Democratic candidates roll up to support legal weed

Kamala Harris, asked whether she had ever smoked pot: ‘Half my family’s from Jamaica. Are you kidding me?’


Brian Cahn/Shutterstock

❝ Among 2020 candidates, marijuana legalisation is a mainstream issue. Among Democrats, nearly all have expressed at least some degree of support. Even Donald Trump’s lone Republican challenger, the former Massachusetts governor Bill Weld, supports it. Advocates are optimistic that the 2020 election could help bring an end to the federal prohibition of the drug.

“The support for marijuana legalisation has quickly become a litmus test in the 2020 Democratic primary,” said Erik Altieri, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (Norml). “With the upcoming primary, it is also clear that support for prohibition is ultimately disqualifying with the Democratic electorate – and with the American electorate generally.”

If you aren’t supporting legalization – for purportedly moral reasons, some particular religious fetish, political dementia which has your brain locked into, say, the 16th Century – then, you might be missing the simple economics of “sin taxes” derived from social use of cannabis just as they are realized from beer and the hard stuff.

States generally include a proviso to spend all or most of those funds on something beneficial like education. Again, another issue which American conservatives seem honor bound to ignore. Hopefully, voters will learn to ignore stupidity as thoroughly as they’re starting to reject incompetence.

Nutball Bundy refuses to recognize US authority in Nevada court

Jailed Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy refused Thursday to acknowledge federal authority and declined to enter a plea to federal charges that he led an armed standoff against a round-up of cattle two years ago.

After several minutes of confusion about whether Bundy had a lawyer, U.S. Magistrate Judge Carl Hoffman entered a not guilty plea on Bundy’s behalf and scheduled a detention hearing March 17.

Arguments then will focus on whether the 69-year-old Bundy should remain in custody pending trial on 16 charges, including conspiracy, assault and threatening a federal officer, obstruction and firearms offenses.

Joel Hansen, a Nevada attorney who has represented property rights advocates in a number of cases in the state, served as Bundy’s attorney…Hansen said Bundy’s refusal to enter a plea was a statement that he couldn’t have done anything wrong because federal law doesn’t apply.

Bundy has consistently denied U.S. government authority over rangeland around his 160-acre cattle ranch and melon farm in Bunkerville, about 80 miles northeast of Las Vegas.

Federal BLM officials said in 2014 that he owed more than $1.1 million in fees and penalties for grazing hundreds of cows illegally for about 20 years

All functional questions regarding taxation by a republican federal government were settled over 150 years ago. Details and challenges come forward every now and then; but, the essentials are settled.

You live in this country you are subject to its laws. Like many others I’ve challenged what I felt were unjust laws – including outside the confines of jurisprudence. Since I was confronting racist laws and bigoted judicial systems in segregated states, I agreed that the protocols of non-violent confrontation, non-violent resistance were best. At the same time I supported our right to armed self-defence.

Little or nothing the Bundy militia creeps has done in their cause ever fit within those definitions. Anarchy gets no support here. Refusing to pay your taxes because you’re a greedy self-centered cattle rancher doesn’t impress either.

Beancounters in Congress say don’t worry about bridges and roads

Version 2
Pickup truck crashed into collapse of Interstate 10 bridge

All traffic along a major freeway connecting California and Arizona was blocked indefinitely when a bridge over a desert wash collapsed during heavy rain, and the roadway in the opposite direction suffered severe damage…

The collapse Sunday of Interstate 10 in southeastern California left one driver injured, stranded numerous motorists and complicated travel for countless others for what officials warned could be a long time.

The closure will force drivers seeking to use I-10 to travel between California and Arizona to go hundreds of miles out of their way.

The rains came amid a second day of showers and thunderstorms in southern and central California that were setting rainfall records in what is usually a dry month. Forecasters expected scattered rain through Monday as the remnants of a tropical storm off Baja California continued to push north…

One driver had to be rescued from a pickup that crashed in the collapse and was taken to a hospital with moderate injuries…

Hundreds of other cars were stranded immediately after the collapse, but the California Highway Patrol worked to divert them and it wasn’t clear if any remained, Kasinga said…

Saturday’s rainfall broke records in at least 11 locations, including five places that had the most rain ever recorded on any day in July, said National Weather Service meteorologist Joe Sirard.

July is typically the driest month of the year in Southern California. Because of that, Saturday’s 0.36 inch of rain in downtown Los Angeles exceeded the 0.24 inch recorded July 14, 1886, which had been the wettest July day in nearly 130 years.

The storm brought weekend flash floods and power outages and turned Los Angeles County’s typically packed coast into empty stretches of sand when the threat of lightning forced authorities to close 70 miles of beaches.

Rebuilding, repairing infrastructure across the nation was a non-starter when President Obama and his economics advisors suggested the process in his first term. He could have suggested the sun rise in the East and Congressional Republicans would have opposed the concept. The amalgam of racism, contempt for working people, fear of science and real change has kept the Republican Party tightly bunched into a herd of cattle stupidity for several years, now.

Ayup. No problems from climate change either. As long as you have sufficient money to relocate to a McMansion further inland – on a mountain top – with no fire danger.

Secular victory in Federal Court

A federal district court in Oregon has declared Secular Humanism a religion, paving the way for the non-theistic community to obtain the same legal rights as groups such as Christianity.

On Thursday, October 30, Senior District Judge Ancer Haggerty issued a ruling on American Humanist Association v. United States, a case that was brought by the American Humanist Association (AHA) and Jason Holden, a federal prisoner. Holden pushed for the lawsuit because he wanted Humanism — which the AHA defines as “an ethical and life-affirming philosophy free of belief in any gods and other supernatural forces” — recognized as a religion so that his prison would allow for the creation of a Humanist study group. Haggerty sided with the plaintiffs in his decision, citing existing legal precedent and arguing that denying Humanists the same rights as groups such as Christianity would be highly suspect under the Establishment Clause in the U.S. Constitution, which declares that Congress “shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.”

“The court finds that Secular Humanism is a religion for Establishment Clause purposes,” the ruling read.

I’m not certain a democratic nation in the 21st Century needs such tortured reasoning. But, I’ll take it.

The decision highlights the unusual position of the Humanist community, which has tried for years to obtain the same legal rights as more traditional religious groups while simultaneously rebuking the existence of a god or gods. But while some Humanists may chafe at being called a “religion,” others feel that the larger pursuit of equal rights trumps legal classifications.

RTFA for a bit more discussion. There will be lots more around the Web, certainly punctuated by whining from any of the dozens of flavors of traditional religion kept in business by their freedom from taxation.

Thanks, Mike

New York strip club seeks ‘dramatic arts’ tax exemption

A New York state strip club says it should not have to pay tax, claiming an exemption for the performing arts…But the New York state tax department and an appeals court say $124,000 owed by Nite Moves does not fall under an exemption for “live dramatic or musical arts performances”.

Tax officials say the club paid taxes on non-alcoholic drinks but must also pay for admission and “couch sales”.

The exemption claimed by Nite Moves is usually applied to theatre performances or ballets.

The club is expected to ask a cultural anthropologist who has studied exotic dance – and visited the club – to testify on its behalf at the New York Court of Appeals.

An administrative law judge had previously ruled that “the fact that the dancers remove all or part of their costume… simply does not render such dance routines as something less than choreographed performances…”

The tribunal said there was not enough proof that the dances were choreographed. An appeal court which upheld the tribunal’s ruling added that club dancers did not need to have formal training.

It is expected that the high court will take about a month before issuing a decision.

No doubt they will review video evidence daily – to, um, aid in their eventual ruling.

Cripes, this takes me back almost to when I moved my personal blog over here to WordPress. Back in 2008. The critical issue in Iowa was whether or not stripping was an art form – which therefore allowed public performances.

America the Undertaxed


Click on graph to enlarge

The most important debates in U.S. politics today center on the cost and the role of government. Cutting taxes, limiting expenditures, and reducing debt have become the chief concerns of Republicans, whereas Democrats generally seek to preserve or even expand government spending and are willing to raise taxes to do so. The looming expiration of the George W. Bush tax cuts at the end of 2012 and the economy’s weak recovery give these debates special urgency, as decisions made in the next few months are likely to shape the nation’s economic, social, and political trajectory for years to come.

Behind each party’s position lies not only a particular collection of interest groups but also a story about what the government’s role in the U.S. economy is and what it should be. Democrats think Washington can and should play a more active part, using taxation, regulation, and spending to keep the economy growing while protecting vulnerable citizens from the ravages of volatile markets. Republicans, in contrast, think Washington already does too much; they want to scale government back to liberate markets and spur economic dynamism.

When mulling these stories, it can be useful to put U.S. fiscal policy in perspective. Compared with other developed countries, the United States has very low taxes, little redistribution of income, and an extraordinarily complex tax code. These three aspects of American exceptionalism deserve more attention than they typically receive.

Politicians both sides of the aisle have a certain responsibility for this inequity – though only Republicans have turned a selfish grasp of unfairness in taxation into ideology.

Italian government plans to tax commercial property belonging to the Catholic Church. Overdue.


Bed & Breakfast hotel run by a convent in Rome

Over the years, the Italian government has quietly passed scores of laws that benefit the Roman Catholic Church, but it is rare for it to issue a public statement announcing it intends to strip the church of privileges. The government of Prime Minister Mario Monti took that step on Wednesday, telling the European Commission that it intends to change Italian law to ensure the church pays property tax on the parts of its buildings used for commercial ends.

The church owns vast amounts of property in Italy, and the move is aimed at making sure that convents that offer bed and breakfast or church buildings that rent space to shops pay their full share of taxes.

The change — once it is formally drafted and approved by Parliament — could result in revenues of $650 million to $2.6 billion annually, according to municipal government associations. It could also set an example for other debt-strapped European countries — most notably Greece and Spain — where there is growing popular resentment over tax breaks for the church.

It would set an example for the United States – not only for Old World religions but the all-American bible belt crowd.

Even in Catholic Italy, the proposal shows the churchgoing Mr. Monti’s ability to read the national mood. Faced with their own belt-tightening and tax increases, Italians are increasingly fed up with what they see as unfair privileges — be it of the political class or the church. After new austerity measures were passed in December, 130,000 people signed an online petition calling on the government to revoke the church’s tax-exempt status…

Today, many church buildings fall into a gray area, taking advantage of a tax exemption for religious organization’s buildings even if they are largely commercial in use…

Overdue? It’s all overdue.

The only exemptions religions should have from taxation are those befitting non-profit charitable works. Period. End of discussion.

Take the time to discuss this with most folks and even the most thoroughly brainwashed True Believer will generally understand the sense of fairness that should discipline the funding of necessary government. It’s an all-in proposition. Certain work – like charity – might be exempt. Not individuals or organizations just by definition of their belief system.

Why we need a second party

Watching the Republican Party struggling to agree on a presidential candidate, one wonders whether the G.O.P. shouldn’t just sit this election out — just give 2012 a pass…

…The party has let itself become the captive of conflicting ideological bases: anti-abortion advocates, anti-immigration activists, social conservatives worried about the sanctity of marriage, libertarians who want to shrink government, and anti-tax advocates who want to drown government in a bathtub.

Sorry, but you can’t address the great challenges America faces today with that incoherent mix of hardened positions. I’ve argued that maybe we need a third party to break open our political system. But that’s a long shot. What we definitely and urgently need is a second party — a coherent Republican opposition that is offering constructive conservative proposals on the key issues and is ready for strategic compromises to advance its interests and those of the country.

Without that, the best of the Democrats — who have been willing to compromise — have no partners and the worst have a free pass for their own magical thinking. Since such a transformed Republican Party is highly unlikely, maybe the best thing would be for it to get crushed in this election and forced into a fundamental rethink…

Because when I look at America’s three greatest challenges today, I don’t see the Republican candidates offering realistic answers to any of them.

Continue reading

Americans fund Social Security all their working lives – never learn anything about how it functions!

About 60 percent of U.S. residents who are not yet collecting Social Security benefits believe they never will, a poll released Friday said.

Only 40 percent of retirees surveyed by Opinion Research for CNN said they expect Social Security to be able to continue paying their full benefits.

“There have always been a significant number of Americans who thought that Social Security would not be able to pay benefits to them when they retire,” CNN Polling Director Keating Holland said. “But since 1989, when Gallup first asked this question, that number usually hovered in the mid-40s and never rose higher than 52 percent. Today, 60 percent say they will never get a benefit from Social Security.”

Social Security has a long-term problem because of the large number of baby boomers, who are starting to hit their retirement years.

This is one of those non-events that pollsters love. They’re fully aware that most Americans are completely ignorant of how Social Security Insurance is funded.

Since most Americans earn less than the capping income figure, they never realize that anyone earning more than the current cap of $106K stops paying SSA taxes when they reach that figure.

When Congress is really pressed – someday – they’ll raise the ceiling as grudgingly as they ever do when forced to tax wealthier folks at the same rate as most workingclass wage earners.

Blue Dog Democrats and Republicans will whine and use the issue of increasing taxes in their re-election campaigns. The rest of the Democratic Party will be too chickenshit to point out that egalitarian taxation ain’t exactly a bad idea.

And Social Security will keep on cranking right along. The single most efficient department in the Federal Government – operating at an administration cost of less than 3%. That’s at least 5 times better than the average American corporation.