The Starting Line – California Tobacco Taxes on the Agenda for 2014


By Doug Porter

A group that includes Ca. Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom is backing an initiative for the mid-term elections to add $1 per pack to the state tobacco tax, and use the money for college scholarships and financial aid.

An early version of the initiative filed last month indicates revenues with be directed exclusively through the California Student Aid Commission. Monies, as much a $750 in its first year, would be kept separate from the state’s general fund.

Supporters of the tax are optimistic about their chances, pointing out the relatively low level of the existing tax, the narrow margin of the vote on Proposition 29 in 2012, and the fact this measure will avoid a fight not over bureaucracy and research by channeling the proceeds to college tuitions.

The effort to increase taxes on tobacco products was defeated last June in the face of massive spending by the Big Tobacco checkbook, opened to the tune of more than $45 million.  And it’s unlikely that they’ll shirk from this fight.

However, supporters are hoping the idea of more help for students and families trying to afford a community college, UC, or CSU education will resonate with voters, a point well made by Gov. Jerry Brown’s current barnstorming for a new focus on affordable higher education.

While statewide polls have found solid public support for increases in ‘sin taxes’ on things like tobacco and alcohol, history shows initiatives often are often influenced by the political forces of what else appears on the same ballot — and whether voters see enough good in a proposal to outweigh their default skepticism about more money out of their wallets.

Gun Nuts on a Roll: The Turtle’s Testosterone Talking

demotivational_posters_post_turtleEvery time I see GOP leader Mitch McConnell on the tube I can’t help but thinking that he looks kinda like a cartoonish turtle.  But he’s wasted no time this year in proving to his constituents that he’s a ninja turtle, at least on the issue of gun legislation.

Just a couple of days prior to the Presidential inauguration, the Kentucky lawmaker sent an email warning his followers to get ready for battle against the coming government plot to disarm civilians. Check it out:

Dear Patriot,

You and I are literally surrounded. The gun-grabbers in the Senate are about to launch an all-out-assault on the Second Amendment. On your rights. On your freedom.

Just the other night, President Obama urged them to act. And then he went one step further, spelling out the 23 different Executive Orders he will take to get your guns.

My friend, our freedom is under direct assault. From those who want take your guns. From those who want to shred our Constitution, and as our good in friend Rand Paul from Kentucky says, from those who want to be King.

I’ve heard President Obama described as a fascist. I’ve heard President Obama described as a socialist. And now he’s a monarchist. But wait! It gets better…

The Ultimate Gun Control Plot

top_chinese_flagI sometimes wonder if there is a contest that I’m not aware of to see just who can come up with most outlandish claims about gun legislation. I’d like to nominate columnist Eric Rush, whose claim to fame thus far was an expose that Obama went to a church headed by the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. The folks at Right Wing Watch get extra kudos for bringing this conspiracy to light:

We’re aware that liberal politicians have treated communist China with a marked naïveté going back to the Clinton administration, allowing them inordinate incursion into our ports and commercial infrastructure, and that Obama has been singing China’s praises with regard to their infrastructure and growth since 2008. In 2011, Republican lawmakers voiced concern that the Obama administration was allowing high-ranking Chinese military officials access to sensitive U.S. military installations.

Thus – which came as an outrage, but no surprise to many – it is the Chinese government that is lobbying Obama to disarm the American public. They foresee a time when there will be widespread anger against them for their role in this obscene arrangement, and would rather not have to militarily engage armed Americans over land or resources that they will control, some of which is in America’s heartland. Some perceive Obama’s spirited pursuit of gun control after the Sandy Hook massacre as typical knee-jerk liberal opportunism, but it is far more than that.

The columnist goes on to suggest that a big part of this plot will be the cancellation of the 2014 mid-term elections.

Back to the Monarchist Meme (Or not)

Rocker Ted Nugent’s off-the-wall commentary has landed him in hot water before, and the bitterness of his side losing the fall elections has inspired still more invective. From Raw Story:

Speaking to fans during an NBC-sponsored gun show, Nugent said that Obama “is attempting to re-implement the tyranny of King George that we escaped from in 1776,” adding: “If you want another Concord bridge, I’ve got some buddies.”

The comment was a reference to the Battle of Concord, in which a British soldier broke a standoff and fired upon assembled American militiamen, in what later became known as “the shot heard around the world” that helped launch the Revolutionary War.

He added that Obama “hires, appoints and associates with communists,” and that he’s “an evil, dangerous man who hates America and hates freedom. And we need to fix this as soon as possible.”

NRA Chief Sez We Need Bigger Guns

tankSpeaking to banquet in Reno, Nevada yesterday, National Rifle Association CEO Wayne LaPierre lashed out at proposed changes in gun regulations.  Taking on a line from President Obama’s inaugural speech (“we cannot afford to mistake absolutism for principle”), LaPierre accused the president of reducing the U.S. Constitution to “a blank slate for anyone’s graffitti”.

He denounced stricter background checks as burdensome, citing family heirlooms as an example, even though the White Houses’s proposed legislation exempts transactions between family members. And then he got to the itty-gritty, suggesting that semiautomatic assault weapons and high-capacity magazines were needed to defend against the government. From the LA Times:

“[Obama] wants to put every private, personal firearms transaction right under the thumb of the federal government and he wants to keep all of those names in a massive federal registry,” LaPierre said. “There’s only two reasons for a federal list on gun owners — to either tax ’em or take ’em.”

LaPierre also rejected Obama’s calls to ban semiautomatic assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.

“We believe we deserve and have every right to the same level of freedom that our government leaders keep for themselves, and the same capabilities and the same technologies that criminals use to prey upon us and our families,” he said.

“That means we believe in our right to defend ourselves and our families with semiautomatic firearms technology,” he added. “We believe that if neither the criminal nor the political class and their bodyguards and security people aren’t limited by magazine capacity, we shouldn’t be limited in our capacity either.”

Lest you think that LaPierre is just out there on his own, there’s this report about Florida congressman Ted Yoho (FL) who argues that the Second Amendment says ordinary citizens should have access to military weapons. From Think Progress:

The freshman GOPer said he’d spoken with a number of constituents recently and approvingly relayed their sentiment: “when you read the Second Amendment,” Yoho said, “the militia had the same equipment as the military to protect them against the tyrannical government.” Preserving those protections, he argued, is “more important today than ever”

I’m waiting for somebody to come up with a biblical reference defending unfettered gun ownership, preferably something Jesus said. And I’m sure they’ll find it.

Meanwhile, The Crime Wave Continues on Wall Street

arrestbankerFrontline, the PBS investigative series, broadcast an hour long report last night detailing the failure of the Obama administration with regard to the systemic fraud that occurred on Wall Street leading to the 2008 financial crisis. Glen Greenwald over the Guardian rips the Obama administration in his reporting on the show:

What Obama justice officials did instead is exactly what they did in the face of high-level Bush era crimes of torture and warrantless eavesdropping: namely, acted to protect the most powerful factions in the society in the face of overwhelming evidence of serious criminality. Indeed, financial elites were not only vested with impunity for their fraud, but thrived as a result of it, even as ordinary Americans continue to suffer the effects of that crisis.

The harms from this refusal to hold Wall Street accountable are the same generated by the general legal immunity the US political culture has vested in its elites. Just as was true for the protection of torturers and illegal eavesdroppers, it ensures that there are no incentives to avoid similar crimes in the future. It is an injustice in its own right to allow those with power and wealth to commit destructive crimes with impunity. It subverts democracy and warps the justice system when a person’s treatment under the law is determined not by their acts but by their power, position, and prestige. And it exposes just how shameful is the American penal state by contrasting the immunity given to the nation’s most powerful with the merciless and brutal punishment meted out to its most marginalized.

The real mystery from all of this is that it has not led to greater social unrest. To some extent, both the early version of the Tea Party and the Occupy movements were spurred by the government’s protection of Wall Street at the expense of everyone else. Still, Americans continue to be plagued by massive unemployment, foreclosures, the threat of austerity and economic insecurity while those who caused those problems have more power and profit than ever. And they watch millions of their fellow citizens be put in cages for relatively minor offenses while the most powerful are free to commit far more serious crimes with complete impunity. Far less injustice than this has spurred serious unrest in other societies.

Speaking of Unrest, the Sierra Club’s Getting Radical

In anticipation of a massive rally calling attention to the dangers of climate change scheduled for WashingtonDC on February 17th, the Sierra club has decided to go beyond its usual measured response to environmental issues.

Responding to the decision by Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman to approve a route for the controversial Keystone Pipeline through his state, Sierra Club President Michael Brune announced via Facebook that the group will:

“for the first time in our 120-year history….be engaging in peaceful civil disobedience to help stop the dirty and destructive Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. We’re all in!”

Later on Sierra club spokespeople indicated the planned civil disobedience will not be happening at the February 17th rally, but at another time and location that there were not willing to disclose at this time.

December Nights Moving to West Side of Balboa Park, Neighbors Unhappy

From an email sent to supporters of Earth Day, which has all but been told to move it or lose it from BalboaPark for this years’ observance:

We heard this week that the City is also planning to move December Nights to the west side. We are attending a meeting with City Special Events this Wednesday to discuss the requirements for large events there. We are also evaluating other sites.

The neighbors on the west side are starting to weigh in. The San Diego Metro CDC and the West Mesa SubCommittee of the BalboaPark Committee have each passed motions against moving large events to the west without consulting them.

We will have to make a go or no-go decision soon. The response from the Mayor is that if there is no construction happening, then the event can proceed as usual. There is a lawsuit being heard in court on February 1 that could stop construction. Otherwise, we must move.

San Diego Museum Month Set for February

Museum Month is back for the 24th year in San DiegoCounty. This popular event allows participants to enjoy half-off entry fees for themselves and up to three members of their family or friends at forty two San DiegoMuseum Council membership museums.

Passes may be picked up beginning February 1, 2013 at any of Macy’s fourteen locations in the San Diego Area, Temecula and Imperial Valley. The passes are free to obtain while supplies last. (Hold your nose and try not to think too hard about that department store’s relationship with Donald Trump)

Here’s the list of participating museums (which won’t format for some reason!):

Barona Cultural Center & Museum, Birch Aquarium at Scripps, Bonita Museum & Cultural Center,
California Surf Museum, Coronado Museum of History & Art, Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum,
Gaslamp Museum at Wm. H. Davis House, Heritage of the Americas Museum, Japanese Friendship Garden,
Junipero Serra Museum, La Jolla Historical Society, Living Coast Discovery Center, Lux Art Institute,
Maritime Museum of San Diego, Marston House & Gardens, Mingei International Museum,
Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, Downtown, Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego,
La Jolla,  Museum of Making Music, Museum of Photographic Arts, Oceanside Museum of Art,
Reuben H. Fleet Science Center, San Diego Air & Space Museum, San Diego Archaeological Center,
San Diego Automotive Museum, San Diego Botanic Garden, San Diego Children’s Discovery Museum,
San Diego Chinese Historical Museum, San Diego History Center, San Diego Model Railroad Museum,
San Diego Natural History Museum, The New Children’s Museum, The San Diego Museum of Art,
Tijuana Estuary Visitors Center, Timken Museum of Art, USS Midway Museum, Veterans Museum & Memorial Center,
Visions Art Museum, Warner-Carillo Ranch House & Museum, Water Conservation Garden,
Whaley House Museum, Women’s Museum of California

 On This Day:  1964 – Ratification of the 24th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was completed. This amendment eliminated the poll tax in federal elections. 1973 – President Nixon announced that an accord had been reached to end the Vietnam War.  1986 – The first annual induction ceremony for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame was held in New York City.

 Eat Fresh!  Today’s Farmers’ Markets: Carlsbad (Roosevelt St. btw Grand Ave. & Carlsbad Village Dr.) 1 – 5 pm, Encinitas Station (Corner of E Street & Vulcan in parking lot B) 5 – 8 pm, Mission Hills  (Falcon St. btw West Washington & Ft. Stockton) 3 – 7 pm, North San Diego at Sikes Adobe Farmstead  (I-15 at Via Rancho Parkway. 12655 Sunset Dr., Escondido.) 11 am – 2 pm, Ocean Beach  (4900 block of Newport Ave. btw Cable & Bacon Sts.) 4 – 8 pm, San Marcos – Cal State San Marcos  (333 S. Twin Oaks Valley Rd., Parking Lot B) 3 – 7 pm, Santee  (10445 Mission Gorge Rd. abandoned school parking lot) 3 –7 pm, Temecula (40820 Winchester Rd. Promenade Mall, parking lot btw Macy’s & Penny’s) 9 am – 1 pm

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I read the Daily Fishwrap(s) so you don’t have to… Catch “the Starting Line” Monday thru Friday right here at San Diego Free Press (dot) org. Send your hate mail and ideas to DougPorter@SanDiegoFreePress.Org    Check us out on Facebook and Twitter.


Doug Porter

Doug Porter was active in the early days of the alternative press in San Diego, contributing to the OB Liberator, the print version of the OB Rag, the San Diego Door, and the San Diego Street Journal. He went on to have a 35 year career in the Hospitality business and decided to go back into raising hell when he retired. He's won awards for 'Daily Reporting and Writing: Opinion/Editorial' from the Society of Professional Journalists in 2013, 2014 and 2015. Doug is a cancer survivor (sans vocal chords) and lives in North Park.
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  1. avatar says

    Since gunowners are demanding to have access to the same technology as the military, it will only be a short time before they demand to have drone technology as well. Then they can position their drones over schools and open fire with their 600 round clips. Anyone wanting to take their drones away will be accused of trashing the constitution and their Second Amendment rights.

    The banks are not only too big to fail and getting bigger every day, they are too big to prosecute. Any tampering with the banks in terms of prosecuting them for interst rate rigging, fraud and large scale theft would be tantamount to forcing the economy off a cliff. Oh wait, we already went over the fiscal cliff, didn’t we?

  2. avatarMary says

    As a long time voter I am tiring of the promise that if we vote for a specific proposition on the ballot for monies promised for education and all it entails…the monies will go for that specific purpose. Something always seems to divert the monies to other projects. So an additional tax on cigarettes….going to help families put their children into colleges??? I don’t believe it anymore.

    • avatardoug porter says

      and there, sportsfans, is the argument that tobacco companies will use to the tune of about 45 million bucks.

      i say we should just pass a tax on their products “because we feel like it.”

  3. avatarPeter says

    I agree Doug. And if the amount of money that comes in from that tax goes down over time, that’s a damned good thing, because that means fewer people are smoking.