Patterico's Pontifications

12/1/2019

Sunday Music: Bach Cantata BWV 62

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 2:32 pm



It is the first Sunday of Advent. Today’s Bach cantata is “Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland” (Now come, Savior of the heathens):

Today’s Gospel reading is Matthew 24:36-44:

The Day and Hour Unknown

“But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left.

“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.

The text of today’s piece is available here. It contains these words:

Now come, Savior of the heathens,
known as the Virgin’s child,
over whom the whole world marvels,
that God had ordained such a birth for Him.

. . . .

We honor this glory
and approach Your manger now
and praise with joyful lips
what You have prepared for us;
the darkness does not confuse us
and we see Your eternal light.

Happy listening! Soli Deo gloria.

[Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.]

11/30/2019

Saturday College Football Open Thread

Filed under: General — JVW @ 1:11 pm



[guest post by JVW]

* I’m starting to think that I’ll never again see Michigan beat Ohio State in my lifetime.

* Georgia looked good again beating Georgia Tech, except for the discipline issues. The SEC title game ought to be a doozy.

* How cool is that that Minnesota and Wisconsin, the most-played rivalry in major college football, have played 128 times and the series is perfectly knotted up at 60-60 with eight ties?

* I want to see climate change “activists” try that sit-in stuff at the Alabama-Auburn game. Or LSU-Texas A&M for that matter.

* For fun, let’s envision this scenario: Ohio State, Clemson, and LSU win-out and reach the college football playoffs. Alabama loses to Auburn. Oklahoma loses to Oklahoma State. Next weekend, Georgia loses to LSU in the SEC title game. Minnesota loses to Ohio State in the Big Ten title game. Baylor loses to Oklahoma in the Big 12 title game. Utah loses to Oregon in the Pac 12 title game. Who then becomes the fourth team in the playoffs? A two-loss conference champ like Oregon or Oklahoma? A two-loss runner-up like Georgia or Minnesota? Or a two-loss wild-card like Alabama? How about a one-loss minor conference champion like Boise State or Memphis? Wouldn’t it be fun to see the NCAA in the position of having to make that choice?

Enjoy watching, if that’s how you plan to spend your afternoon.

– JVW

11/29/2019

Post-Thanksgiving Round-Up and Open Thread

Filed under: General — JVW @ 9:56 am



[guest post by JVW]

* Fox News reports via the New York Times that Intersectionality Bingo’s team blames My Little Aloha Sweetie for wrecking the California Senator’s campaign, confirming what I have been saying for months.

* President Trump, he of the mixed messages, signed the pro-Hong Kong bill which passed through Congress. In response, pro-democracy demonstrators are waving “swole Trump” posters as thanks.

* Along with saving the world for democracy, the United States has apparently exported the gross consumerism of Black Friday to the rest of the world, so our legacy is not always entirely positive.

* While we’re discussing retail shopping, it’s amazing and perhaps frightening to realize the number of traditional brick-and-mortar stores that are closing down for good.

* Los Angeles Metro, one of the absolutely worst-run bureaucracies imaginable, continues with its legacy of failure in operating a county-wide subway system. (This department has been sponsoring a project in my neighborhood to create a right-turn lane from one heavily-traveled street to another, a grand total of about 400 feet of road work, and the construction part of the project is now into its sixth month. For real.)

Now with the table set, feel free to discuss these or other topics which strike your fancy.

– JVW

11/27/2019

That Time-Honored Tradition of Ruining Thanksgiving with Politics

Filed under: General — JVW @ 6:25 pm



[guest post by JVW]

We’ve talked about it before: that present mania of various political advocacy organizations to suggest that you steer the family Thanksgiving discussion into the realm of hotly contested debate. I mean, why let a family gathering ostensibly set around an elongated weekend of quiet reflection on the things for which we are extremely grateful be devoid of peckish quarrels about taxes, or health care, or foreign policy, or the Deep State, or wokedy-wokeness? You’ve got your captivated audience; why not use the opportunity to unload your entire sense of injustice and victimization?

Fortunately, as in years past, social media is full of ideas as to how to ensure that mom ends up quietly crying in the kitchen, Uncle Ben storms out of the house in a huff, and cousin Kate nervously drinks herself into a stupor. First up, the ever-redoubtable ACLU:

Maybe those topics are too safe and generic for you, though. Perhaps you want to ensure that a quiet yet earnest discussion quickly escalates into a red-faced shouting match. I know: bring up abortion, a suggestion that elicited this hilarious response from National Review’s Charles W. Cooke:

I don’t know about you guys, but in my family we always stuck to pretty safe and conventional topics at holiday meals: the severity of the recent snowstorm, whether the Broncos will be able to bounce back next year, and mild gossip regarding a cousin who was away at college and didn’t make it home for the holiday. I think in the long run that will be much better for family cohesion than knowing that Katie’s new “boyfriend” prefers to use “ze” and “zer” for the third-person pronoun.

Have a happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

– JVW

Trump Distances Himself From Giuliani. Giuliani To Trump: Hey, I Was Just Kidding About An “Insurance Policy”

Filed under: General — Dana @ 2:04 pm



[guest post by Dana]

No joke: As President Trump worked to distance himself from Rudy Giuliani during an interview with former Fox News personality Bill O’Reilly, Giuliani’s lawyer directed Giuliani to call Trump and reassure him that he wasn’t serious about having any sort of “insurance policy” on him in case Trump threw him under the bus:

The attorney, Robert Costello, said Giuliani “at my insistence” had called Trump “within the last day” to emphasize that he had not been serious when he said he had an “insurance policy, if thrown under the bus.”

“He shouldn’t joke, he is not a funny guy. I told him, ‘Ten thousand comedians are out of work, and you make a joke. It doesn’t work that way,’” Costello told Reuters. Giuliani has already said that he was being sarcastic when he made the comments. Trump, too, has brushed them off, telling reporters in the Oval Office this week that “Rudy is a great guy.” The White House declined to comment on Costello’s remarks.

Also noteworthy, during his interview with O’Reilly, Trump denied that Giuliani acted on his behalf in the Ukraine:

Asked point-blank if Giuliani was acting on his behalf in trying to dig up dirt on former Vice President Joe Biden—an issue now at the heart of an impeachment inquiry—Trump said, “No, I didn’t direct him, but he is a warrior, he is a warrior.”

When asked what Giuliani was doing in Ukraine, Trump deflected and told the ex-Fox anchor that he would “have to ask that to Rudy.”

“I know that he was going to go to Ukraine and I think he cancelled the trip. But Rudy has other clients, other than me. He’s done a lot of work in Ukraine over the years,” the president continued.

–Dana

Good Morning From The President Of The United States

Filed under: General — Dana @ 9:53 am



[guest post by Dana]

(Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.)

–Dana

11/26/2019

A Tale of Two Books

Filed under: General — Dana @ 2:04 pm



[guest post by Dana]

Here are a couple of interesting news items involving books. They are not necessarily related, but are similar in that they involve high-profile individuals, books they authored, and politics

The first item involves a former Baltimore mayor:

Former Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh pleaded guilty to federal conspiracy and tax charges on Thursday a day after she was indicted on numerous federal counts in an alleged scheme involving the publishing of her children’s books, officials announced.

Pugh, 69, allegedly defrauded customers of Healthy Holly books, a company she owned, for her own political and personal gain, including funding her mayoral run, according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

In all, she earned $800,000 for book deals that Maryland’s chief accountant called “brazen, cartoonish corruption,” according to The Associated Press.

She is also accused of using funds from sales of fraudulently obtained Healthy Holly books to purchase, and then renovate, a house in Baltimore City, according to the statement.

She pled guilty to: “conspiracy to commit wire fraud, conspiracy to defraud the United States, and two counts of tax evasion…The facts she stipulated to in her plea agreement with prosecutors included most of the allegations outlined in the 11-count indictment against her… They included her double-selling copies of her books to multiple buyers, hiding the proceeds from the Internal Revenue Service, and improperly funneling some of the funds into her mayoral campaign in 2016.”

What a piece of work:

[S]he was evading taxes on the income she received from the sales. In 2016, she allegedly claimed her income was $31,020 and the tax due was $4,168, when in fact, Pugh’s taxable income was $322,365, with an income tax due of approximately $102,444.

Behind every Healthy Holly lurks a very unhealthy author.

The next item involves the RNC and Donald Trump, Jr.:

Donald Trump Jr.’s new book, Triggered, hit the top of the New York Times’ bestsellers list this month with the help of nearly $100,000 in purchases from the Republican National Committee.

Federal Election Commission records list a $94,800 payment — identified as “donor mementos” — to BooksAMillion.com on Oct. 29. That same day, the president’s son signed an RNC fundraising email promising signed copies of the book to those who contribute at least $50 to the party. “This limited-time opportunity ends SOON,” Trump Jr. wrote, “so be sure to claim your signed copy of my new book NOW.”

The FEC filing was first noticed by a New York Times reporter. RNC spokesperson Michael Joyce confirmed the expense in an email to BuzzFeed News.

“We have netted $500,000 for the party fundraising off the book,” Joyce added.

An RNC official told BuzzFeed News earlier this month that there hadn’t been “a large bulk purchase,” but that the party was “ordering copies to keep up with demand.”

“Using books as a means to fundraise is standard practice from political parties on both sides of the aisle,” the official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, added at the time. “Triggered has been very popular among our supporters, helping us raise funds to support the reelection effort.”

The report goes on to say that if the RNC just wanted to resell the books, they could have gotten the books directly from the publisher for far less money. Why pay the higher price to BooksAMillion for the books? Well, to make it look like these were “real” sales.

If you donate to the RNC (or DNC, for that matter), it behooves you to find what your hard-earned money is supporting.

(Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.)

–Dana

Democratic Congresswoman Changes Mind On Impeachment (UPDATE ADDED)

Filed under: General — Dana @ 9:08 am



[guest post by Dana]

A quick little post here, involving a bit of that was then, this is now from Democratic Congresswoman Brenda Lawrence, who represents a very blue district:

Over the summer, Congresswoman Brenda Lawrence fully backed the move to impeach President Trump, but the Detroit-area Democrat said over the weekend that she has since changed her mind.

“I feel we should begin that process,” Lawrence told CNN on June 12. “If we impeach him, he is still sitting in the White House because the Senate must act.”

“Our democracy is bigger than Donald Trump, and we need to act,” added the congresswoman, who since 2015 has represented Michigan’s 14th District, which includes eastern Detroit.

Now, however, Lawrence said she sees things differently.

“You can censure, you don’t have to remove the president,” Lawrence said Sunday on No BS News Hour with Charlie LeDuff. “Sitting here, knowing how divided this country is, I don’t see the value of kicking him out of office, but I do see the value of putting down a marker saying his behavior is not acceptable.”

“I’ll be g-damned,” the host said at one point in response to Lawrence’s remarks. “To hear you say, and you are a Democrat, and you are a liberal minded person; I know you don’t like Trump For the betterment of all of us, in an election year, it’s unwise to tear him from the chair. Is that how you think?”

“Yeah,” Lawrence responded.

At this point in time, Nancy Pelosi remains mum on whether censuring Trump will be an available option. Regardless, Lawrence’s flip on this has got to be the last thing that Pelosi wants the public to hear coming from her side of the aisle.

With that, CNN is reporting that, since the impeachment hearings began, not much has changed:

Half of Americans say Trump should be impeached and removed from office, 43% say he should not. Neither figure has changed since October, with support for impeachment remaining at its highest level thus far in CNN polling. The partisan divide over the President persists as well, with roughly 80 points between Democratic support for Trump’s removal and Republican support for it.

Independents are closely divided on the question, 47% in favor, 45% opposed. Opinions on both sides are deeply held, with about 9 in 10 on either side saying they feel strongly in favor or against it.

The President’s approval rating has also held about even since October: 42% say they approve, 54% disapprove.

Although views on impeachment and removal have not moved, the poll finds that 53% say Trump improperly used his office to gain political advantage, up from 49% who said the same in October. More, 56%, say the President’s efforts to get Ukraine to launch investigations into the Biden family, a Ukrainian energy company and the 2016 election were more to benefit himself politically than to fight Ukrainian corruption.

The public is about evenly divided over whether there is enough evidence now for the House to vote to impeach the President and send him to trial before the Senate (48% say yes, 47% say no). And a narrow majority (52%) say the Democrats have exercised their constitutional powers properly during the impeachment inquiry, 40% say they have abused their constitutional powers.

This is isn’t the only poll that’s found things unchanged.

UPDATE: New Quinnipiac poll:

While 40 percent of all registered voters approve of the job President Trump is doing, 54 percent disapprove. This compares to a 38 – 58 percent approval rating in an October 23 poll, and falls within the range of where his job approval rating has been over about the last two years.

…While 45 percent of American voters think President Trump should be impeached and removed from office, 48 percent don’t think he should be. In an October 23 poll, 48 percent thought he should be impeached and removed and 46 percent didn’t think so.

(Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.)

–Dana

11/25/2019

Economic Scholars: California’s Tax Increases Drove Out High Earners

Filed under: General — JVW @ 3:32 pm



[guest post by JVW]

I have been meaning to write about an op-ed piece published earlier this month in Southern California News Group newspapers. Orphe Pierre Divonguy, the chief economist at the Illinois Policy Institute, points us to a study conducted by the National Bureau of Economic Research regarding the effects that the tax increases on wealthy California residents, implemented by the passage of Proposition 30 seven years ago, led to a shortfall in the anticipated revenue as millionaires fled the state, even while overall revenue in the state rose (Prop. 30 also increased the state’s sales tax by one-quarter cent). Here is how Mr. Divonguy explains the findings:

I join the vast majority of my economist colleagues in the belief that taxes on labor income encourage households to shift away from work in traditional sectors and toward untaxed uses of time such as leisure, household production, or even work in the shadow economy.

At the core of the policy discussion is whether or not individuals react to tax hikes by engaging in less productive activities or move to avoid paying higher taxes.

It turns out that people do adjust their behavior because of higher taxes, and top income taxpayers are even more responsive to marginal tax rates than the rest of us.

The negative economic effects of the tax hike wiped out nearly half of the revenue Proposition 30 was expected to bring in. Among top-bracket California taxpayers, outward migration and behavioral responses by stayers together eroded 45% of the additional tax revenues from the tax hike.

So did this revelation come as a huge surprise to the Democrat establishment in the Golden State who repeatedly turns to tax increases to bail out irresponsible spending decisions? Hardly. The language from the legislative analyst that appeared in that fall’s voter guide made it clear that the projected $6 billion annual windfall from the tax increases was, to put it mildly, a hopeful guesstimate [emphasis added by me]:

The revenues raised by this measure could be subject to multibillion-dollar swings — either above or below the revenues projected above. This is because the vast majority of the additional revenue from this measure would come from the [personal income tax] rate increases on upper-income taxpayers. Most income reported by upper-income taxpayers is related in some way to their investments and businesses, rather than wages and salaries. While wages and salaries for upper-income taxpayers fluctuate to some extent, their investment income may change significantly from one year to the next depending upon the performance of the stock market, housing prices, and the economy.

Of course what the legislative analyst apparently failed to consider is that upper-income Californians and those who file as business owners might simply leave for more hospitable business climates. Back to Mr. Divonguy’s op-ed:

California’s rate of departures increased and the state lost 0.8 percent of the taxable base among those earning $250,000 or more. The bulk of the erosion of that tax base came from millionaire taxpayers leaving California resident status into non-resident filing status.

This finding is consistent with a large body of research that has shown that certain segments of the labor market, especially high-income workers and professions with little location-specific human capital, may be quite responsive to taxes in their location decisions.

Proposition 30 also caused a roughly $1.5 million average decrease in non-investment pre-tax income for top earners between 2012 and 2014. This is the result of the change in tax filing behavior as well as a reduction in labor market activity for these workers.

I imagine that our readers and commenters in states such as New York, Connecticut, and Illinois are nodding their heads vigorously after reading that assessment. It turns out that wealthy people have a choice where to reside for tax purposes, and will choose a state that takes substantially less, or perhaps none, of their income when given the opportunity. And it’s not as if this mobility of capital never occurred to California Democrats. Former governor Jerry Brown repeatedly warned that too much of the state’s budget depends upon the wealthiest Californians and that even small downward changes in the stock market can wreck havoc on the budget, though typical of Moonbeam, he diagnosed the problem and then made it worse. Meanwhile, our deluded fellow Californians voted to extend Prop. 30 taxes for another decade.

How then should we fix this mess? Mr. Divonguy has some radical ideas beginning with flattening out tax rates:

California’s experience is not dissimilar from other states that have progressive income taxes. Connecticut – the last state to switch from a flat income tax to a progressive income tax – saw their economy forgo over 100,000 jobs and $6 billion in economic activity as a result of the change, while seeing higher incidences of poverty. My research shows that states with a progressive income tax tend to have worse income inequality and weaker economic growth than states without a progressive income tax. Indeed, according to new data from the U.S. Census Bureau, California was one of nine states where income inequality has gotten worse.

But naturally 2020 will likely bring more efforts to soak the rich. Beyond the repeal of Proposition 13 property tax protections for commercial properties which will be on the ballot in one form or another, it is possible that there will be yet another “millionaire’s tax” ostensibly earmarked for education, and there is still time for even more mischief for progressive groups to make on behalf of eating the rich. Should a ridiculous demagogue such as Bernard Sanders or Elizabeth Warren become the party nominee, don’t be surprised if the California electorate isn’t in the mood to vote “yes” on anything remotely related to sticking it to the high earners of the state, even if the local Democrat party establishment counsels otherwise. They’ve helped mightily to create this monster, and it could yet end up eating them first.

– JVW

What Exactly Did Rudy Offer This Criminal in Return for Dirt on Joe Biden?

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 8:00 am



There’s a lot to digest in this New York Times story about Rudy Giuliani’s efforts to get dirt on Joe Biden, including Giuliani’s contacts with an oligarch under indictment, for whom Giuliani appears to have done some high-level criminal defense legal work:

In the case of Mr. Firtash, an energy tycoon with deep ties to the Kremlin who is facing extradition to the United States on bribery and racketeering charges, one of Mr. Giuliani’s associates has described offering the oligarch help with his Justice Department problems — if Mr. Firtash hired two lawyers who were close to President Trump and were already working with Mr. Giuliani on his dirt-digging mission. Mr. Firtash said the offer was made in late June when he met with Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, both Soviet-born businessmen involved in Mr. Giuliani’s Ukraine pursuit.

Mr. Parnas’s lawyer, Joseph A. Bondy, confirmed that account and added that his client had met with Mr. Firtash at Mr. Giuliani’s direction and encouraged the oligarch to help in the hunt for compromising information “as part of any potential resolution to his extradition matter.”

How would Giuliani have any sway over an extradition matter supervised by federal law enforcement? It’s not Rudy knows some guy in charge of federal law enforcement who wants dirt on Biden and loves Russia and has the power to do something about a federal criminal prosecution…

OK, fine, but it’s not like Giuliani actually did anything for this Firtash guy. Or did he? Remember this other New York Times story?

Several weeks ago, Brian A. Benczkowski, the head of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, and lawyers from the division’s Fraud Section met with Mr. Giuliani to discuss a bribery case in which he and other attorneys were representing the defendants.

That meeting took place before the United States attorney’s office in Manhattan publicly charged the two Giuliani associates, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, with breaking campaign finance laws and trying to unlawfully influence politicians, including former Representative Pete Sessions, Republican of Texas. Mr. Parnas and Mr. Fruman were part of Mr. Giuliani’s effort to push Ukraine for an inquiry into Democrats.

“When Mr. Benczkowski and fraud section lawyers met with Mr. Giuliani, they were not aware of any investigation of Mr. Giuliani’s associates in the Southern District of New York and would not have met with him had they known,” said Peter Carr, a department spokesman.

So who was the client in the bribery case? Giuliani’s meeting with DoJ officials was first reported by the New York Times here. I can’t seem to find a source in which the client is identified, but the piece does describe it as a very, very sensitive foreign bribery case related to the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act:

A few weeks ago, Mr. Giuliani secured a meeting, along with some other defense lawyers, with the head of the Justice Department’s criminal division and attorneys in the fraud section. They were there to discuss a foreign bribery case for a client that Mr. Giuliani described as “very, very sensitive.”

. . . .

In the case of his recent meeting at the Justice Department, Mr. Giuliani declined to identify the client or subject covered, saying, “None of your business.” He said he was one of several lawyers working on the case who attended.

“It’s a completely privileged meeting,” he said, “but it was a perfectly appropriate meeting.”

Mr. Giuliani requested the meeting to discuss a case related to the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which bars Americans from bribing foreign officials, according to people familiar with the meeting. They said it was attended by Brian A. Benczkowski, the assistant attorney general in charge of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division.

So how did DoJ describe the indictment of Firtash? You guessed it! It’s a very, very sensitive foreign bribery case related to the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act:

A federal indictment returned under seal in June 2013 and unsealed today charges six foreign nationals, including a Ukrainian businessman and a government official in India, with participating in an alleged international racketeering conspiracy involving bribes of state and central government officials in India to allow the mining of titanium minerals. Five of the six defendants are also charged with conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), among other offenses.

. . . .

One defendant, Dmitry Firtash, aka “Dmytro Firtash” and “DF,” 48, a Ukrainian national, was arrested March 12, 2014, in Vienna, Austria. Firtash was released from custody on March 21, 2014, after posting 125 million euros (approximately $174 million) bail, and he pledged to remain in Austria until the end of extradition proceedings.

What a coinkidink!

You tell me, but to me it sounds a lot like Giuliani promised this Firtash guy help with his case — and delivered, using his connections with Trump to leverage a meeting with the guy running the Criminal Division (a guy, Brian Benczkowski, who has ties to a prominent Russian bank, by the way, who helped Barr make an instantaneous determination that the Ukranian mess was not criminal action on Trump’s part) — apparently in trade for help with getting dirt on Biden.

Another day in Donald Trump’s America.

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