A Geek With Guns

Chronicling the depravities of the State.

Archive for the ‘Minnesota’ tag

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.

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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

Making Up Numbers

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The economic boost provided by major sporting events can’t be emphasized enough… by how lackluster it is. Those who argue for public funding to build stadiums or host major sporting events like the Olympics and Super Bowl will show a bunch of numbers to make their point. One of their favorite numbers to bring up is the number of visitors the hosting city will receive from events. For example, we’ve been told that Minneapolis will receive about 1 million visitors during the Super Bowl. That number sounds impressive until you realize that it’s bullshit:

The number is tossed about frequently in national and local media reports: 1 million people are expected to visit Minneapolis for the Super Bowl.

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“What’s a visitor?” I asked Kenneth McGill, managing director of West Chester, Pa.-based Rockport Analytics.

“A visitor is one of two things,” McGill said. “It’s a person who has stayed overnight in some sort of paid accommodation. In that context it doesn’t matter where they’re from. The could live downtown and move to a hotel just to experience it all.

“The second definition of a visitor is someone who has traveled more than 50 miles, one-way, to get to the event.”

If McGill’s visitor estimate comes true, it means that roughly 874,600 of the 1 million visitors expected by the Host Committee already live in the Twin Cities, a metro area with a population of 3.5 million.

So Minneapolis shouldn’t expect 1 million visitors. It should expect roughly 125,000. While 125,000 people might bring a bit of business to the Twin Cities that wouldn’t have existed without the Super Bowl, I have my doubts that it will be anywhere near enough to compensate the tax cattle of Minneapolis and Minnesota for the publicly funded security expenses alone.

I guess on the upside the arrival of the Super Bowl has forced the state and municipal governments to fix some of their damned roads. Even though I’m told that I have to pay taxes to maintain the roads it seems like the roads are only maintained when people from out of town are visiting. Why I have to pay for road repairs to impress people from out of town is also a mystery to me.

Written by Christopher Burg

January 23rd, 2018 at 10:00 am

Who Says Crime Doesn’t Pay

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Those who say crime doesn’t pay obviously never took up crime as a profession:

State lawmakers got their first pay hike in years, courtesy of Minnesota voters. The salary for the state’s part-time lawmakers rose sharply — from $31,141 a year, to $45,000. But that does not include money they also receive for their daily expenses.

House members receive $66 dollars a day for expenses, on top of their salaries. That’s seven days a week during the legislative session, no receipts required. In 2017, Representatives got an average of $8,812 in per diem, bringing total pay to almost $53,812.

$45,000 a year might not seem like a lot but as the story noted legislators in Minnesota only work part time. In addition to the rather sizable salary for doing absolutely nothing productive the legislators also get a pretty decent per diem.

Imagine getting paid $53,812 per year to rob everybody in a state for a short stint every year. In addition to the salary you receive from that you are also in a position to make political deals. You can promise companies legislation that will hinder their competitors for a fee (not directly payable in cash to your bank account but you end up receiving it in a roundabout manner in order to avoid accusations of corruption). On top of that you can also hold another job.

Crime pays quite well in Minnesota.

Written by Christopher Burg

January 16th, 2018 at 10:30 am

With Great Power Comes… Great Power

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Sometimes I wish that I was a politician because then I could vote myself a raise whenever I wanted one:

MINNEAPOLIS (KMSP) – The Minneapolis City Council last Friday approved a pay raise for all its members and the incoming mayor starting in 2018, according to public documents.

Though the resolution was not previously on the agenda or passed through any standing committees, outgoing Council President Barb Johnson proposed the measure at this year’s final meeting to give each member of the Council and the mayor a $10,000 salary increase, with annual raises matching those given to other city employees through collective bargaining agreements. The proposal passed unanimously, though no period of public comment was noted in the meeting’s minutes.

Politicians who vote themselves raises like to make any number of excuses. The most common excuse is that any vote for a raise doesn’t take effect until after the newly elected politicians take office so they’re not actually voting themselves a raise. However, with such a high incumbency rate in this country voting for a raise for the next set of politicians is usually the same as voting themselves a raise so that excuse is incredibly feeble. Other politicians try to justify giving themselves raises by claiming that they do a hard job. But robbing people and forcing them to do their bidding isn’t terribly hard since they have an army of uniformed thugs willing to do their dirty work.

Of course the denizens of Minneapolis could always opt to replace the entire city council but the next set of politicians will do the exact same thing because almost nobody is going to turn down the opportunity to give themselves a raise. This is what democracy looks like.

Written by Christopher Burg

December 28th, 2017 at 10:00 am

Start Popping Your Popcorn

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After several women came forward and accused Al Franken of sexual harassment he has announced that he’s going to make an announcement this morning:

WASHINGTON – Democratic Party leaders united Wednesday in calling for Sen. Al Franken to resign from the U.S. Senate, an extraordinary rebuke to the Minnesota Democrat as he faced a new allegation of sexual harassment.

Franken planned to make an announcement about his future Thursday morning on the Senate floor.

His office said it would happen at 10:45 a.m. Central time, describing it as the senator planning to “deliver a speech from the Senate floor.”

This should lead to some good drama. On the one hand, most politicians in his position would be planning to announce their retirement, which is what I’m betting he’ll announce. On the other hand, he does have an overinflated ego so he might actually refuse to abide by the demands being made by his fellow party members to resign. Either way, this is going to be hilarious!

Written by Christopher Burg

December 7th, 2017 at 10:00 am

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