Monday, July 02, 2007

Show Me The Law

With fascination I follow the developments around civil rights in the USA. As a rule people accept the erosion of their liberties, because they think it makes them safer.

That would be a great subject for a post, but there is more.

People are now sent to jail for non-compliance with IRS (income tax) regulations, although these regulations seem not to be backed up by a law.
During the court procedures the defendants ask time and time again to be shown the law on which the income tax is based. That demand is consistently overruled by the judges.
So now the weird situation is this: not the law is the basis of the jury's verdict but the opinion: 'we all pay income tax so why should they not'. On the basis of this opinion the tax lawyer Irwin Schiff (77) was sentenced to 30 years in jail.

Shall we welcome him at the prison gate when they finally release him at the age of 107?


Dave Vonkleist explains the situation in a song.

Here's a link to Ed Brown's video blog. Ed has declared that he'll rather die than go to jail.

34 comments:

VallyP said...

How often have I seen American court room dramas haggling over a 'point of law'? Funnily enough, it doesn't seem so threatening when it's on TV, but I think the power the IRS, and all other tax authorities wprldwide, have to imprison people for non payment of taxes makes them an intimidating force anyway. If they can do it based on opinion rather than law - well that's really scary!

MargieCM said...

Bizarre! I confess the intricacies of the US legal system confound me at times, and this is certainly one of those instances.

We have stringent tax laws here, which are just that - law. As loopholes become evident, they are generally closed. However, if you or your tax agent legitimately finds a way around them, that's it. You win. It's not always equitable (there are many ways of minimising business tax, for instance, so individuals of less worth often pay proportionally more tax), but the legal position at least is very clear. The law is not perfect, but there are avenues to challenge decisions which are perceived as unfair.

Imposing penalties outside the law is dictatorship, oppression and institutionalised bullying. Not nice.

Koos F said...

"Imposing penalties outside the law is dictatorship, oppression and institutionalised bullying."

Hear hear.

I sincerely hope the moment will arive soon that on a large scale the American people share your opinion, Margie.

However, the mainstream media treat the subject as another Ruby Ridge or Waco. This means that Ed Brown is pictured as a right wing christian extremist. A terrorist nut, in brief, so when (or should I say if) hies house lies in a ruin and his remains are all over the place, people will think he's got what he deserved.
A few of my good blogging friends will blame him for owning arms and that is that.

Stevie said...

I have to think a bit before I speak as I tend to get overly passionate and blither on and on, with thoughts stumbling and trampling one another in their desire to come out first.

Koos F said...

Just concentrate on the traffic lights above my head and say "Omnibus". Works a treat ;-)

Dale said...

Stop

Use Caution

Go

Dale said...

Maybe that can be applied in some way to the tax laws...

Koos F said...

Hi Dale
Look again.
The lights say

- Go
- Get the hell off the crossing
- Too late

Dan L. said...

Koos:

I have listed to that guy on talk radio for years. His ideas are interesting, and likely can be valid, but it keeps him up a creek without a paddle. I know many people who followed his advice...hell to pay, them.

Interesting that you have an article concerning human rights in the USA on your blog...

I came here not to look, but to give you a website with a wealth of info (but you gotta click everywhere to get it). Galleries, etc. I am headed there this week. I go there from time to time, though it is over 200 miles away.

Oh, and I have conversed with a spledid older woman that was involved there...

http://www.nps.gov/manz/


--Dan L.

Anne-Marie said...

It succeeds because people have a sense of justice (or injustice) rather than a rule of law. Never mind to question why we should or shouldn't pay, it's just easier to nail someone for trying not to do what everyone else accepts.

MargieCM said...

Koos, I have come back to this, as I previously knew nothing about Ed Brown, and thought I should.

I stand by my earlier comments, but would like to add a few random observations after my googling and wikiped-ing. In no particular order:

1. If the law does not prevent tax avoidance by people who can afford to pay taxes and who use the facilities and services provided by other people's taxes, the law needs to change. If it doesn't, the society whose law it is is not in a position to complain, or to act. If it's not enforcable by law, then law enforcement is inappropriate.

2. If the penalty imposed is perceived to be outside the law, there are avenues to challenge the ruling. If a subsequent legitimately convened court can't overturn a spurious punishment imposed outside existing law, it has failed the society it is meant to protect.

3. Wealthy tax evaders (I'm talking large-scale, not those seeking to minimise tax legitimately), make others pay more for the infrastructure all enjoy. I dislike the selfishness of tax evasion as a concept, and dislike those who take advantage of technical loopholes to avoid their obligations to the society in which they live. However, if it's allowable in law, the law shouldn't be able to touch them. You get the society you deserve. Tighten up the law or live with inequity and don't complain about it.

4. I distrust fundamentalists of any sort, and if this man is indeed the right-wing Christian extremist that the media portrays, then my politics and morality prevent my supporting him. If he isn't and these labels are simply being used to discredit him, a different sort of nasty machine is at work. Neither scenario is good.

5. I will never support civilians being armed. I know this is a divisive issue, (I know my fellow-blogger Dan, for whom I have the greatest respect, would disagree passionately on constitutional and self-protection grounds), and if this is the same Ed Brown whose name keeps coming up with arms references, I'm no fan. I've read his quote about defending himself at his home against those who would take him. If he chooses to die for his beliefs, that is his right. I do not believe he has the right to take the lives of others, no matter what his grievance.


If this sounds like fence-sitting, I'm sorry, because I do see great rights and wrongs here. However, morality aside, one thing seems clear to me. In a civilised society there should be no avenue for retribution outside the law, a principle that applies equally to government and to individual citizens.

I will follow the case with interest - thanks Koos for raising the issue.

gypsy noir said...

Gordon Brown the newly appointed MP has brought in an Amnesty law for everyone with offshore bank accounts on the Isles of Man.
He wants 40% of everything, including all assets and acoounts for all the money over the past twenty years!..
The banks have absolved themselves from this ruling..even though they promised their customers that saving your money in their offshore accounts was exempted from such laws..
The Governments are greedy and the banks are greedy too...people should sue the banks for false promises..and the Governments for invation of privacy..

gypsy noir said...

OOPS! invasion..not invation!..


Have a great time at the wedding too Koos..

Koos F said...

"Interesting that you have an article concerning human rights in the USA on your blog..."

Ah, now I see what you mean, Dan. That relocation camp is what we now would call a concentration camp isn't it? Reminding is of the fragility of human rights...

Anne Marie
Sense of justice can't be relied upon, the law gives a much firmer ground. What I discovered just tonight is that the federal tax provides for one third of the budget. Sounds huge, doesn't it? But abolishing this tax would bring the budget back to the level of 2000. That sounds bearable, it seems.

Margie, thanks for elaborating.
Mind if I 'undress' your first point? I think it says basically: no law no tax.
About point 2, I don't think we should rely on perceptions.

Penalties are never appropriate unless for enforcing the law.
Indeed the court has failed the society it is meant to protect.

Point 3 is fine by me, however you can't evade a tax that isn't based on law.

Point 4: the media know you, so they portray him as a fundamentalist.
I have a question here: do I understand correctly that if the man is in his right you might support him but only if he's not a fundamentalist? Really? In other words, if he is a christian fundamentalist then good riddance in spite of injustice done to him?

5 He may be in the right but having ideas the way he has them (and Dan, and myself) means injustice is ok?

"In a civilised society there should be no avenue for retribution outside the law, a principle that applies equally to government and to individual citizens."
This feels like home to me.

Koos F said...

Gypsy, I'm afraid I know too little of the laws and procedures involved in your example, but paying 40% over all assets over the last 20 years whereas people were led to believe that no tax was due, seems like a high price for 'Amnesty'.

I am looking forward to the wedding. Thanks for the good wish.

Anne-Marie said...

Koos, I completely agree with you in terms of law. I was tying to point out that there is sense of "justice above the law" that you can sense in some corners of America. A hold-over from the wild west days, I suppose.

Your nephew is not far away from us at all, you know.

Have a great time at the wedding!

xx
AM

Koos F said...

Hi Anne-Marie
Thanks for the explanation. I got a bit lost there.

Kitchener, ONT, just around the corner - well, relatively, given the size of the entire country.
I've surely told you my brother lives in Kitchener as well?

Grace said...

I will say nothing other than the justice system is awry.

Koos F said...

To end on a brighter note: Yuk.

MargieCM said...

Sorry, Koos, took me a while to get back. Thanks for "undressing" my points. One clarification I need to make - You ask:

"do I understand correctly that if the man is in his right you might support him but only if he's not a fundamentalist?"

No! Absolutely not. I expressed myself badly.

The two are separate issues. I mistrust any form of absolute fundamentalism as a doctrine, but it is extremism in any form which I do not support, not the basic rights of an individual who also happens to hold fundamentalist views. Rights are rights, and equal for all. Where his rights make his personal doctrine irrelevant, I will support him in his pursuit of them - although not in taking up arms to do it.

I've found in the to arm / not to arm debate, people generally end up agreeing to disagree. Few are swayed by arguments on either side. So Koos, if we want to settle that part of the issue, do we do pistols at dawn for you, or scissors/paper/rock for me?

M x

PS: What are the gun laws like in the Netherlands? I confess I am totally ignorant of them.

MargieCM said...

... So am I forgiven Koos, or now relegated to the ranks of persona non grata?

Koos F said...

Sorry for not answering quickly, Margie, a wedding got in the way, most enjoyably.
No offense taken so no forgiveness needed.
We can do the scissors/paper/rock thing though. It sounds like fun to me.

As for the debate about arms / no arms I have made the move from contra to pro after reading whatever I could find about the subject.
One little sentence by Roger waters comes to mind: "mama can I trust the government?"

In Holland the gun laws are very strict: only for shooting club members and very strongly restricted.

MargieCM said...

No problem Koos - I saw the photos on Val's blog - gorgeous! I'm glad you had a wonderful time.

I think your gun laws may be quite similar to ours, although here I believe you are allowed to have licensed weapons for farming (fox and rabbit control, feral dogs and kangaroos if a cull is permitted), and hunting too. No semi-automatic weapons are allowed, as these of course can inflict a lot of damage very quickly. No civilian is allowed to carry a gun for self-defense.

Our police force is armed - all officers carry guns - but shootings are relatively few. Those that do happen are often in relation to underworld infighting, or the occasional robbery "gone wrong". Sadly, though, they also feature in domestic violence situations. When a weapon's to hand I suppose it's easy for a nasty situation to get nastier.

Alas, nothing is perfect, not even arguments, and meanwhile we struggle on as best we can. (Ooh, I think I was channelling Dan then!) Mind you, you'll easily beat me any time at scissors/paper/rock. I'm pathetic.

Thanks for the reply Koos.
M x

Rache said...

""Imposing penalties outside the law is dictatorship, oppression and institutionalised bullying."

Hear hear.

I sincerely hope the moment will arive soon that on a large scale the American people share your opinion..."

Koos, on a large scale, the American people do share that opinion. That's (one reason) why Bush's approval ratings are in the toilet, Congress is now led by Democrats and it's a pretty sure bet that the next president will also be a Democrat.

Most Americans, including myself for the past seven years, are as sick of the 'above the law' attitude of the current administration as the rest of the world.

just checking in....

Rache said...

BTW - Love the stoplight!

How did you do that?

Koos F said...

And under a democrat as president justice will be done in the courts? Somehow i feel that might be a bit over-optimistic.

Waco was done under a democrat as president remember?

Koos F said...

Hi Rache
Good to see you here again on my (admittedly) slow moving pages.
I just recently discovered the gif animation option in Photoshop which had been there for donkey's years.
So that is very briefly how it is done.

About the zigzagging between democrats and republicans: I hope it is not too late.
- The voting computers are so easily rigged that the US citizen being fed up with neocons does not have to be an issue.
- A convenient reoccurrence of a 9-11 type event is a great reason to install martial law - end of 'democracy'.

You see, I don't think the world is better off with the smooth talking Kerry (Another Skull and Bones member, like Bush).
The only candidate I have heard (of) so far who seems a reasonable alternative, is Ron Paul (he's a Republican).
Go listen to him after following this link

Love to hear what you think about him.

Koos F said...

Highly recommended on that Youtube page: Ron Paul : Stop Dreaming

Dale said...

I miss you...

Erik-Jan said...

I do remember: "I fought the law and the law won" (Brian Adams).
Anyway...i did move to the most nautical city in the area. The fortified town of Muiden. Sure i will go on with all my 'harbour' and 'rondvaart' obligations in Naarden. It is only 8 minutes away on motorbike. Not to mention that Katinka is still living there. We are just back from a trip to Crete. Lovely island. How are you doing?
Love, also on behalf of Katinka,
E.J.

Stevie said...

What's this about Koos undressing Margie???
Goodess me... and I was just saying Omnibus when those lights changed colour... so cool!
I am still digesting this one. I hate to say that, but it's true. Mostly becuase just lately I have been so disgusted with my own government I have have not been able to really focus on the American fiasco called the US Justice System... an oxymoron if ever I heard one.
My big distraction, well two really, have been our pathetic youth laws, which could use an huge revamping and tightening up... I'll have to post Ian's column of two weeks ago...
and the other, and much more distressing for me, is my mum.
She retired last spring, three years early, to care for my stepdad who was terminally ill.
When he died last November, she was eligible for survior's benefits, or widow's pension to put it more commonly.
According to her tax evaluation of last year, she made "too much money" her last year of work, and they have now taken her widow's pension away.
She was only getting, in total, $1800 a month to live on with combined retirement plans. And that was okay, she could live on that all right, no luxury, but okay. They have taken nearly $500 of that away. And what is she to do? According to Revenue Canada. such it up.
Fuckers.
So, into the fray I go with and for my mum.
If you don't have loads of cash, you are not protected from anything. And still we shake our heads and wonder why there are still idealists out there that think socialism is the way to go. (and of course, neither communism nor socialism can work on a large scale unless the community is eintirely made up of ants... or maybe penguins).
In the words of Frank Zappa: "Communism doesn't work because people like to own stuff."

Stevie said...

come see come see come see!!!!!

MargieCM said...

Stevie, I've always though Frank Zappa a wise man. Strange, but wise. I'm sad he's no longer around in person.

Your mum's situation sounds incredible - what a travesty. Who was it said the true measure of a civilised society is in the way it cares for its most vulnerable members? I'm paraphrasing, but you get the gist. Where's the incentive to work and save if you're only going to be penalised for it down the track? There may well be people in this world who have made "too much money", but your mother isn't likely to be one of them.

Koos, I think you need to put up a new post. Either that or let me and my points get dressed. It's cold in here!

Koos F said...

This kettle is boiling over, but I'm not a banana tree. In other words, the thoughts come up and become long discourses about freedom, bullying people by way of psy-ops like 9/11 and SARS; the silent integration of Canada, US and Mexico already accomplished and nothing your representatives (can) do about it - in other words these three countries have stopped existing as such; our strong Dutch 'no' to further European integration and the way the 'constitution' has now been 'rewritten' (96% of the text has remained the same) and now a new referendum is no more needed.
Not to forget the Al Gore hoax, of course.

All the above spells 'conspiracy nut', so that ends the debate, and we can go back to our tv's and have ourselves amused to death and scared witless about subjects like terrorism and climate change, handing over our freedom in the process.

So what to do now?
Well, how about some beauty as I see it.
Val went West while I flew to Poland. After a day or four I came back with loads of impressions and over a thousand digital photographs.
A few thousand of the older work can be seen on Flickr.com, and I'd like to make this Blog a jumping board to my photos.