Tag Archive | Rachel Maddow

Coal miner’s lament

coal

In news today from Reuters, US and Russian coal exports are way, way up because China has decided to sanction North Korean coal.

China banned all imports of North Korean coal on Feb. 26, cutting off the country’s most important export product. To curb coal traffic between the two countries, which continued despite the ban apparently, China’s customs department issued an official order on April 7 telling trading companies to return their North Korean coal cargoes.

Trump’s been talking about North Korea since before he was elected. I’ve always wondered why. Consensus states the North Korea is in pretty bad shape and that most of what they say is a lie. It’s doubtful they have anything like a functioning weapon. North Korea, which is hardly worth bothering about. That the POTUS was bothered, always made me wonder. I kind of get it now.

By casting North Korea as a problem, and getting China to agree and ban buying coal from NK, China then has to buy coal elsewhere, which potentially means US coal jobs. Is this what the POTUS meant when he said he would bring back coal jobs? Not so fast. It may sound good on the surface for American workers, but dig a little deeper.

China needs coking coal to make steel, China can’t stop buying this type of coal or its economy will suffer. So …. the US is one place they might buy it from. However, another place, that’s much closer geographically and less costly to buy from, is Russia.  Yes, you read that correctly Russia.

Russia’s coal exports are expected to rise by up to 3.3 pct in 2017 according to a UK Reuters report. Coal is a $10B industry in Russia, increasing it over 3% would be a major economic boost to the economy there. Why does such a boost matter? Because it helps Putin get around US sanctions and helps Putin make more money so he and his oligarchy can stay in office longer.

So, the upshot of Trump being tough on North Korea is Trump is helping Putin avoid the pain of sanctions. By the way, coaking coal prices were at an all time high since a hurricane hit Australia, blanking North Korea from the game … yeah, really good, for Russia.

In case anyone forgot, the sanctions were supposed to weaken the Russian economy and make the Russians rethink the Ukraine situation. In case anyone forgot, Russia invaded Ukraine. Russia is in an ongoing war against pro-West, pro-democracy Ukraine. Why? Because Ukrainians cast out their Pro-Putin, national wealth-stealing, puppet president a few years back.

Incredibly, our Mr Tillerson, at the G7 meeting, right before he flew to Moscow, seems uninformed about the whole Russia-Ukraine matter.  “U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson asked his European counterparts on Tuesday why American voters should care about the conflict in Ukraine, France’s foreign minister said.” Really? You have to ask why? Ugh.

Once again, the Trump administration is showing it’s Pro-Putin, anti-democracy stance. Russia wants Ukraine, Trump is okay with Russians annexing it — from the Ukrainians! This has been a core bargaining chip from the beginning. Trump for president, Ukraine for Russia. This shouldn’t surprise anyone. And yet ….

This is a bit more than removing the anti-Russian, pro-Ukraine plank from the GOP’s platform. This is actively undermining sanctions, actively helping Russia get around US sanctions on Ukraine by pushing China to reject North Korea and buy Russian coal. So, collusion with Russia? You bet, still, ongoing.

Finally, talking about Syria for a moment, Russia’s other abiding interest, if you were wondering about sudden visits from Jordan’s king, Egypt’s general president, and China’s president, to the US, consider Syria’s major import and export partners.

Syria exports primarily to Egypt (25%), Jordan (16%), Saudi Arabia (13%).  Syria imports primarily Turkey (30%) and China (22% — over 1 Billion dollars worth). If you’re interested in what Syria imports from Russia: Propellant Powders, Prepared Explosives, Explosive Ammunition (25.6%) & Postage Stamps (20%) . (This info is all from MIT). Russia’s main interest in Syria is being able to use it for military bases.

Remember Mike Flynn, who was helping both Russia and Turkey? Two countries with pretty warm ties. People were wondering about that. Wonder no more. He was representing two countries with major shared interests in Syria. And that was Trump’s first pick? So Syria was always on the table.

And now, Trump has met with all the principles likely to experience flux if there is a US intervention or regime change in Syria. Right before a low-level Sarin attack fortuitously happens on April 6, exactly while China’s Xi is visiting, and Trump can low-level bomb something.  And the very next day China’s customs department issued an official order on April 7 telling trading companies to return their North Korean coal cargoes.

Interesting.

Eric Trump said to a British newspaper “If there was anything that [the strike on] Syria did, it was to validate the fact that there is no Russia tie.” I’m not sure how Eric got there. Logically, because nothing he’s done has helped the US, it would appear that the POTUS had been planning on using Syria and using  North Korea from the start of his presidency for all sorts of reasons that principally benefit Putin.

Trump’s 2005 IRS 1040? Really?

Image result for squirrel

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!