Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Tyranny in the State of Minnesota

I know I said I was going to wait a month before I would publish another blog post, but something has come up, and I'll feel better if there is a public record of it.

In early 2010, I made a $100 accounting error in my checking account. In the course of a week, not yet accustomed to using cash, working a plumbing job for a friend, I made ten small purchases using my debit card, for a total of $80, all of it for plumbing materials. US Bank charged me $375 in fees. I called the branch, and told them I would be willing to pay the equivalent of two overdraft fees, $75. Looked at another way, I said, that is effectively 100% interest on the $80 dollars they "loaned" me for a week. They said no. I called corporate, and they said I would be charged $8 a day every day until I paid the total. I told them, under those terms, I would pay them nothing.

US Bank let the total in fees and penalties rise to $800, or 1000% interest in two months, sold the debt to a credit agency (for probably about the same amount as I was willing to pay them), and then had the temerity to leave the account open with a negative balance.

This past winter, I received a call from a man claiming to be a lawyer, with Bradstreet and Associates LLC, who said a judgment for $1200 had been rendered against me in a Hennepin County court. He wanted to know how I wanted to arrange payment. I told him I had no idea there was such a hearing, and I asked him if he even knew what the original debt was for. He did not. I said as much to him as I said to US Bank, I will never pay a dollar.

I called the county then, and after 45 minutes navigating the phone tree, a woman told me she could tell me nothing about the judgment over the phone, that I would have to go to the county offices. I asked her, how was it, that I had no idea I was even supposed to be in court for the original hearing. She said the county sent a letter - to an address I haven't lived at in six years, though I own a house in Hennepin County, and I've paid Hennepin County property taxes for that current address all those six years! She seemed unfazed. I told her I didn't want to go to the county offices, because I was afraid of being arrested.

Yesterday, it became know to me that there was another letter from the county, at that old address. I retrieved it, an Order for [financial] Disclosure. I had ten days to fill out the form and return it to the county. At the time, it was 14 days since the filing of the order. "The Judgment Creditor may ask the Court to hold you in 'civil contempt of court.' If the Court decides that you intentionally disobeyed this Order, the Court may fine you, put you in jail, or both."

I though about taking the train downtown today, to the county offices, to try and straighten this out, but I did a little research first. Our local newspaper, The Star Tribune, published a nice series on debt collection in Minnesota recently, which convinced me that if I present myself to the county, I will face potential indefinite detention in county lock up, until I sign the form, or someone pays the debt.

The story of the debt will not matter. The only thing that matters to the county, at this point, is that I fill out that financial disclosure form. Which would open up a mainline from my checking account to Bradstreet and Associates, LLC. There's nothing in the account, but it stands to reason at some point there will be. In other words, I would be acknowledging the debt is legitimate. I would tell them instead, no, I will not fill out that disclosure form, that debt is not legitimate, they made that debt nearly out of thin air. In which case, I would likely be arrested and put in jail until I did fill out the form - with bail set at the amount of, to twice the $1200 judgment (with the Hennepin County taxpayers spending $200 a day to house me.)

I thought, hey, I'll call Bradstreet and Associates LLC, and tell them if I go to jail, I'm going to sue them, with the county as co-conspirators, for a very large amount of money, and do you really think any jury is going to side with you? They can't just sell the debt to some other agency now that there's a judgment on it, right? Just take it as a loss and let it go, I'd say. But I can't call them, or find them, because they don't apparently have a phone or an address, not listed anywhere. I tried to call the county too, but gave up after 45 minutes on the automated phone tree.

The county at this point, and the Sherrif's department, are acting as henchmen, or mercenary's for a business that buys up debt other creditors can't collect on, a business likely as not full of established criminals. Pull back the thin veneer of civilized governance, and what this is isn't anything but extortion. Confront any one in Hennepin County governance, and every one will claim ignorance. Hannah Arendt said:

"[Of] the forms of government as the rule of man over man...we aught to add the latest and perhaps the most formidable form of such domination: bureaucracy or the rule of an intricate system of bureaus in which no men, neither one nor the best, neither the few or the many, can be held responsible, and which could properly be called the rule of Nobody. If, in accord with traditional political thought, we identify tyranny as government that is not held to give account of itself, rule by Nobody is clearly the most tyrannical of all, since there is no one left who could even be asked to answer for what is being done." [my italics; the link is about extending the logic here in Minnesota, globally]

No one at the county has any idea what the debt they are prosecuting me for, is from. Nor do they care to know. The are only fulfilling the law. Doing their jobs.

Which puts me in a profoundly vulnerable place, as there is no institution, public or private, that I am a direct part of, protecting me. And the vast majority of Americans, like the people at the county or at Bradstreet $ Assoc. LLC, think if there is a debt and the government is after me, then I must be guilty and whatever happens is just - unless they themselves have been prey. As to the argument that I signed a contract when I opened that bank account, I say, try and get by in this culture without one. What is a contract, if the terms of that contract are purely defined by the one providing it, there is hardly any choice, and the provider is a corrupt bureaucracy of it's own kind? As to my financial foolishness, I plead no contest, as my Federal government has set the example, spending 300 billion a month while taking in 200 billion. But just pay the bill, I hear someone saying. First, I don't have the money. Second, third and fourth, you may be fine with the institutional fleecing of Americans, I prefer not to be fleeced.

It has been said, the wheels of fate grind slowly, but they grind exceedingly fine. I have never been arrested, and I have no desire to be ground up by the wheels of Hennepin County bureaucracy. In fact, I would like to flee. But nor, do I want to leave my garden, or walk away from this house and my family. Mostly, when I think of what could happen to me in that county lock up, how incarceration has come to seem an almost inevitability, knowing that I have become more and more like the American that Thomas Jefferson wished for us to be, capable of self-governing, independent, free thinking, I get to feeling like Samuel Adams in 1776:

"If ye love wealth more than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom...crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains rest lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that you were our countrymen."

But I look around me, here in the corrupt, calloused, complacent Heartland of America, and I know not one other who shares that sentiment.

           

























16 comments:

John D. Wheeler said...

I'm not sure how things work in Minnesota, but you might want to check to see if there is a free legal clinic. I am not a lawyer, but the fact that they didn't send anything by certified mail sounds very fishy to me.

Personally I would probably ignore it until they sent something via certified mail to my current address.

If you do have to disclose your bank account, I would just never put any money in it, opening up a new one if necessary. My guess is that they won't persue it once they figure out that they can't squeeze it out of you because you don't have it.

I do think the way many bill collectors act is totally outrageous.

Tim Gockel said...

WHD, well you inspired me to start on my food forest. I tried to sheet mulch a 30 x 20 patch of my lawn last fall and it didn't work too well, the cardboard kept blowing away. Anyway I broke down and rented a rototiller, my arms are killing me. I've been reading Toby Hemenways "Gaia's Garden". I had a dream the other night which I took to be reconnecting with the divine feminine. I meant what I said in my deleted posts. I don't know what I'm talking about for the most part,"synchronicities" are just hunches or feelings I guess. I don't think I'm a "aging liberal hippie douche" Maybe I'm more of an "aging liberal punk rock douche" Tim

William Hunter Duncan said...

John,

I think I am going to ignore it, unless they take it to another level. Thanks.

Tim,

The sheet mulch doesn't work unless it remains wet, such as over winter with a snow cover. My neighbor did the same to her entire yard, we had little snow, and there was cardboard all over the neighborhood in the spring.

Tillers are junk for small plots. I wrote a post in April or May in 2011 about what I did to the soil in my yard, with pics, but I don't remember what I called it. Dig out the the first 12 inches, pile it up, put a few inches of wood chips in the hole, fork it up, use your hands to remove the sod, put the sod upside down in the hole, rake the soil back in with a few wood chips or dry leaves. Unless you have clay, and then you might as well remove the clay and send it somewhere, or build berms with it. PS Don't call yourself a douche, unless you are laughing at yourself.

Tim Gockel said...

WHD, no, I'm not laughing at myself. I worry that others will see me as a "douche" or an "asshole" but I've come to realize (after 49 years) that I shouldn't worry about what others think of me. Tim

Jeff Z said...

I'd suggest declaring bankruptcy. I sued a former employer for almost $8000 that they owed me, won, in court after they didn't show up, but could never get a penny because they had recently declared bankruptcy (and specifically asked for protection from me and all the other employees, and never sent me the letter they were supposed to.)

I don't think the county can lock you up for a private debt, such as that owed to a bank or collection agency. The collection agent would like you to think that, but I'm pretty sure it's not true. Check out the free legal clinic. Filing bankruptcy would essentially legitimize the actual state of your finances, and they wouldn't be able to take the house.

Regarding sheet mulch- I posted about my ongoing sheet mulch experiment at http://eighthacrefarm.blogspot.com/2012/06/to-till-or-not-to-till-part-2.html for what it's worth.

The tomatoes are thriving by the way!

William Hunter Duncan said...

Jeffz,

They can't send me to jail for not paying the debt - that would be debtors prison. They can send me to lock up for contempt of court, and keep me there until I no longer show contempt - by signing the disclosure, agreeing to pay, which is pretty much the same thing, but as Dimitri Orlov says, we aren't really following laws in this country anymore. As for bankruptcy, that sounds like a lot of trouble over a little debt like this.

Glad to hear the tomatoes are happy.

kulturcritic said...

I share your sentiment, William. Good job on the piece; and good luck with Nobody. LOL sandy kulturCritic

William Hunter Duncan said...

Thanks Sandy

Luciddreams said...

I was catching up on my blog reading about a week ago when my lap top screen blinked a couple of times and then promptly died. I mean not even an indication light that the damn thing was plugged in. My only portal to the net now is on my wife's work computer.

A couple of days after the death of the computer, the aging chicken maverick down the street called and asked if I wanted to buy his chickens and coop for a very reasonable price. His health is deteriorating and he can't keep them any longer. I now have 10 Deleware hens and the prettiest Rode Island Red rooster you ever saw.

I'm supposed to be in Asheville right now for the last weekend of the permaculture in action class that I've been taking all summer, but I'm 70 miles away at home typing this instead. I'm not sure why I didn't get up and leave this morning...other than the fact that I stayed up till 2 a.m. last night canning a bumper crop of jalapenos and cucumbers. I harvested them two days ago and planned on spending the entire day processing them but got roped into helping my sister in law move...hence the 2 a.m. canfest that is responsible for my ass sitting here now.

About the blog...you hit on my biggest fear (and I plan on reading your blog "fear" after I'm done with this comment). I'm scared to death of being locked up by nobody and never being heard from again. Lately I have been having dreams about being in prison. Part of me just feels that people like us are not wanted by society. Society views us as somehow flawed, and the only place they feel we belong is locked up.

What else do you need to know? We have big business in this country for building and maintaining prisons. Private companies that make a profit, probably even give ridiculous bonuses to themselves, off of incarcerating the citizens of this country for no good reason. I try not to think about it, but I can't help what I dream about (well...there is always confronting it lucidly).

I think bureaucracy is the cancer of man's rotten organization. An idea, created by man, that has taken a life of it's own. It lives by feeding on the brains of it's citizens...like zombies. Zombies, the meme that keeps getting bigger as we go. Goddess speed brother...flee to the wilderness before you let them lock you up and throw away the key.

William Hunter Duncan said...

luciddreams,

Congrats on the bumper crop. As to getting locked up, I was freaked out about it, but I'm not so much anymore. I have a lot of words out there free for anyone to read, and I figure, if I have any protection, it's those words, such as they are. If they arrest me, that will invariably result in a lot more readers. If they shut down the Internet though, that's when it's time to G.O.O.D.

Sorry about the computer. The crunch is comin' for all of us, especially those of us at the economic fringe.

ferrarovisuals said...

A story live and direct from hell. I wish you well with this struggle. This is a textbook case of how the one per cent confiscates the equivalent of pocket change from the rest of us.
Have just found your blog and am enjoying it. Keep up the good work.

Anonymous said...

This company was sued by MN Attorney General today. Go to kare 11 website to see info

William Hunter Duncan said...

http://www.bizjournals.com/twincities/news/2014/01/08/bradstreet-associates-debt-bank-lawsuit.html

Anonymous said...

Bradstreet & associates was sued by the MN AG and extensive coverage came out Jan 2014. They are now prohibited from doing business in the state of MN and the judgment they against you is probably now invalid.

It makes for great contrast when you read their website, which boasts about how their high ethics are setting a new standard in the industry!

What concerns me most in your article is where Bradstreet was alleging to be an attorney; this is probably just not true. The impersonation of being a lawyer is a felony in MN. This is a very serious allegation; and if true, the consequences are severe.

If you are willing to document the time and date of the call, and swear to it under oath of perjury, I would be willing to submit it to the AG as supporting evidence to a compliant I filed earlier this year. E-mail me "Tom" at tw_wilder@hotmail.com

William Hunter Duncan said...

Tom,

Thanks for the concern. I think I will pass, for now. Though I recently sent a letter to the Star Tribune, about their lionization of Richard Davis, US Bank CEO, in a recent Sunday edition. The soul of a preacher, they said. They didn't publish it. ;)

WHD

* Dick Peters said...

When our country is run by a bloated, power obsessed, inefficient system whose ranks are filled with the rich modern day crusaders whose partisan politics take precedence over righteous educated decisions, and see themselves and the government they represent as infalable you should not take exception when you find yourself victim to injustice.
Though seemingly irrelevant humor me? How many readers over 30yr old remember taping a program on there VCR at some point? Those who do,who did, you are guilty of piracy and illegal downloading as well as copyright infringement. How about 16 track audio cassette tapes, or a music CD compilation your friend burned? If yes, those songs you listened to were stolen.
We all need to start working together. Everyone it seems me runs around like life lived in a quasi verion of the movie Grease or the Outsiders with a majority of country suffering from the delusion that they're tragically unique and there ability to relate and empathize somehow stopping with those outside of there niche. You are not unique. You are not a snowflake. You are not God.
Criminals commit unrighteous and unjust acts and when suspected are investigated, and when caught arrested. They are not lynched. They are presumed innocent until proven guilty. The burden of proof lyes upon the state, they therefore must prove guilt and the accused does not have to prove innocence. There is a reason our lady of justice where a blindfold as she holds the scales of justice. The U.S. houses more inmates in its prison systems per capita than any other country in the world by more than double. We are how many trillion dollars in debt? We have an economy running on a fiat currency system with nothing tangible backing the dollar? In my home state of Minnesota we had a bridge overpass on a major roadway collapse during rush hour? They refer to the windy city as Chi-raq due to murder numbers skyrocketing in recent years? If you have a DUI or a felony in previous 10 years you can not cross the border into Canada without prior written authorization approved and signed by the administer of the interior. Who do we turn away or even run such checks on at our borders and airports? Recently a police officer shit a man in my state in Falcon Heights area and his girlfriend began live streaming it via Facebook seconds after fatal shots were fired. The video made national news and case has been handed over to prosecutor awaiting his decision as to charges being filed. After hearing estas and seek,r video I ask but 1 question, how could you discharge your weapon on an unarmed man when there was a pre-schooler in the backseat? Remember, our government is infalable.
A Buddhist monk protesting the Vietnam war can be seen in a famous picture in which he kneels and after soaking himself in gasoline lights himself a fire, burning himself at the stake in a statement one can hardly find words for. I think him putting those dying in Vietnam's lives before his own courageous. If you think me the problem, a criminal, then with due process and after facing my accusers only then shall my freedom be taken. Until such time this free citizen shall be looking over both shoulders, shall be armed, and will not allow any questioning or detention without my prior consent. Why don't you focus your time and tax payer dollars on some of above listed actual problems and stop hanging on my dick? Thanks for listening

-Signed: incompetent/mentally ill