Occasional comments about business and politics in Portland, Oregon, mixed in with stories from our city's colorful if not always compliant past.
"May God save the country, for it is evident that the people will not." -- Millard Fillmore
As is our custom, we celebrate Tax Day 20161 with a apposite reading from A.P. Herbert. Today's reading is an extract from his story "Rex v. Haddock: Can a Worm Turn?", written in the form of the decision of a trial court. The author's protagonist, Albert Haddock, has been accused of knowingly filing an untrue income tax return, in which he stated that he expected his gross and net income for the coming year to be "nil," and in one instance "Absolutely nil." The Chairman of the Bench of the West London Police Court sums up Haddock's first defense, which is that Haddock could not make sense of an instruction on the form, as follows:
The evidence of the accused is that in this pronouncement (which is headed NOTE AS TO THE RELIEF WHICH MAY BE CLAIMED BY TAXPAYERS) there are nearly two hundred words; that, after reading the first fifty words, he laughed heartily; that he then began again and read the whole passage through from start to finish six or seven times, first silently, then aloud, and finally singing to a chant in B minor; that after these exhaustive experiments the words still conveyed no meaning to his mind whatever; that he concluded that not even a Government Department could with serious intent have issued to the whole body of income-tax payers two hundred words entirely devoid of sense or meaning;2 that therefore his first impression was probably correct and the whole Form a base practical joke, to which he replied in the same spirit and kind.
Having myself studied the Form in question, I find this defence a good one.
The Chairman describes Haddock's fourth defense with these sprightly words:
Fourthly, [Haddock] says that, as a professional man (if writing can be called a profession), he sees no reason why any professional man should in any way assist the officers of the Crown in the collection of Revenue; that the professional man is the dog's-body of the State; that he is constantly writing to The Times newspaper or to Ministers to protest against injustices, or to point out the errors of His Majesty's Government; that no notice is taken of these protests; that he is referred to in Parliament contemptuously as a direct taxpayer, as if he were somehow immune from the payment of indirect taxes; that in fact he pays the greater part of both; that the wine-tax is monstrous,3 the whisky-tax monstrous,4 and the tobacco-tax monstrous; that he sees no reason for the present ferocious treatment of these simple indulgences, while those poisonous pleasures with which women ruin their systems, such as tea, coffee, and sweets, are classed as 'necessaries' and go almost free; that beer is as much a necessity as tea; that there should be no representation without taxation; * * * that he (Haddock) has studied carefully the items of National Expenditure, and that from that eight hundred million pounds he (Haddock) received no benefit except the agreeable spectacle of the Changing of the Guard and an occasional view of a distant battleship; that if every Government Department were to collapse in ruins at this moment he (Haddock) would not be a penny the worse; that in these circumstances he does not propose to exhaust himself by any elaborate efforts to assist the Inland Revenue Department to collect his money; * * *; that the income-tax is intolerable; and that the Income-Tax Delayers' Association are paying his expenses in this case.
Our usual jovial support of the commercial-welfare state will return tomorrow.
1I know the returns are actually due on April 18 this year, but I refuse to move Tax Day to a Monday as if it were the birthday of a President.
2 Later developments in tax law would disprove Haddock's argument.
New York, April 1 (Laquedem News Service): In a surprise move, Donald J. Trump announced today that his running mate on the Republican presidential ticket will be the late Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia.
In a press conference at the Trump Tower, Mr. Trump said: "Justice Scalia has a distinguished record of public service and an unparalleled intellect, and the gravitas to lead. He'll make history as the first man to move from the Supreme Court to the Vice Presidency, and he'll be a powerful voice for underrepresented necro-Americans." Mr. Trump went on to praise Mr. Scalia's views on abortion restrictions, voting restrictions, federalism, and the Alien and Sedition Act.
Political analysts believe that Mr. Trump's selection is coldly political, an attempt to appeal to the party's conservative base that has been lining up behind Mr. Trump's main rival, Senator Ted Cruz of Florida. In his years on the court, Mr. Scalia had become a favorite of right-wing talk-show hosts and columnists, a group of influential Republicans who are expected to enthusiastically support Mr. Trump's choice.
Unusually, the candidate took questions from reporters. One reporter pointed out that Mr. Scalia had died in February. Would he be able to do the job? "So what?" Mr. Trump replied, "The vice president doesn't have to do anything except break ties, and we're gonna keep control of the Senate, so there won't be any tie votes." Asked how the campaign would handle a deceased candidate, Mr. Trump said, "Look. Whoever the old socialist or what's-her-name picks for VP has to be out on the trail, and will say something stupid, and you press people are gonna be all over that. My running mate won't say a word. No words, no embarrassments. I don't need anyone's help to embarrass my campaign - I can do it myself."
In my delight at how the constitution's workings could result in Mitt Romney being elected president with Hillary Clinton as his vice president, I overlooked the change that the 12th amendment brought about. The 12th Amendment, adopted in Thomas Jefferson's term, was a response to the awkwardness that developed in 1796, when the electoral college put John Adams in first place and his bitter opponent Thomas Jefferson in second place, resulting in Adams becoming president and Jefferson being his ostracized vice president. The 12th amendment changed the procedure somewhat: instead of the House of Representatives selecting two of the top three finishers in the presidential race to be the president and vice president, the House selects the president (still with one vote per state) from among the top three in the presidential race, and the Senate selects the vice president from among the top two in the vice-presidential race. There's still an opportunity for constitutional mirth, but it's a little more complicated than I had described.
Let us continue to suppose that the Republican convention nominates Donald J. Trump and that he selects, say, Ted Cruz to be his running mate. (I think his best choice is Jeb Bush, but that's an analysis for another day.) The party's old guard puts together a third party and runs Mitt Romney, with (let's say) John Kasich as his running mate. The Democrats nominate Hillary Clinton, who picks Sherrod Brown, a second-term Senator from Ohio, as her running mate.
The election comes. The Clinton-Brown ticket receives the most electoral votes, but not the 270 required for election. Trump and Cruz finish second. Romney and Kasich finish third, winning a few states. The day after the November election, the candidates will know that the House will choose the president from among Secretary Clinton and Messrs. Trump and Romney, and the Senate will choose between Senators Cruz and Brown. Let's suppose that the Senate flips to the Democrats but the House remains Republican.
The nation will know that on January 3, the new House will select Mitt Romney as the president (I can't imagine the Republican majority lucidly voting for Mr. Trump), and the Senate will select Senator Brown as Mr. Romney's vice president. But wait -- the House and Senate don't select from the top finishers in the popular vote; they select from the top finishers in the electoral vote, and the electoral vote doesn't actually happen until mid-December. The important point is that the House and Senate cannot elect a dark horse candidate; they must choose from among the top three presidential candidates and the top two vice presidential candidates.
The Democratic leadership might have the interesting idea (I would in their place) to request the Democratic electors to swap their votes: to ask that in December when they meet in their state capitals to cast their votes, they should cast their Presidential votes for Senator Brown, and their Vice Presidential votes for Secretary Clinton. She will now be one of the top two finishers in the Veepstakes, and the Democratic Senate will elect her over Senator Cruz.
Ladies and gentlemen: I again give you Hillary Rodham Clinton, the first woman vice president of the United States.
In the aftermath of the candidates' March 3 Detroit donnybrook debate, Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus called for the party to implement an affirmative action plan. "We started the race with 15 presidential candidates," Priebus said, "including governors, senators, two businesspeople, and a professional. We even had a black dude and some womenfolk -- okay, one woman -- in the race. But an important segment of the party is woefully underrepresented. Only six adults started, and we're now down to just one, or two if Dr. Carson is still running." Priebus observed that historically adult-minded voters had provided all of the GOP's funding and nearly 2/3 of its voting support. "People want to vote for people who look and act like they do," Priebus said, "but we've got only one candidate catering to the emotionally mature. We're kicking butt in the 5-10 segment, but high approval ratings from preschoolers won't translate into votes until 2032, when Chelsea Clinton leaves office. We can't wait 16 years to bring the grownup demographic back under the big tent." Priebus said the RNC would announce its affirmative action plan by April 1.
Priebus also announced that in the remaining Republican debates, the candidates will have to keep their hands in their pockets.
Senator Mitch McConnellproposes that, since President Obama has less than a year to serve, he should not fill Antonin Scalia's seat on the Supreme Court, but should leave it to his successor to nominate the new justice so that the will of the people can be heard. There's an alternate solution that Senator McConnell should heartily endorse, which is to move next year's inauguration from January 20 back to March 4 (the traditional date), which will make the President's remaining term longer than one year. In the alternative Mr. McConnell should propose to repeal the 22nd Amendment (the "No more Roosevelts" amendment that limited presidents to two terms) so that the voters can show whether they're willing to give Mr. Obama a third term. Problem solved!
One delightful, unintentional irony of the Republican debate on Saturday was that in between the candidates' jousting about the influence of money on politics, the commercials were all for Presidents' Day sales. None of the Temples of Commerce offered to sell me an entire candidate, however.
Many Oregon cities have a municipal court, a court in which small offenses are tried to a judge or jury of six. (Portland gave up its municipal court in 1971.) Some municipal courts are courts of record (meaning that they must record their proceedings and comply with some other state requirements), with lawyers as judges; others are not courts of record and can engage any responsible adult to be the judge. Cities that choose to have a municipal court adopt ordinances to establish the court and set down the rules.
Gearhart, that placid coastal village, has a municipal court with an interesting twist that I can't imagine the city fathers and mothers intended when they wrote their code. If you should appear before the municipal court and ask for a jury trial, the city fines the judge $30. It's true! Here's the code section, or check the PDF of the code for yourself (page 53):
§ 32.43 COURT COSTS.
In all cases tried before a jury in the Municipal Court, the Municipal Judge shall add the costs and disbursements of the trial and be fined a sum not exceeding $30.
If the government is going to let people bring food to the Bundy band while it occupies the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, it should allow in only meals that comply with federal guidelines. I'd like to imagine the occupiers eagerly opening the boxes that their supporters bring, only to discover that each package has a sticker that says "Approved by Michelle Obama." Would they eat them? Would they starve? It would be fun to find out.