Tax fraud and IRS defunding

The same week the US House passed a bill to cut funding to the IRS that had been agreed to last year, an interesting tax fraud case was settled. This bill is dead in the water, but we should also remember the previous president gutted some funding and staffing to the IRS. Please note, no one likes the IRS, but they perform a needed function to help fund our government. And, for those who complain the loudest, that includes those tanks and fighter jets as defense spending is our biggest spend.

The tax fraud involves the previous president. In short, the Trump Organization was penalized $1.6 million for tax fraud yesterday. While its CFO, Allen Weisselberg was sentenced earlier this week, the former president may be put on trial. The person whose name is on the banner, and seemingly everything he owns, claims he did not know about the fraud. Really? Your name is on the buildings you own or lease and you continuously brag about how much you know about taxes, saying “I know more about taxes than anyone in the history of taxes.”

Ironically, $1.6 million is the same number a New York judge told Trump he had to repay the Trump Foundation a few years ago for using its funds for personal use. This was before the Foundation was ordered terminated and all monies distributed to charity. It should be noted the judge also forbade anyone named Trump from overseeing the distribution process. That was tax fraud as well.

Later this year, it is likely the State of Georgia will bring charges against Trump and others for trying to influence election results. The Grand Jury is looking over all the testimony to determine such. And, it is also likely, the US Department of Justice will bring charges against the former president and others for seditious actions and obstruction of justice involving the January 6 insurrection. That is the recommendation of the House Select Committee.

And, he may face charges for hiding classified documents and not being very forthcoming with their return. Joe Biden is being looked at as well for something similar, but it is my understanding the Biden folks brought this to the attention of the Justice department.

I started with the IRS defunding bill as with our deficit and debt in the US, we need to be finding more revenue as well as making spending cuts. That was the conclusion of the bipartisan Simpson-Bowles Deficit Reduction Committe and remains the standing of the nonpartisan Committee on a Responsible Federal Budget. There is a push on reducing the deficit and debt, but it needs to look at both revenue and spending. It should be noted the IRS bill, if passed, would have increased the deficit by $114 billion. Why? Tax fraud would go more unchecked.

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May 35 and December 37 – two fictitious dates for real events – a needed reprise

June 4 in China is the anniversary of a horrible event when the Chinese government forcibly put down a protest in Tiananmen Square in 1989. Yet, few know about it in China. Seeing a young man stare down a tank in the square is the most memorable occurrence. But, China has done its best to erase this event from their history arresting some protestors in Hong Kong a few years ago who tried to honor the memory of those who died that day..

I have written before about May 35 which is a real reference to an imaginary date. Per the attached article in the New York Times, it is a reference to what happened in Tiananmen Square in China on June 4, 1989, which has been expunged from Chinese history, including internet search references to that date. So, to make sure the Chinese kids remember this protest which was brutally squashed by the Chinese army, historians established a May 35 web link.*

In America, too many sycophants in the Republican Party are doing their best to erase further discussion of the insurrection incited by the former president on January 6. In their minds, we cannot have people thinking the former president’s lies about election fraud, his invitation of zealous members of his base to Washington, and his winding them up and pointing them at the Capitol building had anything to do with people storming the Capitol.

So, to make sure we don’t forget this heinous day in our country, nor the former president’s role and continuing untruthfulness about election fraud, maybe we should start calling it December 37 like the enterprising Chinese people did to avoid the memory being erased.

People died at these events. Elected officials of all stripes were put in danger. We owe it to them to remember who caused the insurrection that day. We cannot do anything about China’s delete key, but we can remind folks here that January 6 would not have happened if the former president did not have such a fragile ego and could not accept the fact he lost the election. Or, as his niece said in November, her Uncle cannot handle failure, so he will burn it all down to avoid losing the election.

May 35 and December 37. Bad days in China and the US. People in leadership need to be held accountable. People have gone to jail or have been fined for their actions that day in the US. But, we need to hold accountable the so-called leaders who caused this and let it go on, including the former president. Many Republicans have testified under oath and at great risk of the former president and other people’s roles. His defenders have not made their comments under oath. Why is that? To me, we cannot punish the bad actors without punishing those who greased the skids for them.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/24/opinion/global/24iht-june24-ihtmag-hua-28.html?_r=0eal

Tiananmen Square incident | Summary, Details, & Facts | Britannica

Irrelevance

Famous niece Mary Trump used a word this weekend in an interview that peaked my interest. She was repeating her warning to especially Republicans that her uncle will burn it all down if you turn your back on him. The word she used was “irrelevance.” This word ranks up there with “loser” in her uncle’s bad words list, but she noted what he fears most is being considered irrelevant.

It got me thinking about a guy who leads Russia. His Ukraine invasion could not be going any worse than it has. It all started when Ukraine President Zelenskyy said he was not backing down to the bully. His country galvanized around him and has pushed back hard on the Russian invaders. Yet, what too many did not realize is Russia’s economy has been slow for years and they have been unable to afford the military they want the world to think they have. Now, they are using drafted troops who really do not want to be fighting. What is Putin now fighting? – irrelevance.

Irrelevance is one word that people do not want to hear with their name attached. In my view, we have too many politicians who are pushing narratives that simply are not true. We have too many important problems in the world and our country that need good and informed debate. If politicians are going to focus on contrived topics to make others look bad or create wedge issues, then they are causing their own irrelevance. I could list a dozen politicians off the top of my head who have made themselves irrelevant. Other than shaking my head yet again at the latest inane comment, what these folks have to say about important issues is less relevant and even irrelevant, in many cases.

In short, we need serious minded people to be in positions of influence. We don’t need grandstanders and we certainly don’t need extremist grandstanders. The latter serves no purpose other than to garner applause from a strident base of voters. We actually had an elected Congresswoman get applause when she said the insurrectionists of January 6 should have been harmed – really? Regardless of party, race or gender, these are the kinds of elected officials we should vote out. The irrelevant ones.

Estonia is helping Ukraine stave off Russia’s cyberattacks

An interesting article by Maggie Miller of Politico caught my attention this week called “How Estonia is helping Ukraine take on Russian cyber threats.” Why Estonia? As one of the Baltic nations, Estonia is renowned for its country’s ability to identify Russian propaganda and make it known to its people.

In fact, one of the more popular TV shows on Sunday night is one that highlights what Russia is up to this week. The western world could learn a lot from this tiny country about stiff arming Russian disinformation. Here in the US, we have pseudo-news folks parroting Russian propaganda to defeat or downplay successes that would be harmful to the message of their political party. That is not news, if you are keeping score.

Here are a few paragraphs, with the full article accessible below.

“TALLINN, Estonia — Ukraine has surprised the world with its ability to fend off major cyberattacks from Russia. And one small country — Estonia — has played an outsized role in helping them do so.

The nation of just over 1 million, which has fought off cyberattacks inside its borders from Russia for years, is now leading many of the efforts to provide cyber threat intelligence, funding and critical international connections to protect Ukraine from Russian hackers.

In interviews in Tallinn, Estonian officials provided fresh details about how they aid cybersecurity workers in a besieged Ukraine and coordinate with more powerful allies in Europe and the U.S. in the global effort to defend against Russia’s digital attacks.

It’s a partnership that illustrates a unique aspect of modern cyber warfare — some of themost sustained efforts to protect networks are coming from smaller or less-resourced countries that have been the repeated victims of attacks and have learned the hard way about the need to invest in cyber armies.”

It is great to see countries, even smaller ones, lend their expertise to help push back aggressors like Vladimir Putin and Russian armies. In an even more telling example, some Russians are feeling a little more impunity to push back with their concerns within Russia. This would have been unheard of a few years ago.

Collapse of Russian Federation is now possible per Russian lawmaker

Per the article called “Russia Risks Collapse Over Ukraine Debacle, Lawmaker Warns” by Gerrard Kaonga of Newsweek, an interesting observation and concern is raised on Russian TV by an important source.

“Lawmaker Boris Nadezhdin was called a provocateur by other TV guests and the host after criticizing Russia’s leadership and warning of collapse. Speaking on NTV station show Mesto Vstrechi on Monday, Nadezhdin also said the risk of the Russia Federation crumbling has increased since the war in Ukraine began.

The clip of Nadezhdin’s comments have gone viral on social media since being posted on Monday. The clip has so far been viewed more than 110,000 times.

The video was shared by Anton Gerashchenko, adviser to the Minister of Internal Affairs of Ukraine. He captioned the clip: ‘The risks of Russian Federation dissolving increased greatly with the beginning of the special military operation.’

‘Somehow I don’t think we’ll be seeing this guy on Russian TV again.'”

Given the source and the fact he feels he could speak with impunity (which may prove false with a vindictive Putin), the comments are very telling. The story is as more than just the what. It is the who, where, how and why of what was said.

From the Holocaust to Hogan’s Heroes – Robert Clary’s story – an encore (may he RIP)

The following is an encore post from this summer to honor the amazing life of actor and holocaust survivor and advocate, Robert Clary, who passed away yesterday at age 96.

For those of us who grew up in the 1960s or watched a lot of reruns on television, there was a comedy show about a prisoner of war camp in Germany during World War II called “Hogan’s Heroes.” One of its stars was a diminutive and funny character named Corporal LeBeau, played by French actor Robert Clary. Yet, while a POW camp is a not a concentration camp where Jews were exterminated, Clary also had the horrid experience of being a survivor of the real Holocaust in a camp called Buchenwald.

I learned this watching a movie made in 1982 called “Remembrance of Love” starring Kirk Douglas, Chana Eden and Pam Dawber where two young lovers were split apart by the Nazis and Douglas’s character went to a Holocaust event in Israel to see if she was still alive. Clary played himself in the film as an ambassador to these Holocaust survivors.

Per Wikipedia, here is Clary’s early story:

“Born in 1926 in Paris, France, Clary was the youngest of 14 children, 10 of whom would die in the Holocaust. At the age of twelve, he began a career singing professionally on a French radio station and also studied art in Paris. In 1942, because he was Jewish, he was deported to the Nazi concentration camp at Ottmuth, in Upper Silesia (now Otmęt, Poland). He was tattooed with the identification ‘A5714’ on his left forearm. He was later sent to Buchenwald concentration camp.

At Buchenwald, he sang to an audience of SS soldiers every other Sunday, accompanied by an accordionist. He said, ‘Singing, entertaining, and being in kind of good health at my age, that’s why I survived. I was very immature and young and not really fully realizing what situation I was involved with … I don’t know if I would have survived if I really knew that.

Writing about his experience, Clary said,

‘We were not even human beings. When we got to Buchenwald, the SS shoved us into a shower room to spend the night. I had heard the rumours about the dummy shower heads that were gas jets. I thought, ‘This is it.’ But no, it was just a place to sleep. The first eight days there, the Germans kept us without a crumb to eat. We were hanging on to life by pure guts, sleeping on top of each other, every morning waking up to find a new corpse next to you. … The whole experience was a complete nightmare — the way they treated us, what we had to do to survive. We were less than animals. Sometimes I dream about those days. I wake up in a sweat terrified for fear I’m about to be sent away to a concentration camp, but I don’t hold a grudge because that’s a great waste of time. Yes, there’s something dark in the human soul. For the most part, human beings are not very nice. That’s why when you find those who are, you cherish them.'”

Clary published a memoir, From the Holocaust to Hogan’s Heroes: The Autobiography of Robert Clary, in 2001. Rather than summarize his career before and after “Hogan’s Heroes,” I encourage you to link to the Wikipedia article on his behalf. He was often asked to distinguish between the fictional POW camp and the real concentration camp he survived.

“Stalag 13 is not a concentration camp. It’s a POW camp, and that’s a world of difference. You never heard of a prisoner of war being gassed or hanged. When the show went on the air, people asked me if I had any qualms about doing a comedy series dealing with Nazis and concentration camps. I had to explain that it was about prisoners of war in a Stalag, not a concentration camp, and although I did not want to diminish what soldiers went through during their internments, it was like night and day from what people endured in concentration camps.”

To this day, there are people with hard-hearted and hateful motives who want people to believe the Holocaust did not happen, that over 6 million Jews, gays and lesbians and gypsies were not exterminated by the Nazis in World War II. This is not only a blatant attempt at disinformation, it truly is evil. It is on par with people trying to white wash all the bad things in history committed by humans against one another and the Holocaust ranks as one of the greatest atrocities in our history. These Jews and others were arrested, stripped, starved and gassed, because of some lunatic idea set forth by Adolph Hitler and his henchmen.

Interestingly, Clary remains alive and well at the age of 96, one of the last two survivors from the “Hogan’s Heroes” show. Yet, he said he still has nightmares at this age and lost many of his siblings due the Nazi genocide. We must never forget what happened to Clary and his family among the multiple millions of Jews and others that were impacted.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Clary

Troops To Teachers – an old idea with new legs

NBC News ran a piece last night on a program that has been around awhile but is getting more traction with teacher shortages. It is called Troops To Teachers or TTT for short. Here is a brief overview from a Veterans’ website.

“Troops To Teachers was created in 1993 to help service members, military retirees and other veterans gain education and start new careers as kindergarten through 12th grade teachers in public schools, charter schools, and Bureau of Indian Education schools.

The general idea is for those leaving military service to get assistance to accomplish these goals, but in order to get financial aid from the program the applicant must start before retiring or separating from military service….

The Troops To Teachers official site lists a variety of program benefits, but the one most will initially be interested in is the $5,000 stipend or $10,000 bonus (depending on eligibility). We’ll cover more about that below but other TTT benefits include:

  • Transition assistance
  • One-on-one counseling
  • Assistance with state teacher certification and licensing
  • Connections with hiring officials
  • Mentorship

These services are free to the applicant and there may also be state-level Troops To Teachers programs or resources available depending on the state.”

This idea is terrific. With a shortage of teachers, especially STEM teachers, the program is much needed. Per the NBC News piece, the kids in a high school class with a Navy veteran were sharing lessons learned from their teacher veteran about getting stuff done and done on time. Accountability and responsibility are key tenets of the teaching as well. The teacher also spoke of what it means to him to help out with our most important resources – students.

From the website link (see below), the veteran must apply withing three years of leaving the service. To me, even if the veteran learns teaching is not for them, it puts them on a path to figure out better what they want to do. But, for those who stick it out, the lessons they can give could be dramatic. This is a very cool idea in my view.

https://veteran.com/troops-to-teachers/

https://www.nbcnews.com/nightly-news/video/troops-to-teachers-military-members-bringing-life-lessons-to-students-153108037750

Three tragedies bring it home

There were three separate tragedies around the world that took the lives of multiple hundreds of people and harming even more. In Somalia, there was a terrible massacre of 100 innocent folks due to two car bombings by a rebellious group. I will not give credence to the group by naming them. In India, a pedestrian bridge collapsed killing 135 people. And, in South Korea, at a Halloween festival, about 154 people were crushed in a “stampede” of the panicked and overcrowded gathering.

In India, the 137 year-old suspension bridge had just reopened after repairs. In South Korea, the police said they had “heavy responsibility” for the stampede as they did not act enough to concerns over crowd size.

It pains me to see innocent people killed because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. With 9/11, many Americans died because they either went to work like they always do or hopped on the wrong plane that day. Plus, with shooting massacres, Americans just get in the way of an extreme or challenged individual in possession of a rapid-fire weapon.

It is sad that we have to be so alert these days to our surroundings. Going to school, work, the mall or a party or just walking across a bridge should not be a threat. These three incidents highlight how dear and precious our lives are. Incumbent leaders offering thoughts and prayers is woefully inadequate, as some actions could have been taken in advance to make folks more mindful. At least the Seoul police acknowledge their mistake.

Anytime I see crowds crushing folks to death, it reminds me that putting too many people in the same space with limited exits that funnel out is not a good thing. I am reminded of fire marshals being concerned about occupancy. What we citizens fail to realize is the occupancy is more to do with the ability to exit a place on fire. The same must hold true with crowd size at events, whether the tragedy is related to violence or other mania.

What we can do about this as patrons is be mindful of where exits are. How do we get out of here if something amiss happens? Plus, if you feel you are being squashed with too many people in attendance, leaving should be a consideration. At a Who concert in Cincinnati, about ten folks were crushed to death as the band played. At a wedding, too many people were on a hotel balcony and it fell on other reception attendees.

We also must demand of our elected officials actions to make us safe. Words are cheap. We need better gun governance to make people safer. We need better auditing and review of highway, train and pedestrian bridges to avoid problems. Here in the states, so called leaders will ask after a tragedy, how could you let this happen? The answer usually includes lack of funds to repair things, so patchwork fixes are used for years. In other words, elected officials cut funding to prevent a problem. I am not saying that is what happened in India, but it would not surprise me if it was.

As for the rebels, these become hard ones to deal with as it is hard to determine whose cause is more righteous. But, one thing is for certain in my view. Killing innocent people is not appropriate. It is murder, no matter who does it. It matters not who has been gaslighted into thinking their cause is more righteous. One thing I have long noticed is it usually is the older cult members who talk the more malleable young members into driving bomb laden vehicles and strapping on bombs. Think about that. The best line from the movie “Troy” is “war is old men talking and young men dying.”

Be safe out there. Take a few steps to plan exits and ascertain if there may be an undue risk. And, don’t let a day pass without telling your family that you love them or giving them a hug or heartfelt goodbye.

Note: Our British friend Roger posted the following on the subject of the Somalia bombings.

Veterans get screwed again

I am so very tired of politicians playing zero-sum games where they must make the other side lose, so they can get a political win. What uniformly happens is we the people get screwed. Just recently a bipartisan bill to help veterans with health care that passed in Senate by a large margin was slightly amended by the House and returned to the Senate for an expected passing.

Yet, enough Republicans decided to switch their vote and the veterans got screwed. Comedian Jon Stewart, who had led this cause along with a successful, but arduous 9/11 restitution cause a few years ago, has led a reaction that calls the Republican Senate members out for their bait and switch tactics.

Per the New York Times article this weekend, called “Jon Stewart blasts GOP after Senate blocks burn pit bill for Veterans” by Callie Patteson:

“Comedian Jon Stewart doubled down Friday on a viral rant ripping Republican senators who voted against advancing a bill that would boost benefits for veterans who were exposed to toxins from burn pits during their service in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Forty-one Republican senators voted against cloture Wednesday on the Honoring our PACT Act, accusing Democrats of using the measure to hide a ‘budget gimmick’ that would permit $400 billion in spending unrelated to veterans’ health care. 

During an interview with Fox News Friday, the former ‘Daily Show’ host insisted the bill was no different from the version that passed the Senate 84-14 in June.

‘This bill is purely based on toxic exposure health care and benefits to veterans,’ said Stewart, who urged viewers to look up the text for themselves.”

Maybe the GOP is scared that other things are getting passed which make Democrats look good. I just don’t know. I do know this is not the first time veterans have gotten screwed by politicians. The VA Healthcare system was in dire straits a few years ago with a huge need for more doctors, specialists, etc. Senator John McCain led a bipartisan effort to meet a planned request for a $64 billion bill to hire more doctors and get more resources. It was defeated and created an outrage from Veterans’ groups.

Then a debacle of backlog on appointments occurred in Phoenix a few months later and members of Congress asked how could you let this happen? A few more months later, $16 billion in funding was passed. Note this is 1/4 of the total requested and six months after being requested. The veterans again got screwed.

And, it should be noted only recently was funding provided for compensation for poisoning Marines and their families with toxic water systems at Camp Lejeune in NC. It took decades to admit there was a problem and more time to get the restitution. Decades is not an exaggeration.

I get tired of people who like to tout how hawkish they are but won’t help veterans when they get home. Politicians are OK funding battles but not the aftermath. They will say thank you for your service, but you are on your own when you get back. I fully recognize that Democrats are not perfect, but the GOP makes a great deal about being pro-military. To be honest, with respect to its troops, I do not see it. Neither should the veterans.

https://nypost.com/2022/07/29/jon-stewart-blasts-gop-after-senate-blocks-veteran-burn-pit-bill/

Top of mind issues that aren’t

Issues that need to be top of mind aren’t being discussed because we would rather talk about more exaggerated and contrived issues.

The global water crisis lives here, especially in drought prone areas like the Southwest United States, which is running dangerously low on water. Climate change only makes matters worse. And, this is even before we speak of the lead water pipe structures which have their own set of toxic issues as in Flint, Michigan.

Miami is the most at risk city in the world for encroaching sea levels due to climate change, but the governor calls more dramatic solutions liberal based ideas. Miami has built right to the coast and the limestone guarding the largest aquifer is porous. The fact the number of sunny days flooding has increased with sea water coming up through the street drains in Miami Beach should give people pause. Call me crazy, but when you are surrounded on three sides by sea water as Florida is, climate change should be a huge issue.

Toxins in our environment due to manufacturing run off of chemicals or middle of the night storage elsewhere are causing bell weather cancers years later. The water at Camp Lejeune in NC has been killing and making Marines, their spouses and their children sick for decades and yet we are still screwing around with a decision. Thank you for your service, just don’t drink the water. Recent stories on environmental cancers from Teflon and Round-up chemicals also continue to get press.

Dr. Sandra Steingraber, an ecologist, biologist, author and speaker (who has testified to Congress and the EU Parliament), spoke at an event I attended. She noted our tests are designed for a 50 year-old man, but we really should be testing for children. Our children have lungs and brains that are not fully developed, they have lesser body weight and are closer to the ground, they mouth breath more and they touch things more and put their hands in their mouths. They are easy targets for toxins to poison them.

I want people to remember her words. She added some hope, though. When we act in a serious manner we can fix things. She used the example of the Rabies vaccine, as she and her son were exposed. Rabies is a horrible way to die and it only takes a bite. But, we long ago created a series of vaccines that prevent Rabies, even if exposed. We learned and acted. She said that is a lesson that we should follow on dealing with other environmental issues – learn and act whether it’s getting rid of arsenic on playground equipment, removing asbestos out of building materials or knowing how to handle PVC pipes in a closed environment.

People matter. Children matter. Short term profits matter less than human life. I would argue companies that aggressively act to fix things will do better with long term profits due to goodwill.* Let’s act like parents and grandparents in governing what is needed. Let’s shine a spotlight on legislators and business leaders who do not.

*Years ago, Dow Chemical had a huge chemical spill in India. Because of their reputation as a good community citizen and by acting quickly to fix things, the long-term profits of the company did not suffer. The same held true with Johnson and Johnson, the makers of Tylenol after product tampering incidents killed some people. They acted quickly to fix things and we now have tamper identifying bottles.