“They [pettifogging lawyers] often had limited concern for scruples or conscience and the term was deeply contemptuous.” ~ Michael Quinion, World Wide Words
Wednesday afternoon, sunny, 46 degrees.
So from the ongoing impeachment trial, this nugget arose: PETTIFOGGING. In an NPR article, Elizabeth Blair elucidates:
According to the Cambridge Dictionary, “Pettifogging people give too much attention to small, unimportant details in a way that shows a limited mind.”
On that note, let’s dive in.
Petty + fogger = pettifogger
Petty means small or insignificant. A fogger is old slang for a “huckster, a cringing whining beggar.”
In his admonishment of public officials during President Trump’s impeachment proceedings, Chief Justice John Roberts cited the use of “pettifogging” in the 1905 Senate impeachment trial of Florida District Judge Charles Swayne, who was impeached “… for filing false travel vouchers, improper use of private railroad cars, unlawfully imprisoning two attorneys for contempt and living outside of his district.” (After nearly three months, the Senate voted to acquit.)
According to a transcript, the offending word in question was uttered by Swayne’s counsel, the Hon. John M. Thurston. He subsequently apologized.
“I don’t think we need to aspire to that high standard, but I do think those addressing the Senate should remember where they are,” Justice Roberts said, as he urged civil discourse among House impeachment managers and President Trump’s lawyers.
What a wonderful word, and so fitting when talking about Mr. Giuliani et al. Who said politics was boring?
More later (if the laptop cooperates). Peace.
Music by the Patti Smith Group, “Broken Flag”
Nodding tho the lamp’s lit low, nod for passers underground.
To and fro she’s darning, and the land is weeping red and pale.
Weeping yarn from Algiers. Weeping yarn from Algiers.
Weaving tho the eyes are pale, what will rend will also mend.
The sifting cloth is binding, and the dream she weaves will never end.
For we’re marching toward Algiers. For we’re marching toward Algiers.
Lullaby tho baby’s gone. Lullaby a broken song.
Oh, the cradle was our call. When it rocked we carried on.
And we marched on toward Algiers. For we’re marching toward Algiers
We’re still marching for Algiers. Marching, marching for Algiers.
Not to hail a barren sky. Sifting cloth is weeping red.
The mourning veil is waving high a field of stars and tears we’ve shed.
In the sky a broken flag, children wave and raise their arms.
We’ll be gone but they’ll go on and on and on and on and on.
“They’re sending out requests for money, saying they might go bankrupt in their legal fight with New York. They’re going through all of this drama of saying they need money, while they are spending money on all these things that can’t even be justified.” ~ ROB PINCUS, Gun Rights Advocate
Saturday evening, sunny, and warm, 83 degrees.
I’ve been working on this post since this morning, and it’s now after 8 p.m., so I’m dog tired and hurt all over. Just thought I’d share that tidbit.
So you are a proud member of the NRA. Fine, truly. It’s your right as an American citizen to belong to anything you choose. I may not agree with you, but that’s my right as an American citizen. We get to disagree about things. Again, a free and open society allows for that. Here’s hoping we continue to be a free and open society for many years to come, a society that endorses freedom of the press and your right to be a safe gun owner.
But allow me to elucidate for you a few NRA facts about which you may be unfamiliar, a few facts about exactly how the NRA spends your membership dues. You may be surprised . . . or maybe not. But first, a few background facts about the organization.
“It is imperative that the NRA cleans its own house . . .” ~ Lt. Col. Allen West, Ret., NRA Board Member, in a blog post (May 14, 2019)
NRA Background Information:
The NRA was co-founded in 1871 by William Conant Church and Captain George Wood Wingate. Prior to 1970, the organization was primarily non-partisan, but during the 1970s it became increasingly aligned with the Republican party.
This nonprofit group (501c4) has an annual revenue of around $400 million and enjoys tax-exempt status as a “social welfare” organization. As such, it is not required to disclose its donors. It is, however, required to file a tax return declaring its revenue sources, which includes membership dues.
Wayne LaPierre was appointed executive vice president in 1991 and still serves as CEO. But did you know that LaPierre’s early career included working for Democratic lawmakers in Virginia? Irony, huh?
Nine US presidents have been NRA members. In addition to Grant, they are: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush (who resigned in 1995), and Donald Trump. Three US vice presidents, two chief justices of the US Supreme Court, and several US congressmen, as well as legislators and officials of state governments are members.
NRA membership dues after 2018 hike: Regular membership fees when not running promotions: annual $45, two-year $75, three-year $100, five-year $150 and lifetime memberships $1500, 60 monthly payments of $25 (Interestingly, these rates differ depending upon which site you are exploring, but I got my information directly from the NRA site.)
Since 2013, the NRA has cited is membership as being around 5 million.
According to Newsweek and multiple sources, the NRA’s membership typically gets a boost after tragedies like the one in Newtown, Connecticut.
The NRA received twice as much money from nearly five times as many donors in the seven days after the Parkland, Florida, high school shooting than it did in the seven days before the shooting.
Even though a Quinnipiac poll conducted in the days after February’s Parkland, Florida, school shooting showed 97 percent of surveyed gun owners support universal background checks for gun purchases, the NRA still opposes such legislation.
According to Rick Newman on Yahoo Finance: The NRA’s political spending takes two forms: money spent on lobbying, and money spent on elections, whether direct donations to candidates or spending on their behalf through a political-action committee. Required disclosure forms show spending of $5.1 million on lobbying and $54 million on elections, or $59.1 million total.
According to an article by Mike Spies in The New Yorker, the NRA has “reduced spending on its avowed core mission—gun education, safety, and training—to less than ten per cent of its total budget, but it has substantially increased its spending on messaging.”
The NRA receives most of its income—$164 million in 2016—from dues paid by its members, and contributions, including money donated to its political-action committees, brought in another $104 million in 2016.
“I can think of no other non-profit organization that compensates their Executive Vice President the kind of salary and benefits that Mr. Lapierre gets relative to how much employees receive. I also cannot understand how a person like Mr. Lapierre treats the people that work for him like his own personal indentured servants . . . ” ~ Andy Lander, former NRA employee of 13 years in an open letter
Facts of which you may be unaware regarding questionable NRA membership totals and expenditures by the upper echelon of the organization:
On NRA membership, real and not-so-real:
A Newsweek review of the tax exempt records, known as 990 filings (full text of 990 from 2015 here, and 2017 here), shows wild fluctuation in membership numbers from year to year, but also an overall decline in membership revenue between 2007 and 2016.
According to an article in The Trace, there was a “22 percent drop in membership revenue—from $163 million in 2016 to $128 million in 2017. Dues from members accounted for just 40 percent of the NRA’s total revenue in 2017 — the lowest percentage in a decade.”
Richard Feldman, a former NRA lobbyist, said the group uses a few other tricks to pad its numbers: counting lifetime members who have died, counting annual members whose memberships have lapsed in the 13 month: “one method he and his colleagues used was to continue counting annual members on its rolls even after their membership lapsed, at least for another month, in hopes they would renew.”
On the big, big costs associated with keeping the EVP/CEO:
CEO Wayne LaPierre, gets paid very well. In 2015, the last year for which the group’s tax return is available, LaPierre earned $5.1 million in total compensation. That’s more than the CEOs of Alaska Air, CME Group, Church & Dwight, Dish Network or Garmin earned that year.
A comprehensive article in Business Insider states that “in 2017, the most recent year available, NRA paid LaPierre a salary of $1,366,688, plus an additional $67,289 in ‘other compensation from the organization and related organizations,'” according to the company’s 2017 990 tax form. That brings his total compensation that year to $1,433,977.
In 2015, the NRA paid a one-time $3,767,345 supplemental retirement payment to LaPierre, which will become even more startling later in the post.
La Pierre will continue to earn a salary even after leaving the NRA. State records show that LaPierre’s contract “provides for consulting services and personal appearances upon the end of his employment, at an annual rate that starts at his currently contracted final base salary and is later reduced.”
“The litany of red flags is just extraordinary.” ~ Marc Owens, former head of the IRS division that oversees tax-exempt enterprises
A Pro Publica article contends that in July 2018, a half-dozen of the organization’s accountants produced a document detailing the most egregious issues that needed to be addressed by the audit committee tasked with conducting NRA fiscal oversight. The audit committee document was part of an effort by NRA accountants last year to address a broad array of questionable transactions and business arrangements that they believed could threaten the organization’s tax-exempt status.
The “List of Top Concerns for the Audit Committee” details a range of questionable transactions and business arrangements involving several top NRA vendors and executives. Violations of the organizations procedures and policies included hiring staff without HR knowledge, reimbursement of living expenses beyond HR policies.
The transactions involved top NRA executives, favored vendors, and consultants, including Josh Powell, LaPierre’s former chief of staff. The organization’s 2017 tax filings revealed that Powell had racked up more than a hundred thousand dollars in personal expenses—including a housing allowance—paid by the NRA.
That being said, it appears that the biggest infractions came from the very top.
On LaPierre’s Questionable Expenses:
A leaked document shows that LaPierre likes his clothes—for purchases dating back to 2004 From the Zegna boutique in Beverly Hills the total for designer suits was $274,695.
Fox News reports that the CEO billed the group’s outside ad agency $39,000 for one day of shopping at a Beverly Hills clothing boutique, $18,300 for a car and driver in Europe and had the agency cover $13,800 in rent for a summer intern, according to newly revealed NRA internal documents.
Among the travel expenses billed to the NRA’s former ad agency are more than $200,000 in “Air Transportation” costs during a one-month period in late 2012 and early 2013, in part related to a two-week trip over Christmas to the Bahamas.
The Fox News article also states that “The documents, posted anonymously on the internet, provide new details of the clothing, travel and other expenses totaling more than $542,000 that Ackerman McQueen Inc. alleges Mr. LaPierre billed to it. (The NRA is now in litigation with its former ad agency)
But it wasn’t all vacations and travel expenses for LaPierre and his spouse: The NRA also spent tens of thousands of dollars in travel and lodging expenses for hair and makeup artists for Susan LaPierre.
“This is like the worst kind of corporate waste because buying the house does nothing to advance the interests of the NRA. How can you explain that? It’s not like he’s been underpaid.” ~ Daniel Kurtz, New York attorney specializing in non-profit law
About that nine-bathroom house on the golf course:
The Wall Street Journal reported in August 2019 that in 2018 LaPierre was in talks with the NRA’s former ad agency, Ackerman McQueen, to facilitate the purchase of a 10,000 suqare foot house in Dallas that was priced at $6.2 million at the time: “The discussions about the house purchase occurred early last year, shortly after the mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Fla. Mr. LaPierre was concerned about his security and was interested in another residence besides his publicly known address in northern Virginia.” (Oh irony, thy name is LaPierre…….)
LaPierre’s wife, Susan, did quibble with one design detail, according to an email ThePost reviewed. She thought the men’s closet may not be large enough.
According to the Sydney Morning Herald, “The origins of the idea to buy the mansion, its proposed purpose and the reason the deal never went through are now being fiercely disputed by the NRA and Ackerman McQueen, which are locked in a bitter legal fight.”
An aside: Before the big falling out and all of the drama, Ackerman and McQueen had a 38-year relationship with the NRA, and in 2017 (the most recent available records), the NRA paid the ad agency and its affiliates over $40 million. This relationship could be a post all by itself, and that’s not even getting into the whole Ollie North aspect.
Ackerman says they were setting up an LLC, WBB Investments, for LaPierre so that his home buying would not become public.
Even though the NRA claims that not a dime of its money was spent on the proposed purchase, a good faith check for $70,000 was in fact wired to WBB Investments towards the home’s purchase.
And finally, did you want that coffee with or without the retirement option:
Remember that insignificant sum of $3,767,345 the NRA paid into LaPierre’s retirement fund in 2015?
According to the NPR article, a copy of 2019 National Rifle Association pension documents obtained from a source showed that the NRA’s pension obligations were approximately $134 million at the beginning of this year, but they had only set aside $93 million to meet those obligations.
FYI: There are 786 people in the NRA’s pension plan, of which 223 are currently employed by the organization. The company has underfunded pensions affecting hundreds of former and current employees—even as LaPierre made $1.4 million in 2017, according to the group’s most recent financial disclosures.
Perhaps the coffee cutback is only a reflection of the bigger cash problem facing the NRA. In May, they sued New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, claiming that the state’s zealous regulatory efforts against its Carry Guard insurance program had cost the NRA “tens of millions of dollars” in lost revenue, legal fees, and other damages.
So that’s just a capsule of how the NRA gets and spends some of its money, and granted, this post ended up being much longer than I had anticipated. What I take away from this is perhaps three things: Bloating at the top of organizations seems to be universal, and those in charge tend to forget all of the people they stepped on to get there. Second, the original mission of the NRA has been lost (advancing rifle marksmanship). Gun education and safety falls somewhere in the bottom of priorities.
And finally, and this is good news for those of us who really are against the organization’s upper echelon and the out-of-touch messaging, their belt tightening has affected their political spending: The group shelled out just under $10 million on House and Senate candidates in 2018—less than half of what it spent on congressional races in 2014 and 2016 (emphasis mine).
(The above information can be found anywhere on the internet, but I’ve tried to use as many sources as possible so as to be thorough and as unbiased as I can be when discussing the NRA. I’ve also sought the original documents that were leaked on the web. All links are included unless a statement is considered common knowledge.
Tomorrow’s companion post will focus on the downfall of NRA TV.
I found something on my tumblr that I really wanted to share, but couldn’t figure out how to embed the slideshow in WordPress, so I’ll just have to provide the link. It’s called “The Questions People Get Asked about Their Race.” What I found so relatable is that I have had far too many of those comments/questions thrown my way. I still remember being asked as an 8-year-old child, “What are you?” How does a child answer that . . .
The adult me knows the answer: human.
Basically, people are stupid, and anyone who doesn’t think so should read the following story after looking at the NPR slideshow.
Quite frankly, the following along the same lines just blew my mind.
A Virginia couple was shocked to find a police officer in front of their home when they returned from running errands, but they were even more surprised by the reason for the cop’s visit– to question whether or not they were in fact their children’s parents.
Joseph, a white man who didn’t want his last name revealed, and his black wife Keana told Fox5DC that they were outraged after the policeman told them a security guard at their local Walmart had suspected Joseph of kidnapping his three young daughters.
“He asks us very sincerely, ‘Hey, I was sent here by Walmart security. I just need to make sure that the children that you have are your own,’” Joseph said.
“I was dumbfounded,” Keana said. “I sat there for a minute and I thought, ‘Did he just ask us if these were our kids knowing what we went through to have our children?’
The couple, who have been married for 10 years, have a four-year-old daughter and two-year-old twin girls. Joseph had taken the girls to a Walmart near their Prince William County home to cash a check and left after spending a short time in the parking lot. After speaking with the officer, they called the store demanding an explanation.
According to Keana, she was told a customer was alarmed after seeing her husband and children.
“Well, the customer was concerned because they saw the children with your husband and he didn’t think that they fit,” Keana told the news station. “And I said, ‘What do you mean by they don’t fit?’ And I was trying to get her to say it. And she says, ‘Well, they just don’t match up.’”
NPR teams with The Paris Review to raise the stakes and bragging rights for the latest “Three-Minute Fiction” contest, launching this Saturday, September 8 on the weekend version of All Things Considered. The story that wins the NPR competition will be published in the quarterly that Time recently called “America’s greatest literary magazine.”
A regular feature of All Things Considered created by host Guy Raz, “Three-Minute Fiction,” challenges listeners to write original works of fiction that can be read aloud in three minutes or less. Each iteration features a guest judge who provides a prompt that must be included in contestants’ stories. For the ninth round, bestselling suspense novelist Brad Meltzer acts as judge and will fittingly reveal his story starter on Saturday.
“There is superstition in avoiding superstitions.” Sir Francis Bacon
Supersense: Bruce Hood’s Book Hits the Shelves
I know that several people who follow my blog also follow Supersense: Why We Believe in the Unbelievable (http://brucemhood.wordpress.com/), which is hosted by researcher, scientist, and author Bruce M. Hood.
Bruce’s blog is always entertaining, very often educational, and the comment streams can be great fun. I have been visiting Bruce’s blog for a while now, and I will freely admit that it is one of my favorites. I think that I enjoy the comments as much as the blogs themselves. Those of us who comment regularly are an irreverent bunch, mostly from the UK and the US, but people drop in from all over the world.
Bruce is currently on the U.S. leg of his promotional tour for his book, which has the same name as his blog site; unfortunately for me, Bruce’s tour dates didn’t come anywhere near the Mid-Atlantic, or I would have traveled to see him. As it is, once I am able to purchase is book, I am probably going to send it to Bruce so that he can autograph it for me.
I’ll probably order the UK version as I really prefer that cover to the US cover. (Decisions on cover designs for different countries is fodder for an entire class on design. Don’t get me started.)
Here is a brief description from the Amazon site:
Why is it that Tony Blair always wore the same pair of shoes when answering Prime Minister’s Questions? That John McEnroe notoriously refused to step on the white lines of a tennis court between points? And that President-elect Barack Obama played a game of basketball the morning of his victory in the Iowa primary, and continued the tradition the day of every following primary? Superstitious habits are common. Do you ever cross your fingers, knock on wood, avoid walking under ladders, or step around black cats? Sentimental value often supersedes material worth. If someone offered to replace your childhood teddy bear or wedding ring with a brand new, exact replica, would you do it?
It has been wonderful keeping up with him and his promotions people in the big lead up to the publication dates in the UK and in the US. And in spite of his busy and hectic schedule, he still finds time to post to allow his regular readers to keep up with his goings on.
He was on NPR on April 7 with Brian Lehrer, but I missed the show. If I hadn’t missed it, you can bet that I would have called in and asked Bruce about mummified mermaids. But since I missed the show, I wanted to take this opportunity to post the youtube of the show, called “Are You Superstitious?”
“Men are probably nearer the central truth in their superstitions than in their science” ~ Henry David Thoreau
Personally, I am very superstitious about some things but not others, but I don’t really think about it until someone points it out. For example, I have no problems in opening an umbrella inside of the house or a building, but this drives my poor mother crazy. However, I do not like to walk under ladders; but to be perfectly honest, I think that this dislike arises more from clumsiness than superstition.
I don’t believe in throwing salt over my shoulder or knocking on wood (more because everything is laminate, and that kind of defeats the purpose of wood), but I do believe in ghosts, more because of events that have happened in my life. I’ll pick up pennies whether they are heads up or heads down, just because I view a penny as part of a larger whole; is that in itself a superstition?
Friday the 13th passes by without my acknowledgement, but I wouldn’t want to stay on the 13th floor of a hotel, nor would I want to stay in room 666. I don’t believe in the seven years of bad luck associated with breaking mirrors, but I might want to rethink that one considering the string of bad luck that we’ve had.
I don’t believe in lucky clothes, but I’m not an athlete. My former husband used to be a competitive runner, and he had a lucky t-shirt. And I’ve known other people who play sports who have lucky socks or lucky shirts. However, I do have an old sweater from the sixth grade that I refuse to rid myself of, as well as a t-shirt from high school that is faded and wouldn’t fit on my thigh, but I cannot bring myself to throw that away either. Superstition or sentimentality? Is there a difference?
I am not afraid of black cats; in fact, I find them rather beautiful. But I do believe in angels or angelic presence. I don’t believe in things commonly referred to as “old wives’ tales,” but my mother still clings to many of these.
For example, my mother still has a thing about the night air, as in people who are sick shouldn’t go out in the night air. This “old wives’s tale” actually dates back to the Renaissance and before. People used to believe that ill humours floated about in the night air, and those who actually chanced a nightly constitutional among the humours would be affected adversely by catching diseases and ailments. As a result of this, my mother would never let me go out at night when I was younger for fear that my asthma would be affected by the night air.
I can tell you that since my operation, my back now is a very good predictor of rain and snow, just as people for years have claimed that their arthritis predicts bad weather.
“Like it or not, we’re still a primitive tribe ruled by fears, superstition and misinformation.” ~ Bill Maher
My father used to have this funny superstition, but I’m not sure if he really believed it or just found it funny enough to pass on. Apparently, an ancient Filipino, perhaps Asian cure for when people were choking on fish bones was to pat them on the head. I’ll never forget when Alexis seemed to have something caught in her throat, and my dad said, “Pat her on the head. It will go away.” Luckily, she wasn’t really choking. We’ve laughed about that one for years.
Another superstition among many tribes and religions is that of a woman being unclean when she is menstruating. In some cultures, these women were/are made to go stay in a separate hut or room until her menses passes. Often the superstition is that the woman can contaminate the rest of the village somehow, or, that the menstruating woman is a little bit mad. I can vouch for the latter: Men should try having bloating, cramps, headaches, insomnia, and mood swings every month of their lives . . .
Then there are the serial killers. Now there’s a superstitious bunch for you. What do I mean? How about those who will only kill under the full moon? Or those who will only kill women with blond hair? Or those that will bury their dead in the same place because it’s lucky? Icky, huh?
Or cultural superstitions: not eating cows because they are sacred (India), throwing coins in a fountain while facing away from a fountain will grant three wishes (Argentina), or not sleeping with your head pointed north because that’s the direction that dead people face (Japan).
Or doomsday cults. That’s another superstitious subculture. The world will end at the new millennium. The world will end when women get the vote. The world will end when blacks are integrated into society. The world will end when I finally publish a book. No wait, that one is mine. Sorry.
I’m not even going to touch on the superstitions tied to various religions. That is a book all by itself. Scientology anyone?
I could go on, but it would be much better if you ordered Bruce’s book (Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or your independent bookseller), and read about these things as written by an expert on the subject.
I do want to close with a quote by the incredible Carl Sagan when he was pondering what would happen at the close of the millennium: “I worry that, especially as the Millennium edges nearer, pseudo-science and superstition will seem year by year more tempting, the siren song of unreason more sonorous and attractive.”
“Siren song of unreason”—boy I wish that I had written that.