Terrible Taxes in History

Tax Day in the United States is Monday April 15 in most states (April 17 in Maine & Massachusetts). So I thought a post on terrible taxes in history would be appropriate. Back in December, HistoryExtra.com published an article about ten terrible taxes. (HistoryExtra is the official website for BBC History Magazine and BBC World Histories Magazine.) One downside of the article from an American perspective is that all of the taxes listed were English-enforced, but it’s still interesting and has some parallels with American taxes today. Here are a few of the unpopular taxes from their list: (1) The poll tax became more common in England at the end of the fourteenth century. It charged a flat tax per […]

King’s Bay Plowshares/ MLK Anniversary

7 activists hold a sign that reads "The ultimate logic of racism is genocide"

TODAY is April 4th, the 51st anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.      It is also the first anniversary of the action of 7 Catholic peace activists to symbolically disarm nuclear weapons at the Trident Submarine Base at Kings Bay, Georgia.  Most, if not all, of the Kings Bay Plowshares 7, as Catholic Workers, are also by default war tax resisters, since they live below a taxable income.  Not paying taxes for war is a baseline value for the movement founded by Dorothy Day.  One of the KBP7, Martha Hennessy, is Dorothy Day’s granddaughter.      The seven activists chose April 4th, 2018, as the day for their action at Kings Bay precisely because it […]

RIP Joffre: A tireless resister — who could try patience

Joffre Stewart died in his hometown Chicago at age 93 on March 12. He became a dedicated nonviolent resister to war and injustice out of a short stint in the military during WWII when he went to prison for going AWOL. Early on he found his political home with the revolutionary pacifism and direct action of Peacemakers, a group founded in the late 1940s by Ernest and Marion Bromley and Juanita and Wally Nelson. He carried his anarchist-pacifist politics with him for the rest of his life, although Joffre was not someone who fit easily into a group. He was a poet and might have known every open mic poetry night in Chicago; he had a great voice for recitation, […]

The Continual Crossroads of Nuclear Weapons

People of Bikini Atoll carry their possessions to ships as part of forced relocation

History of the Nuclear Testing in the Marshall Islands After World War II the United States seized the Marshall Islands, a 1,800 mile chain of islands in the Pacific Ocean. Prior to that the Japanese had occupied the territory as an outpost for their military interventions. One Sunday in February 1946, the island’s US military governor asked the locals if they would be willing to temporarily relocate for “the good of mankind and to end all world wars.”  Operation Crossroads began on July 1, 1946 to determine how nuclear detonations would impact warships. The operation was terminated after many ships were destroyed and a 94 foot tsunami coated everything with radioactive water.  Many of the veterans who were ordered into […]

Trump’s State of Emergency Lies Like a Loaded Weapon

A poster issued on April 1, 1942 detailing requirements of Japanese Americans

77 years ago on February 19th 1942, Executive Order 9066 was issued. The Order directed the army to create military zones and to remove all residents of Japanese ancestry during  World War II. It also created the War Relocation Authority which forcibly relocated over 110,000 citizens to internment camps. Last week,, the president declared a State of Emergency in order to get funding for the wall along the Southern US border with Mexico. Although there are over 30 emergency declarations in place at present, Trump’s action  is unprecedented. There were only two times that the Executive branch has taken money from the military under a State of Emergency. The first was when George H W Bush began the Gulf War […]

Gambling with our Future

Image of nuclear weapons explosion on horizon with orange glow

A recent headline, Cost to taxpayers to clean up nuke waste jumps $100 billion in a year brought home the tragedy of the nuclear weapons legacy. NBC reported that 80% of the increase was related to the Hanford site in Washington state where the plutonium was processed for nuclear weapons during the Cold War. David Trimble, director of the Government Accountability Office’s Natural Resources and Environmental team stated “We believe the number is growing and is understated.”  The projected timeline for clean up at this site is at least 50 years. Hanford is one of 75 sites in 35 states contaminated with nuclear weapons waste throughout the country. It was just a few days before that the Bulletin of Atomic […]

Old Propaganda War Tax Films

One of the highlights of the November 2018 NWTRCC conference in Cleveland was the preview showing of The Pacifist. As mentioned by Erica in a previous post, the film follows Larry Bassett’s refusal to pay over $100,000 in taxes. The film is still making the rounds of the film festival circuit, so is not yet available to the general public. However, an audio version of the film is FREE online through Spotify and Apple Music audio streaming services (sign-up required). You can also watch a scene from the film on Facebook. Throughout the film, there were several archival film clips promoting the payment of federal taxes to support war and, by default, democracy (according to the film clips). During the […]

Colrain after 25 Years: Learning from an action

A summary of a great weekend at the New England Gathering of War Tax Resisters Woolman Hill, Deerfield, Massachusetts, November 16-18, 2018 Between 1989 and 1993, hundreds of people flocked to Colrain, Mass., to voice their opposition to war and military spending by supporting the war tax resistance (WTR) of Betsy Corner and Randy Kehler when the IRS seized their home. You can read about them and a synopsis of the house seizure here – and through many other web links. About 50 people turned up during the reunion weekend to share personal impacts, reflections, analysis, and lessons of the Colrain action. There were also presentations and perspectives on the military budget and the current state of the WTR and the […]

Milwaukee 14 – 50 Years Later

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Milwaukee 14, in which fourteen men (during the planning stage there were also two women in the group, but that’s another story) raided a federal office in downtown Milwaukee, removed around 10,000 draft files, and burned them with home-made napalm. Though the fourteen faced decades in prison, each served about one year. Though largely forgotten today, the action made national headlines in 1968 & Howard Zinn served as an expert witness at the trial for the defense. An event was held in Milwaukee this past September to commemorate the event. Joined by friends & family, most of the fourteen that are still living made the trip to Milwaukee. The event was a […]

Conscience and History: The WTR Movement Is A Myth

cover of Conscience newsletter with issue title Recycling War Taxes and illustrations showing different way to redirect war taxes

Welcome to another post in the Conscience and History series, highlighting some of the writing in the newsletter of the Conscience and Military Tax Campaign (CMTC), published from 1980 to 1995. So many of the discussions within the war tax resistance community are decades-long. When I first came to NWTRCC in 2008/2009, I got up to speed on the debate over the Religious Freedom Peace Tax Bill advanced by the National Campaign for a Peace Tax Fund… but it wasn’t until I read some 1980s issues of Conscience that I fully realized that we’ve been having the very same debate for decades. Another long-time debate within our community is whether war tax resistance is a movement. The following piece was […]

Niger Needs Food, Not Drones

Ed and I had an amazing trip twelve years ago to the Sahara Desert in Niger, one of the poorest countries in the world. For those of you who know us, the reason we’ve traveled to some more unusual places is the chance to see a total eclipse of the sun — and it’s true, one is not enough! The August 2017 eclipse created new “eclipse chasers” since it crossed the U.S. and was visible to millions of people with tons of media coverage before, during, and after. So, you may wonder what this has to do with war tax resistance… The UN consistently ranks Niger near or at the bottom of human development based on life expectancy, education, and […]

Conscience and History: Beit Sahour, Part 2

Read Part 1 of Conscience and History: Beit Sahour Conscience, the newsletter of the Conscience and Military Tax Campaign (CMTC) from 1980 to 1995, covered the Palestinian tax resistance multiple times. Part 1 addressed 1988-1989’s coverage. The next mention of Beit Sahour, a center of such resistance, occurred in “West Bank Town Under Siege for Tax Protest,” in Conscience‘s Winter 1990 issue (#36), by Les Welsh: “This summer, the village of Beit Sahour, a working class, mostly Christian town of 15,000, decided unanimously to withhold taxes from the regime occupying their homeland. For many of Beit Sahour’s 320 businesses, this was their first participation in the Uprising. “The Israeli government responded on September 22nd [1989] by declaring Beit Sahour a […]