10,000 on ignore, Book 200, Gethsemane, Part 3.....

Ten Thousan Marbles

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Trump is being investigated for yet another criminal charge—this guy hates paying his taxes
Rebekah Sager

Former President Donald Trump facing yet another criminal investigation? How shocking! Not really!

Now the two-time impeached, one-term president and professional grifter is being investigated by the district attorney’s office in Westchester County, New York, over one of Trump’s 16 golf courses. Just add this to the Trump Organization's existing indictment in Manhattan and we can hope that maybe some criminal charges will stick.

According to reporting by The New York Times, District Attorney Mimi E. Rocah has subpoenaed records from Trump National Golf Club Westchester and the town of Ossining inquiring about whether or not the Trump camp deceived local officials about the value of the property in order to reduce its property taxes.
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No one from the Trump Organization has commented on the latest investigation involving the Westchester club, including Kerry A. Lawrence, a lawyer representing the club.

Rocha was a senior federal prosecutor in the Southern District of New York, prior to her stint as MSNBC commentator. Elliott B. Jacobson, who spent more than three decades as a prosecutor in the Southern District, is leading the Westchester investigation.


Rocha is looking into the Trump Organization’s statements regarding the value of the property. The town of Ossining estimates the property values, but the club appears to have challenged the assessments, according to the Times. The Trump club has challenged the tax bills every year since 2015—hoping to lessen the bill by as much as 90%—one year assessing the value of the club at $1.4 million, when the town of Ossining assessed it closer to $15 million.

The Manhattan district attorney’s office is currently investigating whether the Trump Organization broke state laws after it came to light that Trump brokered a deal where he paid adult film star Stormy Daniels to stay quiet about their transactions prior to the 2016 election.

On July 12, indictments flowed like a broken sewage system with 15 felony counts charged against the Trump Organization and its longtime chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg—who prosecutors are hoping will rat out Trump.

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. and New York Attorney General Letitia James teamed up and sat together at the July hearing.
Counts included:
  • One count of scheme to defraud in the first degree.
  • One count of conspiracy in the fourth degree.
  • One count of grand larceny in the second degree.
  • Four counts of criminal tax fraud in the third degree.
  • Four counts of offering a false instrument for filing in the first degree.
  • Four counts of falsifying business records in the first degree.
Trump’s call to Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger is also under investigation. Yes, Trump, you can’t pressure someone to overturn an election you clearly lost.

The judge, hearing the tax fraud case against Trump and Weisselberg, has set a potential court trial beginning in late August or early September 2022—just months before the midterm elections.
 

Ten Thousan Marbles

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Ten Thousan Marbles

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McConnell longs for a mulligan after gifting the GOP and its 2022 message to Trump
Kerry Eleveld

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell wants on a mulligan on his failure to convict Donald Trump earlier this year during his second impeachment trial. McConnell's fumble is undoubtedly responsible for breathing new life into Trump, who has now overwhelmed the party McConnell fancifully imagined was under his command.

On Tuesday, McConnell was asked by CNN’s Manu Raju if he is "concerned at all" about the Republican Party embracing Trump, who McConnell once said was morally responsible for the Jan. 6 attack. McConnell's dodgy answer boiled down to "yes," as he painted a picture of the GOP midterm message that could have been absent Trump.
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"I do think we need to be thinking about the future and not the past," McConnell responded, obviously lamenting Trump's obsession with his 2020 election loss. "I think the American people are focusing on this administration, what it's doing to the country, and it's my hope the '22 election will be a referendum on the performance of the current administration, not a rehash of suggestions about what may have happened in 2020."

Good luck with that, Senator. Whatever the American people might be focusing on, most GOP voters are shoveling down a daily diet of grievance about the 2020 election supposedly being stolen despite lacking a shred of evidence to support their claims.

If McConnell had an ounce of grit, he wouldn't even open the door of conjecture about "what may have happened in 2020." But over and over, McConnell has proven he doesn't have the fortitude to slam that door shut—which is exactly what has landed the Republican Party in Trump's factless alternate reality.

For months, Senate Republicans—particularly those responsible for winning back the Senate majority—have been trying and failing to tell political reporters about their supposedly forward-looking message for 2022. But instead, Trump's 800 pounds of deadweight keeps the GOP anchored and awash in his self-obsessed grievances about being a literal loser last November.

Trump can't handle the truth, and Senate Republicans like McConnell are too spineless to tell it.

So whatever McConnell may "hope" for 2022, it's a pipe dream precisely because he doesn't have the mettle to set the record straight.

 
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Ten Thousan Marbles

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Five veterans tapped to advise Senator Kyrsten Sinema, an Arizona Democrat, resigned from their posts on Thursday, publicly accusing her of “hanging your constituents out to dry” in the latest sign of growing hostility toward a centrist who has emerged as a key holdout on President Biden’s agenda.

In a scathing letter obtained by The New York Times, the veterans took Ms. Sinema to task for her refusal to abolish the filibuster and her opposition to parts of Mr. Biden’s multitrillion-dollar social safety net, education, climate and tax plan, stances that have stymied some of his top priorities.

“You have become one of the principal obstacles to progress, answering to big donors rather than your own people,” the veterans wrote in a letter that is to be featured in a new advertisement by Common Defense, a progressive veterans’ activist group that has targeted Ms. Sinema.

“We shouldn’t have to buy representation from you, and your failure to stand by your people and see their urgent needs is alarming,” they added.......
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The resignations add to a crescendo of anger and pressure that Ms. Sinema is facing from erstwhile allies who say they are perplexed by her recent tactics. She has resisted major elements of Democrats’ sprawling social safety net and climate bill, including raising individual income and corporate tax rates to pay for it. Because Democrats control the Senate with only 50 votes, even one defection could spell defeat for the measure, giving Ms. Sinema outsize influence to determine what can be included.


Ms. Sinema has also steadfastly opposed changing the Senate’s filibuster rule, which effectively requires 60 votes to move forward on any major bill, even as Republicans have used it as a procedural weapon to block voting rights legislation and a bill to avert a federal debt default.........

 

Ten Thousan Marbles

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Joe Manchin could lead West Virginia into the future. Instead, he's driving his state to disaster
Mark Sumner

As of September 2021, there are 42,300 people employed by the coal mining industry. Miners, engineers, geologists, trainers, mechanics, clerks, managers, technicians, and executives. That’s everybody. That number is down about 20% since Donald Trump took office, though—thanks to what’s been called a “boom” in the last few months, it’s down only about 100 people under President Joe Biden. That’s what counts for a boom in the coal industry these days—losing more slowly.

The reason coal has declined so sharply isn’t hard to spot: It is no longer economically viable. Despite being given vast swaths of federal and state land at minimal cost, despite states failing to collect hundreds of millions in reclamation bonds that are left as a burden when mining companies go bankrupt, and despite the largest mining companies getting to dump billions in debts—including retirement funds and black lung payments to miners—they’re still not competitive. Truthfully, they would not be competitive if the mining companies could lower the cost of coal delivered to power plants to $0. That’s because the cost of maintaining an existing coal-powered generating plant is now higher than the cost of replacing that plant with brand new solar, wind, or natural gas production.

Coal hit an all-time peak in 2008, but thousands of generating units have been switched over to gas over the last decade. Producers in all segments of the country have added solar and wind. And as states across the country have seen coal exit their electrical mix, power prices have actually gone down. While many states did well in 2020 as natural gas prices plummeted in the opening months of the pandemic, states that have improved the renewable component of their production have been less subject to rising prices as gas increased in the fall of 2021.

But not every state has benefited from the shift from coal. In Texas, a rigged market gives companies incentives to keep electrical production skating the edge of demand, driving huge price spikes along with deadly system failures. And in West Virginia, there’s… Joe Manchin.
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Coal mining is an extraction industry. When an extraction industry ends, every person and community dependent on that industry is left with not just nothing, but less than nothing. They’re left carrying the cost in health care for all the people harmed by companies that saw health and safety regulations as an obstacle to be avoided. They’re left with the environmental consequences of an industry that, by its nature, destroys not just forests and streams but entire mountains and valleys. They’re left with an economy hollowed out by a company that, in its final retreat, leaves behind neither a workforce nor conditions that attract a replacement.

What does a community look like when an extraction industry shuts down? Pick any ghost town in the West. That’s what it looks like.


In 2018, the Sierra Club took a look at the town of Lynch, Kentucky, to see what a mining community was like when the mines left. They found it “hollowed out” and falling to ruin. But Lynch is just one of many such towns. I’ve been there. I’ve seen them. It’s not just that the only industry in town has left, it’s that the industry left behind valleys filled with rubble, streets edged with coal that spilled from passing trucks, a water supply spoiled by acid runoff. I’ve been there. I grew up there. And in my decades as a geologist for a major coal mining company, I helped perpetuate it.

When the mining stops, what’s left are sick people and a failing town; the kind of community where even those who have worked themselves into “middle class respectability” suddenly find that their home is worth nothing, their local schools are bankrupt, and all their debts are as big as ever.

Right now, Joe Manchin is standing in the way of a reconciliation bill that offers West Virginia an off ramp on the road to ruin. And why he’s doing it … that doesn’t even really matter.

As CNN reports, electrical prices in West Virginia aren’t going down. They’re doing the other thing. While ratepayers in other states are seeing the benefits of increased use of solar and wind, West Virginia residents are paying for bankrupt plants that need hundreds of millions of dollars of maintenance. That includes the Longview plant, which Manchin has touted as the “most efficient coal plant in the country.“ As Utility Dive notes, Manchin was at the front of the line last year, urging the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to help Longview hurry through Chapter 11 — it’s second bankruptcy in a decade.

When it comes to cleaning up those failing mines, West Virginians are supposed to be protected by bonds put up by mining companies to cover the cost of reclamation. However, as The Alliance for Appalachia makes clear, West Virginia is one of a handful of states that allows mining companies to “self-bond.” That is, rather than having to put aside the required funds, or buy an insurance policy, companies can just declare themselves good for the funds. That means that when these companies fold, or even when they reorganize under Chapter 11, they can simply fail to produce the funds. As any of these companies would tell you, that’s not a bug; that’s a feature. Walking away from the hundreds of millions they owe is the plan.

And then there’s black lung. Under Trump — and with the support of Mitch McConnell — the payment that companies make to support black lung funding was drastically reduced. So was mine safety monitoring. With an epidemic of new black lung cases, the fund to support treatment is billions of dollars in the hole. Manchin is aware of this since he supports a bill to provide more funding. But that bill is, at the moment, still sitting in committee.

Of those 43,200 people employed in coal mining, about 18,000 are in West Virginia. That’s about 1% of the state’s population. But the danger to West Virginia isn’t that, by accelerating the end of coal mining, 18,000 people will be left without a job. The danger is that by dragging out the end of coal mining, 100% of people in West Virginia will pay more for electricity, 100% of people in West Virginia will pick up the tab when companies walk away from unreclaimed mines, 100% of people will end up faced with picking up the medical bills for people left sick and unemployed—and 100% of West Virginians will lose out on the opportunity to take the off-ramp on the road to disaster.

There is an alternative for Manchin. It’s one that was demonstrated ably by the state’s most successful legislator, Robert Byrd. Byrd didn’t fight against federal spending. He made the price of his support seeing that a disproportionate share of that spending went to his state.

Manchin could do that now. Rather than fighting against the clean energy provisions of the reconciliation bill, Manchin could demand—and get—hundreds of millions, if not billions, of extra dollars channeled into his state. Manchin could demand an unreasonably high payout to his state for new jobs, new technologies, new opportunities. And he could get it.


Instead, he seems dead set on following every inch of the hellbound highway. And we all know where it ends.
 
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Ten Thousan Marbles

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Dan Patrick's voter fraud bounty blows up in his face
April Siese

One week after the 2020 presidential election was called for Joe Biden, Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick put his money where his mouth was and offered a hefty bounty to voter fraud whistleblowers. The PAC Texans for Dan Patrick was willing to pay up to $1 million and a minimum of $25,000 to “anyone who provides information that leads to an arrest and final conviction of voter fraud.” The Dallas Morning News reports that Patrick issued his first $25,000 check this week to a poll worker in Pennsylvania.

That poll worker, Eric Frank, comes from a family of progressives. His father is an election judge and mother works for Pennsylvania Democrats as a campaign manager. Frank’s father was the person he notified when he saw that 72-year-old Ralph Thurman cast a second ballot some 45 minutes after initially voting.

The Daily Local News notes that Thurman, a registered Republican, asked if he could cast a vote for his son, a registered Democrat, but was told doing so would be illegal. He nonetheless returned wearing sunglasses and tried to pass himself off as his son. Thurman eventually pleaded guilty to repeat voting in elections and was sentenced to three years probation. He will be unable to vote for four years.
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“It’s my belief that they were trying to get cases of Democrats doing voter fraud. And that just wasn’t the case,” Frank told the Dallas Morning News after depositing his check. “This kind of blew up in their face.”

So far, Patrick has been absolutely silent about the payout. There’s no mention of it on either his campaign or lieutenant governor website and nothing related to the reward posted on his Twitter account. The controversial Republican, who once said he and any other grandparents should be willing to die from COVID-19 to keep the country moving forward during the pandemic, could very well feel embarrassed given how he was roundly mocked by Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman when news of the bounty program first came out.



Fetterman isn’t kidding: The man who tried using his dead mother’s name to receive an additional absentee ballot pleaded guilty to violations relating to absentee or mail-in ballots, a misdemeanor. He was sentenced to six months probation and 40 hours of community service. Fetterman isn’t getting a cut of the bounty pot because Patrick’s spokesman said it doesn’t apply to politicians.

There have been very few verifiable instances of voter fraud during the 2020 presidential election. According to a Bloomberg Law report, just 200 cases around the country went to court. Nearly half of the states polled reported no cases at all. Yet, conspiracies of rampant voter fraud remain a key issue for right-wing voters and even GOP candidates. A Reuters report examining 15 Republican secretary of state candidates in five battleground states found that 10 still questioned the outcome of the 2020 election.

It’s not the people who intend to vote twice or circumvent the system that are the problem. It’s the many voters who face extensive obstacles even to cast a legal ballot in the first place. Urge lawmakers to pass the Voting Rights Advancement Act to ensure that every citizen has the right to vote.

 
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Ten Thousan Marbles

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The quickening pace of Democratic retirements in the House may be the clearest indication yet that the party’s hopes of maintaining its narrow majority are fading amid President Biden’s sagging approval ratings, ongoing legislative struggles and the prospect of redrawn congressional districts that will put some seats out of reach.

In recent days, Representatives John Yarmuth of Kentucky, David E. Price of North Carolina and Mike Doyle of Pennsylvania have announced they will not seek re-election. In all, a dozen House Democrats have said they will retire or seek other offices next year, including powerful lawmakers like Mr. Yarmuth, the chairman of the Budget Committee, and members from the most politically competitive districts, such as Representatives Ron Kind of Wisconsin and Ann Kirkpatrick of Arizona.

In interviews, the three representatives who most recently announced their retirement said personal issues were paramount in their decisions — they have served 72 years in the House between them. But they also cited three political factors: redistricting ahead of the 2022 elections, Donald J. Trump’s continued power over Republicans, and the rising Balkanization of the Democratic Party, that they said had made governance increasingly difficult and frustrating......
 

Ten Thousan Marbles

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Donald Trump's new 'social media platform' isn't a Twitter rival. It's an investment scam
Mark Sumner

On Wednesday evening, Donald Trump’s get-around-the-ban surrogate on Twitter, Liz Harrington, issued a statement announcing the formation of the “Trump Media and Technology Group” (TMTG). Most of the attention focused on this missive has been centered around the announcement of something called “TRUTH Social”—also known as yet-another-Trump-focused-Twitter-clone. But that’s not the real point of TMTG. The real point is that this is a scheme through which Trump can collect several hundred million dollars, even if his new social platform never posts a tweet, or a toot, or a fart, or whatever they end up being called.

The truth behind TRUTH Social is right there in the first paragraph of the announcement, which is not focused on the technology behind the platform, or anything that Trump is bringing to the table. Instead, that paragraph is dedicated to explaining how the project has been given “an initial enterprise value of $875 million” and “a cumulative valuation up to $1.7 billion.” Which is amazing, because what it seems to have is nothing more than a credit line and some highly generic code that was hacked within minutes of the beta address becoming known.

No sooner had the first test invites been handed out than someone spoofed Trump’s account and posted, well, as Daily Beast contributor Steven Monacelli accurately puts it, “a photo of a pig defecating on its own scrotum.” Two hours after it first went up, the whole site came down.


However, it doesn’t matter if the site ever sticks its head above the waste pool again. Because that’s not the point. Donald Trump is potentially walking about with $340 million, even if it fails completely. That’s the point.
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What Trump is attempting here is something called a SPAC, or Special Purpose Acquisition Companies. It’s also known as a “reverse merger” or a “blank check company.” It’s a scheme in which some low-value shell company that’s already listed on a stock market “buys” a private company, then relists itself under the name of that new company. In almost all cases, what’s really going on is that the private company is just taking over the empty husk of that shell company—a company that may have existed for no other purpose than to serve as a placeholder for some future SPAC.

Why go through these steps? Because getting listed on a stock exchange generally requires clearing a number of hurdles, including meeting requirements from the Securities and Exchange Commission. SPACS can just pop into existence, taking a fast track to a stock listing while dodging almost every qualifying step.

The whole idea of the SPAC is relatively new, and in the last year they’ve really taken off. In some cases, these schemes have allowed start ups to jump immediately to market, capitalizing on interest in new technology or rising industries. Among others, several small electric car companies made a sudden appearance on NASDAQ last year after taking over the corpses of fading corporations.

But there’s one particular kind of SPAC that’s described in this article from Mergers and Acquisitions. A kind known as the “celebrity SPAC.”

First, a “celebrity” or another notable person (the “Sponsor”) raises capital by taking an empty holding company (the SPAC) public in an IPO. This SPAC then uses the cash proceeds from the IPO and a large stock issuance to acquire a private company, making it public.

That’s exactly what’s happening with TMTG. Teenage Mutant Turtle Gropers—sorry, that’s Trump Media and Technology Group—doesn’t have to rival Twitter. It doesn’t even have to threaten whatever “conservative social media platforms” are still limping along out there. It just has to collect investors. Because this:

Unlike IPOs, however, the Sponsor gets a 20% stake, called a “Promote,” and there’s much less regulatory scrutiny. Oh, and this “Sponsor” invests almost nothing in exchange for this 20% stake.

Remember the numbers on how this was being “valued” in Trump’s announcement? That’s right. This is an attempt by Trump to scam between $175 million and $340 million with essentially no investment and no effort. As the article explains, the “sponsor” can walk away with a bundle, “even if the SPAC performs horribly and the share price plummets, while normal investors will lose everything."

Trump already has a good idea how this works, because, as CNBC noted in 2020, former Trump adviser Gary Cohn put together a SPAC worth a potential $600 million (and $120 million directly to Cohn) when it formed a “blank check” holding company whose entire purpose seems to be simply to get people to buy into shares. A SPAC of this variety is nothing more than a exchange-based Ponzi scheme in which the original Ponzi is guaranteed to walk away with a mountain of cash.

TMTG isn’t a social media platform. It’s a scam. Trump does need another social media platform. He needs
suckers willing to buy stock. And Trump has always been very, very good at locating suckers.

So while it’s fun to point out that TRUTH Social has some of the most restrictive rules of any platform, including rules that prohibit criticizing TRUTH Social, it doesn’t really matter. The whole platform can be sh#t pigs all the way down. It can collapse under its own incompetence. None of that means a thing. What matters to Trump is that he gets to walk away with a bundle.


Not every SPAC is a scam. They really can be a means of quickly connecting investors to rising companies that aren’t yet at a stage that would allow them to get onto the exchange through more traditional means. But of the $82 billion raised through SPACS in 2020, a large amount is either super speculative investment or an outright scam. Which lead the Harvard Business Review to note last February that the SPAC bubble was looking very fragile. Once it became clear that this was a way to drub investors for ready cash, everyone wanted in.

Trump isn’t being innovative in his technology. He’s not even being innovative in his scam. In a lot of ways, he’s late to the SPAC party. But it’s way past time for the SEC to put some serious restrictions on these backdoor listing schemes and blank check companies.





 
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Ten Thousan Marbles

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What you need to know
  • JUST IN: The House voted to approve the Jan. 6 committee's report recommending Trump ally Steve Bannon be held for criminal contempt of Congress after he defied a subpoena to appear before the panel.
  • The resolution will now be referred to the Justice Department. Attorney General Merrick Garland will make the final decision on whether to prosecute.
  • Today's vote marks another critical milestone in the Capitol riot investigation as the panel hopes even the remote threat of jail time prompts other Trump-aligned witnesses to cooperate.

The House voted to hold Steve Bannon in contempt of Congress. Here's what happens nex

Nine House Republicans broke ranks Thursday to join Democrats in voting to hold Steve Bannon in contempt of Congress for defying a subpoena from the select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the US Capitol.

Members of the committee have said the panel believes Bannon has significant knowledge of the planning around the attack.

While Democrats didn't need any GOP votes in order to refer the criminal contempt charge to the Justice Department, these Republicans voted in favor of doing so:
  • Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming (Jan. 6 committee member)
  • Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania
  • Rep. Anthony Gonzalez of Ohio
  • Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler of Washington
  • Rep. John Katko of New York
  • Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois (Jan. 6 committee member)
  • Rep. Nancy Mace of South Carolina
  • Rep. Peter Meijer of Michigan
  • Rep. Fred Upton of Michigan
Now that the referral has passed the House, it heads to the Justice Department, which will ultimately decide whether to bring charges that could result in jail time or fines.

Any person who is found liable for contempt of Congress is then guilty of a crime that may result in a fine and between one and 12 months imprisonment. But this process is rarely invoked and rarely leads to jail time.

As severe as a criminal contempt referral sounds, the House's choice to use the Justice Department may be more of a warning than a solution. Holding a person in criminal contempt through a prosecution could take years, and historic criminal contempt cases have been derailed by appeals and acquittals.