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News :: Resistance & Tactics

Come tax day, some won’t pay

Come tax day, some won’t pay

http://www.santacruzsentinel.com/archive/2003/April/13/local/stories/01local.htm

Number of tax resisters grows amid controversial Iraq war

By KURTIS ALEXANDER
Sentinel staff writer
April 13, 2003

Tax day is two days away.
Some have settled up. Others may be scrambling to file. Others, still, will be among the untold number who won’t pay income tax at all this year.
Ever since some angry American Colonists dumped tea into Boston Harbor, many Americans have shunned what may be the most basic, if not burdensome, responsibility of citizenship paying federal taxes.
Despite threats of jail time and seizure of assets, tax resistance is alive and well today just about everywhere there are taxpayers.
For some, it’s a way to save money. For others, it’s a philosophical problem with government taking their money. And for others, it’s a matter of how their money is spent.
This year, with billions of taxpayer dollars money going to military operations in Iraq, some taxpayers are venting disapproval by withholding tax payments.
“I can’t bear the thought of contributing to the war, or any military spending,” said Santa Cruz resident Jean Peterson, who is still debating whether or not to write out a check to the Internal Revenue Service.
Wartime tax resistance is nothing new. Withholding taxes as a means of protest dates to World War II and had its heyday during the Vietnam War.
The IRS, though, is tight-lipped about every issue surrounding tax resistance, and provides no estimates of the number of tax resisters locally, statewide or nationally.
Today’s antiwar activists are quick to draw comparisons between Vietnam and the war in Iraq, and calls for tax resistance as a way to protest the Mideast conflict are growing.
Several Web sites and support groups have emerged nationwide, offering war critics detailed instructions on how to resist taxes.
In Santa Cruz, the grassroots campaign Schools Not Bombs provides a form letter of protest to the IRS and suggestions on how to withhold tax. It includes a disclaimer noting, “one could face significant fines and/or a prison sentence.”
Santa Cruz resident Betsy Fairbanks, Schools Not Bombs organizer, says 30 people showed up at a recent information session on the tax protest. She expects dozens of area residents will actually withhold taxes in protest of events in the Middle East.
“We like to be smug here in Santa Cruz and say we oppose the war, but if you pay taxes, you’re supporting the war,” she said.
Fairbanks deducts from her tax bill the fraction of total government spending she believes goes toward unnecessary military expenditures. She estimates this to be 23 percent.
The New York-based War Resisters League says 47 percent of the U.S. budget goes toward war expenses, a figure more commonly adopted by war tax protesters. Some put the percentage even higher.
This “partial” withholding is popular this year, according to the league. Though the number of taxpayers won’t be known until after April 15, officials say interest in tax protest is double what it’s been in recent years.
“This is my first time doing it,” said Santa Cruz resident Don Lane, among the dozens of newcomers to the Santa Cruz tax resistance movement.
Lane says he’ll start small. He plans to keep $100 of the total he owes and send a letter to the IRS explaining his motives.
It’s something he has always wanted to do, he said, but couldn’t get over his fear of the IRS until now.
“I was a little afraid in the past,” Lane said. “It was more trouble than I was willing to risk.”
Jail or fines
Some tax resisters put aside their fear of the IRS long ago.
Santa Cruz City Councilman Scott Kennedy has not paid a full tax bill in 30 years, though he lives with the knowledge the IRS may catch up with him at any point.
In fact, it has, several times.
“They’ve seized my salary, my bank account,” he said. “But it’s important for me not to voluntarily pay the war tax.”
Penalties for snubbing tax payments can include up to five years in prison and $250,000 in fines, depending on how the crime is classified.
Charges of “tax evasion,” which presume criminal intent, carry a heavier sentence, while “failure to file” charges are more forgiving, according to the IRS.
“But it’s very serious anytime someone doesn’t pay,” warned Mark Lessler, with the criminal investigation division of the IRS.
Odds, though, according to IRS statistics, are tax resisters will never face criminal charges, only penalty fees and interest charges.
Last fiscal year, the IRS launched 3,906 nationwide investigations into criminal actions. They came away with 1,926 convictions with those convicted averaging two-year jail sentences.
Jail time doesn’t scare Fairbanks of Schools Not Bombs. Nor do the financial penalties.
“We certainly don’t do it to save money,” she said.
For her, the looming eye of the IRS is merely an inconvenience. She has lost count of the number of times the IRS has put a lien on her bank account and seized the money she was required to pay.
On top of that, there are penalties and interest payments to reckon with. Tax resisters estimate penalties between 5 and 25 percent and interest at about 10 percent.
“There were some years that they did not collect, but lately they’ve gotten us,” said Fairbanks, who files jointly with her husband. “We ultimately pay more (than what we owed.)”
Other tax resisters point out the burden of having their credit tarnished, and consequently loan applications denied or problems passing pre-employment screenings.
Kennedy said when the IRS came after him, they targeted not only his personal bank account, but the accounts of volunteer organizations where he played a financial role.
“I’ve taken my name off these accounts. I don’t want to jeopardize them,” he said.
The hassle of the IRS eventually becomes too much for some.
“I caved in. It just beat me down,” said former tax resister Mike Rotkin, also a Santa Cruz councilman.
During the Vietnam War, Rotkin refused to pay a federal surcharge levied on telephone bills that helped fund war costs. He was eventually assessed years worth of interest and penalties.
Dodging the IRS
For some tax resisters, ducking payment is only half the battle. The other half is holding on to their money.
“If you’re sharp, you can get away with it,” said Oswald Lake, an IRS-certified agent, now retired from his 25-year practice in Soquel.
Oswald has always paid his taxes, but as a tax advisor and registered Libertarian since 1978, he’s seen his share of tax resisters and understands their anguish.
“I don’t think the income tax law was ever properly passed,” said Lake, who counts himself among those who oppose incomes taxes on philosophical grounds.
Since the 1913 ratification of the 16th Amendment, which first granted Congress the power to “lay and collect taxes on income,” critics have questioned the act’s legitimacy.
They challenge the constitutionality of the ratification process. They protest the government’s right to “withhold” income tax. They say filing tax returns violates a right guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment due process.
The IRS calls these constitutional arguments “frivolous.” But the objections continue.
“If the government takes my money, I want to feel justly compensated,” Capitola resident Bill Anderson said. “This is my right.”
In a self-published manifesto, Anderson writes, “A few short decades ago the federal government deducted nothing from a person’s paycheck. ... We need to recover our tax history.”
Anderson, though, pays his taxes. Other county residents who share his concerns and decide not to pay are less conspicuous.
“Most people who are not paying taxes are not broadcasting it,” explained Lake. “They don’t want to go to jail.”
Silence is the secret to their success, Lake said. Compared to tax protesters, quiet tax resisters aren’t likely to be bothered by the IRS, he explained, adding that those who are self-employed and don’t have sizable assets are more likely to succeed.
Staffing levels at the IRS, which have fallen in recent years, may help bolster Lake’s assertions.
According to the Washington, D.C.-based Anti-Defamation League, the number of IRS employees has dropped by more than 15 percent since 1992, and the number of civil suits filed against tax resisters has fallen from 2,500 in 1992 to 641 in 1999.
San Jose resident Joseph Bannister is candid about not having filed a federal tax form since 1998. Unlike many outspoken tax resisters, he has not been hassled by the IRS.
His story is different, though. Until February 1999, Bannister worked as a special agent for the IRS, during which time he became convinced it was not his duty, as an American, to pay federal income tax.
“If they (IRS officials) show me documentation that I owe them money, I got my checkbook ready,” he said.
In his Internet-distributed book “Investigating the Federal Income Tax,” Bannister lays out the history of constitutional arguments against income tax and alleges some present-day wrongdoings of the IRS.
“There’s very suspicious conduct that the government engages in when they’re dealing with someone who knows nothing,” he said, noting his gun-toting days as an IRS investigator when he seized property and made arrests.
He says his experience and knowledge of the IRS is why the agency has not come after him.
Making their point
Bannister says all tax resisters, despite their motivation, share a similar struggle.
“War protesters, too, see that the government hasn’t followed proper procedures,” he said. Everyone is in this to bring about change in the government, he explained.
Many, however, say this isn’t likely to happen.
Tax resistance is limited to a small number of “right-wing” groups with constitutional arguments, and “left-wing” war protesters are unlikely to gain the momentum they had during the Vietnam era, said Mark Pitcavage, director of fact-finding for the Anti-Defamation League and an expert on extremist activities.
“If it’s a short war, which it’s looking to be, I don’t expect to see much of this,” Pitcavage said. Only if American occupation drags on will the tax-protest movement have any real impact, he said.
As for the “right-wing” tax activists, the movement at times has been marked by violence, which is counter-productive, Pitcavage said. Those incidents include an attempt to blow up an IRS office in Santa Barbara and machine gun fire into an IRS office in Hayward.
These incidents, though, are exceptional. Most tax resisters try to avoid the IRS, and some even show sympathy for them.
“I had a good relationship with the tax collector,” said Kennedy, the councilman. “I knew him from Mass. He was just doing his job.”
But Kennedy and other outspoken tax resisters also believe the IRS targets agitators like them to stifle their message.
The IRS denies investigation biases and it doesn’t track the motives of tax resisters. The agency does not comment on specific investigations either.
“All taxpayers are required to follow tax laws,” said Lessler of the IRS.
Others continue to disagree.
“There are things that I morally can’t go along with,” Lane said.
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Contact Kurtis Alexander at kalexander@santa-cruz.com

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News :: Peace & War

VFW post will honor victims of Iraqi war

VFW post will honor victims of Iraqi war

http://www.bayarea.com/mld/mercurynews/news/local/5618616.htm

04/12/03
Mercury News

A Veterans of Foreign Wars post will hold a ceremony Sunday honoring the dead of both sides of the Iraqi conflict.
Bill Motto Post No. 5888 will place a floral wreath and play taps at the memorial for war dead across from the post office on Front Street. Chris Matthews, the post’s chaplain, said only members of the post and family members are invited.
“We feel this to be a solemn ceremony and do not wish to make it a public, political event,” he said.
After the ceremony, post members will lay a wreath at the Collateral Damage statue near the town clock in remembrance of all the civilians who have died in the conflict.

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News :: Resistance & Tactics

Anti-war vandals hit SUVs

Anti-war vandals hit SUVs

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2003/04/11/BA36159.DTL&type=news

by Maria Alicia Gaura, Chronicle Staff Writer
Friday, April 11, 2003

Santa Cruz police are searching for vandals with an anti-war message who defaced an estimated 65 sport utility vehicles and trucks in a late-night spray-painting blitz.
Slogans including “No Blood for Oil,” “SUVs Suck” and “No War” were spritzed onto 45 new vehicles at the North Bay Ford and Lincoln Mercury dealership on Soquel Avenue, as well as onto 18 or 20 vehicles parked in front of residents’ homes, police said Thursday.
The graffiti also included references to ELF, or Earth Liberation Front, a radical environmental group that has previously taken credit for torching and vandalizing dozens of SUVs in Pennsylvania and Virginiapresumably to protest the gas-guzzling vehicles’ environmental costs.
Santa Cruz Police Lt. Joe Haebe said the Tuesday-night spree might have been the work of ELF, but no links have been established.
“It may have been ELF, but then, I sometimes get them confused with ALF, the Animal Liberation Front,” Haebe said. “And then there’s Earth First! and PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals). There’s a lot of cross- pollination between them, and some people here are probably members of two of those groups, or more.”
The ELF press office said the group could not definitively take credit for the vandalism, but noted that the ELF tags found at the scene “can be construed as a claim of responsibility.”
“We have no statement at this time, except to say that this action is consistent with actions that the ELF has taken in the past opposing the war and opposing SUV overconsumption,” according to the group’s unsigned response.
Plumbing contractor David Rosenthal said the vandals hit all three of his family carsa Ford Expedition, a Chevy Suburban and a GMC pickupand the vehicles of perhaps a dozen neighbors. He estimates the vandalism will cost him $1,200 to $1,500 to fix.
“I’ve already gotten my wife’s car cleaned, and the Suburban, because I’m trying to sell it,” Rosenthal saidwork that involved removing the spray paint with solvent, then having the areas buffed out and rewaxed. “But I haven’t had time to get my pickup taken care of, and now I’m driving around with that crap all over my truck.”
Police did not yet have an overall dollar figure for the damage, but estimated that it would cost about $600 to clean each vehicle, depending on the color.
A spokeswoman for North Bay Ford refused to comment on the vandalism, and hung up on a reporter.
“Well, they’re frustrated, and I don’t blame them,” Haebe said, noting that police are busy tracking down leads in the case. “We’ve got some people out there in serious need of adult supervision.”
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E-mail the writer at mgaura@sfchronicle.com

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News :: Resistance & Tactics

Weapons protesters turned away at Lockheed Martin facility

Weapons protesters turned away at Lockheed Martin facility

http://www.bayarea.com/mld/mercurynews/news/5614864.htm

Apr. 11, 2003
By Ken McLaughlin
Mercury News
About 60 members of a Santa Cruz County “weapons inspection team” showed up at the Bonny Doon facility of defense contractor Lockheed Martin today to inspect it for weapons of mass destruction.
Company officials politely refused to let them through the Empire Road gate.
“We recognize your right to protest, but we also hope you respect our employees’ rights and our property,” Peter Olinger of emergency operations told the group after it arrived shortly after 2 p.m.
Many of the anti-war protesters dressed in white costumes with “inspector” stickers after pulling up in several vehicles, one of them a white van marked “Civilian Weapons Inspection Team.”
The team handed Olinger a letter asking if the facility produces and tests the ordnance for the Trident II D-5 nuclear missile.
A company spokesman said the facility builds “component subsystems and tests systems for the U.S. military,” but that “there are absolutely no weapon systems” at the site.
About a dozen members of the county sheriff’s office and California Highway Patrol were on hand to witness the protest. When one deputy spotted a retired Santa Cruz High School teacher, 86-year-old Mary Duffield, he offered to give her a lift so she didn’t have to walk up the hill to the gate.
She accepted. “I would have walked if I had to because all the children in the world belong to usand I have a great-grandson who is the answer to evolution,” she said.
Demonstrators posted a piece of white cardboard on the gate accusing Lockheed Martin of “failure to comply” and providing “insufficient information.”
They said they intended to pursue the issue. “At some point we really need to know what’s going on here,” protester Kim Dowling told Olinger.
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Contact Ken McLaughlin at kmclaughlin@mercurynews. com or (831) 423-3115

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News :: Resistance & Tactics

Ex-tree-sitter sent to prison

Ex-tree-sitter sent to prison

http://www.bayarea.com/mld/mercurynews/news/local/5618623.htm

MAN BROUGHT SUPPLIES FOR MAKING A BOMB NEAR PLANNED WHITE SUPREMACISTS’ MEETING

Apr. 12, 2003
By Ken McLaughlin
Mercury News
A former Santa Cruz County tree-sitter who calls himself “Rampage” has been sentenced to three years in state prison for possessing the makings of a Molotov cocktail.
Matthew Gordon Lamont, 21, of Long Beach, was arrested last year in La Habra after he drove past a Moose Lodge set to host a meeting of white supremacists celebrating Hitler’s birthday.
La Habra police said lodge officials canceled the meeting after learning of the group’s intentions, but police found Lamont in a car on a side street. Smelling gas and tipped off by Long Beach police, officers found a plastic milk jug filled with gasoline, gasoline-soaked sponges, candles and cigarette lighters.
Lamont, who has become a cause célčbre among anarchist groups, pleaded guilty this week to four felony counts related to possessing and transporting an incendiary device. In sentencing him, Judge Carla Singer of Orange County Superior Court gave Lamont credit for the year he had already spent in county jail.
Lamont had made his fellow Earth First protesters nervous during a 2001 Boulder Creek tree-sit after he began scrawling terrorist threats and posing for pictures with a switchblade and black ski mask.
One graffito on his tree-sitting platform showed “Freddie the Forester” with a gun to the head and his brains coming out the left side. Next to a drawing of a Molotov cocktail, he wrote, “Save the Earth. Recycle glass bottles.”
Lamont left Santa Cruz County in late 2001. He didn’t show up for a court hearing on a trespassing charge, and Superior Court Commissioner Irwin Joseph issued a $350 bench warrant.
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Contact Ken McLaughlin at kmclaughlin@mercurynews. com or (831) 423-3115

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News :: Resistance & Tactics

Library in Santa Cruz fights to defend freedom

Library in Santa Cruz fights to defend freedom

http://www.bayarea.com/mld/mercurynews/news/local/5618608.htm

Apr. 12, 2003
By Dennis Rockstroh
Mercury News
I have just returned from the frontier of freedom and can tell you what it is like.
Muffled discussions, the low din of fingers hitting keyboard keys, young people, older people, babies, toddlers silently, OK, not the toddlers, swishing by my vantage point on their search for information.
An older man, gingerly hauling six hardback, plastic-covered books approached the checkout desk and didn’t even glance at the warning sign.
This is an American library. More specifically, this is Santa Cruz’s Central Library on Church Street.
It is here where every day the fight for your freedom is waged. To be kept from prying eyes, requests for information are shredded at the end of each day. Other records are destroyed as soon as possible.
This is done here and at hundreds of other libraries across the land as patriots fight to keep freedoms knowing that eternal vigilance is the price of freedom.
The foe is the USA Patriot Act, an acronym for Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism.
This well-meaning act, passed in the feverish aftermath of Sept. 11, while giving valuable tools to law enforcement, is also an assault on personal freedom.
This is not taken to kindly in seaside Santa Cruz, where people take their freedoms very seriously. Folks here heed the warning of Benjamin Franklin that “they that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
Santa Cruz forces at City Hall, the school district and the libraries have all spoken in opposition to the overreacting muscle of the federal government.
It’s that kind of a town. It’s that kind of people. Don’t mess with our freedoms, they say.
The sign at the checkout desk reads:
WARNING: Although the Santa Cruz Library makes every effort to protect your privacy, under the USA PATRIOT Act (Public Law 107-56), records of the books and other materials you borrow from this library may be obtained by federal agents. That federal law prohibits library workers from informing you if federal agents have obtained records about you. Questions about this policy should be directed to Attorney General John Ashcroft, Department of Justice, Washington, D.C. 20530.
Or, I might add, ask Viet Dinh, the 34-year-old assistant attorney general and architect of the USA Patriot Act.
It is one of the ironies of history that the son of a family who fled their country to seek freedom in the United States wrote a law that some have called the most sweeping curtailment of individual freedoms since the McCarthy era.
Dinh learned his law at Harvard University and was editor of the Harvard Law Review. He became the first and only Vietnamese-American law professor at Georgetown University. He was also a constitutional law expert on CNN.
In published interviews, he has defended his work by saying that “the threat to liberty comes from Osama bin Laden and his terrorist network, not from the men and women in blue who work to uphold the law.”
Dinh said the law he drafted “makes the best use of the information we have, sharing information between law enforcement agencies to put the pieces of the puzzle together so we can look for the needle in the haystack.”
The “needles” are the targets of the nation’s war on terrorism, remember that?
But a lot of people, including local governments across the county, think the law is government intrusion and goes too far.
And, as usual, Santa Cruz is up there near the head of the line.
Santa Cruz should have a city flag that matches its attitude: something like a snake on a gold field and the words “Don’t tread on me.”
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Contact Dennis Rockstroh at drockstroh@mercurynews. com

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News :: Resistance & Tactics

Anti-war protest group tries to inspect Lockheed

Anti-war protest group tries to inspect Lockheed

http://www.bayarea.com/mld/mercurynews/news/local/5618613.htm

Apr. 12, 2003
By Ken McLaughlin
Mercury News
About 60 members of a Santa Cruz County “weapons inspection team” showed up at the Bonny Doon facility of defense contractor Lockheed Martin on Friday to inspect it for weapons of mass destruction.
Company officials politely refused to let them through the Empire Grade Road gate.
“We recognize your right to protest, but we also hope you respect our employees’ rights and our property,” Peter Olinger of emergency operations told the group.
Many of the anti-war protesters wore white costumes with “inspector” stickers. One of their vehicles was marked “Civilian Weapons Inspection Team.”
The team handed Olinger a letter asking whether the facility produces and tests the ordnance for the Trident II D-5 nuclear missile.
A company spokesman said the facility builds “component subsystems and tests systems” for the military but “there are absolutely no weapon systems” at the site.
Demonstrators said they intended to pursue the issue. “At some point we really need to know what’s going on here,” protester Kim Dowling told Olinger.
-------------
Contact Ken McLaughlin at kmclaughlin@mercurynews. com or (831) 423-3115

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News :: Peace & War

Rep. Farr stands firm against war

Rep. Farr stands firm against war

http://www.californianonline.com/news/stories/20030412/localnews/105803.html

Sight of cheering Iraqis hasn’t changed his mind

By Larry Parsons
The Californian
Saturday, April 12, 2003

U.S. Rep. Sam Farr, despite this week’s scenes of jubilation in Baghdad and polls showing widespread American support for war in Iraq, isn’t changing his mind.
A consistent opponent of the Bush administration’s use of military force against Saddam Hussein, Farr contends the 3-week-old war is a highly questionable “failure of diplomacy.”
It’s far too early for a verdict on the war, he said.
“Historians will judge the military effort only by the success of the peace,” Farr said.
But it’s not too early, with the 2004 election season already warming, for a sounding on how his political future could be affected by the war’s likely major role in upcoming elections.
The Carmel Democrat is in his sixth term representing the 17th District, which includes all of Monterey and San Benito counties and most of Santa Cruz County.
Republicans are certain to try to capitalize on the military triumph in Iraq. Will Farr’s antiwar record make him vulnerable in November 2004?
“Two factors mitigate it,” said Democratic campaign consultant Greg Sellers of Morgan Hill. “Sam is largely in line with his constituents ... and 18 months is a very long time.”
Republican campaign strategist Brandon Gesicki of Salinas said Farr’s position on Iraq could help the GOP regain the Central Coast seat held by Democrats for more than a quarter-century.
“A pro-choice, pro-environment moderate Republican could win,” Gesicki said. “If a credible candidate like (state Sen. Bruce) McPherson runs, absolutely. If one doesn’t, (Farr) will get a pass again.”
McPherson, R-Santa Cruz, who lost a 2002 race for lieutenant governor, is being termed out of the state Senate. “A lot of people are trying to get him to run,” Gesicki said.
Farr doesn’t discount the emotional power of the war. He watched Wednesday morning, along with the rest of the world, as joyous Iraqis and U.S. Marines teamed to topple a huge statue of Saddam Hussein in downtown Baghdad.
“We’re all pleased with the winning, but we’re not pleased with the necessity to do this,” Farr said this week.
He said he fully expects Republicans to use “the rally-round-the-troops as a political tool,” but he doesn’t think Central Coast voters will cast him out of Congress for being antiwar.
“We have a thinking district,” Farr said. “I don’t think they react on one day’s news to set foreign policy.”
Before the conflict started, he said his office was receiving letters, e-mails and phone calls overwhelmingly against war.
That sentiment hasn’t changed, Farr said, as he continues to question the war’s costs, in U.S. lives, dollars and international relations, and the unknown price of peace.
“I have an open record, and I’m very proud to stand by it,” he said.

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