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We the People Have No Representative Government

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signers

It has come to this. We, the American people, no longer have a true representative form of government. We are now saddled with an assembly of people, elected to office, who simply do not understand the US constitution, its mandates, its limits, its requirements, its obligations. Our government – wholly unrecognizable from that the Constitution lays out simply does not represent the people. Period.

While we may currently have a President, who has tried his hardest to stand for the American everyman instead of the special interests, the potentates, and the oligarchs, we have a Congress that immediately forgets that their sole role is to represent their constituents and their states the microsecond after they are elected to office.

While we have a President, who has done more to give relief to the American everyman, we have nine cowards on the US Supreme Court who have abdicated their obligation to the US Constitution and, instead, have made ducking their responsibilities, inventing ways to never have to rule on questions of constitutionality, an award-winning art.

The last straw for the Judicial Branch – and I say again that they are a bunch of sniveling cowards and should serve as the catalyst for intense, rapid, and abrupt change in government at the federal level, the last straw came in their scheduling a constitutional argument related to the 2020 General Election results for after the inauguration.

“The justices this week set a reply deadline for Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar and the other respondents named in the case of Jan. 22. The campaign had asked for the Supreme Court to order those on the other side of the litigation to respond by Wednesday and have reply briefs from the Trump campaign submitted by Thursday. It also asked the court to rule by Jan. 6. But the court did not oblige,” it was reported.

“This means that by the time Boockvar and the others the Trump campaign is seeking to take to the Supreme Court even respond to the petition, President-elect Joe Biden will already be sworn in… At that point, the court could simply decline to hear the case, saying it is moot or impossible for them to resolve at that point.”

To put it into layman’s terms, the US Supreme Court has decided the election without issuing a ruling. They have raised a gigantic, arrogant, cowardly middle finger to the people of the United States…for a second time.

So, please, answer me this question. If we have a federal government that does not serve the people it was created to serve, why do we even have a federal government?

The Congress does not serve the people. Even as the people lose their jobs and businesses because of fake pandemic, Congress doles out $2.1 trillion to foreign entities and gives each taxpayer $600 of our own tax money back. That’s serving the people?

The US Supreme Court – as well as all the useless federal district courts and appeals courts, refuse to rule constitutionally on matters directly related to the survival of the Republic – if they rule at all, and that is supposed to be serving the public or having fidelity to the US Constitution?

We are a Union of 50 states, with 50 state constitutions that are sovereign. As it stands, we, effectively, have no federal government that represents the people.

Now that this is self-evident, we should revisit the words of our Founders:“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness; “That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”

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Don’t Give Me Back Rent, I Want to Continue Hiding from Tax

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Developments during this COVID crisis have brought out tax scofflaws in some of the most unexpected ways.

The state has established a Rent Relief and Housing Assistance Program to help people affected by the pandemic make their rent or mortgage payments.

Affected people who are making less than 100% of Area Median Income (for a family of four, from $83,300 on the Big Island to $125,900 on Oahu) can apply for help, and if their application is approved the State will pay their landlords or lenders directly.

There is, however, a small catch.  Some landlords are refusing the money.  Which makes one wonder about what is going to happen to the tenant once the State’s moratorium on evictions expires at the end of the year.

Why are they refusing the money?  In a Honolulu Star-Advertiser article, Gavin Thornton, the executive director of the Hawaii Appleseed Center for Law and Economic Justice and a member of the House Select Committee on COVID-19 Economic and Financial Preparedness, said:

[S]ome of the landlords are unwilling to participate in the program, unwilling to sign off to receive the payments — allegedly because they don’t have their GE [general excise tax] licenses. They’re not paying their taxes on that rental income.  So that’s potentially a problem that could prevent tenants who otherwise are eligible for the program, not receiving those funds that they really need.  So we’re hoping very much that those tenants somehow, some way, will ultimately be able to access those resources.

How much is being refused?  According to the article, eight million dollars.  With a back rent amount per application of between $4,400 and $6,000, we are talking about perhaps 1,500 to 1,700 landlords in this position.

I have no sympathy at all for those landlords who apparently want to continue flying under the radar.  General Excise Tax has applied to rents from the very beginning.  It’s clearly covered in documentation the Territorial tax department prepared in 1935.  Even my father paid general excise tax on rental income back in the old days – at a time when I was too young for kindergarten and was in no position to tell him to do that.  He figured out what the law was and followed it.  Why haven’t these folks done the same thing?

My advice to these landlords is to come clean, now.  There will be pain, which you deserve.  But there will be more pain if you wait.  Now that the Department of Taxation has figured out that there’s a swamp here, it won’t take them long for them to come back with the dredging equipment.

The same message applies to those who are receiving money from short-term vacation rentals.  You need to pay tax like the rest of us.  And by the way, the State is already aware of this swamp and has mobilized the dredgers.  They have been pumping the vacation rental platforms and property management companies for information about who their clients are and how much they get paid.  The State can, and did, subpoena the information so the companies don’t have a choice but to provide that information.

To recap:  If you are in the swamp, please come clean.  It isn’t fair for the rest of us who do follow the laws and pay taxes to be forced to make up for the tax you owe and haven’t paid.  Then please accept the money the State is willing to pay you, which should help alleviate the financial pain of making up for the years you haven’t paid, and please don’t fault the tenant for applying for aid and incidentally exposing you in the process.

Will the COVID-19 Pandemic End the Breast Cancer Pandemic?

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Sydney Ross Singer
Medical Anthropologist
Director, Institute for the Study of Culturogenic Disease 

Many diseases are caused by our culture, and are reinforced by habit, custom, and unspoken social pressures. To prevent these lifestyle, or culturogenic diseases, we need to radically change our way of life. And it usually takes some cultural crisis to make this type of fundamental change possible. 

One disease which is largely culture-caused is breast cancer. The primary cultural factor causing this disease is the excessive wearing if tight bras daily. While this is an inconvenient truth for a bra-using culture which has been ignoring the harmful impacts of bras on breast health, dozens of studies internationally now confirm that bras are a leading cause of breast cancer. (For a list of references see my website https://brasandbreastcancer.org/supportive-references, and my book, Dressed to Kill: The Link Between Breast Cancer and Bras, Second Edition (2018) Square One Publishers, NY.)

This means that, in order to end the breast cancer pandemic, we need to end the harmful use of bras. However, given the entrenchment of bras in modern culture, it would take an unprecedented cultural shift to allow women the opportunity to end their habit of using bras. 

Enter COVID-19. 

COVID-19 has unleashed a world of changes which are still unfolding. And one positive outcome will be a reduction in breast cancer incidence, particularly in cultures practicing lock downs and social isolation. 

As a result of staying and working at home, some women have realized that they can avoid wearing bras. Most women can’t wait to get home from work to take off their bra. Most women find bras uncomfortable. Working at home means you never need to don the darn thing in the first place. 

Media banter over this breast liberation from bras has been mostly positive, encouraging comfort over all else. See, for example, Harpers Bazaar’s article, But Will We Ever Wear Bras Again? Of course, there are still bra industry shills who continue shaming women for being natural. But women can feel the difference for themselves while being bra-free, in the comfort of their own homes. Which means the bra industry is in trouble. 

Women have been trending away from the bra for the past several years, and new laws have made it clear that women cannot be forced to wear bras at work. See the article, Bra-Free at Work: Ending Sexist and Illegal Dress Codes. For women working at home due to COVID, there is even less pressure to wear bras. 

This means the incidence of breast pain, cysts, and cancer will decline since bra usage is the leading cause of all of these problems. 

The problem with bras is that they are designed to change breast shape for fashion reasons, and this requires constant tension and pressure from the bra. This pressure impairs the lymphatic circulation in the breasts, which is the circulatory pathway of the immune system. This causes lymph stasis and chronic breast lymphedema, and prevents effective immune defense against developing cancer cells. It also prevents the effective cleansing of the breasts of cellular waste, debris, chemical toxins, and the damage caused by trauma and radiation (such as mammograms). See the article, How Bras Cause Lymph Stasis and Breast Cancer

Essentially, tight bras worn for long periods of time daily cause chronic lymphedema and toxin accumulation in the breasts, with resulting pain and cysts. Over time, this can lead to cancer. In fact, from our research, bra-free women have about the same risk of breast cancer as men, while the longer and tighter the bra is worn the higher the risk rises, to over 100 times higher for a 24/7 bra user compared to a bra-free woman. 

Note that if a bra leaves marks or indentations in the skin, then it is too tight and is causing damage. 

Given these harms caused by bras, what will women experience during their social isolation as they stop wearing bras? The answer is improved breast health and reduced cancer risk. 

We now have preliminary results from the ongoing International Bra-Free Study, which we have been conducting since 2018. The study is online and currently involves over 1000 women, from over 36 countries, who have stopped wearing bras and are reporting their experiences. We have reported on these amazing results in our report, Bras Cause More Than Breast Cancer: Preliminary Results of the International Bra-Free Study. Here are some key point

Women who had been experiencing breast pain and cysts found complete or near-complete recovery within a month of being bra-free. 

Virtually every woman who stopped wearing bras reported that she can breathe easier without a bra. Clearly, having a tight band around the chest restricts rib expansion and movement. This means being bra-free can help if anyone develops a respiratory problem, even from COVID-19. 

Some women reported improved digestion without a bra. Others reported improved menstrual cycle regularity. 

Many women reported that their breasts lifted and toned after ending bra usage. Once the breasts are free from bras, the natural suspensory ligaments are allowed to bear weight and regain strength. Ligaments weaken under artificial support. This means that bras actually cause breasts to droop and breast ligaments to weaken. Becoming bra-free can reverse this, especially in pre-menopuasal women. 

Large-breasted women reported that their back and neck pain were gone once they stopped wearing bras. Lifting large, heavy breasts with a bra causes harmful pressure to the shoulders, and creates deep shoulder grooves. This pressure impinges on nerves leading to numbness, tingling and pain in the hands. 

Most importantly, the women in this study are expected, over the years, to have reduced breast cancer incidence. We also expect that the millions of women who are currently bra-free at home will also experience this reduction in breast cancer risk. 

This means that we should expect a profound drop in new breast cancer cases over the next decade, as women become free of the bra. 

Each year, breast cancer kills between 40,000 and 50,000 women in the U.S. alone. Over 250,000 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer each year. Add to that hundreds of millions of women worldwide who suffer from breast pain and cysts due to tight bras, and the human toll of this sexist/fetish garment will be more apparent. Add to that the reduced breathing, discomfort, insecurities, and shaming that go along with the bra culture, and it makes you wonder why bras haven’t been trash-canned long ago. 

Sometimes it takes just one drastic change in culture to allow other parts of the culture to change, too. In this case, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the resulting social isolation and quarantines, could mark the beginning of the end of the breast cancer pandemic. 

New Year, New Administration: Welcome Rick Blangiardi!

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The voters have spoken.

With the highest turnout ever, the City and County of Honolulu overturned the status quo and selected a mayor with no meaningful connections to the unions; rejected the ones that did; and put a neophyte in office during the worst economic disaster in the state’s history.

This is why it may be just what we need:

With the establishment of a new City Council and the ouster of five termed-out members, it is entirely possible that new ideas can be brought forth!

Advancing backwards in time to the Lingle era, Honolulu residents were talking then about the huge housing shortage, rising prices, rent increases, diversifying the economy, an island overrun with tourism, etc., etc., etc.

In fact, as we look back to the early 1980s, when homes were still on leased land, the problems were exactly the same.

Those problems have only grown worse.

While it is true that the unions have provided a comfortable living for many of their employees, particularly in the construction trade, they have priced the cost of living out of range for the rest of us. That includes those in Local 5, for example, and teachers, who are experiencing the impacts of cutbacks due to covid along with the rest of us.

We cannot all join the construction trades, but these are the ones who contributed so mightily to the failed candidacy of Keith Amemiya. Last count, he had several dozen union endorsements, which probably heralded the unprecedented turnout of voters fed up with business as usual.

What if a new mayor and new council members who are not beholden to a hui for their own personal gain start to look at novel ways to improve city infrastructure, rebuild the departments, tackle the growing population of homelessness, look for ways to diversify the economy, solve the housing crisis and actually, finally, really grow our state’s agriculture so that we are not dependent on the mainland for week-old produce and a 33% minimum markup on food?

It is time.

Mayor Elect Rick Blangiardi has proven that he is a capable leader who can think outside the box. He consolidated the news industry to make it viable into the 21st Century (albeit, also creating a single source for all news). He rescued Telemundo. He has shown a great degree of creative thinking that is so needed at this horrible time in our history.

It is a lot to take on, but he has taken on a lot in the past.

Two things that are of concern: that his wife Karen Chang has taken over all aspects of hiring for the new administration and Blangiardi’s thin skin when it comes to media.

His Chief of Staff, Mike Formby, is a better choice for hiring. He knows what is needed and what is out there much better than the candidate’s wife, who is a career CPA. And no matter what he does, he should know, controversy sells papers. There will be critics. Get over yourself, coz its not about you – its about whoever is doing the criticizing.

Yes, it is true that the Blangiardi’s have resided in the 1 percenters. But Rick Blangiardi earned it from the ground up. He played football at UH, majored in P.E., and ended up a coach. He wasn’t given the same silver spoon Keith Amemiya tried to say he didn’t get. (He did. He is still part of the richest contingent of Honolulu residents and power brokers whose wealth has not been adversely effected by the tourism failure, including aio and Island Insurance, as well as Micah Kane.)

With the final City Council meeting in the rearview mirror, however, we saw a scary glimpse of the future.

The new chair will be Dist. 4 Council Member Tommy Waters (Kahala – Waikiki), which gives him a lot of power over what gets on the agenda and how it is heard.

In the last meeting of his committee on Public Safety and Welfare, Waters addressed Police Chief Susan Ballard regarding a very unfavorable audit of her department.

He began by asking her a long series of very tough questions, much like an attorney on cross examination (he is an attorney). Serious issues about reporting, police misconduct and domestic abuses, violence and training were addressed. It appears that not much has changed since the now-disgraced Police Chief Kealoha was in power.

And yet, at the end of the questioning, Waters was all smiles and buddy-buddy with the Chief, saying what a great job she is doing! What?

For those of us who are into it, we have come to know Waters. That is his M.O. He starts out like he is going to be tough – but then he backs off and ties it up without resolution. He asks nothing but the status quo. He only asks questions and leaves the work to someone else, though it is unclear who that may be.

Unfortunately, the way the government works here in Honolulu, that ends up being the mayor. And under Caldwell, everything has been politics. Funding gets denied for anything proposed by a council member who does not tow his line. He makes decisions that reflect his political allies as he angles for governor in the next election – as we have witnessed with the massive shutdowns over covid that have crippled our small businesses while he met with visitor industry folks and bankers.

It is time to solve these ubiquitous problems for good and to make Honolulu meet the promise of its destination. There is a lot more than sunny weather and beaches here. There are good people who need to be nourished and treated with respect so they can reach their potential and make this place great. Today they are just trying to feed themselves and their families and scrape by!

It is time to bring down the DPP and start from scratch because it doesn’t work. It is time to update our city’s computers. It is past time to bring new, innovative affordable housing projects to Honolulu that bypass all the permitting that is holding up construction. It is time to begin putting money to work towards subsidizing fertilizer and water projects for our agriculture; towards bring foods to market locally; towards innovation in agriculture; to supporting small businesses who cannot pay these high rents; to working away from tourism that attracts bargain hungers to tourism that attracts spending and lowers the impact; towards bringing infrastructure that brings in tech companies; towards pairing our businesses with lucrative military contracts; towards paying our teachers and attracting educational opportunities to enhance our state university.

Welcome Rick Blangiardi! You are here by popular demand! Please take advantage of your popularity and the huge number of creative and thoughtful individuals who are trying to make a difference!

Business Entity Registration Scam

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Recently, our Department of Commerce & Consumer Affairs (DCCA) reminded people of a news release. The release was directed to anyone in Hawaii that owns or has control of an entity (such as a corporation, partnership, or LLC).

DCCA explained that there are some non-Hawaii-based companies that send solicitations to Hawaii-based companies.  They say, “Hey! Your business registration is going to be due shortly, and renewing it is required by law.  Pay us $145 and it will be done.”

The first problem is that some people think that the letter comes from a government agency.  It doesn’t.

The second problem is that the renewal for most entities doesn’t cost anywhere near $145.  It’s $12.50 for most entities, and even less for partnerships ($5.00) or nonprofit corporations ($2.50).  This fee can be paid online at DCCA‘s website at the beginning of the quarter in which the business initially registered. 

Now, these first two might not be real problems because services like these can be done by legitimate  businesses.  Attorneys, for example, make money helping people navigate through the laws and regulations.  When responding to complaints lodged in other states like Oregon, these companies’ attorneys made that claim.  But that leads to the third problem with these companies.

The third problem is that these companies (at least the ones DCCA has identified in its release) are not themselves registered in Hawaii.  The law clearly says that an entity doing business in Hawaii needs to be registered with DCCA.  (See HRS section 414-431 for corporations, 425-1 for partnerships, 428-1001 for LLCs.)  It also needs to provide some basic information such as the name and address of somebody in Hawaii to whom legal paperwork can be delivered if someone in Hawaii wants to sue it.  Instead, DCCA observed that the companies appear to use a mail drop as their company address, which sounds like they don’t want people to find out where their physical location is. 

With this third problem, the odds of these companies being legitimate service businesses drop way down.  A service business that is helping consumers follow the laws shouldn’t be flagrantly breaking those same laws themselves. 

To make things worse, neither of the companies DCCA identified appears to have an active general excise tax license.  Are they trying to fly under the radar or what?

Companies like these also might be trying to make money by selling any personal information you give to them.  And, if you give them financial access data like a credit card number, you seriously need to watch out. 

They aren’t only a problem in Hawaii.  The Better Business Bureau has noted a pattern of complaints against it, operating in multiple states under assumed names.

Remember that if it looks fraudulent or questionable, it probably is.  Fraudsters and scammers tend to omit certain information to avoid being traced.  Look for these red flags before submitting any personal information or payments:

  • No physical return address—just a P.O. Box.
  • No telephone number to contact a representative.
  • A non-corporate email address (such as Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail).
  • A service fee or an upcharge for credit/debit card payments.

COVID: Communist-Originated Virus Infects Democracy

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When I first heard about the COVID-19 epidemic in China late last year, I realized how much easier it would be for China to deal with the virus than it would be for the US and other free countries. 

Lockdowns, quarantines, and forced vaccinations are easy for communist regimes, where people are compliant, individual rights are nonexistent, and government control over all aspects of life are the norm.  Public health mandates in China are little different from normal, daily mandates. People are used to being told what to do, and how to live.

Public health mandates in the US are the closest we get to being communist. Once a public health emergency is declared, civil rights are knocked-down, while everything else is locked-down. We all become statistical data, no longer individuals with a life of our own. And as the response to COVID-19 is showing, we can be told by our government to stay home, stop working, stop seeing friends and family, and stop breathing without a mask. Our kids can’t go to school. We can’t even go to the park, if it is still open, and enjoy nature. 

Private businesses have been closed and destroyed, replacing business income with government loans and handouts. Big government, and Big Tech, have become our Big Brothers. 

Our lives have been forced online to be lived over the Internet, where Big Brother can watch, listen, and record everything that is said. Our homes are on public display, and our privacy no longer exists. 

For those who are used to being private, self-directed citizens of a free country, the US is no longer recognizable. COVID-19 has given license to communism in the US. We are now all wards of the State, and must do what we are told by our pseudo-elected officials and their public health “experts”.

In communist China, you are arrested and punished for not obeying the “experts”. In the US, you now face fines and imprisonment for disobeying mask mandates, or gathering with “too many” people.

In China, those who do not obey are subjected to “re-education”. Now, in the US, we are all being re-educated into feeling guilt and shame over our past. Statues of our iconic Founding Fathers are being destroyed.  Capitalism is under attack.

Having free and fair elections is also something communists don’t get. And from the looks of things, we seem to have lost that, too, here in the US. 

In a free country, we accept responsibility for our own actions. We live by the Golden Rule, but accept that others may not. But in a communist regime, we have responsibility for one another. We live by the government rule. 

In a free country, we respond to an epidemic by taking personal precautionary measures as we see fit, and listen to the advice of the “experts” if we agree with that advice. It’s our choice. In a communist country, we are told how to respond to an epidemic by the government, and take any measures politicians and “experts” decide are for our “safety”. 

A free country requires freedom of speech and assembly to continue to exist as free. In a communist country, information is censored, and those who don’t comply are “cancelled”, just as is happening today in the US. 

Fear tactics, censorship, lockdowns, isolation, and despair are used to control the masses. We are under the gun to comply, fearful of the virus, and fearful of the government. And the government stays in our face constantly, as we are forced to wear masks, even outdoors. 

Usually, when there is a health crisis, the sick are quarantined, not the healthy. Individual liberty is lost when someone has an infectious disease and needs to be isolated for the safety of others. Now, however, we are all quarantined, even the healthy. We are not allowed to take any risks with our own lives. 

Everything we do is assumed to potentially impact others, limiting our freedom. The need to protect others from disease has become more important than our right to live our lives as we wish. We can’t even say something that someone else finds offensive. We have become our brothers’ keepers, more concerned with others than ourselves, with everything under the umbrella of social justice and equality and government control.

In a communist regime we are responsible for one another; in a democracy we are responsive to one another. 

Until COVID-19, our culture had accepted that people can spread disease. We lived with deadly flu viruses year after year without these hysterical calls for ending contagion. We accepted that life has risks, and disease is one of them. We avoided crowds during flu season, but didn’t social distance or wear masks, especially not healthy people. We even shook hands. We somehow managed to live for centuries despite the hazards of living. 

But we have changed as a nation. We now embrace policies and values that are more fitting for China than the US. We have sold our freedom, and our souls, out of fear. We are being re-educated, and our culture rebranded. The virus has infected our minds and souls more than our bodies. Our nation is sick with despair and self-pity and wants Big Brother to save us, just as it does in China. 

We  need to stop locking down our minds, our economy, and our lives. We need to breathe the sweet air of freedom again, and place our faith in some power higher than Big Brother and Big Tech. The virus may take away some unfortunate lives, but it must not continue to take away our freedoms and destroy our nation, or history will show 2019 as the year the US died of COVID.

Tale of the Tape

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When we analyze how well, or how poorly, our economy is faring in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and then try to craft appropriate corrective action, we often hear the buzzword “data-driven.” 

”Data-driven,” in general terms, means we want a strategy that is backed with some kind of data, or numbers, as opposed to being a qualitative judgment based on God knows what.

But we need to be very careful in choosing the data we rely upon.  “There are three kinds of lies:  lies, damned lies, and statistics,” the saying goes.

One way of tracking economic activity in our state is by looking at tax collections.  The good news is that the Department of Taxation publishes statistics on tax collections, and has recently launched a series of data dashboards to summarize the data it collects.  Its “Collections Portal” page reports that general fund fiscal year to date collections are $2.274 billion (through Oct. 31, 2020), down 8.0%.

Eight percent doesn’t sound too bad, does it?

But there are a couple of things to remember.  The “down 8.0%” compares fiscal year to date collections, so it’s comparing July through October 2020 with July through October 2019.  Does four months out of the year give anyone an adequate idea of economic activity?  Second, it compares only money that went into the general fund.  Lots of the money funding our government comes from elsewhere, such as federal funds and special funds.  Many of our taxes are earmarked, so the money we collect goes into special funds and isn’t counted in the comparison.  Further, as we wrote about back in May, the earmarking can and did change.  Transient accommodations tax money that was supposed to feed the counties and the Tourism Authority got rerouted to the general fund, making the general fund collections from that point forward somewhat rosier.

To try getting a little closer to what is actually happening to our economy, we looked at the General Excise Tax.  It’s imposed on all business so it should be a reasonable proxy for business activity.  Here is what actually came in the door for the past three years:

Source:  Department of Taxation, Collection Reports

The blue bars are 2020 collections.  Beginning in May or so, there is a lot of daylight between the mark hit in 2019 (orange) or 2018 (gray), and each grid line on the graph is $50 million.

We also compared the GET collections for the twelve months ending in October 2020 with the twelve months ending in October 2019.  The numbers are $3.135 billion and $3.595 billion respectively, a decline of 12.79%.  A chart comparing the trailing 12 months of collections shows that the year-to-year decline steadily increases the more pandemic months are factored in:

Source:  Department of Taxation, Collection Reports

Unsure of the data?  Check it out for yourself.  Now, does anyone think we don’t have a problem here?

Eighth Amendment Protects Us from Massive Tax Penalties

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“Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.”  So reads the Eighth Amendment, part of the Bill of Rights of the U.S. Constitution.  Many of us hearing these words think about Death Row and whether people waiting there are going to the gas chamber or the electric chair courtesy of our criminal justice system.

In a case called Timbs v. Indiana decided just last year, however, the U.S. Supreme Court made a couple of key points.  First, the Eighth Amendment also protects against excessive fines, including property forfeiture no matter what it’s called.  Second, the protection is against all governments in this country, including federal, state, and municipal governments.

Timbs was convicted in Indiana of one felony count of dealing drugs.  Indiana then moved in civil court for forfeiture of his $42,000 Land Rover because it was used in the commission of the offense, and the lower courts there thought the penalty was excessive.  “Nah,” said the Indiana Supreme Court, in effect, “the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on excessive fines doesn’t apply to the States anyway, so go ahead and take the Land Rover.”

The U.S. Supreme Court, in an opinion written by the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, disagreed.  After going back through history to the Magna Carta reviewing the prohibition on excessive fines there, the Court concluded that the Fourteenth Amendment made deeply rooted historical protections applicable to the States, and that the protection against excessive fines qualified.

Justice Ginsburg’s opinion homed in on a very good reason why, especially in the ravages of an economic disaster, we need to be wary of excessive fines.  “Even absent a political motive,” her opinion said, “fines may be employed ‘in a measure out of accord with the penal goals of retribution and deterrence, for fines are a source of revenue, while other forms of punishment cost a State money.”

Here in Hawaii, the most draconian provisions in our tax law, which we have written about before, were enacted in 2010, when our state revenues were still hurting in the aftermath of the Great Recession of 2008.  At the time, it was tough to argue against these provisions – after all, they were meant to punish scofflaws and other undesirables, so that law-abiding folks like us would not have to pick up their slack. 

But in practice, situations come up that make one wonder about whether the penalty is just too much.  Suppose, for example, we have a wholesaling company (for which the tax rate is prescribed at 0.5%) that dutifully files its monthly returns for years and pays all the taxes owed, but somehow doesn’t file its annual returns.  The purpose of the statute was to drop the hammer on businesses that tried to fly under the radar by not filing returns at all.  But the statute also says clearly that the monthly returns don’t count, so the Department re-assesses all income at 4.0% plus county surcharge, bringing the tax bill to nine times what the client has paid even before penalties and interest are added. 

Even if a judge were to think that imposing the full plate of penalties is too much in this situation, there wasn’t much in terms of case law to rely on to upend the Department’s assessment.  But, fortunately for all of us, now there is.  Not only is there the Timbs decision, but cases are popping up all over applying it.  The moral of the story is that if a taxpayer is facing a situation with excessive or ruinous penalties, there may be a way to push back.

Give your lever action rifle an RLO Custom Leather makeover

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Not long ago I unearthed my Winchester 30-30 out of the safe where it had been sitting lo these many years. I purchased it in Decatur, Georgia, where I snuck off from a family reunion and headed to a pawn shop. Yes, I was playing hooky and perusing guns. (What was the world coming to?)

And there it was, a beat up but lovable Model 94 Winchester.

Don’t ask what possessed me to buy this rifle.

Perhaps I wanted a piece of old Americana. After all this classic has seen service from the time of the Indian Wars to the WWII. 

Right out of the box you can readily see the craftsmanship that went into the sling.

Then there were the movies where it had been featured with everyone from Clint Eastwood to the Three Stooges.

How venerable can you get? 

I purchased the rifle and had it shipped to Hawaii.

At any rate, I figured it would be fun to shoot and would be a perfect pig hunting tool. Lots of wild pigs here. They were brought over by the original Polynesian voyagers and eventually inter-bred with escaped domestic piggies.

I wanted to handload for the ’94 so I got the proper dies, powder, bullets, cartridges, etc for my 550 Dillon press. Then I promptly forgot about the rifle.

More accurately, I got distracted by other shiny things.

Years passed and suffice it to say, I decided it was time to take the Model 94 to the range. So I loaded up a few plinker rounds with plated bullets. All I wanted to do was reacquaint myself with this rifle and hit a gong.

Surely if Annie Oakley could hit a quarter that someone tossed in the air, I should be able to whack a 14” diameter steel plate at 100 yards.

At the range the rifle was a blast. It’s a carbine and not all that heavy so it was quite manageable.

However, after a short time, that Model 94 started feeling mighty onerous. 

What was the problem?

Pretty simple. Unlike my “modern sporting rifles” it didn’t have a sling. 

I needed to rectify this.

There were several slings out there but they all necessitated drilling of holes. I didn’t want any of that so I kept on looking and stumbled onto RLO Custom Leather. RLO is the brainchild of a fellow named Rick Lowe who resides at the interface of firearms and leather.

The harness is secured on the buttstock by two snaps. The hardware such as the swivel is first class. A “Chicago” screw is used to adjust the strap.

His products include scabbards, knife sheaths, slings, stock covers, cheek risers and the like. He makes accessories for bolt action rifles and shotguns as well as lever guns. He has products for manufacturers ranging from CZ to Winchester.

Based in Bronson, Florida, Mr. Lowe got started making sheathes for his own custom knives. His work got attention and before you know it he was designing leather rifle accessories for the Mosin Nagant, Mauser and SKS. That in turn led him to making slings for Henry, Winchester, Marlin and other lever action rifles.

Rick’s gift to rifledom is that his slings utilize a “no-drill” design.

Instead of adulterating the stock with screws and the like, he uses a harness on the buttstock. In addition to the harness and sling strap you get hardware such as swivels, a magazine tube clamp and a hex wrench. 

After the clamp is added (see photo below) it’s easy to put the swivel end of the strap.

You can either order the product from his distributor, a company called Brass Stacker or you can go directly to creator’s workshop, RLO Custom Leather.

My RLO sling arrived in a simple white box from USPS.

Upon opening the box I knew that it was hand packed and handcrafted. There was a good feel to know that it was fabricated in someone’s shop, not some soul less factory overseas.

As a side note, this is one of the great things about the firearms industry. There’s still room for an entrepreneur with a good idea. Hence the opportunity for people like Rick Lowe.

So back to the product.

Essentially, all you need to do is place the harness over the butt stock and snap it on. There are two snaps which secure the harness. Likewise, the tube clamp is easily attached with a screw. (They provide the Allen Wrench). 

The next step is to attach the swivel by means of a spring loaded pin. Finally, adjust the (1 inch wide) strap length by means of a “Chicago” screw. There are three adjustment holes approximately 1-1/4″ apart.  I needed to add an extra hole, which was not a big deal.

The tube clamp is easily added by tightening a screw. The allenhead wrench is provided by RLO. Adding the sling takes only a few minutes.

The whole thing will take you all of 20 minutes to assemble/attach on a bad day. The sling is available in Chocolate Brown, lighter Saddle Tan and Charcoal Black. All are made from quality 5/6 ounce veg-tan leather hides.

The ergonomics of the sling were excellent and instead of wearing me out at the range, I could shoot my old lever gun all day.

So what do I like about it other than the utility?

Without getting too anthropomorphic, the RLO sling adds a kind of personality and individuality to the rifle.

At $88 it’s not going to break the bank.

Whether it’s a Winchester, Marlin, Rossi or Henry, a strap makeover will add a different dimension to your lever action rife. The sum of the parts does make for a greater whole. More importantly it makes the old 94 more user friendly.

Standardless Spending, Part 2?

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A few weeks ago, we wrote about how the State’s procurement law was suspended by Governor’s Emergency Proclamation.  We argued it meant standardless spending, and we were delighted to report last week that the issue was addressed in the most recent Emergency Proclamation. 

In a prior article and a follow-up, we followed $1.25 billion of federal money that the CARES Act set aside for Hawai’i.  We could have it if we could actually spend the money by year’s end. 

The Legislature spent much time figuring out how to allocate those funds between the agencies that wanted them and passed an appropriation bill. The Governor line-item vetoed more than $300 million of those appropriations, and then used the $300 million for the Hawai’i restaurant card program.  

Now, I don’t think the restaurant card program is a bad thing, but I do have a concern with how the money got there. The Legislature is supposed to dole out our money between competing priorities. The Governor is spending $300 million on something else. 

As for the other $500 million that the Legislature did appropriate, we are worried about standardless spending there, as the State Auditor pointed out in a recent report

As we mentioned, the federal money has strings attached. It must be spent on previously unbudgeted, COVID-19 related, expenses.  The State needed to designate a point of contact for the Federal Government so they could figure out if the conditions were being complied with.  That contact was in the Department of Budget and Finance (B&F). 

So, what kind of oversight is B&F exercising over the $800+ million in appropriated and non-appropriated money, to make sure it meets federal requirements as well as normal budgetary procedures and controls?

According to the Auditor’s report:  None. 

B&F basically told the departments, “Here’s your money.  Go spend it.”

Are we going to “spend every penny,” as the Governor promised, before year end?  And in accordance with federal requirements?

It’s going to be tough.  Already the Auditor has noticed inconsistencies in how money is being tracked.  “In our review of CRF funds [Coronavirus Relief Fund, i.e., CARES Act money] reports,” the Auditor wrote, “we found significant discrepancies in the State’s accounting of moneys allocated, encumbered, and, most importantly, expended.  This inconsistent monitoring and tracking of CRF moneys raise concerns about the State’s ability to distribute the funds in a proper and timely manner.”

Uh-oh.  It looks like we may be going down the path of standardless spending again.  That path has a much higher risk of undesirable outcomes.  If we can’t figure out how much we’ve spent, we might spend too much and thereby spend money we don’t have.  Or we might not be spending enough or for the right things, either of which could result in having to repay Uncle Sam.  To get off this path, we need coordinated tracking, and we need standards.  This is something we can’t afford to get wrong!