A Geek With Guns

Chronicling the depravities of the State.

Archive for the ‘Minnesota’ tag

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

Finding New Justifications for Harassment

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The Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) has announced that it will stop arresting people for possession of small amounts of cannabis. At least that’s what you’d think if you were going by a lot of people’s comments. What MPD actually announced is far more limited in scope:

In a series of rushed announcements Thursday, authorities said that police would no longer conduct sting operations targeting low-level marijuana sales, and charges against 47 people arrested in the first five months of 2018 would be dismissed.

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But in recent years, Minneapolis police have stepped up their presence on Hennepin Avenue in response to concerns about safety downtown. Using undercover officers posing as buyers, they arrested 47 people for selling marijuana on Hennepin between 5th and 6th streets.

MPD will stop having officers posing as buyers in order to find suckers to arrest. However, that doesn’t mean that the department will stop arresting people for possession of small amounts of cannabis.

Then there is the issue of demographics. When 46 of the 47 people you’ve arrested are black, red flags are raised. This is especially true when the arrests were the result of a sting operation that involved law enforcers initiating contact. Such demographics make it look as though the law enforcers in question were almost exclusively approaching black individuals and mostly ignoring people with lighter colored skin. But now that MPD has been caught apparently red handed, the racial profiling will cease, right? Don’t get your hopes up.

Anybody who studies the history of laws and how they’re enforced in the United States quickly learns that when law enforcers are caught targeting specific individuals, law that are claimed to prohibit such targeting are quickly passed but nothing changes. This is because law enforcers simply find another way to target those individuals using a different justification. A very good case can be made for the drug war actually being a continuation of Jim Crow laws. While the laws prohibiting drugs never specifically mention race, they tend to be enforced more rigorously against black individuals. But since the laws never mention race, when questions about the demographics of those arrested are asked, law enforcers have plausible deniability. They can claim that they were enforcing the law consistently but that blacks simply break those laws more frequently.

If MPD wants to racially profile, it can find a justification to do so that gives its officers deniability.

Written by Christopher Burg

June 8th, 2018 at 10:00 am

It Doesn’t Matter What the Majority Says

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Every political argument seems to eventually boils down to polls. It makes sense since polls indicate what the majority wants and the majority should be listened to, right? If, for example, the majority of Minnesotans support stricter gun laws, then the politicians should respect their desires, right?

A majority of Minnesotans support stricter gun laws in the United States, including wide backing for a ban on military-style rifles and for raising the age for gun purchases from 18 to 21, a new Star Tribune Minnesota Poll has found.

This is usually the point where I would point out the way polls are manipulated to get desired results. For example, if you poll urban individuals about gun control, you’re likely to get a different result than if you poll rural individuals. Likewise, if I’m a publication with a predominantly Democratic readership, the results of my poll about gun control laws are going to differ from the poll results achieved by a publication with a predominantly Republican readership.

Instead of focusing on why polls are irrelevant due to ease of manipulation, I’m going to focus on an even lower level assumption made by people who cite polls: that a majority is right. Take it away, Mises!

Stating that the majority supports a law is irrelevant because there is no inherent wisdom in the majority. For example, if a majority favored a law that required the first born son of every family to be sacrificed to Beelzebub, would you agree that a law requiring that be passed? I’m guessing most people wouldn’t because it’s an awful idea. I’m also guessing that some proponent of democracy will dismiss my example and by extent my argument as being ridiculous, which it is because I chosen it specifically to illustrate my point in the most hyperbolic manner possible. To appease those individuals though, I will present a more realistic example.

Let’s say a few individuals own businesses in a poor neighborhood. The majority of people living in the town decide that they want to revitalize that neighborhood. To accomplish this they demand that the city government pass a new property tax to raise funds for revitalization efforts. Interestingly enough, the demanded property tax is high enough that it would force the poor businesses in that neighborhood to close shop. Should the will of the majority be followed even though it’s obvious that their idea of revitalizing the neighborhood is to use the city’s tax code to run poor individuals out of town?

The premise of democracy, that the will of a majority should become the policy of the State, is flawed at its very foundation because it necessarily assumes that what a majority wants is correct. This is why I dismiss arguments based on the will of a majority outright. Saying that a majority supports something is no different than saying that you personally support something. Saying that you or a majority support something isn’t an argument in support of that thing, it’s merely an expression of personal preference. And, unfortunately for you, I don’t give a shit about your personal preference.

Two Seasons

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Here in Minnesota there are two seasons: the season where the roads are unusable due to snow and the season where the roads are unusable due to MnDOT:

This week’s ramp closures and detours are just a foretaste of what’s coming in mid-June. That’s when the Minnesota Department of Transportation will shut down the main ramp leading from northbound Interstate 35W into downtown Minneapolis — for four months.

MnDOT, city officials and many downtown employers are bracing for epic traffic jams and urging commuters to take transit or work at home — and even dangling huge parking discounts for carpools.

The I-94/I-35W interchange is being rebuilt as part of a $239 million makeover of I-35W between downtown and 43rd Street. But that is just one of four work zones that I-35W drivers will encounter this summer. Overlapping projects with lane closures of their own will be underway simultaneously in Burnsville and Roseville and just past the I-35W/35E split in Forest Lake.

The last sentence probably illustrates the biggest issue with Minnesota road construction. It’s not just that parts of a major artery are shutdown but that multiple parts of multiple major arteries are shutdown simultaneously. MnDOT representatives are always quick to tell commuters to use alternate routes but oftentimes no alternate routes exist because MnDOT has shut them down as well.

As a libertarian I’m required by law to answer the question, without government who would build the roads? I will answer that question with another question. Without government who will shutdown the roads? Here in Minnesota it seems like we’re forced to pay a lot of taxes to build roads that we’re never able to use.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 1st, 2018 at 10:00 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

Rough Weekend

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This was a rough weekend. It opened with a blizzard, struck in the middle with the death of Art Bell, and finished with the death of R. Lee Ermey. Hopefully the universe got all of its terrible shit out of its system for a while.

Written by Christopher Burg

April 16th, 2018 at 10:30 am

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The Arbitrary Nature of Laws

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There are always vultures swooping down after a mass shooting to pick at the corpses. Here in Minnesota the vultures, after gorging themselves on the dead in Florida, have introduced one doozy of a gun control bill.

The bill contains it all. Mandatory registration of firearms, a ban on aesthetically offensive firearms, a ban on purchasing ammunition online, banning people who owe child support from owning firearms (which is rather random), etc. The bill has obviously been sitting on the back burner waiting for a tragedy to exploit.

I think the bill is an excellent example of the arbitrary nature of laws in general. If this laws is passed, I would be declared a criminal. Not because I hurt anybody but because some politicians decided to change the rules on a whim.

That’s ultimately the biggest problem with government. It’s impossible to do any long term planning when the rules can changed arbitrarily. Consider the seemingly simple prospect of buying a home. A home is generally a long term investment. However, a single change of the rules one evening could force you to flee the state less you be arrested for violating the new rules. Suddenly your long term investment becomes a liability that needs to be offloaded so you can regain some capital to acquire a place to live in another state. Moreover, unless you live near the border of a friendlier state, you will likely have to find a new job and social circle.

Written by Christopher Burg

February 27th, 2018 at 11:00 am

A Tolls Is a Toll, And a Roll Is a Roll

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Whenever I bring up the subject of privatizing roads, some statist screams, “But then all the roads would be toll roads!” While many private roads would likely be toll roads, at least I would only have to pay for them once:

Roy presented the Minnesota Tolling Study Report to the House Transportation Committee Monday, and fielded questions on how the money would be collected, what the impact on lower income people would be and how it would affect prices of consumer products hauled by trucks.

He told lawmakers this was a “high level study” based on a lot of assumptions, as opposed to a formal feasibility study, which would be more detailed, take longer to do and cost much more. Roy compared the new study to the general range of quotes you get from an auto mechanic after you describe the noise it’s making.

The study estimates that Interstate 94 corridor would generate the most revenue, roughly $5 billion across the next three decades. But it wouldn’t all be pure profit that could be spent on other highway projects.

First you make the tax paying suckers build and maintain the roads then you charge them again for access. That sounds an awful lot like a stadium come to think of it.

While Minnesotans have so far managed to avoid paying tolls on roads, the politicians keep testing the waters because, as the study shows, there is a lot of wealth that can be expropriated by charging the tax payers tolls as well. With billions of dollar on the table, I believe that it’s only a matter of time until Minnesota drops toll booths on its major metropolitan highways. Once that happens the only difference between a private and public toll road will be the fact that you don’t have to also pay taxes for the private one.

Written by Christopher Burg

February 27th, 2018 at 10:00 am

The Minneapolis Police Department’s Useless Body Cameras

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The City of Minneapolis spent $4 million to equip its law enforcers with body cameras. You might think that Minneapolis invested that money to hold its officers accountable but you would be wrong:

The Minneapolis Police Department is not tracking whether all officers are routinely activating body cameras and has not fully staffed the office tasked with reviewing body camera footage, despite the City Council’s directing it to do so last fall.

[…]

Deputy Chief Henry Halvorson told the council last week that such a comprehensive report would be too labor-intensive. Someone has to check several databases and watch the video to decide whether each officer followed department policy, he said. Instead, Halvorson said, the police will analyze 2 percent of officers’ body camera usage for each quarterly audit starting in the second quarter.

Mr. Halvorson’s excuse is pathetic. There is no need to manually watch all of the footage collected by an officer’s body camera to know whether or not they used it. The camera should create a record every time it is turned on or off. If the records shows that an officer didn’t turn their body camera on or turned it off during their shift, inquiries should be made. The technical solution is dead simple and requires almost no additional manual labor.

But body cameras aren’t about holding law enforcers accountable. If that were the case, Bob Kroll and his police union buddies would stopped their adoption. What body cameras are about is collecting evidence that a law enforcer can use against you in court. Since nobody is reprimanding officers for failing to keep their body camera on, they can turn it off while they’re executing an unarmed black man then turn it back on when they’re arresting somebody for possession of pot.

Minneapolis’ body camera program demonstrates once again that any solution offered by a government body will only benefit that body.

Written by Christopher Burg

February 22nd, 2018 at 10:00 am

Take That, Chronic Pain Sufferers!

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Opioids are fantastic painkillers but have the unfortunately side effect of also being highly addictive. This has may opioids an attractive crisis of the moment. Since politicians never let a crisis go to waste, a lot of them have been wasting a lot of our time decrying opioids and explaining their plan to do something. Some politicians want to restrict opioids even harder (because doing the same thing that hasn’t been working even harder is a recipe for success). Other politicians, such as Mark Dayton, realize that crises can be lucrative:

ST. PAUL, Minn. (KMSP) – Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton is proposing a “penny-a-pill” paid for by drug companies to fund an opioid stewardship program for addiction prevention, treatment and recovery efforts in Minnesota. The governor estimates the program would raise $20 million each year.

It should be noted that paid by drug companies is a euphemism for paid by consumers since all expenses incurred by producers are reflected in the prices consumers pay. However, telling the public that chronic pain sufferers will be footing the bill probably won’t be as well received as telling them that multibillion dollar corporations will be footing the bill.

Dayton’s proposal isn’t surprising in the least. The government loves to punish people who are following the current law. Who buys opioids from the legal drug manufacturers who will be paying this proposed tax? People who have received prescriptions from licensed medical professionals. Who buys opioids from black market actors who won’t have to pay Day’s proposed tax? Everybody else. So the moral of the story is that following the law is foolish because you’ll likely get fucked over at some point in the future.

Written by Christopher Burg

February 15th, 2018 at 10:00 am