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08/31/2004 Archived Entry: "Two books: David Cay Johnston/Poland's conspiracies"
SPEAKING OF BOOKS as I was last night, I'm here to warn you against a turkey and tell you about another book that might just be a best-kept secret for anyone who expects someday to have to snatch freedom out of tyranny's clutches.
The turkey is David Cay Johnston's Perfectly Legal: The Covert Campaign to Rig Our Tax System to Benefit the Super Rich -- and Cheat Everybody Else. Johnston writes for the New York Times on tax issues -- including tax protest issues. I queued this book at the library after some folks alleged (and Johnston denied) that he admitted in the book that he finked to the IRS on some of the tax resisters he interviewed.
I never did find any admission of finking. But then, I admit I couldn't get motivated to finish the whole book before it had to go back to the library. Here's an example of the depth and fairness of Johnston's coverage:
Dr. [Ron] Paul said that he shared the Joy Foundation's belief that requiring businesses to withhold taxes and keep records "is involuntary servitude" in violation of the Thirteenth Amendment, which outlawed slavery. The involuntary servitude claim is widely used by white racist organizations to justify not paying taxes. The problem of such claims is serious enough that Congress allows a 20 percent penalty for those who cite the Thirteenth Amendment as a rationale for not paying their taxes.
And that is Johnston's entire examination of the taxes-as-slavery issue! Racists like it. Congress doesn't. Bad. He goes on about tax protesters for several chapters, indiscriminately lumping scammers with sincere objectors, using smoothly sneering language to damn them all without considering their arguments.
They gave this guy a Pulitzer Prize?
Although there's a fair bit of interesting information in the book about maddening aspects of the tax system and IRS enforcement (including the IRS's notorious policy of going after little guys and letting the big fish off the hook), none of it can be trusted in light of such mindless (or I suspect, quite mindful) bias. Although the book appears on its face to be written for an intelligent, thoughtful audience, bland bigotry like the above coupled with wide-eyed admonitions like, "Don't cheat on your taxes. Don't even chisel. It will hurt," make the book ultimately appear more like a sophisticated propaganda vehicle than a real analysis of anything.
Did the guy fink? I don't know. But for all his criticism of the tax system and talk of "reform," he appears to be a shill for the business-as-usual your-bucks-are-our-bucks crowd.
A must-have for freedom conspirators
Earlier this month, woodtramp posted on the Claire Files forums:
Regarding your idea of an underground network I'm thinking along those exact same lines.(Big suprise there.) I believe we need to take a long term outlook and should study historical examples of oppressed peoples resisting tyranny and try to learn and be inspired by their experiences. A good place to start would be to look at the methods of the Polish Solidarity movement under martial law. They used a decentralized strategy ... and they truely gave the government fits. A Good book about those events is
Mad Dreams, Saving Graces; Poland a Nation in Conspiracy.
I also queued this book up at the library and, one-third of the way though, I know I'm going to buy a copy and add it to my collection of keepers. Mad Dreams covers that peculiar moment between the 500-day spring of Solidarity and the fall of Communism. On December 12, 1981, Poland's Communist government declared martial law, arrested 10,000 political and union leaders (and a lot of uncomprehending folk who simply got swept up in events), and tried to regain iron-fisted political authority. But the genie of freedom wasn't so easy to shove back in the Communist bottle.
The handful of Solidarity leaders who had escaped the sweeps -- and many who had never been leaders before -- conducted a "do your own thing," totally decentralized non-violent underground resistance. This joyful, exhuberant, vigorous, and virtually planless grassroots revolt eventually defeated the tyrants.
Poland has a lot in common with America, including a historic passion for freedom and a romantic view of its past freedom fighters. This is an account of a strange police state in which people openly criticize the government while snitches openly infiltrate every gathering. In such a world, it's easy to see a near-future America -- a place where the forms of "freedom" are still observed while the actual substance of freedom is despised (but despised by leaders who don't quite dare crush as hard as they'd like). On page after page, there's also practical information about what Poland's underground conspirators did to overcome oppression.
The writer, American journalist Michael T. Kaufman (whose father was a Polish political dissident and prisoner before World War II) describes the quirky unreality of the times. An even greater sense of unreality comes from the fact that the book was published in 1989, just before the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of worldwide Communism. So Kaufman writes about Poles' defeat of the worst of Communism within a country that was nominally still Communist. He knew that the political structure he describes was a mere shell; he just had no idea how hollow that shell was, everywhere in the world.
Unfortunately Mad Dreams appears to be out of print now, but Amazon Marketplace vendors have dozens of copies.
BTW, in Mad Dreams Kaufman mentions a pamphlet of the resistance called "The Small Conspirator" (written anonymously by a courageous member of the resistance, Czeslaw Bielecki). This booklet was filled with useful advice on everything from how to employ secret codes (keep them simple) to how to endure brutal interrogations. A copy of "The Small Conspirator" would be very useful to have. If anybody knows how to get a copy, tell us, tell us!
Posted by Claire @ 09:04 AM CST