Of Memberships and Groups

I don’t want to belong to any club that will accept people like me as a member — Groucho Marx

Over the last day or so, on the Press Release Thread, we have seen perhaps the most sustained and extensive comment so far on the topic of what Isaac Brock Society is and who might speak as representative.

To start with, somewhere in the neighborhood of 350 different persons have posted to Isaac Brock Society by now. Not sorry to lose you probably does not want to count as a “member,” but so far represents an almost empty set. There are 29 persons currently listed as “authors.” Daily traffic runs in a usual range of 4000 to 5000 hits a day, sometimes taking a run up toward a 6000 ceiling. It could be speculated that for every active ongoing commenter there are 100 lurkers. Most days bring forth a handful of first-timers.

A group, unless it is constituted formally as something like a society or corporation, does not have members in any technical sense. If you’re there you’re there, and if you’re not you’re not. If you seem too obstreperous, you may get ostracized, like fearless Petros over at Expat Forum.

This is all loose, and that’s the way it has to be, unless a lot more people want to come out of the shadows. It is wrong for anyone to presume to speak for anyone else, much less for an assemblage that exists only in a functional sense. That leaves it up to to individuals to proclaim, as seems useful, their own voluntary association with Brocker discussions and to recommend Isaac Brock Society for exchange of information and perspectives.

The one mechanism I can imagine in present circumstances is to propose and to refine a statement through a process of comment and revision, and then to have individuals sign onto the particular statement, or not. Something like Thomas Jefferson drafting a Declaration of Independence and then getting some signatures? Except nobody here can likely claim to represent a constituency other than themselves.

If something is the truth, does it become more the truth because it is said by more than one person?


25 thoughts on “Of Memberships and Groups

  1. My main concern especially with recent developments is that people on here who consistently speak in favour of renunciation could be putting themselves at risk. I realise I’m paranoid but fear that people like Petros (in spite of not being a whale) are going to be targeted. The US seems out for blood.

  2. @Mona – It’s a valid concern as of Casey-Schumer.

    My friends who have renounced recently (the FATCA generation) have said it was a straight-forward and non-aggressive experience. However, if we add the post-Shulman IRS to the decision and vetting process, it could get aggressive. Casey-Schumer would add a big financial incentive to bias the IRS’s determination and they would be well compensated for policing your thoughts and motivations through some data-mining.

  3. By the way – I am really impressed with how the IBS has rallied and organized Americans Abroad on the comments section of articles. It is like the USPA Spring for us.

    I used to be very outnumbered on comment posts before IBS. Now, I see more people exposing the realities of US policy toward her diaspora and I see less and less “don’t let the back door” goofs on the boards.

    It may not be entirely kosher, but check out Wikipedia on some of our favorite Senators and Congressmen.

  4. I am no longer planning to even consider renouncing. In fact, I will ‘officially’ say that I genuinely believe it will become extremely risky going forward. But I also think that compliant minnows will be less likely to be targeted for aggressive audits so I may rather ironically benefit from recent events. But anyone who openly defies the US government is taking a huge risk in the present climate.

    If anyone decides to still renounce, I would suggest that they do so quietly and not even openly mention it online, especially as IP addresses can be traced. I believe we are entering a much more draconian era.

  5. Remember that the IRS is understaffed and the US is broke. It means they will be mean-spirited about money, but they will also have to narrow their focus to getting the most blood from the biggest stones. Our friendly resident former-IRS tax lawyer has indicated that the tax collectors tend to focus on the larger targets, for that reason, ie they must use their resources efficiently.
    My own forebodong sense of where this is going suggests that the US is about to cross a line where the ordinary US citizen, , inside or outside the US, will simply lose all respect for the clownishness of the process and start resisting in all sorts of quiet ways, as has happened many times in other oppressive regimes. Once the government, or in this case the IRS and congressional sidekicks, lose legitimacy in the eyes of the populace, their law enforcement activities become increasingly ineffective.
    Their solution to their problems is to pass more laws. They haven’t the money or the boots on the ground to enforce them, and unenforceable laws become disrespected and ignored.

  6. @Foxy, I too hope you’re right. However, I fear that Monalisa may be right. In March, it was announced that the IRS was hiring 300 more agents for international focus on businesses. They also said the wanted to hire 3,000 more agents ‘to hunt down tax cheats’.
    While they spent $0 in 2012 on IT systems for FATCA, they asked for $11.4 million for 2013 and estimated the total cost for IT systems at 42.3 million for 2011-2015.
    This site very likely IS being watched & monitored. We’ve been pretty aggressive at getting the url out there in comments and in articles.
    Yes, if they decide to go to the trouble, they can start tracking IP addresses. However, I do not believe they can reasonably get our names from our IP providers, at least in Canada. If the Canadian gov’t won’t pursue tax collection on behalf of the IRS, I don’t see the gov’t allowing our ISPs to turn over our names & addresses. I don’t know what it’s like in other countries, but I would think that an entire process would have to be gone through to request that (warrants? judgements?), and since we’re not criminals, I don’t see how it could ever be justified.

  7. I’m becoming more like Petros every day in that I am angry enough to let my story be put out there and challenge them to do whatever they will do, but by God it’ll be in the public eye. Where Petros renounced, I am complying, but using my First Amendment rights to speak my mind, and if necessary I will employ my Constitutional rights to petition the government for redress of grievances. The facts surrounding this issue are fiendish and complex, but we can teach others as our species has always most effectively taught – through our own stories.

  8. Phil Hodgen mentioned on his blog that the IRS knew about this website, but it seems unreel that they would use IT resources to track each user down to go after them. It seems that most people on this site are minnows and are not worth the IRS’ time and efforts. Plus most of you live abroad and it seems that collecting would be difficult for the IRS, especially when many don’t owe much if anything in taxes anyway.
    What would they be after…. FBAR penalties? That doesn’t make any sense.
    I don’t understand their thirst to go after US citizen abroad, categorizing them as tax cheats (when probably 80% don’t owe anything), when they have bigger issues to tackle here, like all the fraud going on with identity theft and tax returns. That would be a much better use of their resources.
    Maybe things will change after the November elections.

  9. @all
    I agree with foxyladyhawk. As Steven Mopsick has suggested, they don’t have the resources to start searching out the minnows. I do not believe they will. The problem with the disclosure programs were minnows came forward.

    Yes, they are making a huge thing out of Eduardo Saverin. He is big news, particularly at the time that Facebook goes public. However, I truly do not believe that anyone on this site, who makes the decision to renounce or relinquish, will endanger themselves.

  10. It would, I think, take a great expenditure of money to try and track us, and then develop legal the arguments for our various gov’ts on why they should be able to come after us in our countries of residence. I think I read somewhere on here that in order to come after us for penalties it would take a court case and a judgement against us? That would be an awful lot of effort and expense to trap a few minnows. So, yeah, I’m sure some low level person is watching this site, but I don’t see it being perceived as such a big threat as to lay out the money to do anything other than lurk and read. We’re probably giving some young kid fresh out of college a lot of dinner conversation, and that’s about it.

  11. The IRS has some discretion in how it carries out the tax laws, but bottom line is that it must use due process. We won’t be arrested at the US border or have our US-based assets confiscated without there being a paper trail between them and us, and they will have to ask for clarifications or provide opportunities for us to agree/disagree with their assessments before they would impose fines or start legal action. I think.

  12. Look if they haven’t arrested Chris Hedges then I think we’ll be ok. But I would travel to the US on a US passport, I heard from our US tax accountant about a client who was denied entry for trying to enter with only a Canadian passport.
    @foxyladyhawk, remember the Black Knight in the Monty Python and the Holy Grail movie?

  13. @Bubblebustin,

    Wonderful! One of my favorites.

    BTW: I met Chris Hedges during one of the various wars he was covering. He’s a very cool guy and one heck of a good journalist.

  14. Em,

    Thank you for the video. Chris’ depth of thought is phenomenal. I agree with so many of his points, particularly regarding the Corporate / Fascist state which the US has clearly become. Where we split however, is in the solution. Chris is into Socialism, I’m a hard core Ron Paul Old Conservative / Libertarian.

    In any case, I read a lot of stuff Chris writes and always watch his interviews.

    I am curious to know what his views would be on citizenship-based taxation.

  15. Either social democracy as per the Nordic nations or the progressive conservatism of the continental european nations would be an improvement over the classical “liberalism” of the USA.

    Based on an analysis of the arrangements between the market, the state and the family, Gøsta Esping-Andersen (1990) categorized advanced capitalist societies into three types of institutional arrangements, designed to reconcile economic development and protection of citizens with the
    risks of the marketplace: the social-democratic regime in the Scandinavian countries, in which the emphasis is on equality, giving the state a considerable role; the liberal regime, primarily in Anglo-Saxon countries (including, to a large extent, Canada), in which the emphasis is more on liberty, making markets the key institution; and the conservative regime, in most western European countries, in which the principal of solidarity dominates with insurance plans often
    based on occupational activity. Using Esping-Andersen’s model, Leibfried (1992), Ferrera (1996) and Bonoli (1997) added a fourth type to the typology, which they called “Latin” because it was found mainly in southern European countries, but which would be better called familist: solidarity is based mainly in the family, which plays the determining role in welfare distribution.

  16. @bubblebustin: thanks for the reminder — I’ll never cross the border again without thinking of the Border Sevices like this! They seem a lot less scary when you see them for the fools they are.
    I’m not aware of Chris Hedges, but I’ll take the time to watch at least some of Em’s video link. He’s seen how the US has changed, from an outsider’s viewpoint which is how we have seen it from canada.

  17. @Em,

    Thanks for providing the lengthy interview with Chris Hedges. I have always admired what he stands for. How can so much knowledge and so much humanity be in one person?

    Yes, it would be great to have him comment on our situation!

  18. @ calgary411
    I did a StartPage search but couldn’t find anything that indicated what Chris Hedges’ opinion might be regarding FATCA. I kind of think he’d be understanding of our situation since he is the voice of the underdog. I don’t agree with absolutely everything he writes but in my measure of the man he ranks well simply because his empathy index is so high.

  19. I’ve actually watched this lengthy interview when I wanted to familiarize myself with his work. It’s good to bite it off in pieces as he’s pretty intense.
    I posted an article of his from Truthdig here on April 3rd, where he describes his and three other plaintiffs experience in their court challenge of the National Defence Authorization Act. In case you missed it:
    He has a serious case of PTSD from covering too many wars, his intensity is not unlike what I often observe on Brock. Not surprising considering we are also under attack and outraged as a result of it.

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