A Geek With Guns

Chronicling the depravities of the State.

Archive for the ‘Minnesota’ tag

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

Rejiggering the Mandatory Reading List

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One of my pet peeves as a public school student was being required to read specific books. The reason this annoyed me was because I found the mandated books to be rather dull and below my reading level (I was reading above my grade level by a not insignificant amount). Because of my experience in public schools I’m of the opinion that mandatory reading lists should be tossed out entirely so students can pursue books that actually interest them (who knows, if reading is enjoyable instead of a chore it could even help boost literacy). But nobody cares what I think on the matter so students are stuck with mandatory reading lists and the inevitable battles over what books should appear on those lists.

The school district in Duluth is currently waging that battle:

DULUTH, Minn. — The novels “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” will no longer be required reading in the Duluth school district due to the books’ use of a racial slur, a curriculum change supported by the local NAACP chapter.

The two books will continue to be available in school libraries and can be optional reading for students, but beginning next school year, they’ll be replaced as required reading by other literature that addresses the same topics in ninth- and 11th-grade English classes, said Michael Cary, the district’s director of curriculum and instruction.

Let me start off by saying that I understand why To Kill a Mockingbird is being removed from the mandatory reading list. The book is, among other things, a lesson on the importance of a justice system that assumes innocence until guilt is proven. Such a title could create a hostile environment for today’s judicial environment of guilty until proven innocent. I’m surprise the book hasn’t been outright banned from public schools yet. But I digress.

As with any other political issue, this issue has proven to be polarizing. A lot of people are upset that these two books are being removed from the mandatory reading lists. Their reasons vary but a lot of them are upset because of the given justification. Meanwhile, the other side of the camp is pleased as punch because books with offensive language are no longer on the mandatory reading list. What this really boils down to though is the lack of personal choice. The reading list is mandatory so each child in the school is required to read the books on it (or acquire the Cliff’s Notes so they can pass the pointless tests and spend the rest of their time reading books that they actually want to read). Since individuals aren’t interchangeable cogs, mandatory anything doesn’t work, especially when children are involved. First, you have the children. Some of them may enjoy some of the books on the mandatory reading list, others won’t. But then you also have the parents. Some of the parents will be pleased with some of the books on the mandatory reading list while, as demonstrated by this story, others won’t.

The heart of this problem is really the refusal to acknowledge individualism. Until individualism is acknowledged and that acknowledgement is acted on, this fight will have to be waged again and again.

Written by Christopher Burg

February 8th, 2018 at 11:00 am

Quick! While National Attention is Elsewhere!

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The Super Bowl has left Minneapolis. Its departure was joined by a fleet of private jets and the nation’s interest in this part of flyover country. Now that the nation’s attention is elsewhere, Minnesota officials can move onto other pressing matters such as ensuring a grand jury doesn’t see fit to charge Office Noor for the death of Justine Ruszczyk:

If he pursues manslaughter charges under Minnesota law, it would require him to prove that Noor’s actions the night he shot and killed Ruszczyk Damond were, in legal terms, “culpably negligent.” And to prove that, Freeman needs to prove that Noor’s actions were, again in legal terms, “objectively unreasonable.”

And that’s a high bar for him to clear, said former Ramsey County Attorney Susan Gaertner.

“The law does not require that an officer’s decision was the best one, it just requires that it was a reasonable one,” Gaertner said. “Officers are given a great deal of latitude under the law to respond to danger that they perceive is present.”

I think the story really would benefit from a footnote noting that in order to prove the charges against Noor, Freeman has to actually want to see Noor charged. Seeing as Freeman went so far as to break his pledge to no longer use grand juries to determine whether officers will be charged, I would argue that this is cause to believe that Freeman doesn’t want to see Noor charged.

Written by Christopher Burg

February 7th, 2018 at 10:30 am

Just Throw More Money at It

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Let’s pretend for a moment that we have been tasked with managing an effort to upgrade an archaic vehicle registration system. Eight years and $93 million later the new system is still a complete mess. The developers that we hired say that they need another $43 million to make the system actually work. How do you proceed? Do you just toss more money at the developers or do you write the entire project off as a loss and try again? That’s the question currently facing the State of Minnesota:

State officials Wednesday unveiled an expensive plan for fixing the troubled computer system for vehicle licensing and registration.

They say lawmakers would need to approve another $43 million early in the 2018 session to get the system back on track this year.

One Republican lawmaker called the request “mind boggling.”

The Minnesota Licensing and Registration System, or MNLARS, has been plagued by technical problems since its launch last summer. The cost of the statewide computer system, used for tab purchases, title transfers and other transactions, has already topped $93 million over eight years.

Mind boggling is an understatement.

Vehicle registration isn’t a new problem. 49 other states have solved the problem already. Why hasn’t Minnesota been able to tap into that vast amount of knowledge?

I’m naturally cynical when it comes to politics so I’m betting that the legislators will eventually approve the addition funding, which is part of the problem with government. Government constantly falls for the sunk cost fallacy. After sinking millions or billions of dollars into a project without any meaningful gain, government goons tend to develop an aversion to admitting that the project will never bear fruit and abandoning the project. This government tendency creates an environment rife with corruption because anybody running a project can claim that they need more funding less all of the previous efforts will be for nothing and they will receive that funding.

Written by Christopher Burg

February 2nd, 2018 at 10:00 am

Plebeians Need Not Apply

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Being within the blast radius of the Super Bowl this year, I’ve had an opportunity to get an up close and personal view of this yearly religious festival. What continues to fascinate me is how much the plebeians love this event even though it’s obviously not for them.

As more than 1,000 Super Bowl ticket holders descend on the Twin Cities in their private jets to attend a game that costs a median of $5,000 to attend the plebeians are expressing some outrage over the inevitable price increases:

From $65 parking to $1,000 caviar or $800 for a night in a Shakopee hotel, the laws of supply and demand are kicking into high gear around the Twin Cities as a crush of visitors descends on the region. Locals may not be willing to pay the eye-popping prices, but businesses are counting on some fervent football fans opening their wallets and purses.

One downtown restaurant, Ike’s Food and Cocktails, caused an internet uproar Monday when word leaked of a $36 guacamole and chips on its Super Bowl menu — alongside $72 beef skewers and other pricey items. A manager said the guacamole should have said $12, and the regular menu would still be available, but the restaurant is now offering a free order of guacamole to people who order something else and mention “Guac-Gate 2018.”

Some restaurants are rolling out special menus with offerings tailored to the high rollers. The Oceanaire’s Super Bowl night menu includes $1,000 Iranian gold caviar, $72 for arctic char or $99 for 24 ounces of lobster tail. Penny pinchers may want to stick to the $14 side of creamed corn.

I don’t blame these businesses. If I had a restaurant near the US Bank Stadium, I’d be jacking up my prices as well. When there is a huge influx of cash into your area, you should try to grab some of it.

However, there is some cosmic karma at work here. A lot of plebeians cheered when it was announced that the new US Bank Stadium would be built… and they would pay for it. Now that the stadium is built and hosting the biggest game of the year, they can’t afford to attend it. Not only that but they also can’t get reservations at the restaurants they like, park in the parking spots they like, or ride the government choo choo that they paid for on game day. They’re getting what they wanted and they’re getting to good and hard and I couldn’t be happier.

Written by Christopher Burg

February 1st, 2018 at 10:30 am