Patterico's Pontifications


The (Tax) Floggings Will Continue Until Morale Improves

Filed under: General — JVW @ 9:01 pm

[guest post by JVW]

Well, I think it’s close to official by now: voters of Los Angeles County once again elected to send more of their take-home pay to the government last week when we (or at least those who voted for it) approved Measure H to levy a one-fourth of one percent sales tax for the next ten years in order to “prevent and combat homelessness.” Because this is a local tax initiative, it required a two-thirds majority from voters to pass, and after running nip-and-tuck right at the 2/3 level on election night it would appear that the count of mail-in ballots has safely pushed it beyond the threshold.

This is how it is in California and Los Angeles in the second decade of the century. Pretty much any tax initiative that purports to be “for the homeless” or “for the environment” or for some other progressive cause is assumed to be worthy. What’s more, if you tack on appeals to “help our veterans” like the Measure H supporters cynically did, you are almost assured that the low-information voter will sign on, and adding children, seniors, and battered women to the victim list just helps to gild the lily. After all, what’s a $0.0025 tax on purchases anyway? (Well, if you spend $400 then it is an additional $1 in taxes; if you spend $8,000 on taxable items in the course of a year, you’ve just voted an additional $20 out of your pocket to the government.)

The city of Los Angeles set the stage for their county neighbors this past November by passing Measure HHH which called on the city to issue $1.2 billion in bonds to build between 8,000 and 10,000 permanent units for the homeless, financing it by taxing commercial and residential properties within the city limits an average of $9.64 for every $100,000 in valuation. Facilities for mental health and addiction treatment would also be built with this money, so it’s a safe bet that they will fall well short of 10,000 new units constructed. Measure H was therefore sold as a companion measure which would pay for an army of social workers, addiction counselors, doctors & nurses, and job counselors to work with the homeless while the new housing authorized by HHH was being built. Is anyone surprised that a whole lot of new county employees are going to be hired thanks to these measures? In addition to the usual do-gooder organizations like the United Way, Children’s Defense Fund, and various churches, the measure was unsurprisingly supported by the SEIU, the AFL-CIO, and even the LA Chamber of Commerce, proving that all the fat cats come running inside when they hear the whirr of the social justice blade slicing into the can of taxpayer dough.

Back in November the voters of the Golden State voted to extend the income tax increase on “the rich” (defined as income of at least $263,000 per year for a single filer) which was due to expire this year, reminding us once again of the old adage that there is no such thing as a temporary tax. The state also voted to issue more bonds for school construction and raise the tax on tobacco products. In the same election, Los Angeles city votes passed Measure HHH and Los Angeles County voters passed Measure M which raised the sales tax by one-half of one percent ($1 on every $200 spent) to fund repairs on highways and roads and improvements in public transportation. With Democrats now holding supermajorities in both the California Assembly and Senate, legislators are now contemplating raising gas taxes, vehicle licensing fees, and perhaps even finding the nerve to take on the Sauron to their Frodo, Proposition 13.

History may record this as a turning point for the Golden State. Do progressives here accept that there are limits to how much money you can demand from your citizens and how many public services a sober government will try to provide, or are we on our way to being Greece, where rent-seeking and tax-avoidance became a way of life, or perhaps even Venezuela, where arrogant totalitarians who believed they were serving the poor and marginalized wrecked a prosperous nation through greed, corruption, and incompetence? I guess it will be interesting to see, but day by day I’m losing optimism.


Federal Judge Blocks President Trump’s Revised Travel Ban

Filed under: General — Dana @ 5:42 pm

[guest post by Dana]

Yet again. This time, just hours before it was go into effect:

A federal judge in Hawaii on Wednesday issued a sweeping freeze of President Trump’s new executive order temporarily barring the issuance of new visas to citizens of six-Muslim majority countries and suspending the admission of new refugees.

In a blistering, 43-page opinion U.S. District Judge Derrick K. Watson pointed to Trump’s own comments and those of close advisors as evidence that his order was meant to discriminate against Muslims and declared there was a “strong likelihood of success” those suing would prove the directive violated the constitution.

Watson declared that “a reasonable, objective observer—enlightened by the specific historical context, contemporaneous public statements, and specific sequence of events leading to its issuance—would conclude that the Executive Order was issued with a purpose to disfavor a particular religion.”

He lambasted the government in particular for asserting that because the ban did not apply to all Muslims in the world, it could not be construed as discriminating against Muslims.

“The illogic of the Government’s contentions is palpable,” Watson wrote. “The notion that one can demonstrate animus toward any group of people only by targeting all of them at once is fundamentally flawed.”

Hawaii had filed a lawsuit, which includes this:

Watson’s decision came in response to a lawsuit filed by the state of Hawaii. Lawyers for the state alleged the new travel ban, much like the old, violated the establishment clause of the First Amendment because it was essentially a Muslim ban, hurt the ability of state businesses and universities to recruit top talent and damaged the state’s robust tourism industry.

Unsurprisingly, as pointed out on the Twitters, Judge Watson is an appointee of President Obama…


The “Kucinich Was Wiretapped!” Story Is Not What It Seems

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 11:00 am

Dennis Kucinich has been running around implying or claiming that the Obama administration wiretapped a call he had with Moammar Qaddafi’s son, at a time when Kucinich was trying to prevent a U.S. war in Libya. Therefore, Kucinich argues, people should not find it outlandish that Trump or his people were wiretapped. But, like the Trump “tapp” story, there may be less to this story than it initially appears.

I have seen posts that take it for granted that Kucinich was wiretapped by U.S. officials. Indeed, Kucinich appears to make that claim in a recent interview with Bill O’Reilly, saying that U.S. intelligence officials had listened to his end of the conversation with Qaddafi’s son. But he does not tell viewers that this is a guess on his part. That becomes clear when you read the Kucinich-penned op-ed on this matter that appeared on and prompted the O’Reilly interview. In that op-ed, Kucinich describes being played the phone call by Washington Times reporters who said they were recordings “recovered from Tripoli”:

Somehow, the Washington Times had gotten its hands on the surreptitious recording. I authenticated the conversation, and parts of it were published by the newspaper, which provided online links where readers could listen to me talking with Mr. Qaddafi.

The reporters did not say, nor did I ask, who had made the tape. But the paper’s stories referenced “secret audio recordings recovered from Tripoli.”

I have only my suspicions about their true provenance. The quality of the recordings was excellent on both ends of the call.

If sources had indeed discovered the tapes in Tripoli, there is no plausible explanation for how they would have chosen the Washington Times to carry the story. And which foreign intelligence service conceivably could have been interested in my phone call, had the technology to intercept it, and then wanted to leak it to the newspaper?

There’s a simpler explanation: I believe the tape was made by an American intelligence agency and then leaked to the Times for political reasons.

Is it really so crazy to believe that Moammar Qaddafi’s son would want to have a wiretap-quality recording of a call he made to a U.S. Congressman who was trying to prevent the U.S. from attacking Libya?? And that such recordings were recovered after the fall of Tripoli?

I have also seen claims that Kucinich was holding up transcripts of the wiretapped call in the interview with O’Reilly. But that does not appear to be true. Kucinich does not say that what he is holding up are transcripts — and, in fact, he says as he holds up the documents that he has gotten nothing about the wiretap itself. Watch:

And what I have here, Bill: Intel was tracking my resolution. Here’s a couple of redacted pages that I was able to get. I’ve had nothing about the wiretap itself. But they were tracking this resolution.

My best guess is that the documents are memoranda or emails from the intelligence community showing that they were tracking Kucinich’s resolution he had to prevent a war in Libya.

In any event, let’s assume that the U.S. intelligence community was indeed wiretapping Qaddafi’s son. As O’Reilly points out in the interview, that doesn’t seem that outlandish or offensive on its own. Kucinich says they should have minimized the call when they learned it was a U.S. Congressman on the line. Maybe so — if we accept Kucinich’s guess about the provenance of the recording, and reject the statement of the reporters who obtained it, who said that it was from Tripoli.

Still, we are left with this conclusion: Kucinich was cool with Moammar Qaddafi’s son hearing what he had to say, but not with U.S. intelligence knowing about it.

I’m not sure that’s a winning position.

[Cross-posted at RedState and The Jury Talks Back.]

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