Long-time readers of The Picket Line will know that I don’t have many encouraging things to say about the “tax protester” movement in its various forms (see, for instance ).

But the IRS can’t seem to resist the temptation to go after them in a heavy-handed and ham-fisted manner, which leads to occasional courtroom victories by the tax protesters — each one of which cancels out a thousand defeats in their eyes:

The verdict stirred concerns that it would encourage more Americans to refuse to pay taxes, which the Treasury, I.R.S. and the Justice Department have all acknowledged is a growing problem. The problem has prompted a renewed effort to seek civil injunctions against promoters like Mr. Banister and in some cases prosecutions of both tax protesters and their professional advisers.

“This is going to encourage thousands more people who were on the fence, who were paying taxes only because they were afraid they would be criminally prosecuted,” said J.J. MacNab, a Maryland insurance analyst. She is writing a book about people who deny the legitimacy of the tax laws and attended the trial, which began .

“If too many people do this, the tax system will collapse because it is based on people voluntarily complying” with the law, Ms. MacNab said.

If you look at the tax protester arguments, they’re largely absurd, and those that aren’t are incorrect. But if you see the movement as a “black box” whose inputs are taxpayers and whose outputs are people who stop paying their taxes, well, it’s hard to argue with that when it is successful, which it often seems to be.


Zeynep Toufe reports from the World Tribunal on Iraq: What Did the American People Know and When Did They Know It?

A profound sense of disappointment with the American people greeted me here in Istanbul where the final session of the World Tribunal on Iraq, investigating and documenting war crimes in Iraq, modeled on the Bertrand Russell Vietnam War Tribunal of , is convening. The mood is the opposite of what I encountered here and elsewhere after the anti-war demonstrations of . Back then, enormous sympathy for victims of , and respect for a people who took to the streets to try to stop their government from committing acts of aggression before the invasion had even begun, had generated admiration and warmth toward Americans, if not their government. After all, people said, Bush stole the election. And, look, they would point out, Americans are trying to stop him. Americans are good people with a bad government — just like everywhere else — they would declare, and curse Bin Laden and Bush in one swift, contemptuous breath.

Now, however, I get confused looks, pained questions, and heads shaking quietly in disbelief and disappointment. Don’t the American people know, I am asked, again and again. Explain please, they persist, how, after the publication of pictures from Abu Ghraib, Bush got re-elected? Don’t the American people watch the news from Iraq? Where did the protests, the outrage, the uproar go?

This is not just a sad turn of events; it is a profoundly dangerous situation for the American people. Mass murder of civilians is rarely the work of lonesome nuts operating totally outside of societal norms and beliefs. On the contrary, scratch the surface of most of the horrors of , and you will find a cold, cruel belief that the victims brought it upon themselves. Everyone shakes their head and loudly condemns the atrocity once the bodies are cold and deep under the earth; however, a close examination of the events as they occurred often reveals that there was an implicit and explicit turning of hearts and faces away from the people who ended up slaughtered. The perception of indifference and complicity of the American people to the crimes committed by their government is obviously not a good development.…

At first I tried explain my questioners about the corporate control of media and the lack of grassroots organizations, but, honestly, it all rings a bit hollow. In the shops, on the buses and the ferries, and among the participants of the Tribunal, everywhere, people persist: don’t they have Internet; don’t they have alternative media; is nothing reported about Iraq at all? What on earth is up? I also tried to tell people about the stubborn remains of the anti-war movement, of the many people who oppose the war and find it hard to find a way to register their opposition, of the disregard for public opinion this administration has shown, the attempts at alternative media, organizing, congressional hearings… It was clear from the way my comments were received that it all sounded like I was making excuses for a people who indeed, at least for the moment, seem to have shut out the systematic torture and the brutal occupation out of their minds and hearts.

I realized I needed to do something else. I needed to talk about things apart from the general positive things you can say about most any country — that there are people who remain committed to justice and peace, even during the hardest of times. I needed to explain that are almost-singularly and deeply American challenges to the shameful acts of this administration. That what we are witnessing is also a struggle between different American values, and the results are far from certain.…

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