I've known about Irwin Schiff's lone battle against the IRS for years. I've even mentioned it in my Police State page - but in the context of attempts to deny his freedom of speech. It's real significance had sailed straight over my head.
I'm sorry, but when I read sentences like:
The Murphy Court stated (quoting from other appellate decisions), that since Federal courts are courts of “limited jurisdiction” jurisdiction can only be acquired by “a specific grant …authorized by Congress” and since “Federal courts may hear only those cases specifically authorized by Congress and because the statute does not specifically state that a Federal district court may hear a claim under TCPA, the 4th Circuit concluded that the language of the statute showed that…Congress…without mentioning Federal courts did not intend to grant jurisdiction over TCPA claims to Federal district courts.”I tend to fall over backwards frothing at the mouth and snoring gently.
As a result, I've always had a vague impression that Schiff was a Quixotic figure, tilting at the IRS windmill and challenging their legitimacy in much the same way as I challenge the legitimacy of the drug prohibition laws. It's a dirty job but someone has to do it.
I didn't actually understand the full basis of his challenge. This documentary (Freedom To Fascism) has put me right.
It's now available from their website as a dvd. If you know anyone who gives a shit about what is going on in the world, buy it for them as a Christmas present.
If you can't afford to do that then at least get them to watch the full 109 minute documentary, for free, on google video. It's right here. If you haven't already seen it, go and watch it now. I'll wait...
Well? Waddya think?
In 1982, a former partner and I watched "The Wall" - Pink Floyds dark look inside Roger Water's head - 3 times in 7 days just after it was released. We were that impressed. She described its effect on the viewer perfectly, although, as a review, it is unlikely to make anyone who hasn't yet seen it rush out to buy a copy She said: "Every time that film ends, I leave the cinema feeling like I've been kicked in the stomach."
Despite the utter validity of her description I strongly urge you get hold of a copy (of "The Wall") by fair means or foul; get mildly stoned (to optimal music appreciation level) and crank up the volume.
No film since then has had a similar effect on me.
Nor did this one. It hit a completely different set of buttons. But it hit them just as hard.
Sadly, if you haven't seen it, before getting this far down the page, then I fear that what I'm about to say may deter you in the same way that the prospect of being kicked in the stomach might make you less inclined to sample The Wall. If, on the other hand you've already seen it for yourself, you'll know exactly what I mean.
This film is not remotely entertaining.
In the same way that watching the collapse of the Twin Towers was not remotely entertaining. Nor was there any way in the world you could tear your eyes away from that spectacle once you saw what was happening.
Russo has over indulged himself a bit. He could have edited at least 20 minutes out of the work, without losing any of the message or impact. He could have been a bit more creative with his full screen captions. I had to watch it over 2 sessions because it was sending me to sleep in a couple of spots (although, to be fair, it was at the end of a long hard day). So I'm not going to pretend that the documentary is visually compelling. It aint. But it is intellectually compelling and is pretty comprehensively supported not just by the evidence but also by the informed analysis. (for example the "Wizards of Money" stuff I discussed here, and the Carroll Quigley references I mentioned here)
Only the snippets about RFIDs are significantly overhyped but that's a quibble.
The high point (for me - and for the director, judging from the fireworks he inserted at that point!) came with the story of The Government v Whitey Harrell (May 2000), in which Juror Marcella (Marcie) Brooks tells the tale of how the message finally sunk in for one of her fellow Jurors, who sat back, rolled his eyes and said: "you mean... we don't HAVE to pay taxes???!!!"
The case has been mentioned as an example of Jury Nullification.
(Jeez. That is an amazingly ugly name. Can't we think of something more fitting for the glorious act of democracy that it represents?)
But that isn't quite true if we follow the plot carefully. Jury nullification happens when a Jury recognises that the defendant has indeed committed an act forbidden by the law (such as smoking the dreaded ganga I recommended above) but decides the law itself is invalid and finds them "Not Guilty" regardless of the law. That forces tyrannical governments to abandon or change the Law (or abolish Juries of course).
However, what happened in this case is simpler than that. This was not the Jury disagreeing with any law, but instead reaching the decision, which an honest judiciary would have reached well before it came before a Jury, that there was no law for the defendant to be guilty of breaching. The fact that the obvious consequence of this revelation is that millions of Americans are illegally being extorted by their own government is almost incidental. This was We The People pointing out, loud and clear, to all observers that the Emperor had no clothes.
So, though it was not really nullification, it was an excellent demonstration of the power of the Jury, which I ranted about here.
(how's about "Jury Restitution"?)
Are we spotting a pattern yet? Almost every major issue I've blogged about in the past year or so comes up one way or another in this movie!
It even contains two classic examples of "Trusted Surveillance" (see the Quigley link above to see where I first mentioned that). The first is a grainy home video taken by Harrell when the IRS agent came to his house and argued that the only authority he needed, to force Harrell to yield his tythe to the IRS, was his IRS badge. He didn't need any written authority or to refer to any particular statute. He had a badge and that was enough to licence his siezure of Harrell's assets. The second example comes later in the movie, after he's moved on from the IRS, and tells us about the brutal and gratuitous police taser attack on a woman driver whose licence had been revoked. (For more in that vein, which I coincidentally bumped into the same day, see this alternet piece) Both videos have helped fight the oppression of government - the joint primary goal of Trusted Surveillance. (the other being to help protect us from the other bullies, from terrorists to rapists)
And, after he's soaked us in the hot bath of IRS constitutional deviance, and explained how the Federal Reserve has made America its bitch, he moves on many of the issues I've covered on my Police State page.
After all of which, one of the main actions he wants you (Americans) all to do is simply refuse to accept the new National ID card which comes into force under the provisions of the "Real ID" Act in 2008. And it is here, after he's provided all this brilliant support for our shared causes that I have to enter my caveat.
You should indeed refuse to accept the proposed National ID card in the States and, if you're a UK citizen, you should refuse to accept the one they're trying to foist on us over here. But don't throw the baby out with the bathwater.
The whole point of Trusted Surveillance is that it is not just a weapon against Terrorism, it is also a weapon against Tyranny. In fact, I hope to persuade you that it is the most effective weapon we will ever have the chance to develop against Tyranny. And ID Cards - done the right way (specifically NOT by governments and NOT featuring storage of sensitive data on National or Global databases) are a key component of Trusted Surveillance.
Even tagging technology (intelligent anonymised versions of "Verichip" and RFID) will have their part to play in the War On Tyranny. So, take to heart, by all means, everything you saw in that film. Heed the call to action and please, please spread the word and get as many people as you can to watch it. But hold open a small portion of your credulity and let me try to persuade you that - given the joint threats we face, from Terror and Tyranny - there is an absolutely vital role for technology to provide the shield against both. Here, for example, is the version of ID Card I've been punting to the Home Office since 2002.
The problem is that although I have the skill and imagination to describe it, I don't have all the skills needed to build it. What we desperately need and, hopefully, what we're about to see, is a new generation of mythical heroes. Only this time, they'll be Geeks, not Greeks.