Sunday, July 4, 2021

Last Call For Orange Meltdown, Con't

The Former Guy™ really cannot stop himself from saying the quiet part out loud, only now there's no White House staff to hold him back or to parse his criminal admissions as bravado as his disastrous tour continues across the country, this time in Florida.

Former president Donald Trump lashed out at Manhattan prosecutors Saturday night for indicting his organization and its chief financial officer for tax fraud, calling it “prosecutorial misconduct” in his most extensive comments on the charges since they were unsealed Thursday.

As Trump criticized the investigation, he appeared to acknowledge the tax schemes while questioning whether the alleged violations were in fact crimes.

“They go after good, hard-working people for not paying taxes on a company car,” he said at a rally in Sarasota, Fla. “You didn't pay tax on the car or a company apartment. You used an apartment because you need an apartment because you have to travel too far where your house is. You didn't pay tax. Or education for your grandchildren. I don't even know. Do you have to? Does anybody know the answer to that stuff?”

The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office charged the Trump Organization and CFO Allen Weisselberg with orchestrating a 15-year scheme to avoid taxes by providing benefits hidden from the federal government. Weisselberg, they said, evaded taxes on $1.7 million in fringe benefits, which included the Trump Organization paying his rent, leasing him cars and other gifts. The Trump Organization and Weisselberg both pleaded not guilty this week, and Trump was not charged in the case.

But Trump excoriated the prosecutors for what he argued was a politically motivated investigation and one that came at the expense of focusing on violent crimes.

“For murder and for selling massive amounts of the worst drugs in the world that kill people left and right, that's okay,” he said. “Think of it, think of how unfair it is. Never before has New York City and their prosecutors or perhaps any prosecutors criminally charged a company or a person for fringe benefits. Fringe benefits. Murders, okay. Human trafficking, no problem — but fringe benefits, you can’t do that.”

Tax experts have said prosecutions centered on fringe benefits are rare, but some have compared the charges to the case against Leona Helmsley, a New York real estate developer who was convicted of evading $1.2 million in taxes in the 1980s.

Yet Trump maintained that he was the victim of “the radical left” who failed to “get him” in Washington with the Mueller investigation and said prosecutors only want to target him and other Republicans.

“Every abuse and attack they throw my way, it's only because I have been fighting for you against the corrupt establishment,” he said. “That's all it is.”

But prosecutors for the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office argued Thursday that the business practices were not “standard practice,” attempting to counter Trump’s argument that the investigation is politically motivated.

“There is no clearer example of a company that should be held to criminal account,” said Carey Dunne, a prosecutor working for Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. (D).

Trump has no external filter people anymore. He's talking himself into investigation after investigation here. Most importantly, he's not saying he's innocent. He's saying he's being persecuted for actually doing these things. He fully expects to get away with it all this time too because he's gotten away with it in the past so many times. He's not saying "I didn't do this!" He's saying "Of course I did it, why is it a crime? It's not a real crime like murder or human trafficking!"

You have to wonder why he's bringing those crimes up.

And of course, he's saying he's only being hounded because he's "fighting the corrupt establishment" for his cult followers. Fighting how? He's fundraising off these, fleecing his faithful. Folks, he is the corrupt establishment.

Oh, and you know who was nowhere near this hate rally? GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis. Don't think Trump will forget...or forgive.

Bull In The Pulpit

Pastors, preachers, ministers, reverends, and priests in Trump Country aren't about to tell their congregations to get vaccinated against COVID-19, even if their respective flocks are putting themselves and clergy at health risk. No, they fear the hand of man and an enraged audience on Sundays more than the specter of the Delta variant.

Biden administration and state officials hoped that pastors would play an outsized role in promoting Covid-19 vaccines, but many are wary of alienating their congregants and are declining requests to be more outspoken.

POLITICO spoke with nearly a dozen pastors, many of whom observed that vaccination is too divisive to broach, especially following a year of contentious conversations over race, pandemic limits on in-person worship and mask requirements. Public health officials have hoped that more religious leaders can nudge their congregants to get Covid shots, particularly white evangelicals who are among the most resistant to vaccination.

The White House, which acknowledged it will fall shy of its goal of vaccinating 70 percent of adults by July 4, has stressed its robust campaign to inoculate the country will continue for months to come, though the strategy has largely shifted from mass vaccination sites to more targeted local efforts. With the rapid spread of the highly transmissible Delta variant, particularly in areas of the country where vaccination rates are lagging, the Biden team is making a renewed effort to enlist help from trusted community leaders like pastors while other initiatives like million-dollar lotteries and giveaways have failed to meaningfully blunt the steep drop-off in vaccinations.

State health officials are conducting informal focus groups and outreach to try to ease pastors’ concerns about discussing vaccination, but progress is often elusive, they said. Many pastors said they have already lost congregants to fights over coronavirus restrictions and fear risking further desertions by promoting vaccinations. Others said their congregations are so ideologically opposed to the vaccine that discussing it would not be worth the trouble.

“If I put forth effort to push it, I’d be wasting my breath,” said Nathan White, a pastor at Liberty Baptist Church in Skipwith, Va., a small town near the North Carolina border.

The pastors POLITICO spoke with are located across Virginia and Tennessee, mostly in predominantly white communities. Some in rural areas lead overwhelmingly conservative congregations while some in more suburban areas said their churches were more politically mixed. Each pastor had been vaccinated but not all were eager to discuss it with their congregations.

Polls have consistently shown that white evangelicals are among the groups most hardened against vaccination. The most recent, a June survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation, found that 22 percent of white evangelicals said they would “definitely not” get the vaccine, a figure that’s barely budged since April. About 11 percent said they wanted to “wait and see” how the vaccines perform.
In other words, these faith leaders are all cowards. They care more about the size of their congregations and their collection plates on Sunday than saving lives. I've become disillusioned with religion in my life after being raised a Catholic, and it's awful behavior like this that makes me never want to return. The word of God keeps being delivered by the most sinful of people, and I tuned them out a log time ago.

Sunday Long Read: Critical Of A Racist's Theories

The screeching throng on the right would have you believe that colleges and universities haven't changed since the days of the movie "PCU" more than 25 years ago, and that higher education for anyone my age and younger was an uphill battle against the "horrors of political correctness". The current yowling by the right about critical race theory is a new name for a battle that's been going on for all my adult life.

That's not to say that some instructors and professors aren't terrible people, as this week's Sunday Long Read details in the San Francisco Chronicle, the story of avowed racist teaching his students that Black and Hispanic students should be in college, and that they're all taking the place of more qualified Asian and white kids.

With one painful exception that she still thinks about today, Marisol Schowengerdt enjoyed her classes at Cal State East Bay. 
She enrolled in 2014 at age 41, older than most students, but no one gave her a hard time. The university’s Hayward campus was an inviting, diverse place, as East Bay’s marketing stresses: 86% of undergraduates are non-white, and many are the first in their families to attend college. Even at the business school, where a stock ticker flashed market prices as students arrived to class, officials emphasized social justice. 
“The ‘American Dream’ is the ideal that everyone living in the U.S. should have an equal opportunity to achieve success and prosperity,” reads a recent mission statement by East Bay’s College of Business and Economics. “We make the Dream possible for an exceptionally diverse student population.” 
Schowengerdt is the daughter of an immigrant cherry farmer, a man born in Mexico who came to the U.S. in the mid-’60s and raised seven children. She had spent her 20s and 30s building a successful career in California real estate and finance. But she lacked a college degree and aimed to change that. 
After two years at a junior college, she transferred to East Bay — part of Cal State, the largest four-year public university system in the country — and majored in economics. She liked almost all of her professors, she said, and they seemed to believe the stuff about the dream. 
Then there was Gregory Christainsen. 
A white man with salt-and-pepper hair, Christainsen was 60 at the time and had taught economics at East Bay since the 1980s. Schowengerdt enrolled in his public sector economics course, a requirement for her to graduate. The syllabus promised lessons in government finance and health insurance markets. 
But to Schowengerdt’s surprise, she said, Christainsen spent hours of class time talking about which racial groups were smarter than others. 
In one of the first lectures, Christainsen said Black and Hispanic people get involved in politics at lower rates than whites, Schowengerdt recalled. Then he showed a photo of Barack Obama’s presidential campaign staff in Chicago. Most staffers were white or Asian American. The photo, she said Christainsen told the class, demonstrated that even a Black man needs white people to get elected. 
As the semester continued, she said, the professor lectured repeatedly about race and intelligence, insisting they are linked. He taught students that white people and those of Chinese heritage are smarter on average than Black and Hispanic groups; he said this was proved by gaps in average IQ scores between races. 
Although scientists overwhelmingly attribute these gaps to societal factors like racism, poverty and cultural biases in the tests, Christainsen said the IQ disparities are inherent, rooted in genetics. He spoke with pride about his own family’s heritage: Telling students that his wife was Chinese, he called himself a “white tiger.” 
For Schowengerdt, these lessons felt like bigotry, not teaching, and it was all the more upsetting, she said, whenever she swiveled her head in class: Most of the 25 or so students were non-white, and many were Black. She vented sometimes with a classmate in her study group, Alex Bly, one of the few white students in the course. 
Originally from Texas, Bly, now 35, said she found the experience “surreal.” One day, she said, Christainsen gave students an article about how Jews run Hollywood. It struck her as a classic anti-Semitic trope, which “blew my mind,” she recalled. But it also seemed irrelevant: What did Jews in Hollywood have to do with public sector economics? 
About halfway through the semester, around March 2014, Bly drafted a complaint about the class. She addressed it to Jed DeVaro, chair of the economics department. To protect herself from possible retaliation, Bly created an anonymous email account. 
She hit send, then waited for the university to do something.
What followed of course was the controversy last year over Christainsen and his courses, and the somehow still-ongoing "debate" that Black and brown folk are genetically inferior to Asian and white folk.  If anything, Cal State East Bay did nothing about this racist asshole for years, because dealing with him would have made the school a target of billionaire-funded right-wing garbage fires like Campus Reform, Turning Point USA, and the Young America's Foundation.

The funny thing about "political correctness" is that college campuses today are absolutely terrified of being correct about anything, especially in red states where higher education funding has been brutalized over the last 15 years. This story shows that even in blue states, I wouldn't count on college administrators to give a damn until they are forced to do so.
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