Monday, October 31, 2022

Last Call For Orange Meltdown, Con't

Opening statements in the NY state criminal trial against the Trump Organization began on Monday as the Manhattan DA's office laid out a tale of corruption, greed, and fraud in Donald Trump's real estate business over 15 years.

New York prosecutors set the table for the criminal tax fraud trial against the Trump Organization Monday, telling jurors the case is about “greed and cheating.”

Prosecutor Susan Hoffinger laid out an alleged 15-year scheme within the Trump Org. to pay high-level executives in perks like luxury cars and apartments without paying taxes on them.

Two Trump Organization entities are charged with nine counts of tax fraud, grand larceny and falsifying business records in what prosecutors allege was a 15-year scheme to defraud tax authorities by failing to report and pay taxes on compensation provided to employees.

The scheme, according to the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, was orchestrated by the company’s long-time Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg, the top executive handling the books of the company. Prosecutors allege the companies benefited from the scheme by paying less taxes on the employee salaries while keeping their longtime employees happy.

“At the end of the day, keeping the trusted CFO happy by paying him more without him being taxed on that income, that was also a benefit to these companies,” Hoffinger said during her opening statement.

The jury will see portions of former President Donald Trump’s personal ledger and the checks he signed from his personal account to pay school tuition for Weisselberg’s grandchildren for years, the prosecutor said.

Trump is not a defendant in the case and is not expected to be implicated in any wrongdoing, but the charges against the real estate business he built from the ground up are the closest any prosecutor has gotten to Trump, and the political ramifications of the case has irritated the former president, people familiar with the matter say.

“Donald Trump didn’t know that Allen Weisselberg was cheating on Allen Weisselberg’s personal tax returns. The evidence will be crystal clear on that,” defense attorney Susan Necheles said.

She also cautioned the jurors to leave their political views out of their deliberations.

“You must not consider this case to be a referendum on President Trump or his policies. That type of thing has no place in our criminal justice system,” Necheles said.
On one hand, the case against the Trump organization is going to be pretty strong. On the other, it will only take one Trump voter on the jury to deadlock deliberations leading into a mistrial, which I expect will happen.

It's possible that there may be convictions for some of Trump's real estate fraudsters, but the reality is I expect a mistrial to be declared later this year, and you should too.

Affirmative In The Negative

The Supreme Court will hear arguments on whether or not colleges and universities can consider race at all for admissions, and it's all over but the shouting for decades of affirmative action programs in higher education. The only question is how far the Roberts Court will go in ending them, driving Black and Hispanic kids out of the top schools for a generation in both public and private universities.

The end of affirmative action, at least on college campuses, is almost certainly near.

The big picture: The Supreme Court said in 2003 that colleges and universities could consider race as a factor when deciding which students to admit, for the sake of building a diverse student body. But now, the much more conservative court appears to be changing its mind.

Driving the news: The court is set to hear oral arguments this week over the admissions processes at Harvard and the University of North Carolina, both of which give a little extra weight to applicants who come from certain underrepresented groups.Life is full of surprises, but the court has sent just about every conceivable signal that it’s likely to put a stop to those sorts of policies.

Why it matters: Harvard and UNC — supported by a host of other schools, as well as business organizations — argue that diversity is essential to the educational experience and that the only effective way to ensure diversity is to make it an explicit part of the admissions process.But they’ll be making that argument to a court that is extremely skeptical of any sort of racial preference. 
“The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in a 2007 opinion about the use of race when assigning kids to public schools. 
From voting rights to K-12 education to employment law and probably now college admissions, the court over the past several years has consistently knocked down programs that tried to correct racial inequities by explicitly taking race into account.

This is all largely one man’s doing. Conservative activist Ed Blum has organized and funded a slew of high-profile lawsuits explicitly designed to get the court to strike down affirmative action.He orchestrated a 2013 case in which a white student sued because she didn’t get into the University of Texas — and the sequel, in which the same student came back to the high court again in 2016. 
This time around, the named plaintiffs are not only white students but also Asian Americans, who say they’ve been discriminated against because of the way Harvard and UNC give preference to applications from Black and Hispanic students. 
This is not a particularly secretive endeavor. Blum is open about the fact that this is, effectively, a campaign, and that he is the campaign manager. 
"I'm a one-trick pony," Blum recently told Reuters. "I hope and care about ending these racial classifications and preferences in our public policy." 
Blum also had a hand in the landmark case that nullified a key section of the Voting Rights Act — another instance in which the conservative court said policies designed to offset a history of discrimination had outlived their usefulness.
The goal for Republicans and conservative millionaires and billionaires is the elimination of the Civil Rights Era and a rollback of federal protections, if not return us to the era where states can resume Jim Crow education, employment, housing, and more.

But it won't be enough to eliminate federal protections. Open, overt discrimination as "free speech" is nearing the norm. America will not survive as a country if that happens, not without massive social upheaval.

Musk Rat Love, Con't

With billionaire Elon Musk buying Twitter and reportedly firing half the company's employees over the weekend in order to avoid having to pay them vested stock option that go out on November 1, his next trick is to drive off the long-time verified users of the platform with pay-for-play.

Now that he owns Twitter, Elon Musk has given employees their first ultimatum: Meet his deadline to introduce paid verification on Twitter or pack up and leave.

The directive is to change Twitter Blue, the company’s optional, $4.99 a month subscription that unlocks additional features, into a more expensive subscription that also verifies users, according to people familiar with the matter and internal correspondence seen by The Verge. Twitter is planning to charge $19.99 for the new Twitter Blue subscription, though that price is subject to change. Employees working on the project were told on Sunday that they need to meet a deadline of November 7th to launch the feature or they will be fired.

Musk has been clear in the months leading up to his acquisition that he wanted to revamp how Twitter verifies accounts and handles bots. He is also keen on growing subscriptions to become half of the company’s overall revenue. On Sunday, he tweeted: “The whole verification process is being revamped right now.”

Platformer’s Casey Newton first reported that Twitter was considering charging for verification. A spokesperson for Twitter didn’t respond to a request for comment by press time.
Musk has said that he's not doing either and that the NY Times in particular is "spreading disinformation" on Twitter, which pretty much sums up how the last 72 hours on Twitter has gone. 

And if it seems like Musk is acting like a James Bond supervillain who wants a "new world order" where he is in charge of the planet, it's because he absolutely is one.
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