61-year-old NH Man May go to Prison for Apprehending Burglar

Nobody goes out of their way to help people anymore because they’re afraid of getting sued for their good deed, or in the case of Dennis Flemming, getting thrown into prison.

Dennis Flemming, 61, held a thief who had broken into his New Hampshire home at gunpoint until the police arrived on the scene. When the police arrived they arrested both the thief and Mr. Flemming who now faces a sentence roughly equal to that of the burglar. The state wants to put Flemming away for about 7 years on a “reckless conduct” charge.

The alleged “reckless conduct” consisted of firing a bullet into the ground to show the thief that he was not going to let him get away. Says Flemming:

“I didn’t think I could handle this guy physically, so I fired into the ground.  I didn’t know it was illegal [to fire into the ground], but I had to make that guy realize I was serious.

It’s upsetting that homeowners can’t defend themselves and protect their neighbors in this manner. It will be interesting to follow this case through to the end and see if justice is served.  See full story here.

Ai Weiwei’s Story Told in New Documentary Film

Filmmaker, Alison Klayman, has documented the life and work of Ai Weiwei in a film that premiered at Sundance this past weekend. Ai is known on this blog for his tax problems (“problems” that were likely invented by the Chinese government as a way to appear to incarcerate him for legitimate reasons), but is recognized around the world as one of China’s most outspoken dissidents.

“Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry” tells the story of Ai through exclusive interviews of the artist himself and those that are close to him. See a high quality preview of the film here: ai-weiwei-evolution-of-a-dissident.html.

“Individual freedom . . . independent thinking and expression . . . those are the core values of my activities.

~ Ai Weiwei

Ai often uses his art to make strong political statements. This is a man who knows he could be snatched up at any moment by Chinese authorities for his provocative art and opinions. He knows that his life (or death) is in the hands of the government he criticizes. His courage and ambition are inspiring.

Norris Likes Newt for President

Chuck Norris may be able to cut through a hot knife with butter and a million other fantastic feats, but he still only gets to cast his vote once. And this time around he’ll be voting for Newton Leroy Gingrich.

Yes, today the legendary martial artist, actor, author, and political activist, Chuck Norris announced his endorsement of Newt Gingrich for president.

“I’m tired of watching our country being torn to shreds by those who think the answer is more government debt and control. I’m tired of being in bondage to a tax system that robs U.S. citizens like the King of England did before the Revolution. I’m tired of watching our sovereignty being sold by foreign loans and loose borders. And I will not sit back and merely watch this decay and degradation of the U.S. and then hand it over to my children and grandchildren to deal with.

~ Chuck Norris

Newt is obviously thrilled by the endorsement. Doesn’t the Chuck Norris endorsement pretty much guarantee he’ll win the nomination? See full story here.

Christmas Carolers Banished from Post Office

Just in case you were considering the local post office as one of the stops on your caroling route this year, think again.  It would be a violation of USPS rules.

A group of carolers dressed as characters from the classic tale A Christmas Carol popped into a post office in Silver Springs (Montgomery county) Maryland recently and were told to leave by a manager. And there was no indication they were singing off-key. It’s just that the USPS does not permit public assembly inside any of its branches. In the words of USPS spokesperson, Laura Dvorak:

[T]he carolers . . . were in violation of the Postal Service’s rules on public assembly and public address. Inside the post office, however, the expectation is that public assembly will be either conducted or sponsored by the Postal Service.

This has caused quite a bit of stir on the Internet in the past few days. Some groups say this is all part of a larger scheme to de-emphasize Christmas and eliminate “anything remotely connected to anything religious” during the holidays (a.k.a., the “war on Christmas”) despite all the Christmasy — even religious-themed — stamps available this time of year.


Rihanna too Mainstream for NPR

Bob Boilen and his co-hosts shared their favorite songs of 2011 recently on NPR’s “All Songs Considered.”

I often appreciate the music on this program and I sometimes even like the commentary, although much of the time it lacks the “analysis” that a lawyer would expect. A professional music critic should find better ways of describing a song than by saying, “it just takes me to this certain place . . . “

What bothered me most about the 2011 “favorites” episode is one of the guest commentators, Stephen Thompson, really wanted to pick Rihanna’s “We Found Love” but selected a different song under duress. Apparently Bob Boilen told him to pick something different. IMHO the credibility of this program, or its hosts, or its producers, would have been enhanced if they had just gone with this pick. Yes, Rihanna is more mainstream and most of her fans are probably under 18, but that shouldn’t matter, right?  A good song is a good song.  I just feel like the All Songs Considered crew are a little more concerned about picking the obscure, hipster musicians’ work than with picking really good songs.

Maybe I was also annoyed because I just really like “We Found Love.” I can’t believe I’m defending Rihanna. That’s a little embarrassing.  Ok, I think I understand now.

Will IRS Continue to Ship Via USPS?

As you may know, the United States Postal Service (USPS) will be scaling back its operations in a major way come next spring.  Over the years, the internet has caused most of us to go “paperless” in virtually every aspect of our lives, which in turn has damaged the paper industry and also those in the business of shipping paper. USPS does not receive funding from tax dollars; instead, it is dependent on the revenues it generates from postage income. Not surprisingly, the USPS is hurting financially. In fact, it plans on closingover half of its mail processing centers to remain viable, which will certainly affect speed of delivery.

If you have tax problems or if you work in the tax relief industry, you know first hand how much mail the IRS sends through the USPS. In case you’re wondering, the IRS doesn’t ship for free. “The United States Postal Service bills the IRS on monthly basis via the Intergovernmental Payment and Collection (IPAC) for one-twelfth of the yearly postage estimate” (IRM

Internal Revenue Manual 1.22.4 contains detailed guidance on postage accountability and reporting requirements for IRS personnel. Although one of the aims of this guidance is to reduce waste,  it seems that much more could be done to reduce the IRS’ reliance on a mode of communication that is becoming more outdated and less reliable. It will be interesting to see how the changes at USPS will affect one of its largest customers, the IRS.


Cain Out

The tax code is due for an overhaul. Even though some kind of tax reform is probably inevitable, it looks like we’re never going to be able to see one called 9-9-9. And I guess we’re never going to see the National Free Pizza Day that I was hoping for either.

This morning Republican presidential candidate, Herman Cain, decided to drop out of the race.

Technically he is “suspending” his campaign (as opposed to formally ending his bid) because that will allow him to use the money he has raised to travel around and promote his “Plan B.”

There has not been much time to digest the announcement yet; there are still so many open questions. For instance, now what happens to the “Women for Cain” website that everyone loves to hate?


Governors Seek Marijuana Reclassification

In October the federal government took California medical marijuana dispensaries by storm, intent on shutting them down permanently. You may recall that even the IRS was involved in this operation, hitting them with audits and seemingly creating tax problems out of thin air.

The problem in California is not unlike the problems encountered in other states that have legalized medical marijuana. The state laws clash with the federal governments classification of the drug. The US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) still classifies marijuana as a controlled substance with no accepted medical use (Schedule I). But two governors are trying to get that changed.

Gov. Christine Gregoire of Washington and Gov. Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island have filed a petition asking the DEA to reclassify marijuana as a Schedule II drug (one with some legitimate medicinal properties). The DEA has not yet responded to this petition, but has rejected prior petitions to reclassify the drug.


The Last of the Airline Industry Bankruptcies?

AMR Corp., the parent company of American Airlines, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Tuesday. With the exception of Southwest, all major US airlines have filed for bankruptcy protection following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. American was the only holdout, until now.

Although no single factor is to blame for the company’s failure, American cited high fuel prices and expensive labor contracts as contributing factors. Most of the day-to-day operations (at least from the consumer’s point of view) will remain the same. The company will continue to honor tickets and even frequent flyer credits. The flight schedule may be trimmed during the reorganization process, but not in any dramatic way according to the airline.

With the other airlines already out of their bankruptcies and making money I’m sure some are wondering what took American Airlines so long. However, maybe this is a testament that the bankruptcy laws are working properly; allowing a company to languish just long enough so as to be sure that bankruptcy is truly the last resort.

Weiwei Caved

Chinese artist Ai Weiwei gave in and paid what the tax authorities were demanding before he moves forward with his appeal. He wired the $1.3 million guarantee to the government to protect his wife and business associates from the potential threat of police action. He probably made the right move. Who knows what might have happened in a country where, in the words of Weiwei, “those in power have the right to do anything and their power faces no restrictions.”