers on the spot.
Perhaps there were only a few bad apples at first but it’s obvious that the entire system is rotten at this point.
The Los Angeles Country Sheriff’s Department decided that its current silver colored metal uniform ornaments are no longer in vogue. To correct this horrible fact the department is going to spend $300,000 of taxpayer money on replacing all of its current silver colored ornaments with brass colored ornaments:
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department is getting down to brass tactics.
Sheriff’s officials are spending $300,000 on items they say would make deputies look more professional in their jobs and could help make them safer.
But the taxpayer dollars won’t go toward tools such as higher-quality ballistic vests, backup guns or body cameras, all of which are optional items that deputies have to pay for on their own.
Instead, Sheriff Jim McDonnell is spending the money on a minor cosmetic makeover of deputies’ uniforms: changing the color of their belt buckles and other metal pieces of gear from silver to gold. That way, the metallic bits — all made of brass — will match the gold-hued tie clips, lapel pins and six-pointed star badges that deputies already wear, McDonnell said.
This waste of money wouldn’t be so bad if the department was a business with funds acquired through voluntary trade. But the department is funded entirely through expropriating wealth from the people is claims to protect. I doubt the color of the metal ornaments will even be noticed by 99.9 percent of the department’s
victims clientele. After all, who really gives a shit what color the metal ornaments on an officer’s uniform are when they’re either responding to your 911 call or thumping your skull because your skin color is a bit too dark for their liking? Since nobody will likely notice nor care about this change it’s an even bigger waste of taxpayer money than most expenditures.
But I’m sure the officers will feel better knowing that the metal bits on their belt finally match their tie clips.