Category Archives: Opinion

Talk To Your Neighbors

Fernsler Family

Wednesday evening 2015-12-16 Boulder city police knocked on my door and arrested me in my pajamas while playing with my daughter, claiming to have a bench warrant (turned out they didn’t). This stems from last Summer when someone discovered my missing, dying twenty-year old cat and reported it to animal control, who killed her and charged me with animal cruelty. She was wearing her collar with my name, address, and phone number on it.

Something I do and would appreciate is if someone finds a loose or distressed animal, contact the owner first. I go out of my way to return loose dogs or at least chase them away from busy roads, rather than turn them into the police to be ransomed back to their owners. It’s something I’ve been doing quietly every year for over a decade here, but I’m making the formal offer now: this is what I’ll do for you and what I request; talk to your neighbors.

There are many circumstances where police are needed, but I feel they are called too often over things that could be settled with a simple conversation between neighbors. Likewise I saw many in jail for letting an argument get too heated when one or both should have broke it off and gone for a long walk, and the law makes a mess of both those people’s lives. Fifty years ago my grandfather worked for the AFSC in Africa, traveling between insurgent warlords and colonial rulers carrying their messages to each other when they would not talk any other way. it was perilous work, and his first wife died on one of those trips. I have traveled the Earth too and navigated perilous circumstances, aided by the traditions of non-violent conflict resolution of my Quaker ancestors. These days I am not so adventurous, staying put and raising a family. But I would see peace, safety and prosperity in my neighborhood. So if you find yourself for whatever reason unable to speak with your neighbor, drop me a message and I’ll do what I can to help resolve it to everyone’s satisfaction. And if there is a complaint against me, I will listen respectfully and act for our mutual well-being.

My next court appearance in this matter is 8:30AM this Friday, January 15 2016 in courtroom E at the Boulder Courthouse at 6th and Canyon. It’s a status conference so shouldn’t take too long. I expect the city will continue to bully and cheat, so an extra few quiet observers would be welcome and helpful. I am experienced and knowledgeable in this arena, intending to defend myself vigorously, so you might also find this helpfully educational.

You Are a King

**see below, updates to follow

I was in court last week, facing charges of cruelty for not killing my missing, dying twenty-year old cat (killed by animal control), and had the following conversation with the judge:

Judge: “I am going to call your name and ask if you would like to see the D.A. and ask how you plead if not.”

Judge: “Tobiah Fernsler”
Me: “I am Tobiah Fernsler, here in propria persona to..”
Judge: “I’m just asking if you’re here and if you want to see the D.A. or not”
Me: “I am Tobiah Fernsler, here in propria persona by special appearance to clear up this matter”
Judge: “Do you want to see the D.A. or not?”
Me: “No I do not. I challenge the jurisdiction of the court”
Judge: “Are you drinking something?!
Me: “This is a water bottle. With water”
Judge: “Well take that out! We don’t allow drinks in court! You may also leave, I am already done with your case!”

Question: So what happened there?

I invoked the sovereign citizens* defence, based on Common Law and born in the Magna Carta and signed by King John on June 15, 1215 near Windsor England. I was ready to invoke the 6th Ammendment of the U.S. Constitution, but it never came up.

The basic premise of the Magna Carta is egalitarianism: you are all equal, and everybody (well, at the time every land-owning male) is a sovereign, and like a king. We can all go about our affairs, and are only subject to the law if we damage another or violate a contract. And there’s the rub, because when you are charged with a victimless crime, a contract with government is assumed, implied. And if you plead, appear or hire an attorney at arraignment, the contract is valid because you didn’t contest it.

So how do you contest it? How do you challenge the constitutionality of a law or court?

Good question, Toby. This is done by challenging jurisdiction, and the court has many ways to trick you into accepting jurisdiction. You don’t appear, you are there by special appearance. You don’t hire a lawyer, you have legal consul. You are pro pre (propria persona) and not pro se (“procede”). They will refer to you with your name in all caps, you should insist on lower-case. Signing-ink color matters.

When you sign something you don’t understand or want to sign, add “under duress” after your name. Or v.c. (vis coerco “compelled by force”).

However, if you simply state you are challenging jurisdiction and little else, that is likely to get the case dismissed. At that point you are calling for a jurisdictional hearing by a higher court and placing the burden of proof on the prosecutor for whether this case should procede. You are not even arguing over the merits of the charges, but the merits of the law, court, and prosecutor. Jurisdiction has 7 components, and sets a reasonably high bar. Also under Common Law you have the right to face your accuser, the injured party, before being punished. If there is no injured party, there can be no sentence.

I’ll be adding links and editing this document for some time, there’s a lot to go with it.

Toby Fernsler, Sheriff of Love



*See discussion with Guadagno, Attilio-Cesare in comments below.

**Wednesday evening 2015-12-16 Boulder city police knocked on my door and arrested me in my pajamas while playing with my daughter for not killing our missing cat. More technically, while the judge had told me she was done with my case, the court later scheduled a “Status Conference” which I did not attend, instead submitting a written statement reiterating my position. The police claimed a warrant had been issued for my arrest, which I never saw.
I’ve spent an entertaining 30 hours in the county jail, made some colorful friends and learned three new card games.
I sat in chains for 3.5 hours waiting my turn with the other arrestees at that hearing, while the only one there for murder walked in in his suit, took some pictures, got lectured by the judge, and walked right out. One junkie had a $120k bond for relapsing.

Click to access book10.pdf

I have a solution: Free Beer.


“Suffering from a lack of sleep, just how is a homeless person supposed to do all the things necessary for overcoming their homelessness?” asks Barbieux.

I have a solution: Free Beer.

Just kidding, sort of. Hear me out.

The Methodology of Universal Love states that the best solution is the one that is a solution from all points of view. Downtown business owners would like their customers to be able to visit their stores without tripping over a sleeping person at the entrance. So the owners want the homeless to sleep elsewhere. Homeless people need a place to sleep. Urgently. Perhaps even tonight. Perhaps earlier. Anywhere they can.

How can we meet the needs of both?

Software developers speak frequently of two kinds of Free: Free as in speech, or free as in beer. Free-Speech sleeping is being able to sleep past dawn, which doesn’t happen in a homeless shelter (read the article). Free-Beer sleeping is not having to pay for it.

“Sometimes, when I make enough out here, I check into a hotel just to sleep in a room by myself.”

What if the homeless didn’t have to choose between those options?

Here’s my proposal: pick a plot of land on the edge of town, and declare it ok to camp there. Sleep in a tent, past dawn. Provide basic necessities for free: toilet, shower, laundry. Put in a kitchen and serve regular wholesome meals. Create community gardens, raise chickens. Put up a free thrift store, food drop-off, bicycle repair, yoga studio (this is Boulder). Run it like an Occupy encampment; serving and run by the community. Create micro-neighborhoods like Burning Man camps; family, rowdy, newcomers, etc. Those communities will decide what they’ll allow in camp.

Call it Free Town: Free living for the Free People.

Sheriff of Love

Groovik's Cube

Being the Change

change-making Velcrow Ripper

As this Thursday’s deadline approaches and it becomes clearer that I will not collect enough signatures to place my name on November’s ballot, I struggle with the pressures of urgency and despair. Collecting signatures in the classic manner is no fun; quick and efficient effort means disrupting many people’s routine and pressuring them into doing something they don’t fully understand.

I gave that a try and didn’t enjoy it. So now I stand quietly by my sign, nodding politely or reading, and allow people to choose whether they wish to approach me. There are many fewer interactions, with perhaps only four signatures in an hour. But they are genuine and un-forced.

I am still registered with the Colorado Secretary of State’s office as a candidate for sheriff of Boulder County in this November 2014 election, and I will continue my campaign in my own low-key manner. Many people ask me what my chances of winning are, but that was always beside the point. I am trying to re-envision what law-enforcement and public service can be, and when enough people are ready for it, it will exist.
Sheriff of Love

Restorative Justice and Murder

Cahill apparently had barged into a modest home where he knew no one, with cocaine and alcohol in his system. And although the shooting has been ruled “justified” by police, to his loved ones, that finding doesn’t equate to an adequate explanation.

If an intoxicated and belligerent stranger broke into my home, I too would be inclined to forcefully evict them. If I was intoxicated and had head trauma from being beaten in the street, I might seek shelter where I could find it and be in poor condition to explain myself. If my brother died suddenly, I would be sad and want to know what happened. This is the Methodology of Universal Love; considering each point of view without prejudice and seeing the validity and truth in them. My favorite description comes through Charles Eisenstein, “Love is seeing through the illusions which separate us”.

New Orleans police have never revealed his identity because they consider the shooter in a justified homicide to be a victim.

Here the New Orleans police are acting to protect the shooter, out of fear that he may be the target of retaliatory actions. There is no love in this action for those who grieve Cahill’s death as their perspective and needs go unaddressed. And in fact there is no love for the shooter, who has only his gun collection and a poorly guarded secret as defense against the unknown. It is hard to know his mind, but I know when I hide from my fears I give them strength. Even the police who were involved before and after may hold trauma from this event.

“No matter how much we wish we could turn back the clock and stop this senseless tragedy, our sense of helplessness lingers, and nothing we can do will bring him back,” said Ken Cahill

This helplessness and fear need not linger, because there is an ancient practice interpreted as modern programs with an excellent track record of addressing the needs of all parties to traumatic events such as this. The essence of it is to gather these parties together with public witness and a moderator, and tell the many-sided story. Sometimes agreements come of this which ease fears and sooth wounds, sometimes there is no need, and I have never heard of a case where it was less effective than fear and punishment alone. In South Africa it was called the “Truth and Reconciliation Commission“. Here in Boulder County the sheriff’s office hosts the small but potent Restorative Justice program, run by the tireless volunteer Jennifer Quilling.

I believe the Cahills, friends of Joe, the New Orleans police, the shooter and his family would all benefit greatly from participating in such a process. So too would those of us who read this newspaper article, and wondered “Is that it? Is that how the story ends?”. Let us tell some stories, and write a new ending to this one.

Safety Check

For the third consecutive year, the University of Colorado Boulder will spend upwards of $100,000 to close campus on April 20 in its effort to smother anything resembling a 4/20 marijuana smokeout, which the university says has become too disruptive.

This year’s 4/20 marijuana folk holiday falls on Easter Sunday, a joyous Christian holiday welcoming Spring and rebirth, with roots in the Babylonian holiday celebrating Ishtar (“ees ter”), goddess of war, fertility and sex. It’s going to be a potent day. Campus officals, fearing reckless behavior,  are trying to prevent a celebration of what just last year was a protest. But it’s a valid fear; People, especially inexperienced people, will sometimes handle their medicine poorly.

There is a wonderful possibility hidden in this crisis, where both need and fear are satisfied. We will educate the inexperienced and guide them to responsible behavior. Rather than punishing future misbehavior, we will teach mindful indulgence.

From California surfer culture comes the concept of a “Safety Check”; speaking to a fellow on the beach you declare the present moment and space to be sacred, speak only beautiful and kind words, and smoke a joint. A similar ceremony could be created to acknowledge both the responsibility and bliss The Herb delivers.

Picture the sheriff, the chancellor, a Rastafarian and Catholic priest introducing the 420 celebration on Farrand Field, each with their own caution and blessing. There is a moment of silence, a moment of noise, and a moment of shared experience. I’d like to be there. Wouldn’t you?

Wave of Action

I’ll be at the SW corner of Broadway and Canyon from 5PM to 7PM today, Friday April 4th, 2014, acknowledging the Occupy movement’s #waveofaction.

I protested the Iraq War in 2003, as did much of the world. It was, to the best of my knowledge, the largest global protest ever. And it had no effect. The Occupy movement has been portrayed as in incoherent protest. Luckily there is much more to it than that. They are creating new solutions and living them out. If you want to know more don’t wait for mainstream media to inform you. But in this age of the Internet Apocalypse, the answer is just a few clicks away.

I lived in South Korea for part of the 1980s when there were frequent protests and riots over the military dictatorship. For eight years clouds of tear gas drifted across Seoul and other cities, until the people’s will won out and previously jailed and hunted opposition leaders rose to power. Looks like a painful way to bring about change, and I’m looking for a gentler approach. It’s easy for protesters to see police and government as oppressors, and to view the protestors as enemies of social order. We’re all in this together, and I believe through patience and respect we will find mutually acceptable and effective solutions to the many crises we face.

But the next time Dick Cheney suggests we start a war, I’m getting a court order and putting him in the time-out room.

Non-Violence and Dog Poop

Boulder City Councilwoman Mary Young wants to know how feasible it would be to require DNA samples from dogs with city-issued green tags that could be saved for later comparison to waste found on open space.

The prevailing wisdom of dog-ownership is that when you are out on a walk and your dog poops, the moral and legally correct thing to do is place it in a plastic bag, carry it home, and place it in another plastic bag to be sent to the landfill with all the other individually wrapped dog poops. This has always struck me as environmentally unsustainable, and humiliating for both the owner and dog.

From a law-enforcement perspective, making dog waste illegal is applying the methodology of punishment to force people to perform this humiliating and environmentally harmful act at the point of a gun. The fact that the City of Boulder is seeking to escalate the War Against Poop is a sure indicator that this approach has already failed.

From a genetic standpoint, DNA testing is not nearly as accurate as is popularly believed. Genetic drift, epigenetic materials, sample contamination and the small number of target genes used in DNA testing leads to a surprisingly high number of false negatives and false positives, which increase with the size of the database. I experienced this firsthand while assisting with the development of Ibis Bioscience’s PlexID system; those who ran themselves against the partial FBI database available would often get 5 to 10 positive matches, despite not being in the database. There were cases of individual’s hair sample not matching their blood, due to genetic drift. Prosecution of dog owners under this system might turn out to be expensive and inefficient.

It is also worth noting that the database would only contain samples from “green tagged” dogs. In other words, only the most responsible dogs and dog owners would be considered in the pool of poop suspects.

I would like to propose the possibility that dog-owners are in fact responsible individuals who care for their animals and environment. That it is unnecessary and ineffective to punish them into acceptable behavior, and that there are gentler ways to achieve better results. Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Provide biodegradable bags at trailheads and even along the trail.
  2. Expand the number of trash cans on and near trails.
  3. Ignore it; animals have been pooping in the woods for a long time, and it seems to work out ok.
  4. Have the rangers pick up unattended poop; it’s probably less hastle and paperwork than writing tickets and hiring extra prosecutors and poop investigation services. Also, the poop gets picked up.
  5. Put a bounty on poop; say 25¢/pound. This being Boulder people could register as official poop-pickers, pick up serialized buckets, drop them off at conveniently located deposit points (then sent to compost), and receive a check at the end of each time-period. There may be some unintended consequences, but again, the poop would actually get picked up. And it would be handled in an environmentally responsible manner, unlike the escalating punishment plan.

There will be a public hearing about this on Tuesday, April 1 at 6PM. On the off-chance that this is not a well-constructed April Fool’s Day prank by the generally sober Boulder City Council, I plan to attend and present some of these ideas.


On The Foot of a Great Cottonwood..

Fork in the Road

When I speak of love I am referring to what I call “Universal Love”. It is selfish and introspective, because you seek to understand/fulfill yourself and your needs. It is compassionate, you try to understand others and their needs. It is all-encompassing, viewing the moment from as many points of view as possible.

When you understand everything and act in the interest of everyone, there is nothing to resist you. The action is welcomed into being.

When I say I will run the frackers out of town, it sounds forceful and against a powerful interest. But the frackers are not bad people. They do not wish to poison the air and burn the sky. But they do.

They are good people doing things they feel helpless to resist. I will help them stop. I will help them rechart their life. Perhaps the CEO will pursue gardening instead. Perhaps the rig worker can move on to a fulfilling career as a romance novelist.

Life does not End when a job does. It Begins.