OC Register:"Cut taxes on the legal marijuana market, pass AB1948"

California’s legal marijuana industry has struggled under the burden of a common set of problems facing businesses of all kinds in the state: high taxation and too much government red tape.

With the approval of Proposition 64 in 2016, Californians made clear that they wanted to end the farce of criminalizing marijuana-related offenses and they wanted to allow a legal market for recreational marijuana to operate.

Unfortunately, high taxes, a slow-moving permitting process and local government resistance has stifled the ability of the legal market to better get off the ground.

Estimates  from Arcview Market Research and BDS Analytics suggest that black market sales of marijuana continue to make up the vast majority of marijuana sales in the state. Surveys of consumers have suggested that one factor keeping marijuana consumers away is the high rate of taxes.

Further, according to the United Cannabis Business Association, there are nearly three times as many unlicensed marijuana dispensaries and delivery services as there are licensed ones.

This reflects both the high demand for marijuana products and a clear mismatch for the government’s ability to entice more operators into joining the fully legal market.

While there are certainly many areas on the taxation and regulatory side to better facilitate participation in the legal market, one easy one is a bipartisan legislative effort from Asm. Rob Bonta, D-Oakland, and Asm. Tom Lackey, R-Palmdale, to temporarily lower taxes on the legal industry in an effort to better enable it to succeed.

The proposal, Assembly Bill 1948, has been offered before, but Bonta and Lackey, with backing from state Treasurer Fiona Ma, are giving it another go.

“We must lower and simplify the taxes on cannabis if the regulated cannabis industry in California is to survive, let alone thrive,” said Bonta.

He’s right. Who knew that high and complicated taxes made it hard for businesses to thrive in California?

By keeping the status quo, the state is holding back the potential of those willing to abide by the law and participate in the legal market.

We hope the Legislature approves AB1948 to give the legal market a better chance at being successful.

Source:Orange County Register Editorial https://tinyurl.com/wx5293r

HRW:"Chinese Government Poses Global Threat to Human Rights"

(New York) – The Chinese government is carrying out an intense attack on the global system for defending human rights, Kenneth Roth, executive director at Human Rights Watch, said today in releasing Human Rights Watch’s World Report 2020. Decades of progress that have allowed people around the world to speak freely, live without fear of arbitrary imprisonment and torture, and enjoy other human rights are at risk, Roth said.

At home, the Chinese government has created a vast surveillance state in its efforts to achieve total social control. It is now increasingly using its economic and diplomatic clout to fend off global efforts abroad to hold it to account for its repression. To preserve the international human rights system as a meaningful check on repression, governments should band together to counter Beijing’s attacks.

“Beijing has long suppressed domestic critics,” Roth said. “Now the Chinese government is trying to extend that censorship to the rest of the world. To protect everyone’s future, governments need to act together to resist Beijing’s assault on the international human rights system.”

In the 652-page World Report 2020, its 30th edition, Human Rights Watch reviews human rights practices in nearly 100 countries. Roth noted many other threats to human rights around the world, including in Syria and Yemen, where government forces from Syria, Russia, and the Saudi-led coalition blatantly disregard the international rules designed to spare civilians, including the prohibitions against attacking civilians and bombing hospitals.

An inhospitable terrain for human rights is aiding the Chinese government’s attack. A growing number of governments that previously could be relied on at least some of the time to promote human rights in their foreign policy now have leaders, such as United States President Donald Trump, who are unwilling to do so. And the autocratic populists who gain office by demonizing minorities and keep power by eliminating independent journalists, judges, and activists bridle at the same body of international human rights law that the Chinese government undermines.

Full Commentary by Human Rights Watch and announcement of new report @ https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/01/14/chinese-government-poses-global-threat-human-rights

Silent Surge: Over 18,000 American Troops Deployed In Middle East

The U.S. escalation occurred days before the airstrike that killed Iran’s Quds Force General Qasem Soleimani.

Soldiers of Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment conduct a breaching training operation, at Camp Buehring, Kuwait, March 20, 2018. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Charles Highland) (Photo Credit: SFC Charles Highland)

JANUARY 3, 2020|

2:16 PMBARBARA BOLAND

Approximately 4,750 American troops are slated to deploy this week to Kuwait, a traditional U.S. staging ground for conflict in the Middle East. They will join the 14,000 American troops already deployed to U.S. Central Command on a mission to confront Iran’s malign behavior in the region, Pentagon officials confirmed.

The U.S. escalation of troop forces came Tuesday evening, two days before the U.S. airstrike in Iraq that killed General Qasem Soleimani, leader of the Quds Force division of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard.

“At the direction of the Commander in Chief, I have authorized the deployment of an infantry battalion from the Immediate Response Force (IRF) of the 82nd Airborne Division to the U.S. Central Command area of operations in response to recent events in Iraq,” said Secretary of Defense Mark Esper in a written statement Tuesday evening. “Approximately 750 soldiers will deploy to the region immediately, and additional forces from the IRF are prepared to deploy over the next several days.”

The deployment of thousands of U.S. troops to the volatile region and Trump’s decision to order the killing of Iranian General Qassim Suleimani has increased fears that a hot war will break out. Global stock market futures fell, and oil prices spiked on the news.

Analysts disagree on the effect the airstrikes and U.S. deployments will have, however.

“Let’s be clear, while the United States and Iran have been locked in a cycle of confrontation for four decades, neither side has been prepared to engage in full-scale and direct conflict with the other. And yet that is a step that may very well follow from these actions — if cooler heads don’t quickly prevail,” said Chris Preble, vice president for defense and foreign policy studies at the Cato Institute.

Jim Antle, editor in chief of The American Conservative, writes that “such a war isn’t inevitable.”

Killing Soleimani may have the desired effect of crippling future Iranian attacks. But, “our continued, if reduced, occupation of Iraq is the main thing exposing Americans to risk of harm at Iranian hands. It remains to be seen how much that calculus now changes.”

The quiet buildup of thousands of American troops and military assets in the region significantly increases the number of targets for Iran to choose from, should it choose to counter-strike.

Source:Barbara Boland @ The American Conservative https://www.theamericanconservative.com/state-of-the-union/silent-surge-over-18000-american-troops-deployed-in-middle-east/

Suderman:"Joe Biden Wants Tax Hikes Twice as Big as Hillary Clinton Proposed in 2016"

One of the recurring questions of the 2020 Democratic presidential primaries is whether the party has lurched too far to the left. 

This topic has manifested itself most prominently in the divide between the more progressive candidates, Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D–Mass) and Bernie Sanders (I–Vt.), and the relative moderates, former Vice President Joe Biden and South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg. It has largely taken the form of a debate over the merits of Medicare for All, a single-payer health care system that Warren and Sanders support and that Biden and Buttigieg do not. 

Warren’s rise over the summer, and the persistent strong support for Sanders, have given ammunition to Democrats favoring a sharper turn to the left. But Warren’s campaign has faltered following the release of her Medicare for All financing and transition plans. That and the contemporaneous rise of Buttigieg to the primary’s top tier have provided grist for the moderates. 

Yet the best way to answer the question may require another comparison—not simply between the candidates in today’s race, but between the current field and the 2016 nominee, Hillary Clinton, particularly on the issue of taxes. 

Earlier this week, Biden released a proposal to raise a slew of new taxes, mostly on corporations and high earners. He would increase tax rates on capital gains, increase the tax rate for households earning more than $510,000 annually, double the minimum tax rate for multinational corporations, impose a minimum tax on large companies whose tax filings don’t show them paying a certain percentage of their earnings, and undo many of the tax cuts included in the 2017 tax law. 

Biden’s tax hikes would raise about $3.4 trillion over a decade, slightly less than half of the $7 trillion in total tax hikes proposed by Buttigieg. Warren, meanwhile, would raise taxes by at least $26 trillion. Some reports put the figure as high as $30 trillion. Sanders estimates his health care plan alone could cost as much as $40 trillion

Full Commentary by Peter Suderman @ Reason https://reason.com/2019/12/05/moderate-joe-biden-wants-tax-hikes-twice-as-big-as-hillary-clinton-proposed-in-2016/

Williamson:"We Are Not Winning the Trade War"

The problem with winning a race to the bottom is that you end up at the bottom.

President Donald Trump’s idiotically conceived and incompetently executed trade war with China shows no signs of abating — the president himself said this week that he’d be happy to see negotiations drag on throughout the coming year — and now Trump has decided to expand the theater to Brazil and Argentina.

Trump says he is imposing tariffs on steel and aluminum from Brazil and Argentina because those two countries have engaged in a policy of competitive currency devaluation, i.e., they have artificially driven down the value of the real and the peso, respectively, in order to gain an unfair advantage for their exports. Trump charges that this has hurt U.S. farmers and says he is imposing these sanctions on their behalf. The Commerce Department, Treasury, the U.S. Trade Representative, and the governments of Brazil and Argentina learned about this on Twitter in the wee hours, because that is how the Trump administration makes policy.

Like a great deal of what comes out of this White House, the new tariffs and the rationale undergirding them exhibit a very fine blend of dishonesty and stupidity.

It is true that the real and the peso have declined in value of late. But this is not programmatic devaluation; rather, both Brazil and Argentina are in the midst of severe self-imposed crises in their national economies (when are these South American giants not in the midst or on the verge of economic crises?) caused by excessive public debt and misgovernment, afflictions with which the United States is increasingly familiar but as yet resistant to, owing to the sheer size and dynamism of our economy. When a nation’s finances tank, its currency tends to fall in value as investors scurry off rodentially from the keeling schooner that is the ailing nation’s economy. 

Full Commentary by Kevin Williamson @ National Review https://www.nationalreview.com/2019/12/trump-trade-war-hurting-americans/?utm_campaign=FEE%20Daily&utm_source=hs_email&utm_medium=email&utm_content=80315687&_hsenc=p2ANqtz-9MJJvtm47ORFHa4pfUhsooaF8D0Zf24LnCw3BTHatYxLD7dLxg5JkC-I0B0klu5Xr_NpqDao2-4-JrSoadOcfPW880pA&_hsmi=80315687

“Americans Must Learn To Reject Unjust And Unnecessary Wars” – Larison

Danny Sjursen calls for remembering the original meaning of Armistice Day:

My fellow veterans don’t necessarily need more thanks. We need, instead, your attention, your support, your careful deployment of our energies and sacrifices only in defense of the most vital national interests and the homeland itself. Most of all we need the reinvigorated dream of Armistice Day—-a holiday imbued with hopes and dreams for a better world. At the very least, for a nation that chooses not to wage forever war.

The standard for sending Americans to war should be a very high one, and even a cursory glance at the many military interventions of the last three decades shows that almost none of them has even come close to meeting it. From the invasion to Panama to the unending war in Afghanistan, the U.S. has been hyperactive in using force in other parts of the world for the last 30 years and very little of it has had anything to do with vital interests or the defense of the United States. Instead of “careful deployment,” we have tended to see reckless and irresponsible deployments of U.S. troops who are tasked with carrying out vague, impossible, and sometimes illegal missions.

Virtually every intervention in that time has been a war of choice, and most of the time it has been the wrong choice.

The U.S. has frequently engaged in hostilities against other states in this period because our government could and not because it had to. There are very few instances in which the U.S. used force as a last resort. In several cases, U.S. intervention has been flagrantly illegal under international and/or U.S. law. The U.S. resorts to force too quickly and too easily and with far too little consideration for the consequences it will have for the people serving the military and the people living in the affected countries. Unlike people from a century ago, many of us have lost our disgust with war, whose human costs are obscured from view or simply ignored. Despite our extraordinary security, many Americans readily accept their leaders’ threat inflation. Preventing more unnecessary wars and bringing the current ones to an end will require a constant effort to counter the alarmist and fear-mongering claims about foreign threats.

Steven Katz makes a similar case for how Americans can best honor veterans:

This year, as one of thousands of veterans who suffered moral injury in the Iraq War, I ask that in addition to the annual “thank you for your service” that you also “thank” veterans by helping us avoid waging unjust wars.

To that end, Americans have to learn an abhorrence for starting wars. Preventive war is inherently unjust, and it needs to be rejected on principle. We need to understand that the Iraq war wasn’t simply a “mistake,” but a terrible crime that should never be repeated. Preventive war is not just another “option” that our government can choose, but rather something illegitimate and wrong by its very nature. When politicians and pundits entertain the idea of launching aggressive attacks on Iran or North Korea or any other country, they need to be shamed and ridiculed as the warmongers they are. The U.S. should never engage in aggressive warfare again. Until Americans and our leaders learn that lesson from the Iraq debacle, we will not have learned the most important lesson.

Source:Daniel Larison @ American Conservative https://www.theamericanconservative.com/larison/americans-must-learn-to-reject-unjust-and-unnecessary-wars/


Larison:”Trump Puts the Saudis First, As Usual”

While U.S. troops remain in Syria, the Trump administration is sending thousands more to Saudi Arabia:

The United States announced the deployment of additional American military forces to Saudi Arabia on Friday to bolster the kingdom’s defenses after the Sept. 14 attack on its oil facilities, which Washington and Riyadh have blamed on Iran.

Trump’s decision to send even more U.S. forces to Saudi Arabia makes no sense in terms of U.S. interests. It does not serve American interests to put more American troops in potential danger from an attack from Saudi Arabia’s enemies, and the U.S. gains nothing from coming to the aid of the Saudis. Basing American troops in Saudi Arabia was a major reason for terrorist attacks against our country in the past, and it is extremely foolish to keep sending more troops to defend a client that ought to be able to defend itself. The fact that Saudi Arabia apparently can’t defend itself proves that the hundreds of billions of dollars in arms sales to their government have been worse than useless. The U.S. has managed to arm the Saudis well enough that they can terrorize and murder civilians in Yemen, but not so that it can provide for its own defense. The Saudis are a useless client and a liability to the U.S., and the sooner that Washington cuts them loose the better it will be for the U.S. and the region.

In selling this terrible decision, Trump repeated the lie that Saudi Arabia is a “great ally.” He also boasted that the kingdom would pay for the costs of the deployment, as if that somehow made the decision to put more Americans at risk on behalf of a despotic client state all right. I very much doubt that is true. The Saudi government is still stiffing the administration for the payments it owes for refueling charges from the war on Yemen, and our government will probably never see a dime from them for the costs associated with these deployments. Even if the Saudis did foot the bill, this amounts to making part of the U.S. military into the Saudi government’s mercenary force, and that ought to be unacceptable to Americans of all political stripes.

This is hardly the first time that Trump has put the Saudis first, but in light of his attempts to justify his craven Syria decision by talking about ending endless wars it is especially offensive. If Trump wanted to put American interests first and extricate the U.S. from a foreign war, he could agree to cut off all military assistance and arms sales to the Saudi coalition tomorrow. Instead, he goes out of his way to shower them with weapons and sends more troops to defend a war criminal regime.

Source: Daniel Larison @ The American Conservative https://www.theamericanconservative.com/larison/trump-puts-the-saudis-first-as-usual/