Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Reed Act... and the controversial Maine mural

Maine has made national news again. A few days ago, the governor had a mural removed from the headquarters of the Maine Department of Labor. The reason: it appears members of Maine's business community felt the mural depicted Unions in a most favorable light... and that was not business-friendly. Now the U.S. Department of Labor wants Maine to return federal grant money which helped fund the artwork. 

At the Maine Department of Labor's website I found some general information about the Reed Act under "Frequently asked questions, at #9, paragraph #2. Under the "Reed Act Provisions of Title IX of the Social Security Act," at pg 17, Section H.1 explains that capital improvements to state-owned buildings are allowed if the building is used for administering unemployment insurance programs; it also mentions recapturing the federal government’s share of the market value of the improvement if the use ends. 

There's more about the Reed Act at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Under certain circumstances, the funds transferred from the U.S. Department of Labor to a state's unemployment trust fund can be used to pay extended or emergency benefits, and even regular benefits. The United States government collects money directly from businesses, through legislation called FUTA - Federal Unemployment Tax Act, and passes most of it along to the individual states.  

Anxious to put the issue to rest, the Republican party in Northern Maine is trying to raise money to pay the feds back, so the governor can get back to redecorating. I have an idea: put the mural back up to avoid paying the federal government back, but put it in upside down to send a message about the whole affair. First of all, I think the federal government should not have approved use of Reed Act funds by Maine, then being governed by John Baldacci, for the expensive artwork; it obviously was not essential to the administration of unemployment insurance benefit programs.        

Monday, April 4, 2011

End police brutality - Join the cause

After joining the cause "Consequences for Corruption" - which you can get to by clicking on the headline - I thought I'd tell readers about an encounter I had last summer with law enforcement. 

A state trooper (Timothy Saucier) pulled me over because I was traveling at a speed he was uncomfortable with, evidently. He wanted me to sign some ticket, apparently to create a contract between me and the STATE OF MAINE - a corporation, which happens to be his employer. Through the driver license and motor vehicle registration systems, those in charge have converted our right to travel into a privilege, which we must pay to use. I told the officer I would provide my name, etc., and asked for his; but he would not give it to me. I jotted down the plate number of his unmarked car, and later learned his full name. I told Officer Saucier that I didn't want to sign the ticket, but would, since he said he could take me to jail if I didn't. I believe he could have; after all, he did have a gun. I'd committed no crime; could this be kidnapping? Taking someone to prison because they didn't obey an arbitrarily-enforced speed limit? I explained to the officer that anything signed under duress is void. I first wrote "signed under duress" on the ticket, beneath where my name was to go; and then I began signing, but halfway through my last name, the officer yanked the ticket out of my hand! And, he told me to "Shut up" when I asked about the Constitution! 

Now in order to have a trial, there has to be someone coming forth with a complaint. No individual came forth with a complaint against me. The STATE OF MAINE is not an individual. Regardless, a hearing was scheduled, where I was expected to make a plea. Under the Constitution, in matters of controversy involving $20 or more, there is a right to a Trial by Jury. I motioned the court to prove its jurisdiction over the matter: it failed to do so. I motioned for dismissal of the "ticket." Again, I received no reply from the judge, the so-called "plaintiff" (STATE OF MAINE), or the prosecutor (District Attorney Collins). A hearing was set for March 9, 2011 in Madawaska District Court. I appeared, and asked the judge if he'd read the motions I'd filed. I had provided information regarding Georgia: House Bill 875. Here's the actual bill, which didn't pass by the way. The judge had not read my motions, and when I asked him to do so, he wouldn't. I then told him that I could not possibly have a fair trial without a jury... for he, the prosecutor, and the police officer were all employed by the plaintiff (STATE OF MAINE). I had also, in papers filed with the court, mentioned that the prosecutor (Todd Collins) had not supplied me with the evidence, so I could review it ahead of time. The police audio/video of the traffic stop was never given to me. Just the same, the judge (David Soucy) went ahead with a bench trial, which I did not participate in, and he assessed a $185 fine against me! 

Okay, maybe you're thinking this is not police brutality... have you ever read the "Frog in boiling water" fable? If not, please do.