Building trust with police

SUBHEAD: Cops can get into a state of mind where they're scared to death and they panic and they act out on that panic.

By Steve Inskeep on 5 December 2014 for NPR News -
(http://www.npr.org/blogs/codeswitch/2014/12/05/368545491/civil-rights-attorney-on-how-she-built-trust-with-police)


Image above: A young man kneels before a line of Los Angeles police officers about to charge at protesters reacting to a grand jury’s decision not to indict a white police officer who shot dead an unarmed black teenager in Ferguson, Missouri. From (http://online.wsj.com/articles/what-it-felt-like-to-be-a-suspicious-black-teenager-1416956319).

[IB Publisher's note: Listen to this story at (http://www.npr.org/blogs/codeswitch/2014/12/05/368545491/civil-rights-attorney-on-how-she-built-trust-with-police).]

As a civil rights attorney, Constance Rice became known in the 1990s for, as she puts it, going to war with the Los Angeles Police Department.

Rice filed lawsuits against the department, mainly over their treatment of minorities in underprivileged communities.

Following the recent decisions not to indict white cops in the deaths of two black men — President Obama has said one of his top priorities is building trust between minority communities and local police.

Rice's time battling the LAPD, and specifically captain Charlie Beck, who is now LA's police chief, eventually led to a place where there could be trust. They worked together to reform the department.
Some of that change included LAPD officers going into projects to set up youth sports programs and health screenings, things that made people's lives better and brought police and predominantly black communities closer together.

Here are some interview highlights:

On use of police force on minorities:
Cops can get into a state of mind where they're scared to death. When they're in that really, really frightened place they panic and they act out on that panic. I have known cops who haven't had a racist bone in their bodies and in fact had adopted black children, they went to black churches on the weekend; and these are white cops. They really weren't overtly racist. They weren't consciously racist.

But you know what they had in their minds that made them act out and beat a black suspect unwarrantedly? They had fear. They were afraid of black men. I know a lot of white cops who have told me.

And I interviewed over 900 police officers in 18 months and they started talking to me, it was almost like a therapy session for them I didn't realize that they needed an outlet to talk.

They would say things like;
"Ms. Rice I'm scared of black men. Black men terrify me. I'm really scared of them. Ms. Rice, you know black men who come out of prison, they've got great hulk strength and I'm afraid they're going to kill me. Ms. Rice, can you teach me how not to be afraid of black men." 
I mean this is cops who are 6'4". You know, the cop in Ferguson was 6'4" talking about he was terrified. But when cops are scared, they kill and they do things that don't make sense to you and me.

On whether or not racism plays a factor in police force:
He doesn't feel like it's racism. The black community experiences it as racism, that's very clear. So what I'm saying is that for people who have to be in the business of solving this dilemma you have to be able to step into the frightened tennis shoes of black kids; black male kids in particular.

You have to be able to step into the combat boots and scared cops, and racist cops, and cruel cops, and good cops. You have to be able to distinguish between all of those human experiences and bring them together. On a single platform of we're going to solve this by empathizing. We're going to solve it with compassion and we're going to solve it with common sense.

On whether improving life in poor neighborhoods causes police to be less fearful:
Not only does it cause cops to be less fearful, it causes the community to embrace them. I have taken a group of 50 cops and the chief (Charlie) Beck let me train them.

I trained them in what I community partnership policing. The first thing I tell these cops is that you are not in the arrest business; you are in the trust business. We are going to train you in Public Trust Policing. It goes beyond community policing.

What it does is it puts police in a position of helping a community solve its problems. These cops come into the black housing projects and they said to these populations who hate them "We know you hate us, but we're here to serve. We're going to win your trust."



Darren Wilson killing Michael Brown

By Juan Wilson on 5 December 2014 for Island Breath - 
(http://islandbreath.blogspot.com/2014/12/building-trust-with-police.html)

There are several eyewitness accounts of how Officer Darren Wilson shot to death Michael Brown. Most of the details I have heard or read isolate detail of accounts to highlight conflicting testimony.

It seems to me the the conduction of the Grand Jury was quite unusual. setup with a deal. Eyewitness testimony was presented as being unreliable. One could only rely on the testimony of Wilson himself.

My opinion is that Wilson’s resignation was baked into the cake if he was not indicted. Anyway,

A good article in the Atlantic on the subject is (http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2014/11/major-contradictions-in-eyewitness-accounts-of-michael-browns-death/383157/)
Brown attacked Wilson
Brown ran from Wilson
Brown had his hands in the air
Brown did not have his hands in the air
Brown tried to surrender to Wilson
Brown did not try to surrender to Wilson
What makes sense?

All of it might!

If one does not discredit the eyewitness testimony - and for the sake of attempting to find some clarity - one tries to sew together a narrative that makes sense  - then a whole new characterization of events might emerge.

Here’s one way of looking various details. I am only including actions between Brown and Wilson. Brown was with a friend but I have eliminated him from the action.

Wilson driving his patrol car came upon Michael Brown walking down the middle of the street. There was a police radio report about a nearby store theft by some fitting Brown’s description.

Brown was 19 but huge at 6’-5” and weighing almost 290 pounds. A physically intimidating individual to take on. Wilson was alone in the patrol car. As he neared Brown he made is service revolver available for immediate use if necessary.

Wilson in the patrol car, with is driver window down, stopped Brown walking in the middle of the street. Upon being questioned Brown gave the officer a wise-ass response. Wilson commanded Brown off the road. There was more back talk from Brown. As if to intimidate Brown Wilson showed the gun to Brown.

Brown told Wilson he was too much of a pussy to shoot him. Brown may have reached for the gun. Wilson fired the revolver, hitting Brown in the right shoulder. There was some blood in the car. Brown momentarily pulled back not knowing if he was badly hurt or not.

Brown did not want to be shot again. A struggle for the gun ensued. They wrestled for control. Wilson was punched. Without getting control of the gun Brown made a decision to flee and took off. Wilson makes a radio call that shots have been fired. Brown ran a short distance away as Wilson got out of his car.

Wilson yells at Brown to get on ground. Brown turned to Wilson with the gun pointed at him but did not get on the ground.  Brown may have partially raised is arms to surrender saying “I don’t have a gun.Stop shooting!”

He may not have been able to raise his right arm fully. Brown tucked his wounded right arm in his waist band of his pants. More shots were fired. His right arm was hit more times.

Brown realized he was likely going to be shot to death and decided to make a rush to stop Wilson from killing him. As he ran at Wilson another volley of shots hits Brown from a few few dozen feet away. One shot hit Wilson in the right side of his neck. After that Brown walked toward Wilson without menace.

Brown fell to the ground and onto his face. Wilson shot Brown through the top of his head.

I think Darren Wilson feared Michael Wilson on sight. His fear pulled the trigger...many times.

Conclusion:
Michael Brown may have been a small time criminal and a brutish thoughtless kid. Darren Wilson was not the person to deal with that. Darren was playing Grand Theft Auto Five with a real patrol car and real gun. He should have stayed in the basement with his XBox 360.

Darren Wilson should never again have a loaded gun in his hand.

See also:
Island Breath: KPD need bikes not riot gear 4/5/08
Island Breath: The Kauai Police Mission 5/15/08
Island Breath: The future KPD we want 5/28/08
Island Breath: KPD alternatives to patrol cruising 6/7/08
Island Breath: TGI column cancelled by KPD 6/18/08


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Grand Jury Runaround

SUBHEAD: Flame before spark. Michael Brown in Ferguson Was the spark — Eric Garner in New York is the fire.

By John McWhorter on 3 December 2014 for Time Magazine  -
(http://time.com/3617369/eric-garner-grand-jury-protests/)


Image above: Eric Garner being choked to death by Ofiicer Pantaleo while three other policeman struggle to hold him down. Garner repeated "I can't breath!" several times before losing consciousness. His offense selling loose cigarettes on the sidewalk.  From (http://time.com/3617369/eric-garner-grand-jury-protests/).

Here’s a look at the future, and probably not that far into it. People will learn two things:
  1. That an officer was not indicted for murdering Eric Garner—black, 43, and detained simply for selling single cigarettes—despite the fact that the killing was recorded from start to finish for all of America to see. 
     
  2. That an officer was not indicted for killing Michael Brown after Brown had stolen from a store, refused the officer’s request to step aside and perhaps tried to grab his gun, with the officer shooting when Brown repeatedly lunged toward him for some reason, with none of this recorded and the details murkily varying from one witness to the next. 

Perfectly sensible people will be wondering why so many people in late 2014 thought of the Ferguson case, in particular, as the civil rights case of the 21st century. Yes, Brown should not have died—I have heartily agreed, repeatedly. But people in the future will see the current focus on Ferguson as evidence of people losing sight of the fact that activism is supposed to be about results.

Are we trying to create a humanity devoid of any racist bias, or are we trying to stop cops from shooting black men? The two aren’t the same. A world without racism would be a world without dirt. A world where episodes like what has happened just this year to Garner, Brown, John Crawford, Akai Gurley, and Tamir Rice is much more plausible. We need special prosecutors, body cameras, and, if you ask me, an end to the war on drugs.

As such, we must be pragmatic. I know the people protesting Michael Brown’s death nationwide are sincere. But it’s easy to forget that in cases like this, sincerity is supposed to be forward-focused. It’s all too human for people to end up mistaking the heightened emotions, the threats, the media attention, the catharsis, as progress itself. But drama alone burns fast and bright. Think about how Trayvon is already—admit it—seeming more like history than the present.

Are we really committed to this thing lasting past the winter?

If so, then we have to ask ourselves—is Michael Brown more important somehow because he was killed with a gun? Is Garner somehow less worthy of iconic, implacable protest because he was older than Brown, less “glamorous” than a teenager? Is it, in other words, that Brown is more dramatic?

Because there are other kinds of drama, if we must. For example, Officer Daniel Pantaleo’s statement about Garner is outright tragedy—so disgustingly detached coming from someone’s murderer that it constitutes drama in itself.

“It is never my intention to harm anyone,” Pantaleo says—as if we were thinking now of “harm,” a formal term you can use to refer to a dent in your car. “I feel very bad about the death of Mr. Garner”—my God, “very bad” sounds like he broke someone’s window with a baseball, and “the death of Mr. Garner” sounds like something he watched on TV rather than did with his bare hands. “Accept my personal condolences” says this man twice brought up on misconduct charges before, as if it were his aunt by marriage who passed away after a brief illness.

This, to me, is an articulate testament to how some whites can be unable to see black people as human—and, especially if cops, be more likely to kill them. This, ladies and gentlemen, is a precious teaching moment. Pantaleo’s statement is, in its way, as useful as Reverend King’s Letter From a Birmingham Jail as a look into a human mind.

>Yet one hears that however iffy the Ferguson details are, we should just go with it because it has struck a chord. That our message to America is to be “Even when my son steals from a store, refuses a cop’s order and tries to take his gun, he shouldn’t get shot.”

And he shouldn’t, but wow, what a delicate and hopelessly controversial point that is in such a key moment as this. It’s a tricky, subtle assertion, which has not struck a chord with the disinterested middle because the facts are too murky. We want to make history, not just headlines.

How about this, as a story we can tell the next generation without taking a deep breath and thinking about how to paper over the holes?

Ferguson was the spark, but Garner was “it.”

Here is where I am quite sure Reverend King and Bayard Rustin would be planning not just statements and gestures, but boycotts. The recording of Garner’s death has the clear, potent and inarguable authority of the Birmingham newsreels. We must use that. Yes, use—we are trying to create change, not just perform.



No Reckless Endangerment?
SUBHEAD: Grand Jury in Eric Garner case wasn't asked to consider 'Reckless Endangerment' charge.

By Andres Jauregui on 5 December 2014 for Huffington Post  -
(http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/12/05/eric-garner-reckless-endangerment_n_6275698.html)

The Staten Island District Attorney did not ask the Eric Garner grand jury to consider reckless endangerment charges against NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo, NBC New York reports.

An unnamed source familiar with the case told the station that District Attorney Daniel Donovan only asked jurors to consider charges of manslaughter or criminally negligent homicide as they heard evidence.

Under New York law, reckless endangerment entails conduct that causes a substantial risk of serious physical injury or death to another person. Garner, a 43-year-old asthmatic, died after Pantaleo put him in a chokehold in July.

The jury determined that there was no probable cause to indict Pantaleo in Garner's death Wednesday, a decision that has been met with criticism from people across the political spectrum and sparked nationwide protests.

Although grand jury proceedings are typically sealed by law, Donovan petitioned a judge to release limited information about them, according to ABC New York. None of the evidence presented was included in the release, only the following:
  • Jurors sat for nine weeks
  • Testimony was heard from 50 witnesses
  • Those witnesses included 22 civilians and 28 cops, EMTs or doctors
  • There were 60 exhibits, including videos, records and photos
  • The grand jury was instructed in law regarding physical use of force
The D.A.'s office issued a statement Thursday that said he was "constrained by New York law to reveal nothing further regarding these proceedings."

In New York, indictment by grand jury requires at least 12 jurors to agree that there is sufficient evidence and reasonable cause to believe a crime was committed. The D.A.'s role is to present evidence and instruct the jury in the principles of relevant law.

Legal experts told SILive.com that Pantaleo's testimony was likely a huge factor in the decision not to indict. The 29-year-old officer, who has received resounding support from the NYPD union, testified before the jury for two hours before Thanksgiving, his lawyers said.

At least one expert who talked to the site was unconvinced by the ruling.

"I'm disappointed in the result. I believe the officer's actions were not necessary to effectuate the arrest of Eric Garner," Mark J. Fonte, a criminal defense lawyer and former prosecutor, said. "It seems to me there was a better way to handle the situation with Eric Garner. No person should lose their life for selling loose cigarettes."



Witnessing a Police Killing
SUBHEAD: David Corn told a grand jury he saw a cop shoot and kill an unarmed man. It didn't indict.

By David Corn on 4 December 2014 for Mother Jones  -
(http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/12/grand-jury-witness-police-killing-indictment-david-corn)


Image above: Painting of man on cover of 1971 Jethro Tull studio album LP record "Agualung".   From (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aqualung_%28Jethro_Tull_album%29).

Many years ago, during the 1980s, I witnessed a killing: a New York City cop shooting an unarmed homeless man near the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I was later called as a grand jury witness in the case. The grand jury did not indict the officer.

It was a summer evening. I was heading to play softball in Central Park. At the corner of Fifth Avenue and 79th Street, I got off my bicycle to walk toward the Great Lawn. The west side of Fifth was crowded with New Yorkers enjoying the beautiful night. People were streaming in and out of the park. Sidewalk vendors were doing brisk business. The vibe was good.

And in the midst of the hubbub, I spotted a fellow wearing dirty and tattered clothing. His hair was filthy, his face worn. It was hard to determine his age. He reminded me of Aqualung. (See this Jethro Tull album cover.)

He was carrying a large and heavy rock with both of his hands, pushing his way through the throng, and muttering unintelligible words. I wondered, what's his story? But I didn't give it much more thought.

Most of the people on the corner were not paying attention to him. Those in his direct path, as he lumbered north, did quickly step out of his way. But no one seemed much alarmed by the guy. In New York City, unfortunately, you often saw broken people—and shrugged them off as just another crazy.

I was about to head down the footpath toward the baseball fields, when I saw a commotion to my right. Several police officers—four or so, I recall—were approaching the man with the rock. And their guns were drawn. As they neared the fellow, he dropped the rock, he then began to run in the same direction he had been walking.

The cops were not grouped together; they were spread out—in a circle that was drawing tighter. The man, displaying a fair degree of agility, leaped into the street and tried to cut between two of the officers to get away.

Shots were fired. Two or three. Maybe four. And he went down.

The cops surrounded the man. He didn't move. This was no longer a person. This was a body.
I moved closer to the scene. Passersby had stopped to watch. It was still difficult to assess his age. His clothes were a grimy gray. I saw his dirty hands. Both were empty.

Soon police cars and an ambulance arrived. The paramedics did not move fast. They covered the body with a sheet. Several police officers were standing around a female officer. She was in anguish. They were consoling her. It was obvious: She had fired the shots that killed the man.

Her race? She was white. His skin color? I thought it was dark, but it was tough to tell if it was dirt or pigment.

Cops were buzzing about the scene. Flashing lights illuminated this ritzy stretch of Fifth Avenue. On-lookers gawked. And I noticed something that struck me as odd: The police officers were not talking to any of the witnesses. They were talking to each other and the paramedics. I approached one cop and said that I had seen it all. He wasn't impressed and looked at me as if to say, "So what?" I had thought the police would want to round up eyewitnesses to the shooting.

"Shouldn't I talk to someone?" I asked this officer. He nodded his head toward another policeman. I went up to that cop. "Excuse me, officer," I began. "I saw what happened." Again, I received a look of disinterest. "Shouldn't I...." He cut me off: "Talk to him." He was looking at another officer who was barking instructions to other cops.

I tried once more. I approached this officer who seemed to be in charge. "Officer, I saw...." He shut me up with a wave of his hand, signaling I should wait. And wait I did, as he directed other cops to do this or do that. The paramedics were preparing to cart off the body. After a few minutes, I went up to this officer again and told him I had witnessed the whole episode.

"Okay," he said.

He said nothing else. He didn't ask me for my name. He didn't ask if I would provide a statement. I was surprised by his lack of interest.

"Shouldn't I tell someone what I saw," I said.

"If you want to," he said, not in an encouraging tone.

"Okay, who do I talk to?" I ask.

"If you want to make a statement," he said, as if I was inconveniencing him and the entire police force, "you can go down to the station and do it there." Now I got it: He didn't want my statement, even though he had no idea what I would say. He was not interested in taking my name and contact information. It was my job apparently to make it to the police station on my own, and the station was a mile or so south.

This ticked me off. He was essentially trying to shoo me away. As the paramedics were loading the body on to the ambulance and as the cop who had shot the man was surrounded by her colleagues, I got on my bike and started to ride down Fifth.

At the station, I approached the front desk and told the officer staffing it that I had witnessed the shooting and had been told to come to the station to provide a statement. This fellow looked surprised to see me. He asked me to wait on a bench.

I waited. Five minutes, fifteen minutes. I went back to the desk. Yes, yes, I was told, someone will be with you shortly. Another five minutes, another fifteen minutes. Obviously, no one would have minded if I gave up and left.

Sitting next to me in this waiting area was a woman—middle-aged and white (if that matters)—who was also a witness. We probably weren't supposed to compare our accounts, but we did. (No one had told us not to.) She mentioned that she thought she had seen the victim holding something in his hand, perhaps a knife, when he started to run.

Her vantage point had not been as good as mine, and I told her that I had seen the man drop the big rock and immediately begin to run. There had been no time for him to pull out a knife. Moreover, I had been in a position to see his hands—before and after he was killed—and I saw no knife. We looked at each other and didn't know what else to say.

Finally, a detective—I think he was a detective, he didn't say—came over and gave me a form on a clipboard and asked me to write a statement of what I had seen. I did. I stuck to the facts: nutty-looking homeless man carrying a small boulder, approached by cops, drops rock and runs, cops get closer, he darts between two of the officers, cop fires on him.

It was clear to me that the officer did not have to shoot the man. He was not threatening the officers. He was trying to run from them. But I didn't write down this conclusion. I presented the facts; I believed their implication were undeniable.

When I finished, I handed my statement to one of the officers. I was told, "You'll be contacted, if that's necessary." None of my interactions with the police led me to believe that a thorough investigation was in the works.

As I left the station, I saw the female officer who had fired the fatal shots. She was with several colleagues. She was upset and appeared to be crying. The other cops were being supportive. I couldn't help but feel sorry for her. My interpretation was that she had screwed up; she had overreacted or panicked and fired her shots too soon. My hunch was that she knew that.

The next day—this was long before the internet era—I checked the newspapers and saw no stories on the shooting. Some time later—I think it was a couple of months—I received a call. A grand jury was examining the shooting, and my presence was requested.

I went to the courthouse at the appointed hour and waited to be called into the grand jury room. My time in the drab conference room with the grand jury was brief. The jury was, as they say, a diverse group. But most of the jurors looked bored. A few seemed drowsy.

The prosecutor asked me to identify myself and certify I had filed the statement. He asked me to describe where I had been and whether I had seen the full episode. But he never asked me to provide a complete account. The key portion of the interview went something like this:
Prosecutor: You saw him start to run?

Me: I did.

Prosecutor: Did you see anything in his hand?

Me: No.

Prosecutor: Did you see him holding a knife?

Me: No. But I....

Prosecutor: Thank you.
I had wanted to say that I had seen him drop the heavy rock and bolt and that it was unlikely he had been able to grab and brandish a knife while sprinting. And I thought the grand jurors should know that he had not charged at any of the officers; he had been trying to dash through an opening between two of the cops in order to flee. And if they were interested in my opinion regarding the necessity of firing on him, I would have shared that, too.

But the prosecutor cut me off. He didn't ask about about any of this. And not one of the jurors asked a question or said anything.

I left the room discouraged. This was not a search for the truth. It appeared to be a process designed to confirm an account that would protect the officer who had killed the man. The prosecutor was in command and establishing a narrative. (A knife!) The jurors appeared to be only scenery. (Insert your own ham sandwich reference here.)

Long before the present debate spurred by the non-indictments in the Michael Brown and Eric Garner cases, it seemed clear to me that the system contained a natural bias in favor of police officers. That certainly makes sense. Police officers have damn tough and dangerous jobs, and they are going to look out for their comrades-in-blue who slip up.

And prosecutors work closely with cops to rack up convictions, and they don't want to alienate their law enforcement partners. No one in that grand jury room was there to serve the interests of the dead guy.
On the way out of the courthouse, I realized I did not know the name of the victim.

I subsequently called a reporter who worked on the metro desk of the New York Times to tell him about my experience, hoping the paper would dig into the case. But I never saw a Times story on it. (At the time, I was working for a magazine that covered arms-control issues and in no position to write about the event. And back then, there was no equivalent to tweeting, blogging, or Facebooking.)

Several weeks, or a month or two, after my grand jury appearance, I called the person who had contacted me about testifying. Whatever happened? I asked. Oh, the man said, the case is over. I took that to mean the officer was not charged. Before I hung up, another question occurred to me.

I don't know why I thought about this, but I asked, "Whatever happened to the body of the man who was shot?" He was never identified and buried somewhere, he replied. And I wondered, never identified? How hard did they try?


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Votes against live-fire in Makua

SUBHEAD: Community sends a clear signal to the Army that they wants it to find another place to train.

By Jack De Feo on 2 December 2014 in Island Breath -
(http://islandbreath.blogspot.com/2014/12/votes-against-live-fire-at-makua.html)


Image above: Army armoured vehicles used in Makua Valley for a shooting of Hawaii Five-O. From (http://www.alohaupdate.com/2010/10/14/filming-locations-for-hawaii-five-0-episode-1/).

At today's Waianae Coast Neighborhood Board meeting, a majority of board members voted in favor of taking a position against any further live-fire in Makua Valley.

In a 5-2 decision, board members voted "to take a position that the military should not use Makua Valley for live-fire training ever again".  The majority opinion follows on the footsteps of Malama Makua's recent celebration of no live-fire in the valley for 10 years and the continued legal hold-up preventing the Army from resuming their live-fire training in the valley.

Board members and community members supported the Army's need for live-fire, but felt that Makua does not provide an adequate facility for the Army's needs, particularly for the Stryker Brigade.  Members cited limitations with the facility that prevents Army units from experiencing realistic training that the Army desperately needs at the company-level in a Combined Arms Live-Fire Exercise (CALFEX).

The CALFEX range was built in 1988, many years before the Army developed the stryker vehicle and stationed a stryker brigade at Schofield Barracks.  The current range does not accommodate off-road use of the strykers and limits the Commander to employing only 5 vehicles out of the 21 vehicles assigned.

Moreover, the live-fire experience is crippled by nighttime restrictions, preventing commanders from practicing the critically needed task of integrating and coordinating a variety of weapon systems during periods of limited visibility.

One community member commented that Makua might have contributed to combat readiness in WWII, but that times have changed drastically and the valley can no longer accommodate the exponential growth in combat power and reach that today's Army units now possess.

Several community members voiced their concerns that the Army needs to be located near adequate live-fire ranges in the mainland where it can get the necessary training it needs.

Only one community member testified in support of Makua live-fire, citing that if the Army says it needs Makua, then it should be allowed to use it.

The Waianae Coast Neighborhood Board's position has no enforceable effect on the military's use of Makua, but it sends a clear signal to the Army that the community wants it to find another place to train.

• Mr. Jack De Feo is a member of the Oahu Council for Army Downsizing (OCAD).
Waianae, Hawaii  96792
(808) 723-9002
jdefeo@hawaii.rr.com
www.oc4ad.com



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Psychology of Sustainability

SUBHEAD: At this time of grave and genuine crisis, we desperately need to evoke what we love.

By Mark Garavan on 26 November 2014 for FEASTA -
(http://www.feasta.org/2014/11/26/the-psychological-dimension-to-sustainability/)


Image above: Sarah van Erp (at front) with other volunteers at the Waverley Communal Garden, in New South Wales, Australia. From (http://uniken.unsw.edu.au/features/rise-urban-jungle).

As the 21st century unfolds it is increasingly clear that we are entering more deeply into times of travail. The symptoms, both personal and social, of systemic stress are all about.

At the political level we see the re-emergence of various fundamentalisms, nationalisms, far-right politics and the normalisation of the Orwellian permanent ‘war on terror’ and subsequent justification for constant state surveillance of citizens.

Authoritarian government in the East and post-democracy in the West now exist side by side. Politics is contracted to a regime of technocratric management of the global economy.

The capitalist economic system lurches into continual instability kept afloat only by measures such as quantitative easing and the imposed socialisation of elite debts.

At the social level inequality, insecurity, new forms of apartheid and social exclusion, slavery and trafficking, and vast enforced movements of people in search of economic security further accentuate the instability of the world.

Hovering above all of this disorder ecological crisis grows.

The term Climate Change may suggest that only the weather is in question but climate is everything – food, water, temperature, nature itself. Half of all vertebrate life-forms have become extinct in the last forty years.

What is all of this doing to us today? These interlocking problems are not just ‘out there’. We are also being affected at a deep personal level.

Not only are we now in the age of social and ecological unsustainability; we must also acknowledge that we are in the age of psychological unsustainability. We must acknowledge the pain and distress of this.

All of this social and natural dis-order is taking a toll on our human well-being. Our emotions are picking up this systemic collapse long before our rational minds can.

Symptoms of stress and distress are all about us – the exponential rise of labelled ‘mental illnesses’ (fuelled by pharmaceutical companies), of addiction, of despair. Many of us are anxious or depressed.

As Feasta has predicted and argued since its foundation, the system itself is disintegrating. That this is happening is a tragedy. There is no comfort in having anticipated what is now occurring. We are now living through this time. It is no surprise that as the system decays we suffer stress and anxiety at a personal level.

It is in this context that Feasta needs to address where it stands today and what it can do at this time. We have produced detailed analyses and proposals over many years. All of these remain serviceable and valuable.

But as a small organisation, desperately trying to argue for fundamental change at a systemic level, a high toll is exacted at the human level. Organisations often do not talk enough about this element. Burn-out, inter-personal frustrations, sheer exhaustion can dissipate even the most committed.

I know all of these features from personal experience in campaigns. I know what total exhaustion and inability to continue is like. There is so much to do, so much seems to rest on our shoulders, the issues are so urgent, we feel so much responsibility. It can easily become overwhelming.

Often, advocates for change necessarily end up in the role of the critic, of the one in opposition, of the one who points out what is wrong, of the nay-sayer, of the doom-mongerer. We seem to come from a place of negation. We can appear experts in what is wrong, in what we oppose, in what we hate.

At this time of grave and genuine crisis, we desperately need to evoke what we love. We need to restore to our public discourse the capacity to dream of a world of inclusion, economic sufficiency, democratic participation and of psychological wholeness and well-being where care and compassion ground our fragile existence.

The widespread alienation characteristic of our failing system may channel itself into anger, hatred and fear unless a project of hope and inspiration can be offered.

The word Feasta can be used ambivalently. Its origins as a title comes from the line Cad a dheanimid feasta gan adhmaid (what will we do in the future without wood). This suggests the future as a place of forboding and warning.

But Feasta can also be an assertion of hope – that despite all there is a future. It must be inhabited and constructed. That is up to us.

But we cannot do it all of course. At a minimum all we in Feasta can do is not collude with the contemporary illusions.

We can speak with utter honesty about ourselves as struggling human beings, about our collapsing system, about our fears, distresses and vulnerabilities and about our hopes of a world that might be good enough for a holistically sustainable human life. Sustainability must include the social, political, economic and ecological and also the psychological.

The new language and praxis of a sustainable politics must include care and well-being – focusing on the welfare of all of us. That needs to start now so we can begin to support ourselves through these times of woe.

Related posts:
  1. A Complexity Approach to Sustainability – Theory and Application: Review
  2. A guide for sustainability advocates
  3. Comment on The psychological roots of resource overconsumption by Floro
  4. The Anne Behan Community Sustainability Award
  5. New Financial Architecture for Sustainability
• Mark Garavan lectures in social care in the Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology. He is the author of Compassionate Activism: An Exploration of Integral Social Care. He is currently chairperson of Feasta's trustees.
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The oil drenched Black Swan

SUBHEAD: Events unforeseen and uncontrollable will trigger waves of other unforeseen and uncontrollable consequences.

By Charles Hughs Smith on 1 December 2014 for Of Two Minds -
(http://charleshughsmith.blogspot.co.uk/2014/11/the-oil-drenched-black-swan-part-1.html)


Image above: Black Swan at Lake Rotoiti, New Zealand. Photo by Robyn Carter. From (http://blog.bird-rescue.org/index.php/2011/06/photographers-in-focus-robyn-carter/).

PART ONE
Given the presumed 17% expansion of the global economy since 2009, the tiny increases in production could not possibly flood the world in oil unless demand has cratered.

The term Black Swan shows up in all sorts of discussions, but what does it actually mean? Though the term has roots stretching back to the 16th century, today it refers to author Nassim Taleb's meaning as defined in his books, Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the Markets and The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable:

"First, it is an outlier, as it lies outside the realm of regular expectations, because nothing in the past can convincingly point to its possibility. Second, it carries an extreme 'impact'. Third, in spite of its outlier status, human nature makes us concoct explanations for its occurrence after the fact, making it explainable and predictable."

Simply put, black swans are undirected and unpredicted. The Wikipedia entry lists three criteria based on Taleb's work:
  1. The event is a surprise (to the observer).
  2. The event has a major effect.
  3. After the first recorded instance of the event, it is rationalized by hindsight, as if it could have been expected; that is, the relevant data were available but unaccounted for in risk mitigation programs.
It is my contention that the recent free-fall in the price of oil qualifies as a financial Black Swan. Let's go through the criteria:

1. How many analysts/pundits predicted the 37% decline in the price of oil, from $105/barrel in July to $66/barrel at the end of November? Perhaps somebody predicted a 37% drop in oil in the span of five months, but if so, I haven't run across their prediction.

For context, here is a chart of crude oil from 2010 to the present. Note that price has crashed through the support that held through the many crises of the past four years. The conclusion that this reflects a global decline in demand that characterizes recessions is undeniable.

I think we can fairly conclude that this free-fall in the price of oil qualifies as an outlier outside the realm of regular expectations, unpredicted and unpredictable.

Why was it unpredictable? In the past, oil spikes tipped the global economy into recession. This is visible in this chart of oil since 2002; the 100+% spike in oil from $70+/barrel to $140+/barrel in a matter of months helped push the global economy into recession.

The mechanism is common-sense: every additional dollar that must be spent on energy is taken away from spending on other goods and services. As consumption tanks, over-extended borrowers and lenders implode, "risk-on" borrowing and speculation dry up and the economy slides into recession.

But the current global recession did not result from an oil spike. Indeed, oil prices have been trading in a narrow band for several years, as we can see in this chart from the Energy Information Agency (EIA) of the U.S. government.

Given the official denial that the global economy is recessionary, it is not surprising that the free-fall in oil surprised the official class of analysts and pundits. Since declaring the global economy is in recession is sacrilege, it was impossible for conventional analysts/pundits to foresee a 37% drop in oil in a few months.

As for the drop in oil having a major impact: we have barely begun to feel the full consequences. But even the initial impact--the domino-like collapse of the commodity complex--qualifies.

I will address the financial impacts tomorrow, but rest assured these may well dwarf the collapse of the commodity complex.

As for concocting explanations and rationalizations after the fact, consider the shaky factual foundations of the current raft of rationalizations. The primary explanation for the free-fall in oil is rising production has created a temporary oversupply of oil: the world is awash in crude oil because producers have jacked up production so much.

Even the most cursory review of the data finds little support for this rationalization. According to the EIA, the average global crude oil production (including OPEC and all non-OPEC) per year is as follows:
2008: 74.0 million barrels per day (MBD)
2009: 72.7 MBD
2010: 74.4 MBD
2011: 74.5 MBD
2012: 75.9 MBD
2013: 76.0 MBD
2014: 76.9 MBD
The EIA estimates the global economy expanded by an average of 2.7% every year in this time frame. Thus we can estimate in a back-of-the-envelope fashion that oil consumption and production might rise in parallel with the global economy.

In the six years from 2009 to 2014, oil production rose 3.9%, from 74 MBD to 76.9 MBD. Meanwhile, cumulative global growth at 2.7% annually added 17.3% to the global economy in the same six-year period. What is remarkable is not the extremely modest expansion of oil production but how this modest growth apparently enabled a much larger expansion of the global economy. ( Other sources set the growth of global GDP in excess of 20% over this time frame.)

Global petroleum and other liquids reflects a similar modest expansion: from 89.1 MBD in 2012 to 91.4 MBD in 2014.

Given the presumed 17% to 20+% expansion of the global economy since 2009, the small increases in production could not possibly flood the world in oil unless demand has cratered. The "we're pumping so much oil" rationalizations for the 37% free-fall in oil don't hold up.

That leaves a sharp drop in demand and the rats fleeing the sinking ship exit from "risk-on" trades as the only explanations left. We will discuss these later in the week.

Those who doubt the eventual impact of this free-fall drop in oil prices might want to review The Smith Uncertainty Principle (yes, it's my work):
"Every sustained action has more than one consequence. Some consequences will appear positive for a time before revealing their destructive nature. Some will be foreseeable, some will not. Some will be controllable, some will not. Those that are unforeseen and uncontrollable will trigger waves of other unforeseen and uncontrollable consequences."
I call your attention to the last line, which I see as being most relevant to the full impact of oil's free-fall.

PART TWO
(http://charleshughsmith.blogspot.co.uk/2014/12/the-oil-drenched-black-swan-part-2.html)

All the analysts chortling over the "equivalent of a tax break" for consumers are about to be buried by an avalanche of defaults and crushing losses as the chickens of financializing oil come home to roost.

The pundits crowing about the stimulus effect of lower oil prices on consumers are missing the real story, which is the financialization of oil. Financialization is another word that is often bandied about without the benefit of a definition.

Here is my definition:
Financialization is the mass commodification of debt and debt-based financial instruments collaterized by previously low-risk assets, a pyramiding of risk and speculative gains that is only possible in a massive expansion of low-cost credit and leverage.
That is a mouthful, so let's break it into bite-sized chunks.

Home mortgages are a good example of how financialization increases financial profits by jacking up risk and distributing it to suckers who don't recognize the potential for collapse and staggering losses.

In the good old days, home mortgages were safe and dull: banks and savings and loans issued the mortgages and kept the loans on their books, earning a stable return for the 30 years of the mortgage's term.

Then the financialization machine appeared on the horizon and revolutionized the home mortgage business to increase profits. The first step was to generate entire new families of mortgages with higher profit margins than conventional mortgages. These included no-down payment mortgages (liar loans), no-interest-for-the-first-few-years mortgages, adjustable-rate mortgages, home equity lines of credit, and so on.

This broadening of options and risks greatly expanded the pool of people who qualified for a mortgage. In the old days, only those with sterling credit qualified for a home mortgage. In the financialized realm, almost anyone with a pulse could qualify for one exotic mortgage or another.

The interest rate, risk and profit margins were all much higher for the originators. What's not to like? Well, the risk of default is a problem. Defaults trigger losses.

Financialization's solution: package the risk in safe-looking securities and offload the risk onto suckers and marks. Securitizing mortgages enabled loan originators to skim the origination fees and profits up front and then offload the risk of default and loss onto buyers of the mortgage securities.

Securitization was tailor-made for hiding risk deep inside apparently low-risk pools of mortgages and rigging the tranches to maximize profits for the packagers at the expense of the unwary buyers, who bought high-risk securities under the false premise that they were "safe home mortgages."

The con worked because home mortgages were traditionally safe. Financialization did several things to the home mortgage market:
  1. Collateralized previous low-risk assets into high-risk, high-profit financial instruments
  2. Commoditized this expansion of debt and leverage by securitizing the exotic mortgages
  3. Built an inverted pyramid of leveraged speculative debt on the low-risk home mortgage
  4. Used the Federal Reserve's vast expansion of liquidity and credit to originate trillions of dollars in new debt and leveraged financial instruments.
Consider a house purchased with a liar-loan, no-down payment mortgage. Since the buyer didn't even put any cash down or verify stable income, there is literally no collateral at all to back up the mortgage. The slightest decline in the value of the home will immediately generate a loss of capital.

Now pile on derivatives, CDOs, etc. on the inverted pyramid of risk piled on the non-existent collateral, and you have the perfect recipe for financial collapse.

Like home mortgages, oil has been viewed as a "safe" asset. The financialization of the oil sector has followed a slightly different script but the results are the same:

A weak foundation of collateral is supporting a mountain of leveraged, high-risk debt and derivatives. Oil in the ground has been treated as collateral for trillions of dollars in junk bonds, loans and derivatives of all this new debt.

The 35% decline in the price of oil has reduced the underlying collateral supporting all this debt by 35%. Loans that were deemed low-risk when oil was $100/barrel are no longer low-risk with oil below $70/barrel (dead-cat bounces notwithstanding).

Financialization is always based on the presumption that risk can be cancelled out by hedging bets made with counterparties. This sounds appealing, but as I have noted many times, risk cannot be disappeared, it can only be masked or transferred to others.

Relying on counterparties to pay out cannot make risk vanish; it only masks the risk of default by transferring the risk to counterparties, who then transfer it to still other counterparties, and so on.

This illusory vanishing act hasn't made risk disappear: rather, it has set up a line of dominoes waiting for one domino to topple. This one domino will proceed to take down the entire line of financial dominoes.

The 35% drop in the price of oil is the first domino. All the supposedly safe, low-risk loans and bets placed on oil, made with the supreme confidence that oil would continue to trade in a band around $100/barrel, are now revealed as high-risk.

In the heyday of mortgage financialization, exotic mortgages were tranched into securities that were designed to fail, to the benefit of the originators, not the buyers.These financial instruments were sold with the implicit understanding that they were only low-risk if the housing bubble continued to expand.

Once home prices fell and the collateral was impaired, it only made financial sense for borrowers to default and counterparties to refuse to pay until their bets were made whole by another counterparty.

The failure of one counterparty will topple the entire line of counterparty dominoes. The first domino in the oil sector has fallen, and the long line of financialized dominoes is starting to topple.

Everyone who bought a supposedly low-risk bond, loan or derivative based on oil in the ground is about to discover the low risk was illusory. All those who hedged the risk with a counterparty bet are about to discover that a counterparty failure ten dominoes down the line has destroyed their hedge, and the loss is theirs to absorb.

All the analysts chortling over the "equivalent of a tax break" for consumers are about to be buried by an avalanche of defaults and crushing losses as the chickens of financializing oil come home to roost.

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US Tax Revolt Methods

SUBHEAD: The US commits war crimes. They order us to pay them to commit them. Don't be a war criminal.

By Gary Flomenhoft on 2 December 2014 for Club Orlov -
(http://cluborlov.blogspot.com/2014/12/tax-revolt-methods.html)


Image above: "The Tax Collector". Painting by Pieter Brueghel the Younger, 1640. From (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tax).

[Dmitry Orlov note: This is a follow-up by Gary Flomenhoft on last week's post, "The Only Way to Stop the Empire".]
“It is just as difficult and dangerous to try to free a people that wants to remain servile as it is to enslave a people that wants to remain free.”
Niccolò Macchiavelli
‘Resolve to serve no more, and you are at once freed. I do not ask that you place hands upon the tyrant to topple him over, but simply that you support him no longer; then you will behold him, like a great Colossus whose pedestal has been pulled away, fall of his own weight and break into pieces.”

I am pleased that many people have expressed interest in getting more information about different methods of joining a tax revolt.

The reasons for wanting to do so are plain to see: if the US government is no longer a legitimate government, then you owe them nothing. Consider that it has been violating all four Nuremberg Principles for decades: crimes against peace (wars of aggression), conspiracy to commit crimes against peace, war crimes (torture), and crimes against humanity (drone killing of civilians).

They have violated Articles 27, 31, 32, 45, 49, 87, 97, 124, 125, 127 of the Geneva Conventions, the US Army Field Manual, and the US Constitution, especially Habeas Corpus and Posse Commitatus.  They continue to use cluster munitions and refuse to sign the international ban on cluster munitions or land mines.

They use radioactive depleted uranium shells that cause massive birth defects wherever they are deployed.  The entire Bill of Rights has been shredded except for Amendments 2 and 3.  They have allowed a criminal banker elite to commit epic fraud and theft without any prosecution. The electoral system has been turned into an auction. And that's just to mention a few of the reasons; this is by no means an exhaustive list.

But, friends, what more do they have to do to convince you? Kill you? Well, they can do that too now, very easily, with no repercussions of any sort. Or they can just imprison you for life without ever charging you with a crime or sending you to trial.

Please let me remind you of a few sentences from our Declaration of Independence penned by Thomas Jefferson:
"…when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security."
But apparently things have not gotten bad enough in the US to trigger a revolt, because most of the mischief up to now has been done overseas, and most people don’t give a rat’s ass what we do to other people.

But it’s finally starting to come home, so maybe you do want to do something, and you want to know all the options, not just the simple expedient of writing “Exempt” on a W4 form we presented in “The Only Way to Stop the Empire”.  OK, no problem, we are here to help.
 
First let me clarify a few misunderstandings that came up in the comments posted on ClubOrlov and over at ZeroHedge where the article was also carried, because they are relevant to this issue. By the way, I am grateful for the intelligence and sincerity of most of these comments.

Some people criticized my claim about the Tea Party’s reason for shutting down the government: “They thought that the welfare system is bankrupting the country. This is a laughable claim, because welfare spending looks negligible when compared to military spending.”

They pointed to the $850 billion social security program, the $821 billion Medicaid and Medicare program, and the $521 billion in other mandatory programs, calling them “welfare.”  There is just one problem with this critique: none of these programs are funded using the income tax.

They are called entitlements, and the way you entitle yourself to them is by paying into them using a special payroll tax. Same goes for unemployment insurance, by the way.

All of these are funded using something that is called a tax, but in essence they are joint savings accounts that you hold in common with many other people, with some rules on how the money is then spent on those who have payed into them.

Clearly, the Tea Party doesn’t like these joint savings accounts either, we still need to distinguish them from “welfare,” or we won't even know what we are talking about.  If you are not aware of this, the employer and employee each pay half of the payroll tax to the government, although if you are self-employed—lucky you!—you get to pay both halves.

So, just to make things perfectly clear, the entire issue of tax revolt we are talking about here has to do with income taxes, not payroll taxes. Go ahead and revolt against payroll taxes too if you want, but that’s off-topic.

If you look at the US budget, on Table S-4 p. 168, you will see the distinction between mandatory programs paid by payroll tax and “appropriated” programs paid by income tax.  There may be some overlap, but this gives you a general idea:
Subtotal, mandatory programs: $2,234B
Subtotal, appropriated programs: $1,174B
“Welfare” is a different story. Let's define it as unearned payments, based on means testing or other measurement of need, funded through income taxes paid by others.  If you look at the US discretionary budget, on Table S-11. p. 203 you will see that the entire Health and Human Services (HHS) budget of $79.8B, does indeed look small compared to the defense budget of $496.0 billion: for every 6 dollars that go to defense, less than one goes to HHS. But that's not the relevant number either.

Because when most people talk about welfare, and especially Tea Party people or other ideologues, they are undoubtedly talking about transfer payments to individuals (who presumably are lazy, no good bums, who don’t want to work).

In that case you have to look at the HHS budget in more detail.

Welfare as such no longer exists, but on page 113, you will find the line item for “Temporary Aid to Needy Families”  (TANF), Bill Clinton’s idea for “eliminating welfare as we know it”, which totals $17.35 Billion.

This is what I call welfare, and it looks extremely negligible compared to the $496 billion offensively large defense budget. For every 28 dollars spent on defense, less than one goes to the “lazy bums” (if that's what you wish to call them). I could rest my case here, but there's more.

You see, the “defense” appropriation doesn’t even come close to capturing the entire military budget, because it leaves out Homeland Security, The War on Terror (“Overseas Contingencies”), interest on the debt, nuclear weapons managed by the Dept. of Energy, and many other items.

For that you will have to look at the War Resisters pie chart. They’ve taken payroll tax funded programs out of the picture and show that total military spending amounts to $1,307 Billion for fiscal year 2015.

They use 80% as the portion of the federal debt due to military spending, which could be questioned, but the rest of their analysis looks pretty much rock solid.  In any case we are talking about over $1 Trillion dollars per year to maintain the US global hegemonic empire.

And so, in the final analysis, for every 75 dollars spent on so-called “national defense,” less than one goes to people in need. Will the real welfare queens please stand up!

And so it stands to reason that you may not want to send your hard-earned money to pay off all these lazy no-good bastards who hide behind the cannon fodder dressed up in military drag. The question is, how?

War Resisters web site has an excellent page on the various means of refusing to pay income tax, and a page on consequences. According to War Resisters, only one person since WWII has been jailed for war tax resistance.  I once read on their website that the IRS is able to recover more money from people who report their income and file a return, than people who don’t file at all and give the IRS no information.

However, you should know that there is no statute of limitations if you don’t file, while it is 10 years if you do file.  This worked to my advantage once when the statute of limitations ran out in 2005 from a return in 1995, and the IRS was unable to collect all the interest and penalties, which I refused to pay.

Incidentally, they attempted to collect the money after the statute of limitations ran out, so don’t expect criminals to follow the law.  I was only able to avoid it because an honest Taxpayer Advocate was able to stop collection.

Let me cover a few of these methods in more detail and one they left out.  I’ll cover legal methods, semi-legal, and illegal methods.  Take your pick.

LEGAL METHODS

Increase withholding
If you want to reduce the amount that is withheld from your paycheck it is perfectly legal to increase the number of withholdings you submit on the W-4.  The IRS in fact provides a calculator to figure it out.

This calculator will supposedly figure out how to withhold exactly the right amount so your tax liability will match what you owe at the end of the year.  You might be able reverse engineer it to figure out how many withholdings to claim, based on how much or how little you want withheld.

In the past if you submitted more than 10 withholdings or “EXEMPT” on your W-4 to your employer, they were required to report it to the IRS. According to an update in 2012, this is no longer the case.  See update.

 If you withhold less tax than you owe, then after you file your tax return by April 15 you will owe the IRS money, instead of getting a refund.  Then you can decide if you want to pay it or not, but at least it will be your choice.  Normally the IRS already has your money, and collects extra from 80% of employees, as an interest-free loan.

Live Below the taxable level
The War Resisters update document lists the 2012 figures for gross income level you need in order to live below a taxable level. It may be higher in 2013 or 2014, but it’s not much!
$9,750 for a single person
$15,700, married filing jointly
$9,750, married filing separately
$12,500 Head of Household
Over 65 or blind add $1,150 for a married taxpayer; $1,450 for a single taxpayer
The update has a link to a website by David Gross providing extensive information on how to live below the taxable level using what he calls the “Don’t Owe Nuthin’ (DON) method and using certain tax credits.

Use as many deductions and tax credits as you can find.  You may be able to reduce your tax liability to zero, even if you have substantial income.  Many people are confused about the difference between a deduction as listed on Schedule A for “itemized deductions”, and a tax credit, which is found on 2013 IRS form 1040 lines 47-53.

A deduction is subtracted from your income, so it reduces your taxable income.  Most people use the standard deduction, but if you have a lot of deductions including mortgage interest, it is often advantageous to itemize your deductions.  Itemized deductions include things like:  Medical and Dental Expenses, Taxes you paid, Interest you paid, Gifts to Charity, Casualty and Theft Losses, Job Expenses, and Certain Miscellaneous Deductions.

A tax credit is much better because it is subtracted straight off your taxes.  These are things like Credit for child and dependent care expenses, Education credits, Retirement savings contributions credit, Child tax credit, and Residential energy credits.  There have been others over the years that I have used such as electric vehicle tax credit, investment tax credit, and first-time homebuyers tax credit, etc.

I decided in the end not to live below the taxable level because I was sick of being poor, and saw no reason to suffer just because psychopaths in government were committing mass murder all over the world.  I decided to use tax credits and if I owed anything would simply refuse to pay on the basis of the Nuremberg Principles.

SEMI-LEGAL METHOD

File an “exempt” W-4 form.  The form states that in order to file an exempt form, you must meet two criteria: You owed no tax last year, and you expect to owe no tax this year.  So technically it is not legal to file this form “exempt” if you owed any taxes the year before, but in practice I have never been questioned about this.

As mentioned in the previous article the employer is not allowed to question your W-4 unless instructed by the IRS.  The IRS has taken up to 3 years to notify my employer to start withholding after filing an “exempt” W-4, even after just ending a previous dispute with them.  One hand literally does not know what the other hand is doing.  The IRS is a huge dysfunctional bureaucracy.

ILLEGAL METHODS

Self-Employment
The simplest way to avoid taxes is to be self-employed and not report your income to the IRS.  If they don’t get any information, it is hard for them to come after you.  You may have to take other measures to make sure it doesn’t get reported.

If you do work for others, they may give you a 1099 form, and it will be sent to the IRS.  I would avoid that.  If you accept credit cards, as of January 2011, the IRS requires your bank to report all credit card transactions to them.  What’s wrong, don’t they trust us anymore?

Working for cash works fairly well, but working for favors is by far the best. For instance, you can live rent-free as a caretaker, have the use of a free car for driving someone around or handling someone's deliveries, eat free by growing somebody else's food and so on.

Legal Challenges
Many patriots over the years have attempted to prove that income taxes are unconstitutional, were not properly ratified, or are illegal for various other reasons.  I have tried a few of these methods myself, which my employer promptly ignored after receiving instructions from the IRS to withhold from my paycheck.

I admire people who continue to challenge the questionable legality of the income tax in the courts. But the fact is, the IRS doesn't care about the courts. They know every one of these claims, and even have a website devoted to it, which cites lots of legal cases, all supporting the IRS, of course.

Anyone who files a tax return making one of these legal claims will immediately get fined $5,000 for filing a “frivolous return,” based on their opinion that these claims are a waste of the agency’s precious time.

One individual wrote to Club Orlov claiming that those who follow instructions in the book “Cracking the Code” by Pete Hendrickson at Lost Horizons website, “are never prosecuted, receive ALL of the monies that were incorrectly turned over to the IRS, and have joined the minions [sic] all across the country who are doing the same.”

What he failed to mention is that Hendrickson has been sentenced to jail twice, once for placing a fire-bomb in the mail and once for tax evasion, and all his claims have been disallowed by the courts. So this person is either ignorant or a provocateur. Check your sources!

For pure amusement value, my two favorite frivolous legal claims are the following:

  1. The federal income tax laws are unconstitutional because the Sixteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution was not properly ratified.

  2. The Sixteenth Amendment does not authorize a direct non-apportioned federal income tax on United States citizens.
Both are addressed on the IRS frivolous website in section D, here and here.

The Heritage Foundation, which you would think would be sympathetic to the argument about non-apportioned tax, contradicts it. The non-ratification claim is explained here. Both are considered frivolous claims by the IRS and automatically incur a $5000 fine accompanied by jail time if you push them on it. I wouldn’t be surprised if they are true, though! Would that matter? Not a whit!

Your time is not precious in the slightest though, as the IRS will waste epic amounts of your time and money trying to pursue valid legal claims they deny. On the other hand, I have always thought that wasting the IRS's time in ways that don't get you fined might be worth it if they end up spending significantly more in trying to collect from you, than the amount they can ever recover.

I was never charged with a $5000 frivolous claim on any of my tax returns.  I don’t have an ideological bias against paying taxes if they are used to serve the common good. Living in Vermont, which has a reasonably responsive state government, I consider most of the tax money well spent. 

I made it clear to the IRS that I agreed I owed the money. Then I refused to pay it on the basis of the Nuremberg Principles, established after WWII, during trials in which the US was the chief prosecutor, and which resolved that “I was just following my orders” does not constitute a legally valid excuse if the orders are to commit war crimes.

That was the defense offered by Adolph Eichmann, the Nazi bureaucrat who handled the logistics of organizing the death camps, and the judges rejected it. Hannah Arendt wrote her famous book “The Banality of Evil” about Eichmann. “I was just following orders”, he said.

The US defense establishment commits war crimes. They order me to pay them to commit them, in effect enabling them to commit more war crimes. I don't take orders from war criminals.

The IRS didn’t charge me with a frivolous claim, but continued to recover unpaid taxes from previous years. They ordered my employer to withhold at the maximum single level, and kept all the money owed to me in tax refunds. Fortunately, soon thereafter I lost my job, and have since left the country. 

I don’t expect to return until the Neocon psychopaths running the country destroy the empire.

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