Foiling a Good Walk

[NB: Check the byline, thanks! /~Rayne]

Don’t be surprised if Donald Trump decides to spend even more time at his golf courses between now and 2020. He should be worried if the courses will remain a part of the Trump organization let alone how much more time he can spend golfing in his lifetime.

At two points during the House Oversight Committee hearing this past Wednesday, Trump’s golf courses came up.

When Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) asked Michael Cohen about the “catch-and-kill” program by which Trump avoided being publicly exposed by his extra marital sexual partners, Cohen explained why he ended up financing the payment to Stormy Daniels (Miss Clifford).

Transcript (01:45:13) —

Cohen: Well, going back into the story as I stated when we — Allen Weisselberg and I — left the office and went to his office to make the determination on how the money was going to be wired to the IOLA, the interest on the lawyer’s account for Keith Davidson in California, I had asked Allen to use his money. I didn’t want to use mine. He said he couldn’t. We then decided how else we could do it and he asked me whether or not I know anybody that wants to have a party at one of his clubs that could pay me instead or somebody who may have wanted to become a member of one of the golf clubs. And I also don’t have anybody that was interested in that. And it got to the point where it was down to the wire. It was either we — somebody — wire the funds and purchase the life rights to the story from Miss Clifford or it was going to end up being sold to television and that would have embarrassed the president and it would have interfered with the election.

In his response, Cohen shares three different methods used to launder money, two of which would have gone through a Trump golf course. In a previous post examining profiteering and money laundering through a golf club, these same methods were mentioned as possibilities. A new member’s initiation fee could easily match the amount needed to pay off Miss Cliffords as could charges or fees for a single event held at a Trump course.

Given Cohen’s inability to say how many ‘catch-and-kill’ stories Trump or his organization had to pay off, it’s reasonable to suspect golf courses have been used this way to launder hush money let alone launder money for other purposes.

Toward the end of the hearing, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortes asked Cohen about the property value of a Trump golf course after noting the exceptionally sweet deal Trump org received when developing the Trump Golf Links at Ferry Point, New York.

Transcript (04:50:13) —

Ocasio-Cortes: Thank you very much. The last thing here. The Trump golf organization currently has a golf course in my home borough of the Bronx and Queens. In fact, the Washington Post reported on the Trump links Bronx course in an article titled, ‘Taxpayers Built this Golf Course and Trump Reaps the Rewards’. Many learned that taxpayers spent $127 million to build Trump links in a, quote, generous deal allowing President Trump to keep almost every dollar that flows in on a golf course built with public funds. And this doesn’t seem to be the only time the president has benefited at the expense of the public. Mr. Cohen, I want to ask you about your assertion that the president may have improperly devalued his assets to avoid paying taxes. According to an August 21st 2016 report by the Washington Post, while the president claimed in financial disclosure forms that the Trump National Golf Club in Jupiter, Florida, was worth more than $50 million, he had reported otherwise to local tax authorities thaAt the course was worth, quote, no more than $5 million. Mr. Cohen, do you know whether this specific report is accurate?

Cohen: It’s identical to what he did at Trump National Golf Club at Briarcliff Manor.

Briarcliff offers a good example of Trump org’s treatment of municipal regulations as well as state and local laws. The course management damaged the local storm sewage system with unauthorized modifications, causing damage to residents’ and Ossining’s property. Goodwill was further damaged by years of fighting local tax assessments:

Nowhere has the conflict between the tax assessments on Trump’s properties and his claims of soaring value been more apparent than in Ossining, New York, where his lawyers argued to the city assessor that his Westchester County golf club was worth $1.4 million in 2015, less than a tenth of its appraised value. On the financial disclosure statement candidates are required to file, he valued it at more than $50 million. The city assessor’s office, which valued the property at $15 million, did not respond to a request for comment.

Trump and his organization fought the valuations of all Trump courses in Florida over the last handful of years as well as Mar-a-Lago and several small non-golf estates. The value of the Jupiter course, reported as $50 million on financial disclosure forms furnished to the government, was estimated by Palm Beach County at $19.7 million. But Trump org sued Palm Beach for a fifth time disputing the county’s valuation, electing to pay taxes on a property worth $5 million less than the county’s estimate.

Trump org also appealed its tax bill for the Trump National Doral Golf Club; they’ve tried for each of the last five years to shave its tax liability with Miami-Dade county. They weren’t sucessful.

Briarcliff and the Florida golf clubs aren’t the only courses for which Trump’s organization claimed lower property values in order to avoid tax obligations.

Trump National Golf Course in Hudson Valley, New York, was assessed at $6 million; the organization claims the property is only worth $2 million. The Trump organization doesn’t own the real estate, operating instead as a lessee. It’s not clear if ownership factors into Trump org’s argument against paying higher taxes; the municipality charges the lessee, however.

The Bedminster course was used to claim a $39.1 million federal tax deduction in 2005 relying on a land conservation rule, and a deduction as farmland because the course kept a small number of goats on the premises.

The Los Angeles course may be the most confusing to make sense of its value. Trump said it was worth $264 million when it opened in 2006, claimed it was worth at least $50 million on federal financial disclosure filings, but only $10 million when filing property taxes in 2008.

While the average business makes a reasonable effort to reduce its tax burden, the Trump organization made it a pattern of habit, particularly with its golf course businesses. It’s odd that each course’s asset valuation established by a local municipality was questioned multiple years in a row, even when the municipality had already gone out of its way to provide unusual benefits to the Trump organization (ex. a long-term lease of county-owned property adjoining the West Palm Beach airport while allowing the course to contest the value the county assigned to the real estate).

The pattern of behavior was tightly entwined with asset inflation for other purposes. One reason was for bank loans, elevating the amount the Trump organization could borrow. Cohen testified that he knew Deustche Bank had received these arbitrary numbers.

Rep. William Clay (D-MO) asked about specific Trump organization financial statements from 2011, 2012, and 2013 Cohen had in his possession pertaining to Trump and his organization, with regard specifically to manipulation of asset values.

Transcript (01:48: ) —

Clay: Thank you…can you explain why you had these financial statements and what you used them for?

Cohen: These were used by me for two purposes. One was discussing with media, whether Forbes or other magazines, to demonstrate Mr. Trump’s significant net worth. That was one function. Another was when we were dealing later on with insurance companies. We would provide them with copies so that they would understand that the premium on the individuals’ capabilities to pay would be reduced.

It’s not clear whether Cohen meant individuals singular or plural. The proliferation of disparities between asset valuations reported by media, by members of the Trump family and organization, and by different government entities now makes more sense — the confusion allows easy misrepresentation of value for insurance purposes.

Transcript (04:43.46) —

Ocasio-Cortes: Okay, thank you. Secondly, I want to ask a little bit about your conversation with my colleague from Missouri about asset inflation. To your knowledge, did the president ever provide inflated assets to an insurance company?

Cohen: Yes.

Mr. Trump’s federal financial disclosure statements need to be audited for false statements if they were completed using manipulated asset data.

The House Oversight Committee now has testimony and evidence suggesting further investigation into bank and insurance fraud by Trump and the Trump organization is warranted.

But it isn’t the House Oversight Committee alone which should now investigate insurance fraud. While insurance in the U.S. must comply with federal law, it’s regulated at state level. Insurance commissioners and state attorneys general in each state where the Trump organization owns, operates, and insures businesses including golf courses should now review Trump’s insurers and policies. How did insurers write policies for Trump organization for so long given the disparities between property values established by municipalities and the asset values published by so many different media outlets?

It’s easy to see there’s a problem with the perception of Trump org’s asset valuations by comparing a few articles written about the golf courses. Outside Florida it’s not well known that Trump org doesn’t own the real estate underneath Trump International Golf Club, West Palm Beach, Florida. It’s even less well known that Trump org does not own the real estate beneath the Hudson Valley, New York course. Many articles reported, however, that these courses are wholly owned by Trump without any additional detail about what assets are included.

How has this gap in public knowledge been used?

The entire financial industry needs to take a good look at itself and consider how it may have been played. Cohen mentioned media outlets like Forbes coming to him for asset valuations which they published, replicating and dispersing deceit read most often by finance people. Because he appeared to own multiple golf courses in addition to other real estate, the perception of Trump’s wealth wasn’t adequately questioned.

It will hurt not only municipalities if Trump org golf courses were to suddenly cease operations.

This is an open thread.

Come On Down Paul Gosar, The Latest Arizona Embarrassment

You may have watched the House Oversight hearing with Michael Cohen last Wednesday (See here and here). One of the most hilarious moments came when Arizona Republican Representative Paul Gosar went off the rails to crazy town.

The original is here courtesy of CNN. It is batshit nuts.

Last night, Saturday Night Live did a sendup of Gosar’s insane nuttery. Even the local press recognized the moment for what it was.

Yes, this is the same Paul Gosar that came into the light as Sarah Palin’s dentist friend was in cahoots with the idiot fellow dentist Gosar. Yes, it is all really that stupid.

And, now, that is where we are and, like Louis Gohmert and Matt Gaetz, Arizona has one of the biggest and most ignorant buffoons in national politics. Happy to see SNL catching up, but Arizonans have understood what an ignorant and cancerous buffoon Gosar is for years.

Initial Working Thread on Cohen’s Prepared Testimony

Okay, it is late but people may be interested in getting a jump on reading Michael Cohen’s prepared statement ahead of tomorrow’s hearing in the House Oversight Committee. With no further adieu:

Here is the prepared testimony. And it is pretty juicy!

Have some fun with it!

Back to School: Planning for Climate Change Activism Success

[NB: Check the byline. /~Rayne]

Remember this? It’s still a pretty snappy little tune which handily teaches the barest essentials of the legislative process. My kids watched frequently when they were in K-2 grades so they could understand discussions at home about bills and legislation.

Unfortunately, it’s not enough to know that an idea begins the legislative process and it ends (some of the time) as a law. The stuff that happens in between these points is more complex than depicted in this cute little animated film. But young kids can understand far more.

I hope that whomever is coaching kids to lobby members of Congress explains more than what’s in this School House Rock video; the children who met with Senator Feinstein didn’t appear prepared. As a parent I think those kids had been manipulated as weapons against an ally.

I don’t care what your position is on Feinstein’s reaction or the kids’ presentation. Both sides were set up for failure.

I care that the effort ended up dividing the party most likely to take action on the Green New Deal.

I care that the effort was wasted and should have been directed at the true bottlenecks to dealing with climate change and the environment.

The truth — which most of you know already if you’re a regular reader or politically awake — is that the GOP majority in the Senate is the obstruction.

The truth is that the GOP as a whole has an abominable track record on environmental protection, from green energy to toxic waste and now on climate change.

Republican president Richard Nixon may be responsible for the Environmental Protection Agency’s inception, but for the last couple decades the GOP abandoned any claim to conserving the environment, preferring instead to suck up to fossil fuel producers. They’ve actively undermined the EPA, going so far as to submit a bill to end it, albeit unsuccessfully (and for this act, Matt Gaetz FL-1 should already have been removed by voters – what the heck is wrong with you Floridians?).

Could Democratic Senators improve their efforts? Certainly; there are a few whose record is below 70% on the League of Conservation Voters’ scoreboard for all environmental legislation, like Joe Manchin (WV) at 45%. With her 90% overall score, Dianne Feinstein is not among them.

But the Republicans clearly have plenty of room for improvement; only one GOP senator scores above 21% on all environmental issues including climate change. The worst GOP senators are:

Strange, Luther (AL)
Perdue, David (GA)
Ernst, Joni (IA)
Kennedy, John (LA)
Sasse, Ben (NE)

All five of these senators had lifetime scores of a staggering 0% according to the League of Conservation Voters. Chances are slim they will change their voting habits much since they appear firmly against any and all pro-environment legislation.

However the following Class II GOP senators are vulnerable on the environment and climate change issues because they are up for re-election in 2020:

Senator

State

2017 Score

Lifetime Score

Ernst Joni

IA

0.00%

0.00%

Perdue David

GA

0.00%

0.00%

Sasse Ben

NE

0.00%

0.00%

Cotton Tom

AR

0.00%

2.00%

Daines Steve

MT

0.00%

2.00%

Rounds Mike

SD

0.00%

2.00%

Cornyn John

TX

0.00%

5.00%

Enzi Mike

WY

0.00%

5.00%

Inhofe James

OK

0.00%

5.00%

Cassidy Bill

LA

0.00%

7.00%

McConnell Mitch

KY

0.00%

7.00%

Risch Jim

ID

0.00%

7.00%

Sullivan Dan

AK

0.00%

7.00%

Tillis Thom

NC

0.00%

7.00%

Gardner Cory

CO

0.00%

10.00%

Graham Lindsey

SC

5.00%

12.00%

Capito Shelley Moore

WV

0.00%

17.00%

Collins Susan

ME

32.00%

63.00%

Hyde-Smith Cindy

MS

McSally Martha

AZ

Roberts Pat

KS

0.00%

9.00%

Alexander Lamar

TN

5.00%

21.00%

Note three of the absolute worst GOP senators on the environment and climate change are up for re-election. All of these Class II senators should be hammered for their performance to date, primary candidates who promise to vote with an eye to the environment should be encouraged to run against them, and their Democratic opponents aided (assuming they will promise to vote along party lines on the environment).

And yes, children should absolutely show up at their door steps and demand to know why these senators are selling out their futures, condemning children like them. Kids can easily understand that elected officials’ jobs are on the line in less than two years; they can tell these senators what they think of the job they’ve done so far and demand better.

The last four senators in the table above are special cases. Two are retiring, both Roberts (KS) and Alexander (TN); they have an opportunity to vote between now and the end of their term to favor the environment and to deter climate change. They should be pressed to do so. Their seats are open for the 2020 race and only candidates promising to vote for the environment should be supported.

McSally and Hyde-Smith don’t have scores at LCV yet. If they vote in line with their party, they need to go. Their Democratic opponents should be supported.

One last point: any entity filing paperwork to avoid paying taxes on revenues should be accountable to the public. That goes for environmental and climate change activism organizations filing as 501c3, 501c4, and PACs. They should have privacy policies and terms of service clearly posted on their websites if they are collecting email addresses and taking donations.

And if these activist groups are shepherding children anywhere, they had better have their organizational structure and team members listed on their site.

I certainly wouldn’t let any group I couldn’t identify fully use my children for their aims — especially if they aren’t doing a good job educating children on effective activism. I’d rather my family contacted its members of Congress directly and bypass any nonprofit organization which isn’t more transparent.

Congressional switchboard: (202) 224-3121

This is an open thread.

UPDATE — 12:15 P.M. ET —

Because apparently there are adults who need a goddamn picture to understand the problem:

The blue and pink parts of the Senate pie are willing to vote for climate change legislation. They have been friendly to the environment.

The red part of the Senate pie isn’t willing to vote for climate change, but it controls whether any legislation passes.

If you have a goddamn emergency needing legislation passed, there is NO WAY TO PASS IT unless you win over some of the red part of the Senate pie. By win over I mean persuade them now to vote on legislation, or vote them out and replace them with a climate-friendly candidate in 2020.

Further more, passing climate change legislation means not losing any of the blue or pink part of the pie.

A five-year old can understand this. So can a 16-year-old who will be 18 and eligible to vote in November 2020.

(Image source: Teen Vogue which is a damned fine media outlet.)

Graphic: Quino Al via Unsplash (mod by Rayne)

Urgent, Urgent: Head to the Phones

I can’t help it. Trump’s so-called national emergency made these lyrics pop into my head:

…You’re not warm or sentimental
You’re so extreme, you can be so temperamental
But I’m not looking for a love that will last
I know what I need and I need it fast…

He needs his bloody wall and he needs it fast, on the heels of his usual dose of projection.

The real emergency is Trump himself. If you only caught snippets of his speech you missed out on the real horror. Here’s an excerpt (the entire speech can be found at The Atlantic, do read it in its entirety):

What the almighty fuck? If this rambling nonsense is what FBI’s former deputy director Andrew McCabe experienced on the phone and in person, you can understand why he would have been wigging out about this person’s capacity to perform his Article II duties.

But this isn’t the first time Trump has spoken and acted this way. One only needs to revisit journalist Daniel Dale’s so-patient coverage of Trump including his live tweeting and dissecting each of Trump’s public speeches. (I don’t know how Dale does it, though it may be his tolerance is bolstered by his Canadian citizenship and working for the Toronto Star.)

Not only is Trump’s presidency questionably legitimate, not only is the man an inveterate liar and an unapologetic freeloader milking the presidency for profit, he is mentally incompetent. He’s unable to string together a complete sentence if more than four words long.

His declaration of a national emergency is all the more untenable. Though lawsuits have already been filed — including Public Citizen on behalf of landowners and the ACLU — we can’t hope that the courts will see the declaration as unsustainable under law. We have to make it clear to Congress they must do their jobs and ensure the emergency is unapproved.

Representatives Joaquin Castro and Jerry Nadler are drafting a joint resolution to this end; though it’s expected to pass the House, the GOP may bottleneck the resolution.

This is where we need to come in and make it clear the GOP cannot continue to fail its sworn obligations under the Constitution. The GOP’s Class II senators in particular must be held to account and told they own this if they do not push back and disapprove the non-emergent emergency.

This is what the hollow men approve if they don’t stop this insanity:

…Make it fast, make it urgent
Do it quick, do it urgent
Gotta rush, make it urgent
Want it quick
Urgent, urgent, emergency…

Just make your calls, leave voicemails; Congressional switchboard number is (202) 224-3121. Do reassure Democratic representatives and senators they have our support on disapproval. Need a script? @Celeste_P has you covered here.

This is an open thread.

Open Thread: A Mournful Valentine [UPDATE]

[NB: Check the byline. UPDATE at the bottom. /~Rayne]

A year ago today, fourteen students and three staff members at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida were killed by a lone 19-year-old gunman armed with an AR-15 rifle. More were injured.

Since then nearly 1,200 more children have died due to gun violence.

It’s an American problem, to have so much freedom and an inability to responsibly self-regulate it even though our Constitution clearly calls for a “well regulated Militia.”

The problem is as much money as it is guns. Money has been used to poison Americans’ attitudes toward guns; money has been used to capture legislators to prevent regulation.

The vulnerability of our society to corporate influence and control in pursuit of money has now created an opportunity for asymmetric warfare. Information assaults were launched last year by foreign-controlled bot swarms to propel pro-gun messages and suffocate gun control messages.

And the GOP-led 115th Congress did nothing in response because they were bought by NRA money, infused by Russia.

Oh, pardon me — members of Congress who received much of the $50 million in NRA campaign contributions in 2016 offered thoughts and prayers for the survivors and victims’ loved ones last year as the blood of innocents coagulated and dried on the floor of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

Stuff your thoughts and prayers sideways, you useful idiots with your mouths flapping platitudes, you fifth columnists with your grasping hands out, greedy for more blood money for your next campaign. They are as helpful today as they were a year ago.

Don’t think for a moment we can’t see how you’ve obstructed the ability of Americans to defend themselves with adequate and timely gun control this past year. It’s past time to fix your disloyalty to this country and its children and pass effective gun control legislation beginning with the House bills H.R. 8, the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019 and H.R. 1112, the Enhanced Background Checks Act of 2019.

This is an open thread. Keep all gun talk in this thread; if it drifts into other threads I will bin it. If such a threat bothers you, have some thoughts and prayers.

_________

UPDATE — 2:45 P.M. ET —

This is a list of the members of Congress SplinterNews listed as offering up thoughts and prayers via Twitter a year ago after MSD-Parkland’s mass shooting and who also received campaign contributions for 2016 from the NRA. I was looking patterns and I don’t see one readily except for political party affiliation. The lone Democratic Party member to receive funds and offer platitudes was Tim Walz, now governor of Minnesota instead of a House rep.

Do you see a pattern in this besides a preference toward Class II and III senators — up for re-election in 2018 and 2020? Are there committee memberships relevant to these donations?

Senate:
Mitch McConnell (R-KY) – $9,900 -II <-Majority Leader
Marco Rubio (R-FL) – $9,900 -III
Rob Portman (R-OH) – $9,900 -III
Joni Ernst (R-IA) – $9,900 -II
Thom Tillis (R-NC) – $9,900 -II
Dean Heller (R-NV) – $9,900 -I
Jim Inhofe (R-OK) – $9,450 -II
John Hoeven (R-ND) – $8,450 -III
Steve Daines (R-MT) – $7,700 -II
Ron Johnson (R-WI) – $7,450 -III
John Boozman (R-AR) – $5,950 -III
Todd Young (R-IN) – $5,950 -III
Mike Rounds (R-SD) – $5,450 -II
James Lankford (R-OK) – $5,000 -III
Bill Cassidy (R-LA) – $4,950 -II
Richard Shelby (R-AL) – $4,950 -III
David Perdue (R-GA) – $4,950 -II
Tim Scott (R-SC) – $4,500 -III
Shelly Moore Capito (R-WV) – $2,500 -II
Ted Cruz (R-TX) – $350 -I
John McCain (R-AZ) – $300 (RIP)

House:
Barbara Comstock (R-VA) – $10,400
Mike Coffman (R-CO) – $9,900
Will Hurt (R-TX) – $9,900
John Katko (R-NY) – $9,900
Bruce Poliquin (R-ME) -$9,900
Lee Zeldin (R-NY) – $9,900
Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) – $7,450
Martha McSally (R-AZ) – $6,500 <-Running for McCain’s seat in 2020
Bill Schuster (R-PA) – $5,950
Richard Hudson (R-NC) – $4,950
Steve Scalise (R-LA) – $4,950
Lamar Smith (R-TX) – $4,950
Ken Calvert (R-CA) – $4,500
Barry Loudermilk (R-GA) – $4,000
Robert Aderholt (R-AL) – $3,500
Michael McCaul (R-TX) – $3,500
Darin LaHood (R-IL) – $3,000
Erik Paulson (R-MN) – $3,000
Tom Reed (R-NY) – $3,000
Diane Black (R-TN) – $2,500
Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) – $2,500
Carlos Curbelo (R-FL) – $2,500
Rodney Davis (R-IL) $2,500
John Ratcliff (R-TX) – $2,500
Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) – $2,500
Pete Sessions (R-TX) – $2,500
Roger Williams (R-TX) – $2,500
Mike Bishop (R-MI) – $2,000
Bradley Byrne (R-AL) – $2,000
Buddy Carter (R-GA) – $2,000
Chris Collins (R-NY) – $2,000
Mario Diaz Balart (R-FL) – $2,000
Sean Duffy (R-WI) – $2,000
Chuck Fleischmann (R-TN) – $2,000
Tim Walz (D-MN) – $2,000 <-Now MN governor
Bob Gibbs (R-OH) – $2,000
Paul Gossar (R-AZ) – $2,000
Sam Graves (R-MO) – $2,000
Glenn Grothman (R-WI) $2,000
Vicky Hartzler (R-MO) – $2,000
Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) – $2,000
French Hill (R-AR) – $2,000
Bill Huizenga (R-MI) – $2,000
Darrell Issa (R-CA) – $2,000
Bill Johnson (R-OH) – $2,000
Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) – $2,000
Doug Lamborn (R-CO) – $2,000
Luke Messer (R-IN) – $2,000
Kristi Noem (R-SD) – $2,000
Scott Perry (R-PA) – $2,000
Robert Pittenger (R-NC) – $2,000
Ted Poe (R-TX) – $2,000
Tom Rice (R-SC) – $2,000
Martha Roby (R-AL) – $2,000
Mike Rogers (R-AL) – $2,000
Todd Rokita (R-IN) – $2,000
Peter Roskam (R-IL) – $2,000
Dennis Ross (R-FL) – $2,000
Austin Scott (R-GA) – $2,000
Jason Smith (R-MO) – $2,000
Elise Stefanik (R-NY) – $2,000
Steve Stivers (R-OH) – $2,000
Mark Walker (R-NC) – $2,000
Jackie Walorski (R-IN) – $2,000
Mimi Walters (R-CA) – $2,000
Joe Wilson (R-SC) – $2,000
Rob Wittman (R-VA) – $2,000
Steven Palazzo (R-MS) – $1,750
Mike Kelly (R-PA) – $1,500
Steve Womack (R-AR) – $1,500
Ralph Abraham (R-LA) – $1,000
Lou Barlettea (R-PA) – $1,000
Susan Brooks (R-IN) – $1,000
Warren Davidson (R-OH) – $1,000
Ron DeSantis (R-FL) – $1,000
Louie Gohmert (R-TX) – $1,000
Kenny Marchant (R-TX) – $1,000
Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) – $1,000
David McKinley (R-WV) – $1,000
Dave Reichert (R-WA) – $1,000
Tom Rooney (R-FL) – $1,000
Randy Weber (R-TX) – $1,000
Daniel Webster (R-FL) – $1,000

KonMari-ing the Confederacy’s Son

[NB: Check the byline — this is a different kind of ‘trash talk’. /~Rayne]

You may already have heard the buzz about Japanese organizing consultant Marie Kondo and her branded decluttering technique, KonMari. Perhaps you’ve even seen her on Netflix which now features a series called Tidying Up with Marie Kondo.

She set off a furor across the internet among book lovers when she suggested getting rid of all of one’s books except for those few that spark joy — which is her guiding philosophy to thinning everything one possesses. When one considers a particular personal belonging, what feelings does it inspire? If joy, keep it and store it carefully; if not, release it.

This doesn’t work for books. Some of the most horror-inspiring books may be essential favorites whether fiction or non-fiction. And many book lovers whether readers, authors, or editors thrive in an environment of tsundoku, the weight of unread books providing a wealth of promise rather than oppressive dread.

The hullabaloo about her approach to books forced a reconsideration of the KonMari technique. It doesn’t work uniformly for everyone; what sparks joy for one rouses sadness in others.

But people do share universal values; if we focused on happiness and peace arising from observing these values, there might be a way to reconcile the disparity between ditching books and keeping them whether they spark joy or not.

Looking at our universal values — those we share as humans regardless of our gender identity, race and ethnicity, religious heritage, or country of origin — we have to ask ourselves about much more than whether to keep the tatty high school-issued copy of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein or well-thumbed Naomi Klein’s Shock Doctrine.

What is it we should jettison if we are truly keeping that which is honest and trustworthy, responsible, respectful, caring, and fair?

Why worry about an excess of books and holey stray socks when our lives are thrown into chaos every day by people who are not living these shared values?

It could be said the repudiation of Governor Ralph Northam is an example of this kind of purging by Democrats in Virginia and beyond. Has Northam changed since the mid-1980s? Sure — we all have and hopefully for the better, but Northam’s failure to be open as a candidate and now as an elected official about the context of his medical school’s yearbook is a lapse of under universal ethics even if we believed his claims.

Now the people of Virginia wait for Northam to come to grips with the sorting he’s been through.

But as a country we’re not done with our reassessment. What are we keeping that holds us back from realizing our best selves as citizens?

A substantive number of readers will surely suggest impeaching and removing Trump and they’d be right. He’s the antithesis of  honesty and trustworthiness, responsibility, respect, caring, and fairness in nearly everything he does. Decluttering processes have already been set in motion — the Special Counsel’s Office plays a role in them even if its mission isn’t removal per se.

Trump isn’t the only human obstruction to realizing our communal universal values, though.

This needs to go. This should have been KonMari’d more than a dozen years ago, pared out of government. Don’t even think about trying to recycle it, either, it’s beyond redemption. The tradition manifest here has no worth because it disrespects the innate value of fellow humans while elevating a small number of people because of that disrespect.

Kentuckians need to clean their house beginning with this Senate seat. McConnell can’t possibly inspire happiness and peace in their hearts when his actions deny so many their human dignity.

Republicans should do likewise, beginning now with removing McConnell from the majority leadership role. They need to ask themselves if doubling down on their pursuit of power, throwing values to the wind to this end, really sparks joy in their hearts and souls. Do their efforts generate genuine authority, lay claim to authentic leadership, when fellow humans must be denigrated in the process?

Failing to be honest with themselves and respectful of the public will eventually set off other kinds of sparks. Just ask Ralph Northam.

 

Treat this as an open thread.

Graphic: Quino Al via Unsplash (mod by Rayne)

Day 34+12H: Ermahgerd, an Ermahgency

[NB: As you can see from the byline, you can blame me and not Marcy./~Rayne]

Brace yourselves, kiddies, there’s still more roller coaster ahead. On the agenda besides Roger Stone’s indictment:

— Another day into the shutdown, and a second pay period without a paycheck for furloughed federal workers, contractors, and those employees forced back to work without pay. FAA has already closed LaGuardia (LGA) airport to inbound flights due to a staff shortage and Reagan National (DCA), Newark Liberty International (EWR), Philadelphia Intl (PHL) and Tampa Intl (TPA) are now getting backed up heavily.

— One lone asshole, GOP state house delegate Mark Cole, is going to attempt to stop the state of Virginia from ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment, though his party has already passed the ERA in the state senate. Not clear what status is at this moment, only that the bill is not yet dead. Virginians can take action to boost this bill.

— An anticipated declaration of a state of emergency at the border by Trump in which he is expected to tell the public how he scraped up $7 billion dollars Congress didn’t allocate for a “fucken wall.” May depend on how the cascading effect of the airport shutdown(s) plays out.

Yesterday’s vote in the Senate on both Trump’s POS proposal (voted down ) and the Democrats’ alternate bill (voted down 52-44) showed that more Republican senators preferred the Democratic version over Trumps.

The GOP senators who broke with Trump were:

Lamar Alexander (R-TN) — Class II, retiring at the end of 2020
Susan Collins (R-ME) — Class II, has at least two Democratic opponents waiting
Cory Gardner (R-CO) — Class II
Johnny Isakson (R-GA) — Class III
Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) — Class III
Mitt Romney (R-UT) — Class I (least threatened, 2024 re-election)

Recall that Class II senators are up for re-election in 2020. Class III in 2022 and Class I in 2024.

Clearly the GOP caucus is feeling the heat.

McConnell and Schumer are talking — the airport shutdown(s) will also affect their discussion.

Keep the heat on your senators because it’s working if they’re yelling at McConnell. If you’re a Wisconsinite, thank your senator Ron Johnson for pushing McConnell.

We also need to take note of this guy who has plenty of time to develop a track record before re-election in 2024 and yet voted with the GOP now to fund the wall and reopen government.

Joe Manchin (D-WV) — Class I

Party line is No Wall, buddy. Trump wants it badly enough he can negotiate instead of having a tantrum and shutting down government.

West Virginians, I hope you are working hard on grooming a Democratic candidate for a senate primary race. You have about four years.

Congressional switchboard: (202) 224-3121

This is an open thread. Bring non-Trump-Russia/Special Counsel’s Office comments here.

Photo: Pavan Trikutam via Unsplash

Day 33+11H: Flood the Zone

[NB: Check it ^^^ / ~Rayne]

I don’t have a full post written yet — I will update this post when I have more to say.

What I want to say is this: CALL YOUR SENATORS RIGHT NOW.

Congressional Switchboard: (202) 224-3121

There are only two simple things to tell them:

— Government must be reopened as soon as possible;

— No on the “fucken wall.”

Our nation’s health and security is diminished every moment this unnecessary lockout continues.

Why do you need to call now? Because Mitch McConnell has scheduled a vote for 2:30 p.m. today on Trump’s ‘phony compromise‘ bill.

Right-wing wall proponents (a.k.a. anti-immigrant bigots and faux budget conservatives) have been encouraged to call their senators with a pro-wall message. We must counter this; calls are counted and weighed into consideration.

More later. Just make the call. Share in comments your experience.

Day 32+11H: Trump’s Other Wall

[NB: Byline — check it. /~Rayne]

This post is about a wall. Nope, not about Trump’s narcissistic pipe dream made of steel slats and Fox News-borne ego fluffing.

It’s a wall of GOP senators, so corrupt and craven they will line up against reopening their country’s government while voting to help a country which U.S. intelligence agencies say interfered with the 2016 elections.

They’ll roll over while Americans begin to die from their gross neglect. Federal employees who are diabetics are already having difficulty paying for insulin, a double whammy since the GOP-led Congress has done nothing to deal with extortive insulin pricing. Children affected by the shutdown will begin to go hungry soon if they haven’t already, whether from cuts to school lunches or at home.

There are several groups varying by their corruption and cravenness; I’ve already written about the Class II senators who don’t appear to feel concern about their re-election prospects — yet.

But the second group in need of a swift kick are those who visited Russia on July 4th this past year:

Richard Shelby (AL) — Senate Class III

John Thune (SD) — Senate Class III

John Hoeven (ND) — Senate Class III

Ron Johnson (WI) – Senate Class Class III

John Kennedy (LA) — Senate Class III

John Thune (SD) — Senate Class III

Jerry Moran (KS) — Senate Class III

Steve Daines (MT) — Senate class II

Kay Granger (TX) — Representative

At the top is the senior “spokesperson” for the group; he’s the one quoted most often by the media when asked about this congressional delegation.

At the bottom are two exceptions: Daines is running for re-election for the first time in 2020, and Granger isn’t a senator at all but a House rep from a solidly red congressional district.

Notice the trait most have in common? They’re Class III, which means they will be up for re-election in 2022.

Why the hell did nearly 30% of the Class III GOP senators go to Russia on our most American holiday, one celebrating our independence from an authoritarian monarchy?

Not sending Class I senators who were working on their 2018 mid-term campaigns makes sense, but why not more Class II? These classes are assigned by state according to Constitution’s Article I, Section III; there should have been broader, more random representation on this trip (and certainly not on July 4th).

Here’s my theory: first, this congressional delegation trip was an interview for aid. Not development aid for the U.S. but for their campaigns. I can’t think of a reason why so many Class III senators would have gone together. Thankfully none of them are on the Armed Services or Select Intelligence Committees though Johnson and Young are on the Foreign Policy Committee and Shelby, Hoeven, Moran, and Kennedy are on the Appropriations Committee.

Or is the percentage of links between these senators and these committees relevant in some way?

Daines is an exception — his need is more immediate, and his state is in play based on the data produced by Democratic Senator Jon Tester’s re-election in 2018. Daines may be a proof of concept.

Second, I believe Granger went because Senator John Cornyn hadn’t yet decided whether to run for re-election in 2020. He didn’t announce until September that he would do so. Granger may have been groomed as a candidate for this seat because her congressional district encompassing Fort Worth is solidly red and the GOP probably has a House candidate waiting in the wings. If Beto O’Rourke runs for the Senate again in 2020 as a Democrat, the GOP may have wanted to run a woman against him if Cornyn retired. But now Granger will have to wait for another slot to open. I wouldn’t be surprised to see her run for governor after Greg Abbott finishes his term(s).

There are seven more senators and one representative who are likely to continue to stand pat behind Trump and his Putinist agenda, including his “fucken wall.” They will only change their loyalties if they are called out on their bullshit.

There should be no conditions placed on reopening government. Period. The shutdown has weakened all security including the health and economic welfare of citizens whether federal employees or not.

Trump’s proposal made this weekend is a joke — his personal businesses will benefit from the continued protection of immigrants who work at his resorts while failing to provide any real additional security — and will be shoved in our faces tomorrow as McConnell has scheduled it for a vote.

Congressional switchboard: (202) 224-3121

If you can help at all, check with local food banks to make donations. There are federal employees who live and/or work in nearly every county. You can also try to pay off outstanding school lunch fees for kids who don’t qualify for the federal school program but have run up their hot lunch charges for lack of funds — just call your local public school system and ask if you can help.

Now is a good time to make small purchases, too, if there’s a previously owned item you’ve put off buying. Federal employees and contractors have been selling all manner of items to raise cash, from clothing to books.

And some have been reduced to selling plasma.

I don’t know how we can come away from this horrible episode in our nation’s history without thinking the GOP has deliberately chosen to harm this country and quite possibly to appease and benefit a hostile country.

Americans’ deaths arising from this shutdown will be on their hands.

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