Back in 1986, reason had a cover story on the Meese Pornography Commission. Being a strong opponent of censorship, soon after reading that article I left the Republican Party. Now, 18 years later, reason has another article ("Xtreme Measures," May) on how a Republican Justice Department is going after pornography. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
The only difference: This time, there is no disillusioning break with the GOP. The Bush administration has given us irresponsible economic policies, lies over Iraq, and pandering to homophobes. That it wants to control what people watch is just one more reason I will be voting for its retirement this November.
"It's So Simple, It's Ridiculous"
I read with interest Brian Doherty's article on the tax protest movement ("'It's So Simple, It's Ridiculous,'" May), particularly since I am a friend of one of the protesters he profiled, Vernie Kuglin. I think the article was fair and accurate. One point I think should be made clear, though, is that nonpayment of taxes is both a civil and a criminal wrong. A criminal defendant has the defense of lacking mens rea, a finding of criminal intent. Acquittal on criminal charges has no effect on the liability to pay taxes, where a taxpayer's understanding of the law is irrelevant.
Kuglin's not-guilty verdict was based on liberal jury instructions that said that no matter how kooky her belief system seemed, if she sincerely believed she was not required to file, she did not have the mens rea required for conviction. This follows a U.S. Supreme Court decision involving a tax protester some years ago and is consistent with our view that intentionality must underlie a criminal act.
Those of us who know Vernie believe in her sincerity. Of course, the defenders of the Alamo were also very sincere.
As Mario Puzo wrote at the end of Fools Die, "We suffer for nothing. Our own death wish is our only real tragedy." This is probably the main reason why otherwise law-abiding people allow themselves to become entangled in the tax protest movement. Kind of like skydiving, but with a defective parachute.
People like Irwin Schiff, the Patriot Network gurus, the "un-tax" quacks, and the poor sods who believe them suffer not only from a sense of perceived injustice but from a desire to create a crisis in their lives. While some of the arguments against the income tax that Brian Doherty outlined in his article contain a grain of truth, the reality is that when taken in context none of them hold up in court.
Here's a public service announcement from someone who learned the hard way: If you are involved in a tax protest group, especially if you are a professional or a business owner, and are even remotely considering taking a firm stand against the income tax -- by not filing, filing a "zero" return, not paying, etc. -- then do yourself the biggest favor of your life and stop playing in traffic.
I was dismayed to read Cathy Young's unbelievably shoddy account of the writings of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn ("Traditional Prejudices," May). Despite a deceptively calm and authoritative tone, she engages in nothing less than character assassination. She eschews anything that resembles explication de texte and instead relies upon the prosecutorial-conspiratorial musings of Semyon Reznik. Even more damning, she ignores everything in Solzhenitsyn's writings that might militate against her claims.