Archives for February 2018

Intel community didn’t tell California, six other states that Russia compromised websites, voting databases

The U.S. intelligence community developed substantial evidence that state websites or voter registration systems in seven states were compromised by Russian-backed covert operatives prior to the 2016 election — but never told the states involved, according to multiple U.S. officials.

Top-secret intelligence requested by President Barack Obama in his last weeks in office identified seven states where analysts — synthesizing months of work — had reason to believe Russian operatives had compromised state websites or databases.

Three senior intelligence officials told NBC News that the intelligence community believed the states as of January 2017 were Alaska, Arizona, California, Florida, Illinois, Texas and Wisconsin.

The officials say systems in the seven states were compromised in a variety of ways, with some breaches more serious than others, from entry into state websites to penetration of actual voter registration databases. …

Click here to read the full story from CNBC

Seven initiatives to watch that threaten California prosperity

VotedVoters may face as many seven ballot measures damaging to California’s business and political climate in November. Any one of these measures should motivate millions in opposition spending by affected industries. More than a few are likely to qualify for the ballot.

Conventional wisdom teaches that gubernatorial elections deliver older and more conservative voters to the polls, which normally drives liberal and anti-business initiative entrepreneurs to aim their measures for presidential election years, like 2016 or 2020. But this formerly reliable rule has crumbled in the face of a low qualification threshold, interest group imperatives, and impatient wealthy donors. It’s open season on the deep pockets!

Increase taxes

In 2016, California voters extended top income tax rates (already the highest in the nation) through 2030, increased tobacco taxes by $2-a-pack, and imposed new taxes on marijuana use and production. Elsewhere, voters in hundreds of local jurisdictions raised sales, property and excise taxes for a variety of municipal or school services.

For certain unions and special interest groups, this isn’t enough. Two proposed ballot measures would impose multi-billion-dollar tax increases on businesses and upper income earners.

The United Healthcare Workers union has proposed a one-percent income tax surcharge on all income over $1 million, which would raise up to $2.5 billion annually for various health care programs. Wealthy taxpayers would pay a top rate of 14.3%, well above the highest income tax rate of any other state.

A coalition of liberal interest groups is circulating a split roll property tax proposal, requiring that nearly all commercial and industrial properties, except production agriculture, be assessed to full market value, and then reassessed every three years thereafter. Tax bills for business would increase by $10.5 billion a year.

Worsen housing crisis

California’s notorious housing shortage contributes to many social ills, including poverty, long commutes, air pollution, and flight of middle class jobs and job seekers. Tenant advocates, backed by the head of the Los Angeles AIDS Healthcare Foundation, are circulating a proposal that would exacerbate this shortage by repealing long-standing limitations on rent control.  Far from alleviating the housing shortage, this proposal would simply allow local politicians to benefit some existing renters at the expense of future renters and homeowners.

Regulate industries

A measure purporting to improve consumer control over personal internet privacy promises to be among the hardest fought and most expensive ballot battles. A San Francisco investor proposes requiring businesses to provide to consumers upon request a copy of any personal information it has accumulated and allows consumers to opt-out any or all collection of their personal information – even if not personally identifiable. This measure undermines widespread business models in the industry and likely reduce many services now available to internet users.

United Healthcare Workers is also soliciting signatures for a measure to establish price controls for privately-operated kidney dialysis treatment. Intended to create leverage on dialysis clinics to increase unionized staff, passage of the measure would increase overall costs by shifting dialysis treatments from clinics to more expensive venues like emergency rooms or hospitals.

Stall economic development

For more than two decades, excise taxes on California gasoline and diesel remained flat, contributing to the erosion of purchasing power of those tax revenues and creating a backlog of maintenance and operational improvements for roads and highways. In 2017, the Legislature and Governor agreed on a $5 billion annual boost in transportation revenues to repair roads and bridges and add capacity in some of the most congested corridors.

A San Diego politician has proposed repealing the excise tax increases and subject future increases to statewide voter approval, which would freeze in place hundreds of planned transportation improvements throughout California, without a plausible replacement revenue stream.

Disrupt state governance

A Silicon Valley millionaire is again attempting to qualify a measure to break apart California, this time into three separate states, centered on the Bay Area, Greater Los Angeles and San Diego/Orange County, with the rural area divided among the new states. The new states would obviously create new and unpredictable winners and losers – economically, socially and politically. Rather than working to knit the fabric of our state more tightly together, this proposal would tear it apart.

Initiative proponents will begin submitting petitions to counties in May for signature verification. It is not too soon to begin educating affected business and industry leaders about the consequences of these proposals.

resident of the California Foundation for Commerce and Education.

This article was originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

San Fran Gov’t Shaking Down Home Buildings to Make Up for Failed Housing Policies

When is a tax not a tax?  When the city of San Fran says that if you want to build housing you must include money losing affordable housing as part of the deal—or no deal.  That is a tax.  The tax is on the developers—and it is on the folks that buy market priced housing, they are paying for the lost revenue from the affordable housing.

“San Francisco’s inclusionary law has become a mess because some of the same supervisors who passed the current law are circumventing the terms of the deal. They are doing so by privately requiring developers to contribute more than the law requires.

I’m not talking about cases like the massive 5M project at Fifth and Mission where the developer got the benefit of major upzoning. I’m talking about garden variety projects consistent with existing zoning where the supervisor backs activists seeking greater contributions than legally required.

These extra-legal shakedowns are particularly troubling as rising construction costs jeopardize pending and new housing developments.  A recent report from the Terner Center at UC Berkeley found San Francisco has the second highest construction costs nationally, and that “those costs are rising quickly,” They rose 12.6% from 2011-2016 alone.

Actually these policies make affordable housing expensive in San Fran—and raises the cost of housing for all.  This is why this city has the highest cost of housing in the nation—thanks to government policies.

Housing

San Francisco’s Inclusionary Housing Mess

by Randy Shaw, Beyond Chron,  2/27/18

 Supervisors Undermining Inclusionary Law

San Francisco’s inclusionary housing law is not working as designed. And something needs to be done about it.

Soon.

Inclusionary housing laws require that developers make a percentage of their new units affordable or pay an in lieu fee for building off-site affordable housing. On-site inclusionary housing promotes economic diversity and inclusion within buildings and neighborhoods.

In my upcoming book, Generation Priced Out: Who Gets to Live in the New Urban America? coming out this fall from the University of California Press, I argue that inclusionary housing is vital for cities to maintain and expand economic diversity. 100% affordable projects are rarely built in high-opportunity urban neighborhoods. For the working and middle-class to have the ability to live in such communities, inclusionary housing is the chief if not the sole strategy.

San Francisco has over 3000 affordable inclusionary units. Inclusionary housing does not alone “solve” the city’s affordability crisis, but it helps.

Supervisor Shakedowns

San Francisco’s inclusionary law has become a mess because some of the same supervisors who passed the current law are circumventing the terms of the deal. They are doing so by privately requiring developers to contribute more than the law requires.

I’m not talking about cases like the massive 5M project at Fifth and Mission where the developer got the benefit of major upzoning. I’m talking about garden variety projects consistent with existing zoning where the supervisor backs activists seeking greater contributions than legally required.

These extra-legal shakedowns are particularly troubling as rising construction costs jeopardize pending and new housing developments.  A recent report from the Terner Center at UC Berkeley found San Francisco has the second highest construction costs nationally, and that “those costs are rising quickly,” They rose 12.6% from 2011-2016 alone.

The political debate around inclusionary housing has ignored rising costs.  After the San Francisco Controller recommended  rental inclusionary rates of 14 to 18 percent and ownership at 17 to 20 percent, the Board of Supervisors raised the totals to 18-20%.  The Board also increased the rate by 1 percent on January 1, 2018 and January 1, 2019, and then by 0.5 percent per year.

The Supervisors also imposed a higher 24-26 percent on-site requirement for new housing in the Mission, Tenderloin and the 6th Street/Folsom corridor. This appears to have been done without any public input. I am not aware of a single announced community meeting to discuss whether Tenderloin residents supported the higher inclusionary percentage. I read about it after passage. I did not object at the time because the larger deal had been cut and virtually every buildable site in the Tenderloin is already approved or in the pipeline.

Many developers and activists who were skeptical about the high inclusionary mandates in the 2017 law felt it was worth it to ensure certainty and predictability. Builders need to know what their inclusionary costs will be in assessing whether their projects are viable; the worst problem is when the Board was adding on new requirements once significant time and expense had been invested in the project.

But San Francisco’s new inclusionary law did not give builders the predictability that was part of the legislative compromise. Instead, after passing the nation’s steepest inclusionary laws some of the supervisors who voted for it felt free to continue making their own deals.

Today, some supervisors do not hesitate to tell developers they need to pay more than the law requires. Supervisor use their ability to secure continuances at the Planning Commission—or at the Board of Supervisors if the project is appealed—as leverage.

The projects subject to this shakedown are pipeline developments that the supervisors grandfathered in at lower rates. That was a key term in the grand deal that resulted in the current law. Yet now we have activists (backed by supervisors) insisting that such grandfathered rates are insufficient.

Instead of the statutory inclusionary percentage acting as the ceiling for developers’ financial contributions, it has become the floor. This not only puts projects at risk, but it surely leads builders to think twice about again moving forward with a project in San Francisco.

A city with an acute housing shortage takes such actions at its peril.

Among the leading reasons Seattle annually builds double the housing of San Francisco  is that it excludes elected officials from the approval process. Housing in Seattle largely moves forward as of right, with Councilmembers unable to build patronage machines out of extracting extra concessions from developers in exchange for not holding up projects.

Nor does Seattle have a Planning Commission whose members can seek additional extractions beyond what the law requires. By taking the politics out of project approvals for housing consistent with zoning, Seattle avoids the appearance of insider dealing and corruption.

Most importantly, Seattle gets a lot more housing built.

Who Really Backs Inclusionary Housing?

Real backers of inclusionary housing recognize that such requirements must be set  “well below the level that might negatively impact the supply of land for housing.” Some YIMBY’s believe any such laws impose an economic burden on developers that prevents housing from being built. They reason that if inclusionary percentages are set to high for projects to pencil out, then zero affordable units are built and the goal of diversifying neighborhoods is not met.

I strongly disagree with such opponents of inclusionary housing. Yet while YIMBY’s who oppose inclusionary laws are attacked for not supporting this  affordable housing tool, I have never seen any YIMBY urging  the Planning Commission or Board of Supervisors to reject a project because the inclusionary percentage was too high.

To the contrary, YIMBY’s and other pro-housing activists consistently turn out to hearings to support projects that include the legally mandated inclusionary housing.

In contrast, many activists who claim to support inclusionary housing routinely oppose projects despite their meeting the city’s inclusionary requirements.

So who are the real friends of inclusionary housing? Those who support the market rate housing that provides the chief if not sole access for working and middle-class residents to live in high-opportunity neighborhoods? Or those who oppose such projects when they come before public bodies, ensuring that working and middle-class residents are forever priced out of these communities?

San Francisco’s next mayor must work to solve San Francisco’s inclusionary housing mess. And while there will be pressure to lower inclusionary rates to stimulate housing, I suggest starting by restricting supervisors and planning commissioners from extracting money from housing developers beyond existing law.

San Francisco already has a charter provision barring supervisors from interfering with the administrative operations of government. Applying that provision to preventing supervisors from communicating with Planning Commissioners about exactions on top of the inclusionary requirement is consistent with the charter’s limitation on their power.

San Francisco can learn a lot from Seattle about expediting its housing approval process and reducing costs. Preventing politicians and political appointees from shaking down additional payments for projects compliant with zoning laws is a good place to start.

 

Berkeley Cuts Cannabis Taxes, Others Expected to Follow

Even the old line Marxists running Berkeley understand the free market.  If taxes are too high, folks will go to the black market to buy goods and services.  The marijuana market is even more challenging.  While the State has legalized marijuana, the lowest tax on the stuff is 27% –and that does nto include the cost added to the product for permits, brick and mortar shops, security and more.  In fact, it looks like buying marijuana from a State permitted shop is 50% higher than from your corner dealer—who is selling the same stuff, without the ID needed, the red tape and added costs.

“Berkeley isn’t so different from the rest of California, at least in that the legendarily laid-back Bay Area city greeted the beginning of the state’s commercial cannabis industry like a near-limitless ATM.

When the first day of adult-use sales began Jan. 1, Berkeley sported some of the highest taxes in the state: 34.25%, which included a 10% local tax on top of state sales and excise taxes. California’s state taxes on cannabis were already among the highest in the nation, and Berkeley’s rate was even higher.

Once the novelty of buying $24 grams and $75 eights wore off, retailers faced a stark reality.

Many of their longtime medical marijuana customers were gone—buying from underground farmers market-style events or patronizing illegal delivery services rather than forking over 30% to 40% more than they’d done just a few days earlier. The illicit market—the very economy that legalization was designed to topple—was thriving.”

So Berkeley is looking to cut the local tax from 10% to 5%–my guess is that the legal shops created a bigger demand for the product and the illegal dealers are getting the sales.

Taxes

 

California City Cuts Cannabis Taxes, Others Expected to Follow

Chris Roberts, Leafly,  2/23/18

Berkeley isn’t so different from the rest of California, at least in that the legendarily laid-back Bay Area city greeted the beginning of the state’s commercial cannabis industry like a near-limitless ATM.

When the first day of adult-use sales began Jan. 1, Berkeley sported some of the highest taxes in the state: 34.25%, which included a 10% local tax on top of state sales and excise taxes. California’s state taxes on cannabis were already among the highest in the nation, and Berkeley’s rate was even higher.

Once the novelty of buying $24 grams and $75 eights wore off, retailers faced a stark reality.

Many of their longtime medical marijuana customers were gone—buying from underground farmers market-style events or patronizing illegal delivery services rather than forking over 30% to 40% more than they’d done just a few days earlier. The illicit market—the very economy that legalization was designed to topple—was thriving.

“Watch out for the tax rate, because it’ll make the difference between the success of this regulatory environment or its failure.”

Matt Kumin, attorney

It took just six weeks for Berkeley to cave. Citing concerns from existing marijuana businesses that they were being taxed out of existence and expressing a desire to attract new operators—including women and people of color—the Berkeley City Council voted last week to cut the local tax in half, down to 5%.

Berkeley’s tax relief takes effect at the end of March, and experts already predict other cities will follow suit. That’s good news for consumers as well as legitimate, taxpaying cannabis merchants in California, where warnings from experts, howls from the industry, and examples of high taxes in other states defeating legalization’s purpose have been widely ignored by revenue-hungry officials.

All marijuana in California is subjected to state excises and sales taxes, as well as a $9.25-per-ounce cultivation tax. (Medical cannabis patients only can avoid paying state sales tax, but only if they pay up to $100 to obtain a state-issued ID card, and to date, very few patients have.) Cities and counties are also able to levy further taxes, in some cases up to 20%.

When all the taxes are tallied, the effective tax on cannabis ranges from 40% to 60%, as the California Growers Association, a statewide lobby representing marijuana farmers, observed this week.

Berkeley’s early move towards tax relief “reflects the comparatively high level of state and local taxes on cannabis in California,” according to a report released this week from Fitch Ratings. The current high tax rates in the state aid “the competitive position of illegal markets,” Fitch noted.

Rosy revenue projections, based on figures from Colorado and Washington, where sales of legal marijuana exceed $1 billion annually, helped sell California voters on legalization, Fitch observed. But finding the just-right level of taxation that will steer consumers toward over-the-counter sales rather than the illegal market will take some time—and some restraint on the part of cash-hungry governments.

“We’ve been screaming at these guys for three or four years to really watch out for the tax rate, because it’ll make the difference between the success of this regulatory environment or its failure,” said Matt Kumin, a San Francisco-based cannabis business attorney. “If [Berkeley’s move] is not a trend, the black market is going to win. And the regulations will fail.”

A few other states have shown more restraint. Oregon’s effective tax rate is 18%, thanks in part to a cap on local tax rates at 3%. And some other cities in California are experimenting with lower tax rates to start. Los Angeles, for example, is levying a local gross receipts tax of 2.5%. San Francisco has yet to institute a local tax.

That’s how it should be done, according to Pat Oglesby, a tax expert who served on a panel convened by Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, a legalization supporter, to study the issue.

“Early on, to beat the black market, some cannabis taxes should start low,” he wrote on an op-ed piece published earlier this month at The Hill.

Localities like Berkeley also have to worry about staying competitive. Consumers won’t mind spending a little more on gasoline to save money on marijuana if it’s cheaper a few towns over, he wrote.

The tax issue is resonating among policymakers in the state Capitol. A citizens’ panel attached to the state Bureau of Cannabis Control will examine the tax issue, and policy groups including the League of California Cities have suggested that a local tax rate of between 4% and 6% is the magic number.

California’s history with taxation is mixed. The state is home to high gasoline and cigarette taxes, but has also seen anti-tax revolts—including 1978’s notorious Prop. 13, which essentially froze property taxes, forcing local governments to search elsewhere for revenue.

California is also in a unique position. Marijuana, albeit for medical use, has been legal in the country’s most populous state longer than anywhere else—and there is more of it here than anywhere on the planet. A study commissioned by the state found that California produces 13.5 million pounds of marijuana a year—five times more than the state’s domestic market consumes. Which is to say, the state’s cannabis sector is bustling—but local governments might tax themselves out of their share.

 

Seeking to raise new revenues, Union City may declare a ‘fiscal emergency’

Thanks to CalPERS and the on coming California recession hitting most of California, except for the Silicon Valley, Union City is about to declare a “fiscal emergency”.  Watch as other cities—like Oroville start raising taxes, cut services and some will go into bankruptcy—thanks to the inaction of the old and confused Guv Brown and his union buddies.

“To increase revenues, Union City staff proposes placing a cannabis tax on gross receipts on the ballot this year, possibly this June, in addition, to an Enhanced Real Estate Transfer Tax next fall. Combined the measures could create an estimated $4-6 million per year starting in 2019, according to city staff.

Since the state Constitution requires cities to only propose tax measure during their own municipal elections, the declaration of a fiscal emergency would allow Union City to place a cannabis gross receipts tax on the June ballot. Union City mayoral and city council elections occur in November.”

Playing with the rules may save Union City—but what if the folks are smart enough to say NO?

budget

Seeking to raise new revenues, Union City may declare a ‘fiscal emergency’

By Steven Tavares, East Bay Citizen,  2/24/18   

 

UNION CITYWith an eye toward asking Union City residents to approve a pair of tax-generating ballot measures sometime this year, the Union City Council may declare a fiscal emergency this week.

Union City’s budget forecast for the next five years estimates multi-year budget deficits will deplete its reserves by Fiscal Year 2021-22.

To increase revenues, Union City staff proposes placing a cannabis tax on gross receipts on the ballot this year, possibly this June, in addition, to an Enhanced Real Estate Transfer Tax next fall. Combined the measures could create an estimated $4-6 million per year starting in 2019, according to city staff.

Since the state Constitution requires cities to only propose tax measure during their own municipal elections, the declaration of a fiscal emergency would allow Union City to place a cannabis gross receipts tax on the June ballot. Union City mayoral and city council elections occur in November.

Furthermore, in order for Union City to place an Enhanced Real Estate Transfer Tax on the November ballot, voters would also need to agree to make the switch from a general law city to a charter city.

The council discussed declaring a fiscal emergency at its Feb. 13 meeting, but without resolution. Some councilmembers appeared reticent toward the declaration how it would be received by the public. Others offered the council should have handled the city’s financial predicament much better over the past few years. Last summer, the Moraga town council contemplated a similar declaration.

Skyrocketing costs associated with public employee pensions and what the city staff report refers to as “unpredictable state takeaways of local revenue” have taken a toll on Union City’s treasury, said a staff report.

Based on Union City’s budget forecast, it expects a $2.2 million deficit for the current fiscal year and steadily increases to $4.5 million by 2021-22. The city’s reserves, pegged at $12.1 million this fiscal year would be in the red by $785,000 in three years.

 

Marijuana farmers sue the county (Calavaras)

The marijuana industry in Calavaras County are suing for the right to operate.  While this deals with pot, it is really a far reaching challenge to the irrational, subjective, often political environmental reports—based on junk science and possibilities, not truth.

“Marijuana farmers have filed a number of challenges to the cannabis ban. Allegations include the invalidity of an environmental impact report, Ralph M. Brown Act violations and California Public Records Request violations.

Marijuana farmers have undertaken a number of challenges to the recently enacted ban on cannabis cultivation, including lawsuits seeking to overturn the ban and challenges to the county’s refusal to produce a memorandum sent to all supervisors that was the subject of a Freedom of Information Act request.

The most direct attack on the ban is a lawsuit filed to challenge the validity of an environmental impact report allegedly used as the basis for precluding all cannabis cultivation in the county.”

If the marijuana industry wins this battle, all Californians win—we stop the blackmail of unions, Al Gore and his buddies and the Luddites that hate living in 2018 instead of 218 A.D.  We all win if the pot folks win this court battle.  EIRS is a tool used by special interests and government to tax and blackmail us.

Marijuana Store

Marijuana farmers sue the county

By Jason Cowan Jason, Calavaras Enterprise,  2/22/18

Marijuana farmers have filed a number of challenges to the cannabis ban. Allegations include the invalidity of an environmental impact report, Ralph M. Brown Act violations and California Public Records Request violations.

Marijuana farmers have undertaken a number of challenges to the recently enacted ban on cannabis cultivation, including lawsuits seeking to overturn the ban and challenges to the county’s refusal to produce a memorandum sent to all supervisors that was the subject of a Freedom of Information Act request.

The most direct attack on the ban is a lawsuit filed to challenge the validity of an environmental impact report allegedly used as the basis for precluding all cannabis cultivation in the county.

That lawsuit is presented in the form of a writ petition that was submitted Feb. 14 by attorneys from the Archer Norris law firm of Walnut Creek on behalf of Beth Wittke and Thomas Griffing. The petition lists 13 causes of action in support of their request for the court to void the environmental report, eliminate the ban, require the Board of Supervisors to “properly” consider the ordinance moving forward and provide other relief.

Representatives from the county did not respond to requests for comment regarding the allegations made in the petition.

Among the reasons for challenging the report, the writ maintains officials used faulty “baseline” assertions for existing conditions, which distorted the ultimate findings. According to the petition, the report made unsupported factual assertions to make a regulatory option listed in the document appear “worse” for the environment than the ban.

The petition also claims that after a draft of the report had been revised, officials failed to “recirculate” the final draft “as required by the (California Environmental Quality Act).”

When officials did circulate the report for comments, the writ asserts they did not consider “good faith comments.” They allegedly neglected remarks about decay resulting from the ban and comments addressing traffic impacts under a regulatory system.

A number of “cure and correct” letters were also submitted the same day as the writ petition.

One in particular, also filed by Jason Molinelli by Archer Norris of Walnut Creek, alleges that supervisors acknowledged last March they met individually with county staff, using various methods of communication, to discuss the creation of an Environmental Hazmat Registry Database and to support the writing of a research paper to influence cannabis policy.

Molinelli’s letter condemns “closed discussions” between members of the board, staff and community that allegedly occurred outside the public eye after a cannabis Ad Hoc Advisory Committee was created by the supervisors.

Calaveras Cannabis Alliance Executive Director Trevor Witte also submitted separate claims concerning alleged violations of the Brown Act, as well as allegations that the county violated the California Public Records Act when it “withheld” a memo sent to all five supervisors requesting details regarding the financial impacts of a cannabis ban.

Wittke said during a Feb. 13 interview that the county improperly declined to produce the memo, based upon a claim that it contained confidential legal advice. He said any truly privileged information could have been deleted and the remainder of the document produced.

 

Colman: ARE YOU MISERABLE?

Remember the Misery Index?  It was made famous in 1980 when Ronald Reagan used it against Jimmie Carter—the worst president in American history—until Barack bumbled onto the scene.

The Misery Index is the sum of the inflation rate and the unemployment rate.  For example, if the inflation rate is three percent and the unemployment rate is five percent, the Misery Index is eight. 

     Since 1950, the Misery Index (or MI) has fallen to five or below only four times.  And three American presidents were involved.  Can you name them?  Here is a hint:  Two of them were Harry Truman, a Democrat, and Dwight Eisenhower, a Republican.”

But how does Trump add up—with only one year in office?

Currently, in late February 2018, the MI is six, and Donald Trump, a Republican, is the president. 

     The MI does not tell the whole story of the American economy.  There are more indices than those for inflation and unemployment. 

     Other factors that influence economic performance are the actions of the Federal Reserve, tax rates, the size of a president’s budget, and whether that budget shows a surplus or a deficit.”

donald-trump-3

ARE YOU MISERABLE?

By Richard Colman, California Political News and Views, 2/28/18

     Does anyone remember the Misery Index?   

     The Misery Index is the sum of the inflation rate and the unemployment rate.  For example, if the inflation rate is three percent and the unemployment rate is five percent, the Misery Index is eight. 

     Since 1950, the Misery Index (or MI) has fallen to five or below only four times.  And three American presidents were involved.  Can you name them?  Here is a hint:  Two of them were Harry Truman, a Democrat, and Dwight Eisenhower, a Republican.  Who is the third?  Read on. 

     Since the end of World War II, there have been several periods of boom.  There was the post-war boom of 1946 to 1953.  There was another boom from 1954 to mid-1957. 

     The next boom went from 1964 to 1969, a period involving the Vietnam War. 

     The next real boom went from 1983 to 1989, when Ronald Reagan, a Republican, was president.  There was no war.  But military spending was high, leading one observer to comment that under Reagan the nation got war-time spending without a war. 

     Following that Reagan boom, there was another boom from 1995 to early 2000.  Bill Clinton, a Democrat, was the president. 

     Perhaps another boom has begun, going from 2016 to the present time. 

     What can one say about the Misery Index? 

     In 1952, during the Korean War, the MI fell below five.  Truman was the president.  In 1954, after the Korean War ended, the MU fell below five again, when Eisenhower was the president. 

     Eisenhower was still president in 1956, the MI again fell below five. 

     For the 1950-2018 interval, the MI reached an all-time high of 22 in 1980, when Jimmy Carter’s presidency was ending.  In 1988, when Reagan was about to leave office, the MI dropped to eight. 

     Now, who was the president when the MI, for the last time between 1950 and the present time, reached five?  The year was 2016, and the president was Barack Obama, a Democrat.  In  2016, the MI was equal to five exactly. 

     Currently, in late February 2018, the MI is six, and Donald Trump, a Republican, is the president. 

     The MI does not tell the whole story of the American economy.  There are more indices than those for inflation and unemployment. 

     Other factors that influence economic performance are the actions of the Federal Reserve, tax rates, the size of a president’s budget, and whether that budget shows a surplus or a deficit. 

     In 1837, when Andrew Jackson, a Democrat, left the presidency, there was no national debt.  It took 144 years (1937 to 1981) to go from no debt to a debt of $1 trillion. 

     In 1981, when Reagan was president, the debt reached $1 trillion.  By the time Reagan left office in January 1989, the debt was about $3 trillion. 

     From 1989 to the present time, the debt reached $20 trillion.  About $10 trillion of that $20 trillion occurred under Obama’s presidency. 

     Perhaps the size of the national debt and the MI have no connection.  But when a country has a debt is must sell bonds to people and nations who wish to buy that debt. 

     So far, the debt has not impaired the American economy.  But what would happen, perhaps tomorrow, if the purchasers of debt stopped buying?  Interest rates would have to go up to attract buyers of bonds.  And when interest rates go up — and they have been going up for the last few months — then the cost of borrowing money for homes, cars, and other expenses rises.  Eventually, if interest rates go high enough, unemployment, especially among construction and auto workers, goes up. 

     Trump has been fortunate so far.  Unemployment nationally is 4.1 percent.  But inflation is rising and is now at annual rate of 6 percent.  Thus, the current MI is over 10. 

     Currently, the Democratic Party has basically been talking about caring for illegal aliens and their children.  If a recession begins, the Democrats will have something else to say. 

     Trump should be very careful.  The return of significant inflation would add to his personal Misery Index as well as the MI of most Americans.

 

Walters: Brown’s parole measure hits big legal snag

Thanks to Jerry Brown, rape while the woman is under the influence of drugs or alcohol is NOT considered a violent act.  Only in California, land of Weinstein, Spacey and the rest of vile predators, could rape not be considered violent.  In fact, we know, now, that Brown lied to us about Prop. 57.

“When Gov. Jerry Brown was promoting Proposition 57 to voters in 2016, he characterized it as a common sense criminal law reform that would give nonviolent felons a better chance at rehabilitation by allowing them to earn earlier releases on parole.

However, it did not specify which felonies would be deemed nonviolent. Rather, Brown’s campaign confirmed that it would be every felony not included on a specific Penal Code list of 23 violent crimes – and that lack of specificity is now backfiring.

Indirectly, leniency would be allowed for quite a few felonies, such as sex crimes, that most of us would deem to be violent – and, in fact, are counted as violent offenses in crime data provided by the state Department of Justice.”

Yet, we continue to vote for Brown, Newson, Tony Villar and others that think it is OK to rape, as long as the woman is drugged or drunk—just a minor crime.  Any wonder they accepted the actions of Schwarzenegger and Weinstein.  Shame on us for financing any of them.

Prison

Dan Walters: Brown’s parole measure hits big legal snag

Dan Walters, CALmatters, 2/24/18

When Gov. Jerry Brown was promoting Proposition 57 to voters in 2016, he characterized it as a common sense criminal law reform that would give nonviolent felons a better chance at rehabilitation by allowing them to earn earlier releases on parole.

However, it did not specify which felonies would be deemed nonviolent. Rather, Brown’s campaign confirmed that it would be every felony not included on a specific Penal Code list of 23 violent crimes – and that lack of specificity is now backfiring.

Indirectly, leniency would be allowed for quite a few felonies, such as sex crimes, that most of us would deem to be violent – and, in fact, are counted as violent offenses in crime data provided by the state Department of Justice.

Critics of Brown’s measure – the state’s prosecutors, particularly – pointed out the anomaly, and complained that if passed, it could allow some vicious predators to once again range freely.

In response, Brown publicly promised that by regulation, state prison officials would make sure that sex criminals would not benefit from Proposition 57’s new leniency and voters apparently believed him, because they passed the measure.

The promised regulations restricting parole for some sex crimes were, in fact, published by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

However, attorneys for the Alliance for Constitutional Sex Offense Laws and one “John Doe,” who had been imprisoned for lewd acts with a 14-year-old, challenged the rules, saying they violated Proposition 57’s more lenient parole opportunities.

Proposition 57’s ban on early parole, they contended, was implicitly limited to 23 violent felonies of Penal Code Section 667.5, but the department’s new rules extended the ban to sex offenses under PC Section 290, thereby violating the measure.

This month, Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Allen Sumner declared his intention to rule for the plaintiffs and overturn the rules.

“The court agrees the challenged regulations are overbroad and must be set aside,” Sumner wrote. “But the court does not direct CDCR to adopt any particular replacement regulations. Instead, the court remands this case to CDCR to adopt new regulations defining the term ‘nonviolent felony offense’ consistent with this ruling.”

In essence, Sumner is not only agreeing with John Doe, but also with the prosecutors who opposed Brown’s measure in 2016, arguing that as written, it could require granting lenience to those who commit serious sex crimes.

While the measure gives CDCR authority to issue implementing regulations, Sumner wrote, “CDCR’s definition must comport with some colorable meaning of the term ‘non-violent felony.’ It does not.”

Brown’s prison agency must now either rewrite the regulations, presumably to provide more leniency to John Doe and other sex criminals, or try to overturn Sumner’s ruling on appeal.

The latter course is more likely, because rewriting the rules would, in effect, concede the issue to the prosecutors who criticized Proposition 57 as too vaguely drafted and too broad.

“We repeatedly warned prior to the election that the ambiguities of language in Prop 57 would allow sex offenders to be released early from prison,” the Association of Deputy District Attorneys said after Sumner’s ruling. “The proponents realized the public wouldn’t support that, so led by Gov. Jerry Brown they responded by promising that CDCR would write regulations to make sure sex-offenders weren’t released early.”

“We knew that approach would fail,” the ADDA continued, “because a regulation cannot expand the scope of the law that it purports to implement. Now, the completely foreseeable result of this poor drafting has occurred.”

Were John Doe and several thousand other predatory sex criminals to waltz free despite Brown’s campaign assurances, it also would put a stain on what he clearly hopes will be a legacy of criminal justice reform.

 

Property-Tax Funding Plummets for Montecito Schools

First the fire.  Then the rains and the floods.  Now, the schools are harmed by a lack of property tax, in Montecito.

“At Montecito Union — which operates under the same funding model as Cold Spring — Superintendent Anthony Ranii told boardmembers Tuesday that after numerous meetings with Santa Barbara County Auditor-Controller representatives, the K-6 school can expect a revenue loss in the range of $1.2 million to $1.7 million next year, roughly 12-17 percent of the school’s budget. Ranii praised previous boards for building the school’s reserves over the years. “Because of that, we’re not in a crisis,” he said. However, he added, “That is a huge amount for our district to hearken to.”

The disaster never ends.  It is a good thing this is an extremely rich area and the local will donate to keep things going!

Pension money

Property-Tax Funding Plummets for Montecito Schools

After Disaster, Cold Spring and Montecito Union Face Substantial Losses

 

By Keith Hamm, Independent,  2/22/18

Faced with significant funding hits in the wake of the 1/9 Debris Flow, Montecito’s two public elementary schools — Cold Spring School and Montecito Union School — are struggling with the sorts of budget cuts that could lay off up-and-coming teachers and pare down specialty instruction, such as art and music. The projected financial impact is especially acute at Cold Spring, which has already launched a fundraising campaign to raise $485,000 by May 1, according to Principal Amy Alzina.

“We’re covered for the rest of this [school] year, but next year looks bad,” Alzina said. “The hard part in this planning stage is not knowing [exactly how severe the financial impact will be]. We have to notify teachers in March if their positions will still be available in the fall.” Alzina explained that 93 percent of Cold Spring’s $3.9 million budget comes from local property taxes. Hundreds of Montecito homes were destroyed or severely damaged by the January 9 natural disaster.

A second fundraising campaign for Cold Spring has been set up by school parent Eric Greenspan, via GoFundMe.

At Montecito Union — which operates under the same funding model as Cold Spring — Superintendent Anthony Ranii told boardmembers Tuesday that after numerous meetings with Santa Barbara County Auditor-Controller representatives, the K-6 school can expect a revenue loss in the range of $1.2 million to $1.7 million next year, roughly 12-17 percent of the school’s budget. Ranii praised previous boards for building the school’s reserves over the years. “Because of that, we’re not in a crisis,” he said. However, he added, “That is a huge amount for our district to hearken to.”

Enrollment is projected to drop from 418 students this year to 387 in the fall. Ranii proposed drawing from reserves while making administrative, staffing, and other cuts; the board vote will be held at a special meeting March 5.

Both Ranii and Alzina said that some state legislators are trying to create what’s called a “property-tax backfill” to make disaster-impacted school districts financially whole for the 2018-19 school year. If successful, that funding would appear in the state budget, which won’t be unveiled until mid-June.

 

Justices Hold Detained Immigrants Not Entitled to Bond Hearing

Should an illegal alien, hiding from law enforcement for years, be allowed bond, to get out of the detention center?  Are you crazy?  This is the definition of a flight risk.  Glad to the courts understand these are criminals, taking money, jobs, health care and housing from honest citizens, while pretending to be “good people”.

“A divided Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled that immigrants the government has detained and is considering deporting aren’t entitled by law to a bond hearing to determine whether their incarceration is justified despite their sometimes lengthy detentions.

The case decided Tuesday, Jennings v. Rodriguez, challenged the constitutionality of lengthy immigration holds.”

Of course if the illegal alien wants to get out of detention, all they have to do is agree to be deported—back to the country they came from.  No bond needed.  Just justice.

by Mike Lewis, from The Hill

Justices Hold Detained Immigrants Not Entitled to Bond Hearing

DAN MCCUE, Courthousenews,  2/27/18

(CN) — A divided Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled that immigrants the government has detained and is considering deporting aren’t entitled by law to a bond hearing to determine whether their incarceration is justified despite their sometimes lengthy detentions.

The case decided Tuesday, Jennings v. Rodriguez, challenged the constitutionality of lengthy immigration holds.

Both it and a related case, Sessions v. Dimaya, were originally argued before Justice Neil Gorsuch joined the court in April 2017, and new arguments were ordered shortly after his arrival — a move that suggested the other eight justices were evenly divided on how the cases should be decided.

The San Francisco-based Ninth Circuit had ruled for the immigrants, saying they generally should get bond hearings after six months in detention, and then every six months if they continue to be held.

The appeals court said the government must show why incarcerated immigrants, like respondent Alejandro Rodriguez, should remain locked up. said

But writing for the court majority on Tuesday, Justice Samuel Alito said the relevant portions of the federal regulations governing these detentions does not give detained immigrants the right to periodic bond hearings.

According to Justice Alito, the Ninth Circuit misapplied the canon of constitutional avoidance in holding otherwise, and therefore its decision must be reversed.

The majority remanded the case for further consideration, but divisions, even among the members of the majority are clear from the text of the opinion.

Only Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Anthony Kennedy joined the full opinion, while Justices Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch and Sonia Sotomayor joined the majority opinion only in part — and in Sotomayor’s case, it was only in small part.

Justice Thomas also wrote a concurring opinion, in which he was joined by Gorsuch.

Justice Stephen Breyer filed a dissenting opinion in which he was joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sotomayor.

Justice Elena Kagan took no part in the decision because of work she had done as President Obama’s solicitor general.

Bearing down on the Ninth Circuit’s decision, Alito wrote that under the constitutional-avoidance canon, “when statutory language is susceptible of multiple interpretations, a court may shun an interpretation that raises serious constitutional doubts and instead may adopt an alternative that avoids these problems.

“But a court relying on the canon still must interpret the statute, not rewrite it,” the justice continued.

In this case, Alito said, the Ninth Circuit “adopted implausible constructions of the three immigrant provisions at issue,” making reversal of its decision inevitable.

In dissent, Justice Breyer noted that many detained immigrants ultimately prevail in their cases and are allowed to remain in the United States and that the issue before the court is whether they should be released on bail — provided they pose no flight risk or threat to the community.

“The Court reads the statute as forbidding bail, hence forbidding a bail hearing, for these individuals,” Breyer wrote. “In my view, the majority’s interpretation of the statute would likely render the statute unconstitutional.”

Therefore, Breyer said, he would follow “this Court’s longstanding practice of construing a statute ‘so as to avoid not only the conclusion that it is unconstitutional but also grave doubts upon that score’ … I would interpret the statute as requiring bail hearings, presumptively after six months of confinement.”

Alejandro Rodriguez, who came to the United States as a child and worked as a dental assistant. As a teenager, he was convicted of joyriding, and later, as an adult, he pleaded guilty to misdemeanor possession of a controlled substance.

Rodriguez was detained immigration officials for three years without a bond hearing, and his situation eventually came to the attention of the American Civil Liberties Union, which took up his case.

The ACLU filed a class action on his behalf and others in the same situation and  eventually won his release.

No longer subject to a  deportation order, Rodriguez continues to live in the United States.