The Seattle City Council voted Monday night to impose a new tax on big businesses to help pay for homeless housing and services. And the furious reaction from some of the nation’s largest retailers was, well, a bit unseemly. Particularly from Amazon.
Starting next year, for-profit companies that gross at least $20 million per year in Seattle will have to pay $275 per employee per year, according to the Seattle Times. The tax will raise about $47 million annually. A recent study estimated Seattle and surrounding King County need $400 million a year to tackle homelessness.
About 3% of companies operating in the city would have to pay the tax, including Starbucks, the Seattle Times, department store chain Nordstrom, as well as tech giants Apple, Google and Facebook.
When South Korea’s news agency reported Tuesday that North Korea abruptly had canceled a high-level meeting with South Korean officials – and might be having second thoughts about a summit meeting between Kim Jong Un and President Trump – a colleague suggested that Kim was playing the part of Lucy in the old “Peanuts” comic strip. Lucy, you’ll remember, held the football for Good Ol’ Charlie Brown to kick, but, in a betrayal repeated again and again, pulled it away before he could connect.
Kim hasn’t yet yanked away the prospect of a summit that Trump has described as “highly anticipated” and which he believes both leaders will try to make “a very special moment for World Peace!” This may be the first of many stutters in a process that still might lead to a meeting next month in Singapore, perhaps even a productive one.
Still, there is a lesson for Trump in the North’s sudden change of tune, inspired by joint U.S.-South Korean air force exercises. Kim remains an unpredictable figure, and it is way too soon for Trump to boast about his succeeding where his predecessors have failed. And don’t rush to make room in the Oval Office for that Nobel Peace Prize.
The head of the Environmental Protection Agency infamously has assigned himself a 24/7 security detail because, he and the EPA explained, he received threats after taking over the agency. But the EPA’s inspector general sent a letter Monday to members of Congress stating that the EPA’s senior White House advisor put in the request before Pruitt even started the job.
The Washington Post reported Monday that the advisor, Don Benton, anticipated threats in response to expected actions by Pruitt.
Tuesday morning, as the news media kept their focus on the protests and the mounting death toll in Gaza, the president tweeted about his public image here in the United States:
Can you believe that with all of the made up, unsourced stories I get from the Fake News Media, together with the $10,000,000 Russian Witch Hunt (there is no Collusion), I now have my best Poll Numbers in a year. Much of the Media may be corrupt, but the People truly get it!
Although he might have been referring to private polls by his campaign organization, his comment is supported by the trend lines in public polls. It’s still true that more Americans disapprove of his performance than approve of it, but the gap is narrowing.
Why? You could make the argument that he’s been visibly keeping his campaign promises, such as his pledge to move the U.S. embassy in Israel from (noncontroversial) Tel Aviv to (hotly disputed) Jerusalem and to ease regulation on U.S. businesses. But that’s more likely to appeal to his political base than to the broader American majority.
White people, could you stop calling the police every time you see a black person doing something ordinary?
It used to be that white people only called the cops on young black men in hoodies walking down dark streets at night. (Still not a crime, but, in urban America, seemingly closer to a crime.) Now, we have an alarming rash of police calls on black people doing innocuous and innocent things. Or maybe this was always happening but now people have smartphones to record the incidents.
There was the white Starbucks employee who called the police on two black men sitting at a table waiting for a business associate to arrive for a meeting before they ordered. The men were arrested but never charged. (The employee no longer works there.)
At least 55 Palestinians dead in the Gaza Strip, 2,700 wounded. Is anyone surprised by this turn of events? If you are, you shouldn’t be.
It was inevitable. The peace process is moribund, and with it the hopes of the approximately 2 million people crammed into this narrow strip of land along the Mediterranean between Israel and Egypt. According to Alexandra Zavis in Monday’s Times, much of the water in Gaza today is undrinkable. Most homes get only a few hours of electricity each day. Hospitals are overwhelmed. Half the population is unemployed. Every few years there’s a new round of violence, usually involving rockets fired by militants into Israel, followed by a devastating Israeli counter-assault.
So what surprise is there that Palestinians in Gaza are without hope, fantasizing about a homeland they’ve never seen, willing to cross the border fence and face down better-armed Israeli soldiers in futile protest?
The Supreme Court on Monday refused to hear a case based on the argument that the 2nd Amendment guarantees a right to sell firearms. The case (read the petition here) was brought by three men who wanted to open a gun store in Alameda County. After the zoning board granted a conditional use permit, the county Board of Supervisors – responding to neighborhood opposition – rescinded the approval on the grounds that the proposed business violated a rule barring such facilities within 500 feet of homes, schools, other firearms shops and liquor stores.
The plaintiffs interpreted the vote as a ban on gun sales (it’s not; other gun shops already exist in the area) and they and supporters argued that the 2nd Amendment not only confers a right to own guns but to sell them. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed, and the Supreme Court’s refusal to grant a hearing leaves in place the appellate court’s decision that there is no 2nd Amendment right to sell a firearm.
The U.S. Supreme Court did more than just open the door to more wagering on pro and college games Monday when it declared unconstitutional a 26-year-old law barring states from authorizing gambling on sports. The justices took an important step to limit Washington’s power over the states and their vaunted laboratories of democracy.
But don’t get your hopes up. Although the ruling says, in essence, that the feds can’t simply tell state legislatures what to do, it doesn’t touch the federal government’s power to regulate on its own. So if Congress chooses, it may well be able to close the betting window on sports outside the few places where it’s already legal.
[Update, 12:34 p.m.: The race is on! One California lawmaker has already proposed to amend the state Constitution to allow sports betting. If two-thirds of the Assembly and the Senate agree, the measure would go to voters as soon as November. Moves like that are bound to prod anti-gambling forces to try for a federal ban ASAP.]
Elon Musk says the Boring Co. is close to finishing its first tunnel “under L.A.,” and will be offering free rides to the public in a few months.
A few months, huh? Not under the city of L.A., it won’t.
The Boring Co. is currently digging a two-mile test tunnel in and around Musk’s SpaceX company headquarters in Hawthorne. It’s the first step in a plan to build a network of tunnels under the region in which electric platforms (“skates”) could move cars and pods of people at high speeds and avoid L.A.’s notorious traffic.
President Trump unveiled his long-awaited blueprint Friday for lowering the price of prescription drugs, and it’s not bad, considering the ideological boundaries involved. This is a Republican administration, after all, so it’s not about to call for Washington to set (or even regulate) drug prices. Instead, Trump’s plan seeks to increase competition, improve insurers’ negotiating leverage with drugmakers, reduce the incentives that some doctors and hospitals have to use expensive drugs, and (this is the really interesting one) explore having federal programs pay for drugs based on their value to patients and their effectiveness.
I don’t like price controls, so I don’t fault Trump for not proposing them. But having decided to stick to the free-market pathway, Trump shouldn’t complain about other countries using price controls to their own advantage.
And yet, that’s what he did in his Rose Garden announcements. Trump characterized foreign governments’ control over drug prices and availability as a way to “extort” low prices and stick Americans with the tab for drugmakers’ costly research and development efforts. That amounted to “freeloading,” Trump said, promising to address the issue in trade talks “with every trading partner.”