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.

Fiscal Follies: Oregon’s Public Universities Embrace In-State Tuition for Nation’s Indian Tribes

Trying to correct for injustice can be well-intentioned, but an effort by Oregon’s public universities shows how an altruistic effort can go terribly wrong and undermine confidence in formerly trusted institutions.

It’s frustrating to see Oregons well-regarded universities go blindly down this counterproductive path. There will be a cost to this need to feel enlightened. After all, there is no free lunch.

With no public debate in advance of their decision, the presidents of all but one of Oregon’s public universities, convinced of their moral superiority and apparently blind to the financial implications of their decisions, have decided to institute in-state tuition for enrolled members of Indian tribes.

Not just members of tribes with strong ties to Oregon, but millions of enrolled members of all 574 federally recognized American Indian and Alaska Native tribes spread across the entire United States. 

Hall of Tribal Nations, Bureau of Indian Affairs

Some other states offer tuition benefits to members of tribes with specific connections to the state, but Oregon’s public universities are the only ones to go national with an in-state tuition policy that does not require any tribal connection to the state to qualify. 

Portland State University (PSU) started the ball rolling. On July 21, 2022, it announced that, beginning with the fall 2022 academic term, PSU enrolled, degree-seeking undergraduate students who are registered members of any one of the federally recognized tribes in the United States would qualify to pay in-state tuition rates.

Undergraduate in-state tuition and fees at PSU for the 2022-23 academic year total $10,806. Non-resident tuition and fees total $29,706, a $18,900 difference in revenue to the school per student. Differences between resident and non-resident tuition and fees at other public Oregon universities are similarly wide.

“This offer of in-state tuition is a small way to honor the legacy of Indigenous nations from across the country,” Chuck Knepfle, PSU’s vice president of enrollment management, said in a statement.

It is not, however, a costless gesture.

PSU is struggling to maintain affordability with rising costs and limited revenue and said it made the decision without knowing how many current or potential students might take advantage of the policy or what its potential financial impact might be. “We do not currently collect tribal information for our students so we don’t know how many will qualify,” said Christina Dyrness Williams, PSU’s Director, Strategic Communications. 

PSU rationalized the nationwide expansion of the in-state tuition policy by tying it to the university’s commitment to “diversity, equity, and inclusion.”  

In a spasm of guilt run amok and willful blindness on the costs, the resident tuition policy spread to Oregon’s other public universities like a contagion. 

On August 3, Oregon State University (OSU) said it, too, would initiate in-state tuition for enrolled members of all federally recognized Indian tribes in the United States, including currently enrolled students, no matter where they live. 

“Tribal citizens from throughout Oregon and the country represent multiple sovereign nations and are valued, contributing members of the OSU community,” said Becky Johnson, OSU’s interim president. “This new tuition policy advances our commitment – in the spirit of self-reflection, learning, reconciliation and partnership – that the university will be of enduring benefit to Tribal nations and their citizens throughout Oregon and the country.”

Steve Clark, OSU’s Vice President for University Relations and Marketing, said the school had 174 students enrolled last fall who indicated they were of Native American/Alaska Native heritage. Most were Oregon residents, but the school didn’t know who among them were enrolled members of federally recognized tribal nations. Approximately 10 currently enrolled non-resident students may qualify for the benefits of the new policy, should they apply for it, Clark said. 

Clark said OSU doesn’t believe the number of new out-of-state tribal students that will enroll in future years because of the new tuition policy will be large.

Like lemmings leaping over a cliff, other public universities dutifully followed, with little evidence of doubt or serious debate.

Next up on the resident tuition bandwagon was Southern Oregon University (SOU) in Ashland. Tuition and fee revenue at SOU per full-time student in FY2021 was about $26,000 for non-residents versus about $9,000 for resident students. 

SOU took the tribal tuition step even though it is dealing with growing deficits. University president Rick Bailey told faculty and staff in September that the school is facing a nearly $5 million deficit in the 2022-23 school year, a $13 million deficit in three years and a $14 million gap in four years. 

The Oregon Institute of Technology (OIT) signed on to the new policy because “Oregon Tech has been furthered by tribal culture and heritage and from the tribal lands on which our campuses reside,” said OIT’s President Nagi Naganathan. 

The herd mentality of in-state tuition reparations continued with Western Oregon University (WOU) following suit. “Boarding schools and then colleges and universities were built on Native American homelands,” WOU’s president Jesse Peters said. “The educational system itself was often implemented as a tool used to destroy indigenous languages, communities, and cultures.”

Eastern Oregon University (EOU) also joined in, even while admitting ongoing financial struggles with rising expenses and inflation. “This is another demonstration of EOU’s commitment to ensuring a welcoming environment for all students, while prioritizing a commitment to inclusion, diversity, equity and belonging,” said Genesis Meaderds, EOU’s Director of Admissions.

The only one of Oregon’s public universities not to fully embrace the groupthink is the University of Oregon (UO). 

Documents obtained through a public records request show that UO resisted early on offering resident tuition for non-residents of all 574 federally recognized tribes.

Instead, UO announced on Oct. 16 the launch of a Home Flight Scholars Program. Once state and federal options have been exhausted, the university will waive remaining tuition and fees for Oregon residents who are enrolled citizens of the 574 federally recognized Indian tribes.

“Our philosophy is that every college campus, public or private, in the US is on Indian land. We absolutely hope every university will take our lead,” said the school’s Native American and Indigenous Studies director Kirby Brown. “We feel every university has a responsibility to Indigenous students, being built on land that was forcibly taken from their tribes and used to benefit universities, counties and states who founded themselves on Indigenous resources.”

All this chest-beating beneficence is occurring against a backdrop of financial stress at Oregon’s public universities  

At a September meeting of PSU’s board of trustees, university leaders said early indications showed the school has still not bounced back from the pandemic’s hit to its enrollment. “The university is not going to meet its overall enrollment goal for the year,” PSU Finance and Administration Committee Chair Sheryl Manning told the board. Manning said student credit hours this fall are down 8 to 9% compared to the same period last year.

According to board documents, the university has lost roughly $18 million in gross tuition and fee revenue since the 2019-20 fiscal year.

“This trend in enrollment is certainly a call to action and requires a plan from management to address the future,” Manning said.

And this comes as Oregon’s public universities have been raising tuition on Oregon residents to keep up with inflation and rising expenses.

For example, PSU announced on April 21, 2022 that resident undergraduate tuition for the 2022-23 academic year would be $9,000 for students enrolled in 15 credits a quarter for three quarters, up from $8,685 for 2021-22. 

“Tuition is a necessity,” said PSU President Stephen Percy, bemoaning limited state support being behind tuition increases. “The state covers less than 35% of our education costs. We strive to be affordable, but we also must meet our obligation to deliver an outstanding experience to our students — in the classroom and outside it. That requires resources and the resource need increases each year.”

EOU’s Board of Trustees approved a 4.9% tuition increase for in-state undergraduate students for the current academic year. Even with the tuition increase, the school is anticipating a budget deficit of at least $2 million.

UO tuition rates for the 2022-23 academic year include a 4.5% increase over 2021-22 for incoming in-state freshmen.

It’s clear that while Oregon’s public universities plead with the legislature and alumni for more money, concern about revenue goes out the window when they want to do some virtue signaling.

Expanding resident tuition benefits to out-of-state tribal members means foregone revenue for increased services. Oregonians will have to cover the cost of this new non-resident benefit for tribal members across the country. And the amount of money resident students are expected to pay to cover full-time cost of attendance after all grant aid is accounted for is already high relative to other states.

The new tribal tuition policy also runs contrary to a recommendation in a scathing September 22, 2022 report commissioned by Oregon’s higher education leaders that Oregon’s public universities increase revenue from out-of-state students who can pay a premium to attend. 

The revenue from these students is “crucial… to Oregon’s universities’ bottom lines to counter rising educational costs,” the report says.

“It is critical to recognize that the additional dollars collected from nonresidents can be put to many uses,” the report, written by the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems (NCHEMS), said, “including by paying for the recruitment of those out-of-state students so that in-state resources are not used, helping support Oregon residents through targeted institutional aid or by relieving upward pressure on resident tuition prices, funding the development of new or expanded programmatic capacity in areas of state need, as well as other institutional priorities.”

The NCHEMS report noted that all of Oregon’s four-year institutions collect substantially more revenue from non-resident students than residents. 

Additional Tuition Revenue Collected from Non-Resident Students, FY 2021  

University of Oregon$169,804,003 
Oregon State University$106,873,533 
Portland State University$43,902,179 
Southern Oregon University$18,619,681 
Western Oregon University$12,862,228 
Oregon Institute of Technology$10,089,269 
Eastern Oregon University$7,500,363 

Notes: Data are annual for full-time first-time students enrolled in Fall 2020. Some data are suppressed to avoid violated state- mandated cell-size limitations. These data provide the amount of additional revenue nonresidents contribute than they would have had they been resident students. The “nonresident premium” is the additional revenue generated from each nonresident student. Source: HECC

The University of Oregon, for example, collects about three times as much revenue from non-residents as residents on average. 

“Overall, that additional funding (from non-residents) plays a crucial role in supporting the institutional mission,” the report said.

Tuition revenue from out-of-state students is particularly valuable, the report said, because Oregon has consistently expected its in-state students to bear more of the cost burden of public higher education than the nation as a whole, and a substantially larger share than its fellow Western states.

Then there’s the critical point that in adopting the new tribal tuition policy, a small group of like-minded academicians, acting with virtually no oversight, can push extreme policies. Believing themselves to be the defenders of the downtrodden, they have elevated one minority group above all others, magnifying differences in the misplaced pursuit of ethical purity.

It is all part of the rising trend of true believers viewing the world through an “identitarian lens,” Joanna Williams observed in City Journal earlier this year. “People are not seen as individuals, but as group members, with each group allotted a place in a hierarchy of privilege and oppression,” she wrote.

The problem with going down this route is that native Americans are hardly the only group that has felt the sting of oppression.The fact is other minorities in Oregon and across the country have suffered as well during morally toxic times, but Oregon’s universities have not extended resident tuition to them.

Oregon and the nation have a particularly sordid history of racism against Blacks.  The Oregon region’s provisional government forbid slavery in the 1840s, but it also banned Blacks from settling in the area. And when Oregon became a state in 1859, it was the only state admitted to the Union with an Exclusion Law in its constitution.

In the early 1900s, a resuscitated Ku Klux Klan had a strong presence in the state, claiming 35,000 active members in 1923.  As late as the 1940s some Portland businesses displayed signs saying they catered “to the white trade only”.

The Oregonian newspaper aided and abetted Oregon’s racism for many years. In October 2022, the paper published a lengthy apology for its “Racist Legacy” ever since its publication as a daily paper in 1861. 

“The now 161-year-old daily newspaper spent decades reinforcing the racial divide in a state founded as whites-only, fomenting the racism that people of color faced,” the paper said. 

“It excused lynching. It promoted segregation. It opposed equal rights for women and people of color. It celebrated laws to exclude Asian immigrants. It described Native Americans as uncivilized, saying their extermination might be needed…The seeds of such inequalities and many more were planted before statehood and in the years that followed by the white men who dominated Oregon’s positions of power, including its longest continuously published newspaper.”

2014 report by Portland State University and the Coalition of Communities of Color, a Portland non-profit, concluded Oregon has been slow to dismantle overtly racist policies. As a result, the report said, “African Americans in Multnomah County (which includes Portland) continue to live with the effects of racialized policies, practices, and decision-making.”

“I think that Portland has, in many ways, perfected neoliberal racism,” Walidah Imarisha, an African American educator and expert on black history in Oregon, told an Atlantic magazine writer in 2016.  “Yes, the city is politically progressive, she told the writer, but its government has facilitated the dominance of whites in business, housing, and culture. And white-supremacist sentiment is not uncommon in the state.” 

Oregon has an ugly history in its treatment of Jews as well. 

If The Oregonian’s researchers had gone back further to the 1850s when the paper was founded, they would have discovered another shameful record, the persistent anti-Semitism of its first editor, T.J. Dryer. 

“The Jews in Oregon, but more particularly in this city, have assumed an importance that no other sect has ever dared to assume in this country,” Dryer wrote in an Oct. 16, 1858 anti-Semitic screed posing as an editorial headlined “The Jews”.

“They have leagued together by uniting their entire numerical strength to control the ballot boxes at our elections,” Dryer wrote. “They have assumed to control the commercial interest of the whole country, by a secret combination, and the adoption of a system of mercantile pursuits which none but a Jew would ever pursue…They, as a nation or tribe, produce nothing, nor do nothing, unless they are the exclusive gainers thereby…What have the Jews done for the benefit of the American nation, for religion or morals , that they should with swaggering arrogance claim exclusive rights and privileges denied to all other sects and creeds”?

When Jews initially emigrated to Oregon’s frontier, racial stereotypes also prevented many of them from obtaining credit for their businesses, according to The Jews of Oregon, 1850-1950. The principal U.S. credit rating agency, R.G. Dun & Co, a forerunner of Dun & Bradstreet, specifically identified them as Jews in vitriolic reports and included offensive stereotypes such as referring to them as “untrustworthy.” 

One Jew, Aaron Meier, who migrated to Oregon in 1855 and was later a founder of Meier & Frank, a prominent retail business, was described as “shrewd, close, calculating and considered tricky.”

Anti-Semitism in Oregon stretched into the 20th century. The Tualatin County Club, which still exists in a suburb of Portland, was established in 1912 by a group of Jewish men because Jews weren’t allowed to play golf on other links. 

In the 1920s, the Ku Klux Klan opposed and disparaged Oregon Jews, painting them as predatory capitalists and dangerous radicals. Anti-Semitism was also evident in the professions. 

Despite the vile history of mistreating Jews and Blacks in Oregon, the state’s universities apparently feel no need to extend the tribal in-state tuition offer to them wherever they live in the United States.

And they shouldn’t. 

Not to them or to the members of all 574 federally recognized American Indian and Alaska Native tribes.

A relentless academic focus on guilt-based compensation to various wronged groups in our increasingly diverse society is corrosive, divisive and nonsensical. It positions entire categories of people as victims.

Extending resident tuition to all the enrolled members of all 574 federally recognized Indian tribes in the entire United States is, quite simply, a mistake. 

It is nothing more than wrong-headed feel-good performative activism, all at the expense of Oregon resident students and Oregon taxpayers, and it needs to stop.