On the evening of , three
activists were handing out literature and holding signs protesting war
spending in front of the
building on East Ave. in
Downtown Rochester. One of the demonstrators climbed a tree and held a sign
that read “Cut War Spending.”
…the first two officers to arrive at the scene threatened to taser Emily
from the tree and place her under mental health arrest if she didn’t comply
with their orders to get down. Shortly thereafter, they called in six other
police cars and two firetrucks to the scene. Three police officers used a
firetruck ladder to get to Emily in the tree. One officer pepper sprayed her
in the eyes at point blank range and forcefully removed her from the tree.
Before the Emily was removed and arrested, Mary, who was holding an anti-war
tax sign under the tree that Emily was sitting in, was arrested for
trespassing. Ben and Jake were arrested after chanting, behind police lines,
“No Justice, No Peace! Fuck the Police!” Ted was arrested after asking the
officers what the charges were against Ben and Jake.
Later that night, Ben and Ted were released on bail. Emily and Mary refused
to be bailed out. Jake wasn’t released because police claimed that his photo
ID had expired. The
next morning, after the arraignment, it was discovered that his
ID was in fact valid
and that it was to expire in three months.
The following day, all five were arraigned in Judge John
E. Elliott’s court. Emily was charged with
resisting arrest and trespassing. Mary was charged with trespassing. Ben,
Jake, and Ted were charged with disorderly conduct: obscene
According to the lawyer who represented three of the five in court today,
the section of the disorderly conduct statute that deals with obscenity was
already found unconstitutional by the appeals court. The five are scheduled
to go back to court at
There’s some video footage of the
protest arrests on-line. Looks like things went pretty much as described
above. They really did arrest those kids for yelling “fuck the police.” They
even have footage of a police spokesperson explaining afterwards to the upset
protesters and independent journalists that of course you can be arrested for
yelling profanities in public.
He claimed that the validity of such arrests are settled law, upheld by the
courts, which I believe is untrue: the
U.S. Supreme Court
has struck down convictions of people for cursing police officers or for
wearing clothing with slogans like “fuck the draft” in public places on First
Bottom line, though: “My officers do not have to tolerate being treated like
that,” he says.
I see this sort of split perception of police officers a lot in the angry
radical set: On the one hand, rhetorically they see the police as a bunch of
lawless fascist thugs brutally enforcing the whims of the ruling classes and
trampling on the rights of good folk. On the other hand, they act alarmed and
surprised when the same police officers don’t leave them alone to smash the
state at their leisure or when they disrespect the Bill of Rights in so doing.
Tax law professor James Maule takes a first look at the possible
tax consequences of alternative currency plans.
These alternative currencies seem to be experiencing a renaissance these days,
but there is a lot of ambiguity in how alternative currencies are treated in
the tax law:
The consequences of the use of [an alternative currency called] Equal Dollars
should be easy to determine, but there is no explicit authority answering the
Years ago, in Rev.
Rul. 79-24, 1979-1
concluded that gross income includes the value of property or services
received in exchange for other property or services. About a year later, in
Rul. 80-52, 1980-1
concluded that the same result was reached even if the bartering was not
direct but implemented by an organization crediting its members with trading
units. Several years later, in
Rul. 83-163, 1983-2
concluded that members of a barter club must report gross income when they
receive services through a barter exchange. The organizations operating these
barter exchanges are required to comply with the barter exchange reporting
has also concluded that organizations that provide a venue for individuals to
exchange services on an informal, noncommercial basis and that do not give
the participants any rights or impose any obligations with respect to the
exchange are not barter exchanges subject to the reporting requirements.
Thus, in private letter rulings, the
has concluded that nonprofit organizations issuing “Time Dollars” or similar
credits for services provided by individuals to other individuals are not
barter exchanges subject to the barter reporting requirements, chiefly
because in the instances it reviewed, there was no guarantee that the
recipient could get anything for the “Time Dollars” issued to the person.
has specifically declined to answer the question of whether the participants
in the program have gross income. Turning to the statute, unless an exclusion
can apply, the recipients of the Equal Dollars have gross income because when
they receive those dollars they receive something that has value, that can be
used to acquire property or services of comparable value, and that are theirs
to use unfettered by any restrictions or limitations.
When one works through a list of possible exclusions, it’s unreasonable to
conclude that the Equal Dollars are received as a gift. A person who bargains
to receive half of her salary in Equal Dollars isn’t the recipient of a gift.
Filling employee accounts with amounts that the employees can use to acquire
goods or services isn’t the making of a gift because transfers by employers
to or on behalf of employees by statutory definition cannot be gifts.
It’s very difficult to conclude that the receipt of Equal Dollars represent
imputed income, which the
a matter of administrative practice declines to tax and which some theorists
claim isn’t income in the first place, because imputed income situations
involve people doing work for themselves, such as mowing their own lawn or
cooking their own meals.
Consider, for example, the $700 of Equal Dollars received by the
How is that any different from receiving a gift certificate for $700 worth of
services of products at a retail establishment? It isn’t. Professor Deborah
Geier has reached the same conclusion, in “When Helping Hands Have to Pay
Taxes,” an article [a letter to the editor, really — ♇] published on page A24 of the edition of the New York Times.
As for the compliance questions, there aren’t enough facts
John-Hall’s article about a Philadelphia alternative currency plan] to
determine what the organization and the participants are doing. Perhaps the
recipients are reporting income, and perhaps they are not. Whether the
details of the Equal Dollar program fall closer to the barter exchange or
closer to the “Time Dollars” arrangement on the spectrum of “U.S.
currency-free transactions” is unclear, and thus whether the organization
described in John-Hall’s column should be reporting cannot be answered at
this point. The facts of the “Time Dollars” private letter rulings are
sufficiently different from those of the “Equal Dollars” arrangements to
make it risky for someone to reach a conclusion based on the general facts
that fit into a newspaper column. Lurking in the compliance cluster is the
situation that will arise when someone reports Equal Dollars as earned income
in order to qualify for, or increase, the amount of his or her earned income
That’s a good point. If something may be considered income for tax purposes
or may not be, and nobody knows for sure, it might not be the government that
decides to press the point. For some people, it can be economically
advantageous to declare questionable income as “taxable” earned income in
order to qualify for (or enhance) refundable credits.
In some ways, the use of Equal Dollars is tantamount to the creation of a
separate currency system within the economy. So long as Equal Dollars can
circulate only within the limited world that accepts their use, the tax
issues aren’t unlike those arising when a barter exchange or trading club
sets up ways to measure members’ economic positions through devices other
than a national currency. If, however, the use of Equal Dollars or their
equivalent become so widespread that they displace the use of national
currency on a grand scale, the tax issues, especially the policy questions,
will be cast in a totally different light.
Maule thinks that if Congress adopts a laissez-faire attitude
to alternative currencies, people and businesses will come up with all sorts
of ways to recast their income and profits in this way in order to avoid
taxes, which Congress will never tolerate. Alternatively, if Congress crafts
precise rules to limit which sorts of alternative currency transactions are
taxable and which are not, this would just become an invitation for those
businesses that can afford the craftiest lawyers and accountants to monopolize
the alternative currency field (which would destroy anything that is currently
appealing about it).
His prediction: “Ultimately, the Congess needs to deal with these issues.
Unfortunately, it, like most legislatures, usually waits until people sort
things out for themselves, making it more difficult to prescribe sensible
rules because a coalition of those wanting special exceptions, those wanting
transition rules, and those unwilling to change their reporting practices
prevent the legislatures from writing on clean slates.”
Of course what looks like a bug to us is probably considered a feature to
folks on the inside. Why bother going through the process of legislating if
there isn’t a group of entrenched interests with a large financial stake in
the outcome who are willing to spend some money in exchange for influence?
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