Fruitful Friday Reads

Burpee’s Farm Annual 1895

Good Day Sky Dancers!

We got one good day of Sunshine yesterday, and now it’s grey and raining! The only good thing is that the freezing temperatures have gone away! My brightest day this month was when Burpee’s seed catalog came, and I could page through the promise of spring planting and summer harvests! Burpee’s has been publishing its catalog since 1876.

My Burpee’s blackberry slip in its pot went outdoors yesterday for a bit of sun! It and my potted herbs were in the dining room while we got rid of the hard freezes. Today, they’re getting a good watering along with all the plants that survived. I’d planned to get some big yard trash bags and tackle some of the dead stuff today. Instead, I’m warm and snug inside, waiting for the next sunny day.

The big news today is the release of the Trump tax forms. They really are a mess! This is from Noah Bookbinder, writing for The Atlantic. “The IRS Really, Really Should Have Audited Trump. The failure to do so is outrageous and needs to be investigated.” Indeed! However, I’m not sure the Republican Congress will do it.

Six years after Donald Trump should have disclosed his tax returns to the public, they have finally been released. This took advocacy, congressional action, and litigation that went to the Supreme Court—all to obtain basic financial transparency from a president.

But the House Ways and Means Committee’s report on its investigation, released last week in conjunction with the committee’s vote to disclose Trump’s tax returns, revealed new information that may be as astonishing as anything in the returns themselves: The IRS did not even begin auditing Trump’s taxes until 2019, on the same day the committee began asking the agency about them. This is outrageous, and it must be investigated.

Getting Trump’s tax returns should not have been this hard. Every president elected since Richard Nixon—with the exception of Trump—has publicly disclosed his tax returns. Tax returns can tell the American people, and Congress, whether a president is following the law and behaving honestly. Crucially for Trump, who uniquely and inappropriately retained ownership of a massive international business while president, they can provide information about conflicts of interest that may have swayed his decision making.

Examining Trump’s tax returns and discovering all they can reveal about how his finances may have intersected with his presidency will take time. The committee released an analysis from the Joint Committee on Taxation stating that Trump had paid nothing, or close to it, in some years of his presidency. The income information included in that analysis also seems to support the assertion that Trump’s use of the presidency to steer business to himself from the government and those seeking to influence it may have reversed years of financial losses for Trump’s companies and led to hefty profits in 2018 and 2019, until COVID’s arrival in 2020 reversed his fortunes again. Now that the detailed returns are available, we’ll learn much more about those companies’ earnings, losses, and tax payments, and about Trump’s financial interests.

Burpee’s catalog from 1944

CNN has begun the analysis of the documents. “Trump’s tax returns shed new light on former president’s finances.” There’s a team of reporters on this story.

Six years of Donald Trump’s federal tax returns released on Friday show the former president paid very little in federal income taxes the first and last year of his presidency, claiming huge losses that helped limit his tax bill, among other revelations.

The returns, long shrouded in secrecy, were released to the public on Friday by the House Ways and Means Committee, the culmination of a battle over their disclosure that went to the Supreme Court. They confirm a report issued from the Joint Committee on Taxation that Trump claimed large losses before and throughout his presidency that he carried forward to reduce or practically eliminate his tax burden. For example, his returns show that he carried forward a $105 million loss in 2015 and $73 million in 2016.

The thousands of pages of documents from the former president’s personal and business federal tax returns – which spanned the years 2015 through 2020 – provide a complex web of raw data about Trump’s finances, offering up many questions about his wealth and income that could be pursued both by auditors and Trump’s political opponents.

The returns were obtained by the Democratic-run committee only a few weeks ago after a protracted legal battle. The committee voted last week to release the tax returns, but their release was delayed to redact sensitive personal information like Social Security numbers.

CNN is currently reviewing the tax returns.

David Corn has already sniffed out something interesting. What would we do without great investigative journalists?

In writing for Politico, Josh Gerstein analyzes “How Justice Kagan lost her battle as a consensus builder. ‘She’s clearly not very happy,’ one associate says.”

Speaking at a small university in Rhode Island earlier this year, Justice Elena Kagan committed an act of Supreme Court heresy.

For years, justices have told the same anecdotes to assure the public that — despite the court’s increasingly polarized decisions in high-profile cases— the powerful jurists are committed to putting the best interests of the institution ahead of their personal agendas.

They point to genteel traditions like the handshakes exchanged before arguments, the ban on discussing cases during their private lunches, and the camaraderie they share when discussing books, vacations, children, grandchildren and sports, often baseball. The oft-told tale of Antonin Scalia and Ruth Bader Ginsburg bonding over a mutual love of opera took the sting out of any notion that the court’s most high-profile conservatives and liberals were angry with each other.

But Kagan, the Democratic appointee who has sought to be a consensus-builder for much of her legal career, broke sharply with the court’s tradition of downplaying disagreements and emphasizing off-the-bench bonhomie. In her speech at Salve Regina University in Newport, R.I., last September, she even went so far as to argue that these mundane staples of the justices’ public patter may actually now be obscuring the dysfunction on the nation’s highest court.

“To be a truly collegial, collaborative court, you have to be talking about more than: ‘Do they talk about baseball together?’” Kagan declared to about 1,000 students gathered on the lawn. “You have to be talking about: ‘Can they engage in the real work that they’re doing in collegial and collaborative ways?’ … That comes only with serious, sometimes difficult, but persistent effort to engage. And to try to work out divisions and reach places you thought you could not be — places of common ground.”

About a month later, speaking at the University of Pennsylvania, Kagan again suggested that the justices’ ability to make small talk is no substitute for genuine engagement on the crucial issues the court is asked to resolve.

“I don’t see why anybody should care that I can talk to some of my colleagues about baseball, unless that becomes a way for a better, more collaborative relationship about our cases and work,” Kagan said. “I think it is in service of that.”

Kagan, a nominee of President Barack Obama, then unmistakably signaled there have been breakdowns in the substantive give-and-takeshe views as essential to the court’s success.

“That is a work in progress. I mean, some years are better than other years,” she said. “Time will tell whether this is a court that can get back … to finding common ground.”

I’m not holding my breath for any of this.  Hardliners on the bench think heaven anointed them and speaks through them. The best we can hope for is some meaningful reform of court ethical behavior.

If you haven’t heard, Maryland Representative Jame Raskin is facing cancer and treatment.  You may read about his diagnosis and treatment plan on his Twitter link.  We wish him the speediest of healing and success in his treatments! He’s one of the jewels of the House of Representatives.

Burpee’s seed catalog, 1898

I was Wednesday years old when I found a reference to this disgusting misogynist on Greta Thunberg’s Twitter feed. I was Thursday years old reading this about him and his brother. I found this on the BBC, and I hope you’ve digested your most recent meal if you read this. “Andre  Tate detained in Romania over rape and human trafficking case.”

Controversial online influencer Andrew Tate has been detained in Romania as part of a human trafficking and rape investigation.

Tate – who was detained alongside his brother Tristan – had his house raided in the capital, Bucharest.

A police spokesperson confirmed the arrests to the BBC.

The former kickboxer rose to fame in 2016 when he was removed from British TV show Big Brother over a video which appeared to show him attacking a woman.

He went on to gain notoriety online, with Twitter banning him for saying women should “bear responsibility” for being sexually assaulted. He has since been reinstated.

Despite social media bans he gained popularity, particularly among young men, by promoting an ultra-masculine, ultra-luxurious lifestyle.

He regularly appeared in videos with a fleet of expensive sports cars, on private jets, and enjoying expensive holidays.

Speaking to the BBC, a spokesperson for the Directorate for Investigating Organised Crime and Terrorism (DIICOT) said prosecutors had applied to hold the influencer at a “detention centre” for an additional 30 days.

A judge will rule on the application on Friday afternoon, the spokesperson added. The brothers have been under investigation since April alongside two Romanian nationals.

“The four suspects… appear to have created an organised crime group with the purpose of recruiting, housing and exploiting women by forcing them to create pornographic content meant to be seen on specialised websites for a cost,” DIICOT said in a statement.

Video on social media showed Tate and his brother being led away from a luxury villa.

 Burpee Catalog from 1903

With men like these, we will never take back the night, let alone any other places. Women should not have to create safe places because of the predatory behavior and power of so many men.

CNN reports on how many concessions to crazies Kevin McCarthy has made to secure the Speakership. This cannot be good for the country. The report is by Melanie Zanona.

House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy has offered a key concession to critics of his bid for the House speakership during private conversations this week: reducing the threshold that is required to force a floor vote on ousting the sitting speaker, according to six Republican sources familiar with the internal discussions.

McCarthy has been trying to find a compromise threshold that would appease his critics enough to earn their speaker vote, while still being palatable to the rest of the House GOP, and has been sounding out all corners of the conference in private phone calls this week.

One of the numbers that has come up in recent conversations between McCarthy and GOP lawmakers – and which has not been previously reported – is a five-person threshold, according to two of the Republican sources.

Currently, the majority of the House GOP is required to call for the so-called motion to vacate the speaker’s chair. But some conservative hardliners are pushing for a single member to be able to call for such a vote, which they see as an important mechanism to hold the speaker accountable.

A five-person threshold, however, may be too low for the moderate wing of the party, some of whom have privately suggested they would be willing to agree on a 50-person threshold.

And some of McCarthy’s fiercest critics, including Reps. Matt Gaetz of Florida and Ralph Norman of South Carolina, told CNN they see the five-person threshold as still too high, underscoring the significant challenge McCarthy faces as he works to lock down the speakership.

“No, less than 5!!” Norman said in a text message of the proposed motion to vacate threshold. “2 or less (my opinion).”

And Gaetz said: “He’s gotta get down to 1.”

All of this will be a major topic of discussion during a crucial conference call on Friday afternoon that McCarthy scheduled with the various ideological caucuses in the House GOP, just four days ahead of the January 3 speaker’s vote.

I could just spend a few moments here going on about “your reap what you sow” or “‘For there will be peace for the seed, the vine will yield its fruit, the land will yield its produce, and the heavens will give their dew, and I will cause the remnant of this people to inherit all these things.” That last bit is from Zechariah 8:12. There are all kinds of fruit and seed quotes in literature, so I guess I may not be the only one that looks forward to the harvest.  I try to know what I plant and yank out the weeds. I’m a believer in karma, and I see some ripen.

“Hang there like fruit, my soul,
Till the tree die.”

― William Shakespeare, Cymbeline

It’s just kind of nice that the day after the darkest and longest night of the year, Burpee’s keeps offering a promise of food and beauty for sunnier days from the farms of my great grandparents to the victory gardens of my grandparents and my yard here in New Orleans. Have a great New Year’s week! I will see you on Monday. Let’s hope this year we get many fruitful days!

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

19 Comments on “Fruitful Friday Reads”

  1. dakinikat says:

    Here’s a little instant karma for you:

    Elon Musk suffers biggest loss of wealth in modern history with net worth collapse
    The Twitter and Tesla CEO’s net worth has fallen by more than $200billion (£166bn)

    Elon Musk has suffered the biggest loss of wealth in modern history, with his net worth dropping by more than $200billion (£166bn).

    The billionaire, who recently took over the social media site Twitter, lost over half of his fortune over the last 13 months.

    According to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, Musk’s net worth declined by $208billion (£172bn) – roughly the same as the annual GDP of Greece. That amount is also more than the total net worth of the world’s richest person, LVMH CEO Bernard Arnault.

    Why do people keep finding idiots to be anything but who they are?

    • dakinikat says:

      In memoriam: Twitter’s intellectual community
      Analysis •

      December 30, 2022
      A eulogy for the intellectual community of political scientists, journalists, and practitioners that existed on Twitter but has been scattered as a result of Elon Musk’s interventions.

      by Seth Masket, Denver Post

      As the year draws to a close, I wanted to offer a eulogy for something that was lost in 2022. No, not Twitter, which remains a living if grotesque parody of its former self, but rather the intellectual community that Twitter hosted.

      Physicist Edward Teller once claimed that one of the worst things the Third Reich did was destroy the intellectual community that had thrived in Germany in the early 20th century. Leaders in physics, chemistry, biology, medicine, and other fields made Germany the leading scientific power in the world. Then with Hitler’s rise, many fled, many were persecuted or killed, and most of the rest served the Reich and then were divvied up between the Americans and the Soviets.

      What happened with Twitter is not precisely the same, of course (and I question whether that was really one of the worst things the Nazis did), but there’s been a similar diaspora of intellect.

      One of my frustrations when I first started as an academic was the disconnect between political scientists, journalists, and practitioners. On those rare occasions when we might find ourselves in the same room, we were often talking about the same things, just from different perspectives.

      • NW Luna says:

        The reputable journalists and similar people who are leaving Twitter are just helping to make their prophecies come true. Did that ever enter their minds?

        I haven’t seen anything that different since Musk took over — I’ve heard some people say they’re getting right-wing tweets but I haven’t. I intensely dislike Musk’s politics. OTOH I like that a number of feminists who were banned by the pre-Musk moderators have been brought back.

        Pre-Musk Twitter was always ready to ban feminist women for speaking up — Masket ignores this or maybe he just never thought women’s rights were worth paying attention to. He and his colleagues apparently saw nothing wrong with the rape and death threats against women staying up. Goodbye, Masket. I won’t miss you.

  2. dakinikat says:

  3. bostonboomer says:

    Excellent post. I liked the article on Elena Kagen. I hope the liberals on the Court speak out more often. The SCOTUS right wingers don’t seem to have problems talking about their views in public.

    • dakinikat says:

      Thanks! Do you remember when Trump was debating with Biden, he told one of the reporters who asked that he’d closed his China bank account when he ran for president? I wonder how big a deal folk will make of that.

  4. bostonboomer says:

    I had never heard of Andrew Tate until this happened. I’m glad he got busted, but it sounds like he has been a terrible influence. Will those boys now think it’s great to enslave girls?

  5. quixote says:

    *Love* the old Burpee’s catalog illustrations!