Holy shit; I’ve been writing these for a long time.
I’ve written a couple times (here and here) about the “little” risks of big government. Most moderate statists, when confronted with a liberal* suspicion of centralized authority, argue against an Orwellian straw-man: if I’m suspicious of surveillance cameras, it must be because I really honestly believe that there’s a short and slippery slope from talking cameras on lamp-posts to telescreens in every room. That’s the “big” risk of big government: systemic totalitarianism. It’s also rather unlikely.
The “little” risk, however, is trusted agents abusing and exploiting their position. This isn’t about vast tyrannical conspiracies or goose-stepping legions of jackbooted enforcers — it only takes one person to seriously fuck you up when that person has access to the tools of government. And it’s not usually a demagogic leader, but a clerk.
- Two tax-agency workers diverted refunds to their accounts (Globe and Mail)
Pretty much what it says on the tin:
Two Canada Revenue Agency bureaucrats siphoned hundreds of thousands of dollars from Ottawa’s coffers by filing fraudulent tax returns and diverting refunds and related benefit payments to their personal bank accounts.
“[F]rom Ottawa’s coffers”, hmm? Where do you suppose Ottawa got that money in the first place?
Now, given that Ottawa’s money inevitably derives from the people it purports to represent, they immediately made the fraud public once the investigation concluded, didn’t they? After all, if you can’t trust the taxman, who can you trust?
The tax collection agency, which uncovered the fraud in 2008, kept news of it from going public for more than a year, until the facts were released through a request under access-to-information law.
That’s special. Well, this was an internal matter, right? I mean, it’s not like these two crooks could have, I dunno, stolen anyone’s Social Insurance Number or anything, is it?
The two facilitated this by snooping through taxpayer records – using invasive database searches that, among other things, grant access to Canadians’ social insurance numbers. It was heavy use of some searches that caught the eye of investigators.
Well, surely these fraudsters are safely behind bars and well away from this invasive database?
On Wednesday, the Canada Revenue Agency refused to name the fraudsters or reveal whether they were fired or charged and convicted, saying that to identify them would violate privacy law.
Oh. Well, I guess privacy for fraudulent tax agents is more important than privacy for thirty million tax-paying Canadians.
“Little” risks aren’t “negligible” risks.
Now on to the topic of mitigating “little” risks. First we have these stories, both from the CBC, concerning police departments investigating themselves:
- Police shouldn’t investigate themselves: senior Mountie
- B.C. police chiefs call for civilian investigation
From the first, we find this:
A senior B.C. Mountie says police in the province should not investigate themselves anymore because the public no longer believes they are doing a good job.
“We are not perceived publicly to be able to investigate ourselves. The perception and the reporting that occurs is unwinnable,” RCMP Supt. Wayne Rideout told the Braidwood Inquiry, which resumed Tuesday its probe into the 2007 death of Robert Dziekanski at Vancouver airport.
From the second:
RCMP Supt. Bill McKinnon said the new civilian lead agency is needed to restore public confidence in police in the province following several controversial investigations of police-involved deaths, including that of Robert Dziekanski in Vancouver and Ian Bush in Houston, in the northern Interior.
I’m a bit annoyed by the hedging here — the problem isn’t merely public perception of corruption when the RCMP investigates itself and says “Yeah, we’re cool”, but the blatantly obvious incentive for bias when a police force polices itself. But given that the Braidwood Inquiry hasn’t yet concluded, I suppose we ought to give the horsie cops in question the benefit of the doubt.
In any case, a little separation of power seems like a good idea.
While I’m on the subject of abuse of government authority… anyone remember Wally Oppal? He’s the slimy scumfuck former Attorney General who tried to rig the last provincial election and tried to shield his prosecutors from criminal incompetence. Well, he was also in the business of shopping around for prosecutors: when two of them refused to press charges against a guy he didn’t like, he found a third who would.
That situation has been cleared up, largely because Oppal’s prosecutor-shopping bit him right in the ass.
A B.C. court has thrown out polygamy charges against two religious leaders, ruling former B.C. attorney general Wally Oppal was wrong to ask a third special prosecutor to take the case after the first two prosecutors decided the men should not be charged.
Sometimes the good guys do win.
Polygamy tends to get talked about only when it also involves pædophilia, which of course makes it difficult to discuss rationally. The accused polygamists in Bountiful don’t seem to have been fucking any kids, which leaves me somewhat perplexed by precisely why the government feels the need to fuck with them. Look: I’m not gonna tell people they can’t get married because they’re gay, and for the same reason I’m not gonna tell people that they can’t get married in parallel rather than in series. It’s none of my business, and it’s none of the government’s business.
That article also provides some comic relief near the end:
Special prosecutors are used in B.C. to replace regular Crown counsel in politically sensitive cases, to avoid the possibility of political interference.
That worked pretty well for ya, didn’t it?
Finally, some schadenfreude: batshit-insane wingnut extraordinaire Orly Taitz discovers the internet. YA RLY.**
- Birther queen bee Orly Taitz signs up for Google AdSense; hilarity ensues (Below the Beltway)
Straight from the owl’s beak**:
I added Google Adsense adds to this blog in order to get some advertising dollars, which would help me cover the expenses of Obama eligibility law suits. Amazingly, the very first add that appeared, was an add from Obama’s website “Fight the smears”, saying that he was born in HI, don’t believe the lies.
Can you believe it? Do you think it’s random?
Let me explain how Google AdSense works, sweetheart: it, in Google’s own words, “[o]ffers a contextual advertising solution to web publishers”. The key word here is “contextual”. You spend your whole blog ranting about Obama’s birthplace, and guess what it’s going to find for you? Ads about Obama’s birthplace!
* I’m gonna keep using that word properly until the rest of the world gets it. Windmills Giants in sight: charge!
** Sorry; couldn’t help it.