George Santos and Al Sharpton: Two Peas In a Pod?

Maybe there’s a way back for the lyin’, cheatin’ opportunist, George Santos. 

The embattled Congressman should look for inspiration to Al Sharpton, who gave the eulogy at the funeral for Tyre Nichols.

Sharpton is the poster child for redemption, at least in liberal Democratic circles. His prominence is illustrated by the NY Times’ decision to have his picture featured with its Wednesday, Feb. 2 “Today’s Headlines” story on the funeral, Memphis Gathers in Grief at Tyre Nichols’s Funeral.

Sharpton’s infamous rise in public notoriety has been well documented. As NPR put it in 2014, “Sharpton built a career as an incendiary racial avenger who for decades was drawn to interracial controversies as if they had some irresistible gravitational force.”

Still, he has recovered as an ally of liberals, even securing a political alliance with former president Barack Obama.

President Obama stood with the Rev. Al Sharpton at Sharpton’s National Action Network conference in April 2014 (Frank Franklin II/AP)

A 1987-1988 case that drew national attention revolved around Sharpton’s involvement with 15-year-old Tawana Brawley. A Black woman from New York, Brawley accused six white men of raping her and leaving her in a garbage bag smeared with and covered with racist words written in charcoal.

Sharpton accused government officials of trying to cover up for the rapists because they were white and led the way in spurring a national uproar over the case.

He was later rebuked and fined after a grand jury concluded that Brawley had not been the victim of a forcible sexual assault and that she may herself have created the appearance of an attack.

In 1991, Sharpton stirred up black fury in the Crown Heights area of Brooklyn, NY when a Jewish driver hit and killed a black boy, Gavin Cato, with his car.

At the boy’s funeral, Sharpton vilified Jewish “diamond merchants” who killed black children in Brooklyn.

Days of anti-Semitic riots culminated in the murder of Yankel Rosenbaum, an Australian Jew who had nothing to do with the incident, being stabbed to death in the midst of a mob of about 30.

The New York Post reported that after the driver of the car was cleared of charges and left for Israel, Sharpton flew to Tel Aviv to slap the driver with a civil suit. When a passer-by at Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport recognized Sharpton, she shouted, “Go to hell!”
“I am in hell already,” Sharpton replied. “I am in Israel.”

In December 1995, during a Harlem protest stirred up by Sharpton, a black man entered Freddy’s Fashion Mart, a Jewish-owned clothing store, took out a gun, ordered the black customers to leave and set a fire that killed himself and eight other people.

Sharpton was accused of having spurred the devastation by delivering and facilitating incendiary racist and anti-Semitic comments on black radio stations and at the protest.

In Sept. 2013, the New York Post reported that Robert F. Kennedy Jr. had written in a previously secret diary, “Al Sharpton has done more damage to the black cause than [segregationist Alabama Gov.] George Wallace. He has suffocated the decent black leaders in New York. His transparent venal blackmail and extortion schemes taint all black leadership.”

The Democratic Party, while jumping at every opportunity to lambaste George Santos for his cavalcade of lies, continues to embrace Sharpton. President Joe Biden has even solicited Sharpton’s advice and met with him in the White House.

Like Nadia Vulvokov in the Netflix series Russian Doll, I expect Sharpton will continue to show up repeatedly at Democratic Party venues.

So, hey, in politics anything is possible. If he plays it smart, George Santos may enjoy a similar resurrection with the Republican Party. He could even run for president.

Fess Up, New York Times. You Didn’t Break the George Santos Story

Read almost any story about the fraud perpetrated by a lying George Santos before his election to the House of Representatives from New York’s 3rd congressional district and you will see the blockbuster news attributed to the New York Times (NYT).

Certainly, the NYT made no effort to disabuse readers of that presumption. 

In its Dec. 19, 2022 blockbuster story exposing Santos’ lies, “Who Is Rep.-Elect George Santos? His Résumé May Be Largely Fiction”, the paper attributed its discoveries to “…a New York Times review of public documents and court filings from the United States and Brazil, as well as various attempts to verify claims that Mr. Santos, 34, made on the campaign trail,…”

In a print introduction to a Jan. 5, 2023 podcast on the story, the NYT repeated this claim. “George Santos, the Republican representative-elect from New York, ran for office and won his seat in part on an inspiring personal story. But when Times reporters started looking into his background, they made some astonishing revelations: Almost all of Mr. Santos’s story was fake.”

But it wasn’t the NYT that broke the fraudster’s story. 

It was the North Shore Leader, a local Long Island weekly newspaper with a circulation of about 20,000. And the North Shore leader exposed Santos well before the November election.

The leader has now raised the issue in a story titled “The Leader Told You So: US Rep-Elect George Santos is a Fraud – and Wanted Criminal”.

“In a story first broken by the North Shore Leader over four months ago, the national media has suddenly discovered that US Congressman-elect George Santos (R-Queens / Nassau) – dubbed “George Scam-tos” by many local political observers – is a deepfake liar who has falsified his background, assets, and contacts,” the story says.

Either the NYT failed to give credit where credit was due or the mighty publication utterly failed to check reporting done by a tiny local paper less than a 1-hour drive from the NYT Building on W. 41st St. in Midtown Manhattan.

By the way:

Neither the North Shore Leader nor the NYT newspapers have reported on another interesting journalistic matter tied to Santos. The NYT did report that Santos once told associates he was (in the NYT’s words) “a journalist at a famous news organization in Brazil,” but didn’t go deeper. According to ta Jan. 10, 2022 report by the Columbia Journalism Review (CJR), Gregory Morey-Parker, who briefly lived with Santos in New York eight or so years ago, told CJR’s Jon Allsop that Santos claimed to have been working at the time for Globo, the Brazilian media behemoth, as a reporter covering human-interest stories out of the US.

According to Morey-Parker, Santos also claimed to be an executive at Globo. When Allsop put this to Ali Kamel, the director-general of journalism at Globo, he described it as “a crazy story” and “a lie, pure and simple.” (Santos’s office did not return a request from Allsop for comment)

Mark-to-Market: A Terrible Idea from the Oregon Center for Public Policy

The liberal Oregon Center for Public Policy (OCPP), in its never-ending quest to soak the well-off, is advocating a big change in how capital gains are taxed. 

The problem is the idea is misguided, unworkable and would hit Oregon’s middle class as well.

And if If you think the federal tax code is complex and labyrinthine now, you ain’t seen nothin yet if mark-to-market is put in place.

In the name of addressing income inequality, OCPP is proposing that capital gains on assets be paid annually rather than when the assets are sold, as under current law. In other words, if the value of your assets such as stocks, bonds, real estate, a business, or even a work of art. goes up, you would owe taxes on the increase, even if you didn’t sell anything. The proposed approach is called “mark-to-market”.

“Oregon currently has several tax breaks favoring capital gains income that collectively cost the state more than $1 billion per budget period,” the OCPP says in a just posted issue brief. “Lawmakers should reject any proposal to further cut taxes on capital gains income and reign in tax breaks that benefit capital gains income.”

The current system “allows the wealthy to amass vast fortunes,” OCPP argues. “Because such assets are highly concentrated in the hands of the rich, the income produced by the sale of those assets flow to the top,” the issue brief says. 

One major problem with the mark-to-market proposal is that, despite OCPP’s attempt to position it as a tax-the-rich idea, it would affect all investors.

OCPP’s proposal would also be a nightmare to implement, particularly because it would require taxpayers to value assets annually. 

Changes in stock prices of publicly traded companies are usually easy to determine. Figuring the changing value of many other assets can be a lot tougher.

“Ownership of private businesses, artwork…and other luxuries, among other assets, are difficult to appraise,” according to the National Taxpayers Union Foundation. “These assets may have limited markets for them, or no markets at all, making valuation a guessing game. In such a scenario, naturally the incentive for a taxpayer will be to minimize the value of such assets while the incentive for revenue officials will be to maximize the value, setting up a highly-adversarial relationship that could lead to administrative difficulties from lack of independently-verifiable comparisons.”

OCPP’s proposal could also artificially drive down market prices. Savvy stock market investors, knowing their taxes will be impacted by their portfolio’s value at the end of each year, will be inclined to sell assets, driving down stock prices to minimize tax liability. 

In an October 28, 2021 paper, the Congressional Research Service said another concern about mark-to-market is liquidity. Some high-income individuals may have no problem coming up with the necessary cash. Others, particularly middle-income taxpayers, might have a hard time doing so. 

As S-Corporation Association of America put it, “…unrealized gains are not income.  You can’t spend them.  If you could, they’d be realized gains.  And while the (Washington) Post and other observers are fond of talking up the ability of billionaires to borrow, most S corporation owners don’t have unlimited borrowing capacity.  Depending on how leveraged their business is, they might have no capacity at all.”

Or as the National Taxpayers Union Foundation has opined, “Just because an investor’s underlying assets appreciate in a given year does not mean that the investor has sufficient cash to pay any tax liability.”

In short, OCPP’s mark-to-market proposal is a half-baked idea. It deserves a quick demise.

ADDENDUM:

On Jan. 17, 2023, the Washington Post reported that a group of legislators in statehouses across the country has coordinated to introduce bills simultaneously in seven states later this week, with the same goal of raising taxes on the rich.

“The point here is to make sure we do at the state level what is not being done at the federal level,” said Gustavo Rivera (D), a New York state senator who is part of the seven-state group.

The state legislators said they would like to try such ideas as a test case for future national policy while acting collectively to minimize the threat of people moving to a nearby lower-tax state. Sponsors told The Washington Post that they will introduce their bills on Thursday, January 19, in California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, New York and Washington.,

Skeptics of wealth taxes say the idea might be even worse on a state level than a national level, since the rich can easily move to another state, the Post reported.

“High net-worth individuals are fairly mobile, and it is much easier to change residency to another state than it is to leave the country,” said Jared Walczak, who works on state tax policy at the right-leaning Tax Foundation.

In addition, he says, assessing the value of a person’s wealth would be challenging for state bureaucrats and sometimes lead to unfair results, as in the case of Silicon Valley founders, whose companies may have huge valuations on paper that are hard to assess or tax in a straightforward way.

“Just because a company might sell for hundreds of millions of dollars in the future doesn’t mean that its current owners have any significant wealth,” Walczak said. The on-paper net worth of billionaires fluctuates drastically as companies’ stock prices or valuations rise and fall, making it hard to figure out how much they should pay if taxed on that wealth, he added.

In four states, lawmakers say they will float versions of a tax on wealthy people’s holdings, or so-called “mark-to-market” taxes on their unrealized capital gains. But other states will pitch more conventional tax proposals.

Memo to the Oregon Democratic Party: Do The Right Thing; Give the Money Back

The cryptocurrency firm FTX has begun an effort to claw back payments made by its former management to politicians. FTX filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the U.S. on Nov. 11, 2022. John J. Ray replaced Sam Bankman-Fried as FTX’s CEO.

The Oregonian has reported that a $500,000 contribution to the Democratic Party of Oregon PAC came from Nishad Singh, director of engineering at FTX.

FTX “intends to commence actions before the bankruptcy court to require the return of such payments, with interest accruing from the date any action is commenced”, the company said on Dec. 19, 2022, sharing an email address – FTXrepay@ftx.us – that recipients could use to voluntarily return money.

“Recipients are cautioned that making a payment or donation to a third party (including a charity) in the amount of any payment received from a FTX contributor does not prevent the FTX debtors from seeking recovery from the recipient or any subsequent transferee,” FTX added in a statement.

FTX.US made contributions totaling $21,882,932 in the 2022 election cycle, with 81.44% of that going to Democrats. 

The Oregon Democratic Party hasn’t yet said what but will do so with Singh’s contribution. As of Jan. 5, 2023, the PAC had a cash balance of $333,139, according to the Oregon Secretary of State. That is down substantially from the $691,532 it had on hand as of Nov. 28, 2022, according to OpenSecrets.org.

My advice to the party. Take the high road. Don’t stall in hopes the public and the media will tire of the whole FTX affair. Repay the money. It’s the honorable thing to do.

George Santos: It Takes a Con Man to Know a Con Man

George Anthony Devolder-Santos

A review of the campaign finance records of Republican George Anthony Devolder-Santos, the beleaguered winner of New York’s 2022 3rd Congressional District race, reveals that his biggest single contributor was FTX.US, part of FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried’s collapsed crypto empire.

According to OpenSecrets.org,  a nonprofit that tracks data on campaign finance and lobbying, the employees and owners of FTX.US contributed a total of $29,000 to Santos’ campaign. 

FTX halted withdrawals in November and filed for bankruptcy after customers rushed to pull their holdings from the cryptocurrency exchange.

FTX.US made contributions totaling $21,882,932 in the 2022 election cycle, with 81.44% of that going to Democrats. 

The Oregonian has reported that a $500,000 contribution to the Democratic Party of Oregon PAC came from Nishad Singh, director of engineering at FTX. Pressure is building for recipients of contributions from FTX-affiliated donors to return the money. The Oregon Democratic Party hasn’t yet said it will do so. The PAC had $691,532 cash on hand as of Nov. 28, 2022, according to OpenSecrets.org.

FTX has started trying to claw back payments made by its former management to politicians, The Guardian reported on Dec. 22, 2022. 

FTX “intends to commence actions before the bankruptcy court to require the return of such payments, with interest accruing from the date any action is commenced”, the company said, sharing an email address – FTXrepay@ftx.us – that recipients could use to voluntarily return money.

“Recipients are cautioned that making a payment or donation to a third party (including a charity) in the amount of any payment received from a FTX contributor does not prevent the FTX debtors from seeking recovery from the recipient or any subsequent transferee,” FTX added in a statement.

Given the current scandal over Santos’ lying about his personal, academic and professional background, it’s surprising that another significant contributor to his campaign was PACS and individuals associated with prominent companies that apparently didn’t look into Santos’ background.

This includes Fisher Investments, Forman Capital Investments and Majority Committee PACa Leadership PAC associated with Rep. Kevin McCarthy, (R-CA), who now wants Santos’ vote to become Speaker of the House. 

Liar-elect Santos also raised a substantial portion of his $2,933,614.16 in contributions reported to the Federal Election Commission (FEC) from out-of-district and out-of-state sources, including Patriots Always Triumph, a Leadership PAC affiliated with Rep. Patrick Fallon (R-Texas).

Fortunately, it looks like most Oregonians showed some good sense. Only three people in Oregon contributed a total of $240 to Santos, according to the FEC. 

Whew! We don’t own this one.

So Much for “Made in Oregon”

Love Oregon and want to celebrate it this holiday season with a gift made here? Go to a “Made in Oregon” store, right? 

“We are proud to offer the highest quality products made by Oregon vendors since 1975,” the retailer proudly proclaims.

On its website, the company points proudly to how it opened its  first store at Portland International Airport in 1975 and has since  “…built a reputation as a purveyor of high-quality, local products made, designed, or grown in Oregon.”

But “made, designed, or grown in Oregon” leaves a lot of wiggle room and the company takes advantage, allowing companies with limited Oregon connections to sell their products at the Made in Oregon stores. It’s the word “designed” in Oregon that opens the door wide enough to drive a truck through, enabling “localwashing” to prosper.

Puffin Drinkwear, for example, sells quirky insulated beverage covers in the form of jackets , vests, parkas, sweaters and even mini-sleeping bags designed to keep 12 ounce cans and bottles cold or hot.

The Lumberjack from Puffin Drinkwear

The Bend-based company highlights its Bend, OR roots and has gotten a lot of media attention. The Colorado Sun, a widely read digital news outlet in Colorado, recently highlighted the company’s products because of its Bend ties. Uncommon Goods  pitches Puffin products as “CREATED IN OREGON BY Tyrone Haze, born and raised in the Pacific Northwest.”

But claiming they are “Made in Oregon” is a stretch. 

The FAQS section of its website says, “We work with a variety of manufacturers across the globe. We’ve thoroughly vetted each one to be ethical and good brand partners.”

I checked out the tags on Puffin Drinkwear products at the Washington Square mall’s Made in Oregon store and found they were “Designed in Bend” but “Made in” lots of other places, including China, Cambodia and Vietnam. None of the products on the shelves said they were “Made in America” or “Made in Oregon”.

A close look at multiple other products in the Made in Oregon store revealed the same deceit.

Take the Sasquatch-like plush bigfoot product made by Wishpets LLC of Beaverton, a “Leading designer and manufacturer of plush toys.” The bigfoot tag said “Product of China”. Elisa Martinez, a Marketing & Sales Assistant for Nature Planet | Wishpets®, said all of Wishpets’ products are made in China.

Plush bear from Wishpets

Other products on display that were clearly manufactured in other countries included a “Welcome to Oregon” bear also “Made in China”

and dozens of Hydro Flask bottles which, like Puffin Drinkwear, highlight that they are “Designed in Bend, Oregon”. The company’s website reinforces the message: “Our HQ is literally nestled into a Pacific Northwest wonderland– Bend, Oregon. We’re ridiculously lucky to have always been surrounded by mountains, rivers and lakes. It’s in our DNA.”

The website neglects to mention that Hydro Flask products are manufactured in China.

Then there were the organic cotton socks on display from “Replant Pairs”.

The socks are a product of Tabbisocks, which doesn’t even bother to say the socks are designed in Oregon. “Tabbisocks weaves Japanese craftsmanship from the East with big personality from the West,” it says. “Each sock is made with love in Nara ((Japan), a city steeped in tradition and advanced sock culture.” 

Displayed on the apparel racks were Oregon-focused t-shirts by Graphletics. The company’s website says it was founded by Rick Gilbert in his garage in NW Portland in 2013 and has grown into a brand that’s sold across the U.S. and internationally. Its flagship retail location in SE Portland was even recently written up in the New York Times as one of five places to visit as “Sellwood-Moreland has become easier to reach, the working-class enclave has drawn creative entrepreneurs and a young, hip crowd.”

Sure, the store has an Oregon vibe, but its t-shirt at Made in Oregon was “Made in Nicaragua”.

Come on Made in Oregon. You can do better.

Lake Oswego’s Short Term Rental Rules Are Widely Ignored; Are Other Cities in the Same Boat?

Any scofflaws in upscale Lake Oswego?

Widespread abuse of Lake Oswego, Oregon’s short-term rentals program proves the point.

In 2019, Lake Oswego tried to get a handle on controversial short-term rentals (STRs) by enacting Ordinance 2815. The ordinance allows STRs (rentals of less than 31 days) of certain residential properties.

Residents who want to operate a STR are required to obtain a business license from the city and pay an $80 annual fee. They’re also required to see to it that the city is paid Transient Lodging Taxes equal to 6% of taxable income from the STR. The tax revenue is used for the promotion and development of tourism and visitor programs for Lake Oswego.

Sounds pretty simple. If you own a property being used for STRs, you need to get a business license and pay taxes on your revenue. But a review of city data on STR business licenses and prominent STR websites shows a lot of people are ignoring the ordinance. 

According to information obtained from the city in response to a public records request, there were 42 active STR business licenses as of Dec. 1, 2022. However, a review of just two high use STR websites, Airbnb and VRBO, turned up 75 STRs with Lake Oswego addresses. 

Separately, AirDNA, a STR marketing firm, reported that as of Dec. 8, 2022 there were 90 active STRs in Lake Oswego, with 88% being entire home rentals and 12% private rooms.

Of the 90 STR’s counted by AirDNA, 96% had internet access and 8% had pools. Although some Lake Oswego properties are quite expensive, the average daily rate is just $170, generating average revenue per property of $2,682 during Jan -July 2022. The highest average monthly revenue was $3,333 in July 2022. 

Of the 90 STRs, 69% were listed on Airbnb, 17% on VRBO and 14% on both. 

The Lake Oswego STRs that pop up include everything from a $75-a-night cottage and $47-a-night private room to a “Modern, kid-friendly, walkable” $405-a-night 3-bedroom home and a $1467-a-night massive luxurious estate with 8 bedrooms and a pool. 

It’s not possible to identify the addresses of all the properties without trying to book them one by one. Website maps, reveal, however, that they are spread all over Lake Oswego. 

Clearly, a lot of people in Lake Oswego are cheating, diminishing themselves, feeding a culture of dishonesty and disrespecting their neighbors.

If a STR is found to be in violation of City Code, the City may suspend or revoke its business license, if it has one. The property owner may also be cited and have to pay a fine or appear in Municipal Court.

It’s time for city government to lay down the law.

Oregon’s Lane County Considering Name Change. Why Stop There?

Some folks in Lane County, Oregon want to rename the county because, as the Eugene Register-Guard newspaper put it, Joseph Lane’s “…pro-slavery sentiments and actions against Native Americans don’t align with today’s values.”

Joseph Lane

Joseph Lane, the county’s namesake, was Oregon’s first territorial governor. According to the Register-Guard, he owned at least one slave, a Native American boy, held an “apprenticeship…often recognized as a legalized form of slavery,” over a young man after slavery became illegal, and led actions of violence against Native Americans.

While the re-namers are at it, why not go a whole hog, do a thorough statewide house cleaning? After all, a lot of Oregon’s county names are problematic.

BENTON COUNTY

Thomas Hart Benton, Benton County’s namesake, owned slaves on a 40,000-acre holding where he had a plantation near Nashville, TN. A strong believer in America’s Manifest Destiny, he was also a staunch advocate of the disenfranchisement and displacement of Native Americans in favor of European settlers.

Let’s rename Benton County.

CROOK COUNTY

George R. Crook is Crook County’s namesake. As a member of the U.S. military fought against several Native American tribes in the west, including in Oregon. After the Civil War,he successfully campaigned against the Snake Indians in the 1864-68 Snake War and the Paiute in Eastern Oregon near the eastern edge of Steen’s Mountain.

Let’s rename Crook County.

CURRY COUNTY

George L. Curry, Curry County’s namesake, was the last governor of the Oregon Territory. During the Yakima War against Native Americans, in 1855, Governor Curry raised a force of 2,500 volunteers and led them into battle in support of federal troops.  

Oregon prepared for statehood under Governor Curry, approving a state constitution in 1857 that prohibited new in-migration of African Americans and made illegal their ownership of real estate. Although enabling legislation was never passed and the clause was voided by the 14th and 15th Amendments passed after the Civil War, the ban remained a part of Oregon’s constitution until it was repealed in 1927.

Let’s rename Curry County.

DOUGLAS COUNTY

U.S. Senator Stephen A. Douglas, Douglas County’s namesake, was the foremost advocate of the view that each territory in the United States should be allowed to determine whether to permit slavery within its borders. He was one of four Northern Democrats in the House of Representatives to vote against the Wilmot Proviso that would have banned slavery in any territory acquired from Mexico.

After marrying Martha Martin in March 1847, her father bequeathed her a 2,500-acre cotton plantation with 100 slaves in Missippi. Douglas hired a manager to operate the plantation while using his allocated 20 percent of the income to advance his political career. 

Let’s rename Douglas County.

GILLIAM COUNTY

Colonel Cornelius Gilliam, the namesake of Gilliam County, fought against Native Americans in 1832 during the Black Hawk War in the Midwest and in the Seminole Wars in Florida in 1837.  He led volunteer forces in the Cayuse Indian War in 1847 and as colonel of a regiment of volunteers he fought the Walla Walla and Palouse near the Touchet River in the Walla Walla Valley, He was also instrumental in military operations to expel the Mormon colony from Missouri.

Let’s rename Gilliam County.

HARNEY COUNTY

Major General William S. Harney, namesake of Harney County, was commander of the U.S. Army’s Department of Oregon. In 1832, he fought in the Black Hawk War against the Saukj and Fox tribes, which quelled the last Indian resistance to white settlement in the region around Chicago. 

During 1835-42, he fought Native Americans in Florida’s Second Seminole War. At the Battle of Ash Hollow in western Nebraska, soldiers under his command indiscriminately killed Brulé Lakota men, women, and children, earning him the sobriquet, The Butcher. According to the Oregon Encyclopedia, Harney was “A brash, opportunistic cavalry officer with an explosive temper and a vindictive predilection for conflict with Indians,” who at one point bludgeoned to death a family female house slave.

Let’s rename Harney County.

JACKSON COUNTY

President Andrew Jackson, namesake of Jackson County, owned a Tennessee plantation, the Hermitage, where he owned slaves.  Over his lifetime, he owned a total of 300 slaves and at his death in 1845, he had over 150.

He led troops during the Red Stick War of 1813–1814, leading to The subsequent Treaty of Fort Jackson which required the Creek  tribe to surrender vast tracts of present-day Alabama and Georgia. He also commanded U.S. forces in the First Seminole War against Native Americans, which led to the U.S. annexation of Florida. In 1830, he signed the Indian Removal Act, which forced tens of thousands of Native Americans from their ancestral homelands east of the Mississippi and resulted in thousands of deaths.

Let’s rename Jackson County.

JEFFERSON COUNTY

Jefferson County was named for Mount Jefferson, which was named for President Thomas Jefferson by Lewis and Clark on their westward expedition. Jefferson owned more than 600 slaves during his life. The slaves he owned at the time of his death were sold to pay the debts of his estate.

As US Secretary of State, Jefferson issued in 1795, with President Washington’s authorization, $40,000 in emergency relief and 1,000 weapons to French slave owners in Saint-Dominque (Modern day Haiti) in order to suppress a slave rebellion. When elected president, Jefferson brought slaves from Monticello to work at the White House.

Let’s rename Jefferson County (and Mount Jefferson while we’re at it). 

JOSEPHINE COUNTY

Virginia “Josephine” Rollins is the namesake of Josephine County. Her claim to fame was that she was the first white woman to live in the area. That alone might be considered racist enough to justify renaming Josephine County.

Let’s rename Josephine County.

LINN COUNTY

U.S. Senator Lewis F. Linn of Missouri is the namesake for Linn County. He was honored as an early champion of the Donation Land Claim Act of 1850. The Act spurred a huge migration into Oregon Territory by offering qualifying citizens free land just to white male citizens 18 years of age or older who resided on property on or before December 1, 1850. Members of Native tribes were not U.S. citizens and therefore could not own land under the law.

“The DLCA was the only federal land-distribution act in U.S. history that specifically limited land grants by race, essentially creating an affirmative action program for White people,” Kenneth R. Coleman wrote in the Oregon Historical Quarterly. “Perhaps most decisively, the issuance of free land resulted in a massive economic head start for White cultivators and initiated a long-standing pattern in which access to real estate became an instrument of White supremacy and social control.”

Let’s rename Linn County.

POLK COUNTY

President James K. Polk, Polk County’s namesake, was a property owner who used slave labor. He owned a plantation in Mississippi and even increased his slave ownership during his presidency. 

Polk inherited 20 slaves from his father and in 1831 became an absentee cotton planter, sending enslaved people to clear plantation  land that his father had left him near Somerville, Tennessee. Four years later Polk sold his Somerville plantation and, together with his brother-in-law, bought 920 acres of land, a cotton plantation near Coffeeville, Mississippi and transferred slaves there. He purchased more slaves in subsequent years. In an era when the presidential salary was expected to cover wages for the White House servants, as president  Polk replaced them with enslaved people from his home in Tennessee.

Let’s rename Polk County.

SHERMAN COUNTY

William Tecumseh Sherman, Sherman County’s namesake, was a Union hero in the Civil war, but far from an abolitionist. “For one thing, Sherman was a white supremacist,” novelist Thom Bassett wrote in the New York Times in an opinion piece about Sherman’s Southern Sympathies. “All the congresses on earth can’t make the negro anything else than what he is; he must be subject to the white man,” Sherman wrote his wife in 1860. “Two such races cannot live in harmony save as master and slave.”

History had forced the institution of slavery on the South, Sherman thought, and its continued prosperity depended on embracing it, Bassett wrote. “Theoretical notions of humanity and religion cannot shake the commercial fact that their labor is of great value and cannot be dispensed with.” 

Let’s rename Sherman County.

WASHINGTON COUNTY

And let’s not forget Washington County.

President George Washington was the namesake for Washington County.

One of the original four counties of the Provisional Government in Oregon and first called Twality, the county was renamed in 1849 in honor of the president.

Washington’s Virginia estate, Mount Vernon, was home to hundreds of enslaved men, women, and children, on who’s labor he depended to build and maintain his household and plantation. Over the course of his life, at least 577 enslaved people lived and worked at Mount Vernon. At his death,  Mount Vernon’s enslaved population totaled 317 people. In his will, he ordered that his slaves be freed at his wife’s death, but that request applied to fewer than half of the people in bondage at Mount Vernon. Those owned by his wife’s estate were inherited by Martha Washington’s grandchildren after her death.

According to the Mount Vernon plantation’s current website, “After the Revolution, George Washington repeatedly voiced opposition to slavery in personal correspondence. He privately noted his support for a gradual, legislative end to slavery, but as a public figure, he did not make abolition a cause. “

Time to change the name of Washington County, too, don’t you think?

Branding Run Amok

Once upon a time, not that long ago, a logo was intentionally small, noticeable but understated, signifying membership in a privileged class.  Tennis great René Lacoste’s crocodile logo was once such a mark, eventually seen on polo shirts at every exclusive tennis club. 

What was once discreet has now become loud and odious, announcing the wearer like a human corporate billboard, little more than an emissary for a brand. 

A $5,350 Balenciaga logo-print sequin high-neck dress is a blatant illustration of the trend, 

But as they say, there’s more than one way to skin a cat. Now branding has infiltrated journalism.

A Nov. 24, 2022 New York Times story by Cara Schacter about Evan Mock, described as a “Gossip Girl star” and “party-circuit fixture,” illustrates the trend.

  Evan Mock     Source: New York Times

 A single paragraph managed to highlight six brands, singer-songwriter Frank Ocean and Celebrity Stylist Donté McGuine:

“A king of the “collab,” he has worked with brands including the Danish jewelry manufacturer Pandora and the Italian footwear designer Giuseppe Zanotti. He has modeled for designers including Paco Rabanne and Virgil Abloh. His skateboarding prowess has landed him a hefty sponsorship from Hurley and an elusive spot on the Instagram grid of Frank Ocean. A few months ago, he started a fashion line, Wahine, with the stylist Donté McGuine.”

The 1,815-word story went on to reference Mock’s order at “Madhufalla Organic Juice and Smoothie Bar on Mulberry Street”, a swig of coconut water he took from “a Tetra Pak”, his “North Face x Paraboot shoes” that are unavailable on “streetwear website Hypebeast”, the “Louis Vuitton purse” on the kitchen counter of his apartment , the “Rimowa suitcase “ in his livingroom, the “Rimowa cross-body messenger bag” he dons when skateboarding through Manhattan, what looked like a ”McDonald’s Happy Meal box” that turned out to be “a box of Cactus Plant Flea Market x McDonald’s collectibles from the streetwear label’s limited-run release” you can find on “eBay”, the mileage Mock has put on his “VanMoof e-bike”, the “vintage dark gray Number Nine T-shirt” “boxy Wahine zip-up hoodie”  “dark-wash Palace jeans” “Ambush edition Nike Air Adjust Force sneakers”, “Palace hat “and “Isabel Marant sunglasses” he put on.

Near an “REI store” he passed by a “Calvin Klein billboard”, watched a skateboarder wipe out in front of the bistro “Jack’s Wife Freda”, rode with a friend on “Citi Bikes”, pulled over to hug his brand-deal agent, Jenelle Phillip, who was outdoor-dining at “Cafe Mogador” and eventually reached the “Ace Bar on East Fifth Street”.

There’s no question we have entered an age of incessant brand promotion and awareness.

“In a marketing culture that assaults our senses without mercy, there’s no such a thing as a brand-free interaction,” writes Micah Bowers. “We’re bobbing in the waters of an endless brand ocean.”

All this reminds me of advice a public relations professional gave me when I took a job as Communications Manager at a major technology company. “Whenever you watch a TV news segment, ask yourself how that story got there. Most of the time a talented PR professional pitched it,” he said.

The fact is, as documentary filmmaker Morgan Spurlock has noted, “From the minute you wake up, wherever you go, someone is marketing to you.” The intrusion of brands into our everyday lives is so pervasive we are hardly aware of what’s going on.

Fast Company outlined how content businesses accept all kinds of marketing deals to ensure products reach us. “Novelists make deals for product placement (also known as “embedded marketing) within their hallowed pages,” the publication said. Rock stars routinely license songs for commercials and create tunes commissioned by brands. And while product placement has been a fact of life in Hollywood since the era of silent films, it’s now a major revenue generator for movies…”

The most popular and thrilling car chase in cinema history was a nine-minute, 42-second thrill ride through San Francisco by Steve McQueen in Bullitt. It was also a prime marketing tool paid for by Ford for its Mustang.

https://bit.ly/3H5w4yJ

And then, of course, there was the brilliant placement of Reese’s Pieces in E.T., used by Elliott in the film to lure the alien out of hiding. Hershey’s saw a 65% spike in their sales within two weeks of the film’s release.

From an Oregon perspective, Forrest Gump was a prominent promoter of Nike when he was gifted a pair of Nike Cortez running shoes and a close-up of him lacing them up followed.

Product marketing has become so invasive it is overwhelming us, and it’s just going to get worse.

I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

 

 

 

Questioning American Spending in Ukraine? Put it in Perspective.

$20 Billion: The U.S. commitment of military aid to Ukraine under President Biden “to help Ukraine preserve its territorial integrity, secure its borders, and improve interoperability with NATO.” 

Source: Washington Post, Nov. 27, 2022

$942.6 – $960.4 Billion: What Americans are expected to spend this 2022 holiday season (excluding auto dealers, gas stations and restaurant purchases)

Source: National Retail Federation

$768 Billion: The amount the U.S. spent on national defense activities in FY2022.

Source: Congressional Budget Office

$420 Billion: Amount of the federal budget that provided benefits to veterans and former career employees of the federal government, both civilian and military, in FY2022, which ended on Sept. 30, 2022. 

Source: Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

$399 Billion: Total interest payments the federal government made on the money it borrowed to finance the net federal debt in FY2022.

Source: Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

$220 Billion: What Qatar has spent on the World Cup.

Source: Forbes

$80 Billion: Money allocated to the Internal Revenue Service under the Inflation Reduction Act to enhance its operations.

Source: Forbes

$36 Billion: Biden payout to the underfunded union-run Central States Pension Fund to shore up more than 200 distressed plans; approved as part of a stimulus bill intended to reduce economic damage from the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Source: Wall Street Journal

$18.9 Billion: Money appropriated in FY2022 for 5,138 Congressional earmarks, up from $15.9 billion in FY2021.

Source: 2022 Congressional Pig Book, Citizens Against Government Waste

UPDATE: Who knew what is really in the bill. A new analysis said there are more than 7,200 earmarks totaling $15 billion from lawmakers in both parties sneaking their way into the final legislative text  of the $1.7 trillion bill, a 4,155 page conglomeration of major spending and minutiae. There’s no shortage of seemingly random pet projects—$3.6 million for a Georgia hiking trail named after Michelle Obama, $150,000 for sidewalk repairs in a small Maine town.

Sources: OpenSecrets  New York Times

$4.8 Billion: The amount candidates, party committees, leadership PACs and joint fundraising committees spent on the 2022 midterm elections as of Oct. 19, 2022.  Campaigns spent almost $1 billion on digital ads alone.