Free Walt Anderson

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"Anyone
in a free society where the laws are unjust has an obligation
to break the law."

~
Henry David Thoreau

Thoreau,
of course, lived in a kinder, gentler time, when people still recognized
the true source of human rights and freedoms, and were diligent
in keeping them. Mr. Thoreau was a strong believer in civil disobedience
as a means of changing unjust law; Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther
King, Jr. could certainly attest to their own success using non-violent
civil disobedience as a tool of political reform – but none
of these gentlemen were trying to reform the tax laws. The State
can tolerate, in relative degrees, large and well organized public
protests, so long as said protests do not extend to the root means
of the State’s livelihood. That way lies revolution, of which there
have been few that were successful.

Until
a couple of days ago, most of you reading this had probably never
heard of Walt Anderson. Preferring to keep a low public profile,
he made himself very wealthy in the telecommunications industry
in the 1990′s, both in the "Baby Bells" and in the European
telecom industry. His work in telecom satellites offered people
in developing nations, starved of needed land line infrastructure,
an open door to the 21st century. When he cashed out (or in one
case, was forced out), his net worth topped the billion-dollar mark,
at least by some estimates.

As
a huge supporter of privatized efforts for space transportation
and development, he helped bankroll such organizations as FINDS,
the Space Frontier Foundation,
the Mars Society, and the
International Space University.
He’s been an investor in Rotary
Rocket
and spent $31 million of his own money in an attempt
to rescue the Russian
Mir space station
. His current venture, Orbital
Recovery
, will build small robot probes that, when launched,
attach themselves to satellites in decaying orbits, then fire a
small rocket to boost the comsats back where they used to be, thus
saving those satellite’s owners tens of millions in replacement
costs.

Those
who have worked with him attest that, despite his sometimes mercurial
moods and intense desire for privacy, Anderson was also a man of
unimpeachable integrity, both in his personal and business dealings.

But
now, apparently, the amassed government kleptocracies have taken
umbrage that Mr. Anderson might want to actually keep the
profits he worked so hard to earn. He was arrested Saturday, February
26th, as he disembarked a plane from London at Dulles airport, and
charged with a dozen counts of tax evasion on nearly $500 million
in allegedly unreported income to the US and the District of Columbia.
He continues to be held pending a bail hearing Thursday, March 3rd.

Three
things strike me immediately from all this: (1) the incredibly savage
hatchet job
being done to Anderson by the media, trying and
convicting the man well in advance of any trial, (2) the gross hypocrisy
of the government’s action, given that better politically "connected"
miscreants, such as Marc Rich or Halliburton, get a free pass, and
(3) the absolutely hideous nature of what our system has morphed
into, whereby a successful man like Anderson is compelled to go
to such great lengths to keep the wealth he peacefully and honestly
earned.

The
press have painted
a damning picture
of Walt Anderson as a quixotic and aberrant
individual obsessed with phony identities, "underground books"
about "disappearing," and of course all those questionable
offshore business dealings allegedly designed solely to hide income.
I mean, my God, he reads unusual books and he wears black clothes.
He must, therefore, be a deviant, malcontent tax evader!
(Never mind that my teenage daughter also dresses in all-black
"goth" fashion, black clothing has always fashionable
in the "hip" circles from the East Village to L.A., the
"underground books" they mentioned are openly
available for sale on the Internet
, and while performing certain
activities under an assumed name may be considered illegal, having
a second passport
– under your own name – definitely
is not.)

While
the $210 million in taxes the government claims is "owed"
by Anderson is touted as the biggest "tax evasion scam in history,"
keep in mind that even if they succeed in collection, that money
will only enable the federal government to function for about
44 minutes. The US this year will spend more money in 10 minutes
than Joseph Strauss spent building the entire Golden Gate Bridge,
even adjusted for inflation.

An
associate spoke directly with Anderson today, and he claimed to
be extremely puzzled about the government’s motives, in that he
had offered to come in whenever they asked and thus was completely
surprised at being arrested at the end of a long flight. It seems
to me from that, that Anderson genuinely believes he did nothing
illegal to protect his assets, actions which are virtually identical
to what thousands of other wealthy citizens do to protect theirs.

But
at the end of the day, it’s really not about the money. It’s about
IRS bureaucrats getting a "trophy" arrest in time for
tax season.

In
case you hadn’t noticed, about this same time every single year,
the media are rife with reports of IRS harassment, arrests, and
confiscation of property, from people usually demonized as "tax
protestors," with the sole purpose of intimidating the masses
into complying with the "tax laws," laws which IRS
agents themselves can’t figure out.
The Anderson case will give
these people massive propaganda opportunities for years to come.
Also, the US and other big-tax governments over the last five years
or so have been giving extra scrutiny to offshore tax havens, and
putting political pressure on the nations offering them. So with
Anderson, Uncle Sam gets a double play – a way to scare the
"sheeple" and send warning signals to the more fiscally
sophisticated to give up on those offshore shelters and simply pony
up.

It
will be interesting to see how the actual legal wrangling plays
out, once the media frenzy subsides. From the tone of the articles,
some of Anderson’s machinations might appear fishy – but I
just can’t conceive of someone at his level deliberately doing something
blatantly illegal. People at that level surround themselves with
lawyers and accountants – I can’t fathom how all that advice,
would collectively be that bad. As I suggested earlier, Mr. Anderson’s
problem isn’t so much that he avoided paying taxes on lots of income
legally earned – the real issue is that he is an open opponent
of Big Government Statism, and thus isn’t sufficiently politically
connected to save himself all this grief.

Halliburton
has been caught gauging Big Uncle
in numerous ways since the
whole Iraq War got going, in amounts that would make Walt blush,
but I don’t see any of their execs doing any perp walks for the
cameras – that’s because they have friends in Dick Cheney and
Donald Rumsfeld. Marc
Rich
blatantly sold arms to every side carrying cash in the
Middle East – but his pal Bill Clinton pardoned him.

The
final issue becomes one of Anderson just being another of a long
string of victims of the "Age of Envy" in which we find
ourselves. Everybody hates taxes, but figure they’re "stuck"
paying them – so it’s easy for the media to sow the seeds of
resentment (and sell papers) by painting Anderson as an evil capitalist
exploiter who won’t pay his "fair share" – as though
there is this general belief that if you have superior business
acumen, and create jobs and wealth, you also still "owe"
fifty percent or more of what you worked so hard to earn to "benefit"
those less capable than yourself. And if you refuse to pony up,
you are therefore evil and should have everything stripped from
you in the name of "justice." That, apparently, is the
philosophy of the majority of columnists writing about Anderson.

In
the world of the wealth redistributionists, the Unwritten Rule is:
"Thou shall not make too much money too quickly, unless
you play ball with the Big Boys first." Events would appear
to teach us that that particular number is about $500 million. In
the 80′s, former US Attorney Rudy Giuliani went after Michael
Milken
after the "junk bond king" earned that much
in a single year – a "trophy case" that led Giuliani
to the New York Mayor’s office. Today, they’re going after Walt
Anderson for taxes on a similar earnings windfall from the late
90′s. And today the details of Howard
Stern’s
$500 million deal with Sirius are being investigated
by the SEC for possible insider trading violations by members of
his staff and outside columnists close to him. In all these cases,
none of these individuals were/are well-connected in the "right"
circles, and, in the case of Stern and Anderson, are openly against
government intrusions into our lives. In the eyes of Big Brother,
these people can be sacrificed as a lesson to the rest in the real
exercise of government power.

I’ve
heard all the arguments about how we are a "nation of laws,"
and we must either obey them or work to change the System, for if
we do not we end up in Anderson’s position – but I no longer
buy those arguments. The original purpose of "the law"
was to establish justice – but the tax laws today
have nothing to do with justice or fairness, but merely to enhance
the power position of the State. Take a look at the tax code. Virtually
every line in it is the result of a successful lobbyist representing
a particular special interest group. "Fair shares" don’t
enter into it.

The
government and their media sycophants are working overtime to ensure
that, in the minds of the public, Anderson is a totally unredeemable,
indefensible character, which will make it next to impossible for
him to get a fair trial. They have piled on charges in the hopes
of getting one or two to stick. They will look for some sort of
plea bargain, where Anderson gives up most of what he’s earned,
and possibly does some jail time – full acquittal is extremely
doubtful, given how the deck is being stacked, but given his resources,
there is always hope.

We
all need to speak up for and stand with the Walt Anderson’s of the
world, as their persecution is a symbol of what has become so tragically
wrong and perverted with the American system. He is a unique individual
who simply wanted to keep the money that he worked so hard to make,
despite the government wanting to redistribute that hard-earned
income into their wasteful abyss of war, social engineering, and
dependency creation. What happened to Anderson is happening to thousands
of Americans at a far lower level, every year, but they are generally
powerless to mount a proper defense.

"Mr.
Montag, you are looking at a coward. I saw the way things were
going, a long time back. I said nothing. I’m one of the innocents
who could have spoken up and out when no one would listen to the
‘guilty,’ but I did not speak and thus became guilty myself. And
when finally they set the structure to burn the books, using the
firemen, I grunted a few times and subsided, for there were no
others grunting or yelling with me, by then. Now it’s too late."

~
Ray Bradbury, from his classic novel, Fahrenheit
451

Free
Walt Anderson.

March
4, 2005

Thomas
Andrew Olson [send him mail]
is a writer and public speaker on technology issues, and humanity’s
future in space. He is Space Commerce Editor for The Libertarian
Enterprise, and is an occasional contributor to The Space
Review. Although an Advocate of the Space Frontier Foundation
and a Founding member of the Mars Society, he writes in his own
personal capacity, and not as a representative of either group.

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