Archive | March 2017

The Court of public opinion

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I’ll start by saying, I find the whole Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS), nomination / confirmation process a bit whacked.

I really don’t understand the point of a Democratic filibuster. Why not just vote No if you don’t like him? A nominee needs 60 votes. Gorsuch won’t get 60 votes because no one on the Dem side will vote for him. At that point, the Republican senators will have to change the Senate rules to lower the standard or withdraw the nomination and nominate someone new.

Let’s face it, the POTUS could do worse than withdraw Gorsuch’s nomination and nominate Garland instead. They’re both older white male lawyers with a surname starting with G. He said he wanted to reach out to the Democrats, and punish the GOP for failing to back him. Withdrawing Gorsuch’s nomination and nominating Garland instead might be just the thing to prove to Dem’s he wants to “deal.”

 

I have nothing against Gorsuch personally. His mother was the one that was thrown out of her Republican cabinet post at the EPA for corruption when he was 15. Notoriously, when asked to release records that proved her wrong doing, she said she couldn’t, claiming Executive Privilege covered those records.

Pres. Reagan responded by saying he would “never use executive privilege to cover up wrong doing” and let her fall. I wonder what kind of impact that humiliation had on Gorsuch? It wasn’t his wrong doing, but he did suffer for it. It probably gave him a few negative thoughts about presidents and Executive Privilege.

I question whether Gorsuch (age 49, but not likely to live long, his mother died at 62, his father at 64. That gives Gorsuch about 12 years on the bench) is a good fit for the Supreme Court though. In a decision last week, on one of Gorsuch’s rulings, the SCOTUS knocked down his decision 8-0. That means everyone on the court, liberals, moderates, and conservatives, thought his decision was dead wrong.

If a minority of judges had agreed with him, then he would have had a leg to stand on. But as it is, if every Supreme Court jurist could see his decision was wrong, dead wrong, if it was that obvious his decision was wrong, he doesn’t belong on the Supreme Court. He’s an okay lower bench judge, given his 10 years of Federal court experience, but he’s clearly not qualified to exercise final judgement.

This is true of several other cases that appeared before him as well. A large group of judges decide one way, correctly, and he makes an obviously wrong opinion. Worse, he then goes on to write his minority opinion, and it’s so obviously wrong but not for legal reasons so much as his personal political beliefs.

Having a person like this adjudicate at a lower level is frustrating, but you can almost guarantee his opinion will be reversed on appeal so it’s safe enough. Such a reversal can’t happen if he’s a justice at the SCOTUS. So, to me, it’s just wrong to nominate such a judge for the SCOTUS. He brings nothing to the Court other than his Protestantism (the current court is composed of Catholic and Jewish justices), which I guess is something toward diversity, but little else.

Other problems he has, which are totally not of his making, are the taint on the situation of his nomination, as a result of Republican failure to do their job and advise and consent to Garland, the last legitimate American POTUS’s nominee; and the taint of being nominated by the current POTUS who has as-yet unfinished investigations into his Russian alliances, making Gorsuch a questionable choice.

There’s not anything Gorsuch can do about either of the situations.  He really is sort of an innocent bystander caught in the crossfire. Congress really should have declined to consider a nominee, any nominee, by a president under investigation. It clearly doesn’t bother the Republicans to have 8 justices rather than 9, nor does it hamper the Court’s functioning.

At this point, the current POTUS has gutted the State Department, disgraced the office of POTUS, put unqualified people in charge of federal agencies, attempted to destroy the national security branches, subverted the investigation into his administration, and is not making our country safer, stronger, or better in anyway. I see no reason to consider his nominee for SCOTUS.

What happened to Garland (age 64, with a parent still alive, and 19 years of Federal court experience) was unconstitutional. Congress was required to advise and consent, they didn’t even attempt to advise about the nominee. But at this point, Garland was selected by a legitimately elected American POTUS who was in full possession of his mind and had no debt or connection to the Russian government.

I’d go ahead with hearings to confirm Garland instead. It’s really the only way to preserve the integrity of the nomination process and the Supreme Court. As for the POTUS, withdrawing Gorsuch’s nomination and renominating Garland is a way to reward the “disloyal” Republicans who tanked Trump”care” and let them know he means business about dealing with Democrats. Kind of a win-win really.

 

 

 

A game within a game, within a game

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Trump’s  super Eastern, high back, buttercup yellow chairs. 

oldchairs

Obama’s super Western,  low back, brown leather chairs with tacks.

Entertaining as the hearing today was, I can’t help but think that everyone is missing the actual point: The POTUS claimed to have been wiretapped to find out if he’d been wiretapped.

Weird as that sounds, it makes logical sense. Since the POTUS is not allowed to ask about information about current FBI investigations. The only way to find out if there was one,was is to create such havoc (via wild Twitter claims about wiretapping) that Congress asks the question for him, publicly. Then he gets his answer. So now, thanks to Congress, the POTUS knows, he’s under investigation.

A lot of what goes on in DC is games within games. For instance,  Trump believed his only route to the presidency was via Russian help that would discredit his opponent. So he took it. Republicans  thought the only route back to presidential power was Trump, so they backed him.

But I imagine that it was always the Republican view that once Trump had power, the GOP in Congress would find a way to knock him out of power, probably via the accusation of help from Russians. Hence all the leaks.

The POTUS thinks the leaks are coming from civil servants with Democratic (not democratic) leanings, the “deep state.” The reality, I suspect, is that all the leaks are Republican in origin and going to continue until he’s removed from office. Whether Pence gets dragged down as well, I don’t know. But it would make sense to remove the POTUS, his VP, and all of his confirmed cabinet appointees.

It’s possible we might end up with Speaker Ryan as the new POTUS. I expect the Republican party would prefer that. It does seem to be the end goal.

In the meantime,  look forward to more outrageous POTUS claims in a bid to attempt to extract more information about the investigation he is under. Because it’s all about him. Remember how long he spent saying he was legitimate president? Legitimate presidents don’t do that.

If the POTUS was innocent of collusion with the Russians, he wouldn’t worry about these investigations and would instead get on with running the government. That he’s obsessed with the investigations, just proves he thinks he’s guilty of something.

The upshot of all is that this administration is in trouble, deep trouble. People at home and abroad no longer see a POTUS, just an paranoid man who does nothing but diminish  American democracy and power. To quote the POTUS, “Sad.”

But I will say this. Without all this investigation, without all this revelation, I think the EU elections might have gone differently. If the scandal and mess that America has landed in has served as an alarm and a call to action and helped prevent other nations falling prey to fake news and Russian interference, that’s a good thing.

America is tough. Americans are tough. We can survive scandal and crappy presidents. We’ve done it before, we can do it again. America’s style of democracy is designed to be a self-righting. Political entities in Europe and organizations like the EU are way less resilient.

If having a train wreck like Trump in office, temporarily, helped save other democracies, it was worth it. Europe I think forgot what bad government really looked like, now they’ve seen it in action. They can save themselves.The Austrians and the Dutch heeded the warning and did the right thing. France and Germany will likely do the same.

Yep. It was worth it.

Trump’s 2005 IRS 1040? Really?

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It’s a chipmunk people,  not a squirrel

When things appear out of thin air, I start to wonder. Mostly because a tax return, from our current president, is such a “nut to find” (ie “SQUIRREL”) to the media. Is it real? I dunno. But, I had to look at the documents for myself.

There are a number of interesting things you can learn from the documents.

  • There seems to be 2 hole punches at the top. This might imply the original document was kept in a legal binder which suggests a legal office as origin.
  • Melania filed using her legal name Melanija Knavs and not Melania Knauss.
  • Donald gave $3 to the presidential election campaign fund. I guess he believed in fair elections free of billionaire and corporate money back then. Sad that $3 is really the only verified charitable donation we have on record for him.
  • Barron had yet to be born, so no exemptions there.
  • He had tax exempt interest and qualified dividends.
  • Client Copy stamped on the bottom implies the document was lifted by someone from within the Trump’s own orbit. I don’t suggest he released it himself, but he certainly could have and a case could be made for him doing so. It would be a distraction from the epic fail of Trumpcare.
  • The LHA printed at the bottom of the page means his accountant used CCH ProSystem tax software.
  • Also, apparently, he filed his taxes late because the bottom has two notes indicating there was interest charged on unpaid taxes and a penalty. Penalties are usually 5% of the unpaid taxes for each month they are late.

Forms that should be attached to this filing include — but no one has yet seen —

  • W2s for Wages, salaries, tips, etc
  • 1099-INT. Taxable interest is usually money other companies pay you. Tax exempt interest is also declared on a 1099-INT .
  • Statements, at least 9.
    • Statement 1 is about  Other income. List type and amount .
    • Statement 2 about his Taxable refunds, credits, or offsets of state and local income taxes,
    • Statement 4 is about Melania’s Taxable refunds, credits, or offsets of state and local income taxes,
    • Statement 6 about alimony he paid or didn’t pay, and
    • Statement 9 is about Excess social security and tier 1 RRTA tax withheld.
    • I can’t tell what Statements 3, 5, 7, or 8 are about. I just know they exist.
  • Schedule A Itemized deductions
  • Schedule B for taxable interest.
  • Schedule C about his business profits.
  • Schedule D about his capital gains.
  • Schedule E about Rental real estate, royalties, partnerships, S corporations, trusts, etc
  • Schedule SE One-half of self-employment tax, which he paid.
  • Form 6251 Alternative minimum tax
  • Form 1116 Foreign Tax Credits
  • Form 3800 General Business Credit
  • Form 4136 Credit for Federal Tax Paid on Fuels  For is airplane I guess.
  • Form 4868, because he requested an extension on his filing.

I think the weirdest thing was at the very bottom. Weiser LLP, (now called Mazar) the accountant firm who prepared this 1040 is listed at 3000 Marcus Ave, Lake Success, NY. Oddly The Donald J Trump Foundation Inc, had it’s offices there too.

When you live and work in Manhattan — where plenty of accountants exist — having your accountant 20 miles away is weird. Having it 20 miles away and in the same building as your “charitable” foundation that does no charity work? Super weird.

Also there is a claim by Trump that 2005 was the only year Weiser LLP did his taxes. Interesting fact, Wieser LLP prepared a 2004 Statement of Financial Condition on Trump and his entities. That means Wieser LLP was doing multiple years of Trump’s audit work.

A partner in Weiser LLP, Gerald Rosenblum, who worked on the Statement, stated, and I quote from Trump vs O’Brien http://caselaw.findlaw.com/nj-superior-court-appellate-division/1579526.html

Rosenblum “was asked in his deposition whether he was aware of all liabilities of Trump and his related entities. He responded: ‘I asked the client to provide me with a list of liabilities as they existed at June 30th, 2005. The client presented me with a list, in essence. I was not certain to this day that I was aware of all Mr. Trump’s liabilities at that point in time, and I sought no corroboration.‘ “

Clearly Mr Roseblum isn’t exactly a great CPA. He’s one of those guys that does what makes his client happy. He doesn’t really do his job. He relies on his clients to be honest, knowing that they probably aren’t but not really caring and filing such probably false statements with the IRS and others. Nice.

To me, it seems like the POTUS  just wanted something, anything to cause a stir and distract from the DOA his own party is handing Trumpcare. So he sent out a couple pages of an old return. Pretty typical.

If you think it isn’t typical, just read this excerpt from the rest of the trial.

While O’Brien may have had “unprecedented” access to evidence of Trump’s financial position, nothing in the record suggests that such access was sufficient to permit an accurate estimate of his net worth. Further, it is indisputable that Trump’s estimates of his own worth changed substantially over time and thus failed to provide a reliable measure against which the accuracy of the information offered by the three confidential sources could be gauged. The following exchange from Trump’s deposition is illustrative of this point:

Q Now, Mr. Trump, have you always been completely truthful in your public statements about your net worth of properties?

A I try.

Q Have you ever not been truthful?

A My net worth fluctuates, and it goes up and down with markets and with attitudes and with feelings, even my own feelings, but I try.

Q Let me just understand that a little bit. Let’s talk about net worth for a second. You said that the net worth goes up and down based upon your own feelings?

A Yes, even my own feelings, as to where the world is, where the world is going, and that can change rapidly from day to day. Then you have a September 11th, and you don’t feel so good about yourself and you don’t feel so good about the world and you don’t feel so good about New York City. Then you have a year later, and the city is as hot as a pistol. Even months after that it was a different feeling.

So yeah, even my own feelings affect my value to myself.

Q When you publicly state what you’re worth, what do you base that number on?

A I would say it’s my general attitude at the time that the question may be asked. And as I say, it varies.

Further, as defendants note in their brief, other sources recognized the difficulty of estimating Trump’s net worth and the wide spread of plausible values. Defendants quote a September 9, 2004 article in The Washington Post, which stated:

Actually, it’s hard to know exactly what percent of Trump’s net worth is tied to the casino business, because most of Trump’s portfolio is in privately held companies that don’t report earnings. He’s described himself as “a billionaire many times over,” but who knows? There are skeptics out there who believe Trump has $300 million, tops. And the guy has a reputation for, let’s say, shading the news in a light that reflects his enthusiasms.

An April 12, 2004 article, published in Time magazine stated:

How rich is the Donald? To interviewers, he hints that his wealth is somewhere between $2 billion and $6 billion. Rival developers estimate it’s nowhere near even the lower figure.

The article continued by reporting on his successful redevelopment of a building at 40 Wall Street, but then balanced it with a report of his casinos “[s]wamped with debt” and the statement that “Trump has become more front man than hands-on developer.”

An older Fortune article, published on April 3, 2000, noted that

Trump delights in the sort of elaborate shell games and impenetrably complex deals that frustrate the most conscientious efforts to assess a person’s true worth. “It’s always good to do things nice and complicated,” he once told an interviewer, “so that nobody can figure it out.”

That difficulty is compounded by Trump’s astonishing ability to prevaricate․ [W]hen Trump says he owns 10% of the Plaza Hotel, understand that what he actually means is that he has the right to 10% of the profit if it’s ever sold. When he says he’s building a “90–story building” next to the U.N., he means a 72–story building that has extra-high ceilings.

And, finally, defendants point to a January 19, 2000 article in The Wall Street Journal that noted Trump’s boasts of his success but then stated:

But a look at the major sources of his wealth, including the Trump Place apartment development on New York City’s west side, the 70–story Trump World Tower project and the midtown General Motors Building, shows that several of his billions are based on profits that are far in the future—and far from guaranteed.

In summary, we find no evidence to support Trump’s conclusion that the confidential sources utilized by O’Brien were fictitious

Did the POTUS release the pages of his tax return? He seemed to have a pretty cogent response when asked about it. One that cast him as a victim to get sympathy. I’d say the odds are 50/50.

Did Rachel Maddow go overboard hyping on this issue, yeah a little. She gets overexcited sometimes, but that what happens when real journalists who’ve been starving for some truth finally find a kernel of it. Good on you, Rachel!