Congrats to Jon Gale

I don’t remember the last time I was registered as a Democrat, but it hasn’t been for many years. And I still don’t consider myself one, even if many of my political positions line up with the party. However, I recently learned that an attorney who helped out Black Lives Matter in Portland, Maine with some pro Bono work was running for Cumberland County DA. He also had a good amount of experience as a defense attorney – something I think is important. So I registered as a Democrat yesterday just so I could vote for him. And also so I could vote against at least one odious candidate who I know for a fact has perjured herself in front of Maine courts while also intentionally violating Sixth Amendment rights/hiding malfeasance from the press and public. Thankfully, it looks like Gale has taken the race with a 3 point margin of victory.

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Protecting the police from the law

A few years ago in Indiana, a cop illegally entered a man’s home after he refused entry. As a result, the man shoved the cop. This, naturally, brought about charges. In an appeal to the Indiana Supreme Court, an utterly stupid decision was made which said the people of Indiana don’t have a right to defend themselves against police who illegally enter their homes. Just about everyone thought this was stupid. In turn, Indiana passed a law specifically overturning the Court’s decision. This was a great example of the government actually managing to protect its people and their rights. Law enforcement threw a fit, but they often do that when confronted with constitutional principles.

Fast forward and move a bit east and we have an entirely different mindset. Here in Maine we have someone who wants to pass a law designed to protect police from prosecution:

State law enforcement officials said Monday that a bill that would ban BB guns and non-firing replica firearms in schools is necessary to protect students from potential tragedies, but opponents contend it is too broad and would do little to improve school safety.

Supporters of the measure say police officers could easily mistake the realistic-looking firearms for the real thing, especially with security concerns running high in light of school shootings across the country. They say a scenario of a student entering a school building with such a firearm could end badly if an officer is forced to make a quick decision, pointing to incidents like one in California last year when a 13-year-old boy was fatally shot by a sheriff’s deputy who said he thought a BB gun was an assault rifle.

The only purpose this serves is to shield trigger-happy police from prosecution. If there is a law which says things like BB guns are illegal, then a cop has a built-in defense for shooting any child who happens to have one on school grounds.

School resource officer Rachel Horning, with the Kittery Police Department, told the Education and Cultural Affairs Committee on Monday that’s the type of tragedy she’s trying to avert.

Oh, really? So Rachel Horning doesn’t want a situation where a student is fatally shot because a cop believes a BB gun is an assault rifle? Interesting. If that’s the case, then I’m not sure how she reconciles that stance with what she said next:

“I will do 100 percent what I need to protect myself and others,” she said. “So, if the juvenile presents that lookalike weapon and refuses to drop it, I will act.”

Are you fucking kidding me? Rachel Horning is not interested in protecting the lives of anyone – especially students. She’s interested in creating a law which gives her and those on her side of the blue shield an automatic defense; she wants to create a law where she’s allowed to “act” – that is, murder a person – because she isn’t good enough at her job to distinguish a BB gun from an assault rifle.

Other issues with this bill include putting more kids into the prison system. It’s bad enough that we have legislators who want to ruin people’s futures, but many of these elected officials actually think our ‘justice’ system works:

Democratic Sen. Dawn Hill of Cape Neddick introduced the measure in response to Horning finding a BB gun that looked like a real weapon in a student’s car outside a Kittery high school last year. Horning said the student had a mental health diagnosis and intended to use the fake firearm as a showpiece in case someone tried to fight him. Without a law regarding replica firearms, Horning wasn’t able to get the student the help and services he needed in the juvenile justice system, she said.

Given that Horning has already contradicted herself pretty overtly, I don’t believe her. The student could have forgotten the gun in his car for all we know. Even on his alleged “mental health diagnosis”, he could easily just have ADHD or some other minor/non-affliction. Indeed, a classmate of mine back in high school left his shotgun in the back of his car one day, then parked on school property. Realizing what he had done, he went and moved his car within the first couple of classes of the day. He later mentioned what happened to a teacher. Fortunately, that teacher just told him to be careful and that was that. And guess what? The classmate likely had ADHD or could have easily been diagnosed with it. The juvenile ‘justice’ system had no place in the matter; our ‘justice’ system only could have derailed his life – which, incidentally, seems to be going fairly well since he’s an engineer at Lockheed Martin these days.

I’m not going to be surprised if this bill passes. Legislators are hard-pressed to say no to law enforcement, no matter how obviously harmful to justice a law may be.

Mainers made safer with LD415

The citizens of Maine will become just a little bit safer with the passage of LD415:

Lawmakers in Maine are putting themselves at the forefront of efforts to curb excessive surveillance by instituting new privacy safeguards.

On Wednesday, the state House voted 113-28 in favor of legislation that would in all but exceptional cases prohibit law enforcement agencies from tracking cellphones without a warrant. If enacted, LD 415 would make Maine the first state in the country to require authorities to obtain a search warrant before tracking cellphones or other GPS-enabled devices. The law would also require that law enforcement agencies notify a person that she was tracked within three days, unless they can prove that secrecy is necessary, in which case a delay can be granted for up to 180 days. LD 415 would additionally require the publication of an annual report online detailing the number of times location data were sought by law enforcement agencies.

Here’s a good way of thinking about this: If the police were to start following people around for little to no reason whatsoever – for any thing they deem to be ‘reason enough’ – we would rightly say they’ve crossed a line; at that point they would be common criminal stalkers unfit to wear a badge. That they are able to do exactly that from a remote location doesn’t change the fact that their actions need to be checked. If they can’t get court approval, then they don’t have the right to stalk people. Because, frankly, fuck that bullshit.

LD415 isn’t yet law. It has passed in the house (113-28) and senate (20-15), but it needs to go through the senate again for procedural reasons. These numbers raise an interesting question: Who are the 43 assholes who voted against civil liberties?

And down go the dominoes

As more and more Americans begin to realize that sexual orientation and morality have zero connection, more and more states keep making marriage equal:

In the past week, Rhode Island and Delaware became the 10th and 11th states to approve gay marriage. But so far, only legislatures in coastal or New England states have voted affirmatively for gay marriage. Except for Iowa, which allows gay marriage due to a 2009 judicial ruling, same-sex couples can’t get married in flyover country.

Minnesota might go first, but Illinois could be close behind. The state Senate there voted in February to allow same-sex marriage, and supporters think they’re close to securing the votes needed to get it through the House and on to Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn, who says he’ll sign it.

Officially, Maine was the first state to make marriage equal by way of the ballot box, but it soon became officially legal in Maryland and Washington the same night. Not long after, Rhode Island caught up with the rest of New England through the legislative process, and, to the surprise of many, did it with very strong Republican support. Now the states that value liberty the most eagerly await the next moves in the mid-west and west.

Opening the St. Croix to alewives

Of the few good things the Maine legislature is able to do, this is definitely one of them:

The Legislature passed a bill Wednesday to end an 18-year blockade that has prevented alewives from running in most of the St. Croix River.

L.D. 72 passed the Senate by a vote of 33-0. The House voted 123-24 to enact the measure. The margins are sufficient to enact the emergency bill with Gov. Paul LePage’s signature.

If the governor does sign it, the bill will take effect immediately and allow spring runs of alewives through the fishway at the Grand Falls Dam near Princeton, in Washington County, and through much of the St. Croix watershed.

(The St. Croix is an important Maine river that serves as a border between the U.S. and Canada, winding through the edges of Downeast Maine, and emptying into the Atlantic.)

If you’ve wondered why the lobster industry in Maine (which, c’mon, is the only one that matters) has been reeling so much lately, one of the reasons has to do with alewives. This fish is a vital source of food for large predators, but it hasn’t been as easily available to them due to population declines and poor wildlife management decisions over the years. As a result, it is a strong possibility that there are fewer large predators in the Gulf of Maine, thus allowing a free-for-all explosion in the lobster population; the cockroaches of the sea aren’t being as vigorously hunted by non-humans as they once were. This ultimately drives prices down, hurting Maine fisherman. However, now that we can expect dramatic increases in alewife numbers, we should begin to see improvements in one of Maine’s key economic sectors.

Election results

The two results that concern me the most are the presidential race and the vote to legalize same-sex marriage in Maine.

Well, good news.

President Obama will continue to correct the mistakes of Dubya and gay people are no longer second-class citizens in Maine. In fact, while Washington is likely to also pass a pro-equality measure, Maine is technically the first state to approve gay marriage by means of popular vote. We’ve done some good up here. I’m proud.

Also, here is my favorite part of this night:

The state with the fewest Christian adherents

A study was done in 2010 which quantified the number of Christian adherents in the US by state. It defined Christian “adherents” as including all those with an affiliation to a congregation (children, members, and attendees who are not members). In other words, this study, as best as I can tell, looked at the number of people who are affiliated with a church or other religious organization in some official capacity. That tells me this isn’t that useful if we want to know which state has the most believers in a particular, cultural god, but it would seem to indicate something about how devoted people in a given state are. And the good news is, Maine appears to have relatively few devoted citizens:

The researchers found Utah to be the most Christian* state with around 78 percent of population identifying as Christian adherents. The researchers found Maine to be the least Christian state with only about 27 percent identifying as Christian adherents.

*Christians include Mormons and Unitarians / Universalists who self-identify as Christians.

I’ve seen other studies where Vermont is listed as the least religious state in the Union whereas Maine is in the bottom tier but not usually topping the list. I tend to believe those, if not for the number of studies that have been done which, if I recall correctly, have given those results, then for the fact that Maine is speckled with the quaint New England churches that decorate so many calendars, not to mention its fairly conservative voting record in certain social areas; my observations as a resident of this state tells me that there are more Christians than the above study indicates.