It’s a New York City tradition, coming home after some time away and turning on the lights in your apartment and watching the eternal occupants, the cockroaches, run for the cracks and corners.
Sometimes, we’ve found you can turn on the faucet in the tub, and watch a cockroach or two be expelled.
Well, the “business” career of President Donald J. Trump may be the biggest metaphoric NYC apartment ever, and Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller’s assigned mission to turn on the lights.
The vermin revealed will be numerous, but the culture that nurtured the insects will also be lit.
Among the first sent scurrying are Trump’s one-time campaign manager Paul Manafort, and Manafort’s colleague Rick Gates, charged with money-laundering that was not only large-scale and long-term but amazingly out in the open.
The New Yorker’s Adam Davidson pointed out some lurid details.
Among them, the facts that Manafort not only spent his Russian and Ukrainian-derived profits in implausible amounts, he made all his “purchases” at a very small number of American venues. Oddly enough, almost all the “bills” Manafort paid were in amounts that ended, Davidson says, “in multiple zeroes: $107,000, then $20,000, then $250,000. At an unnamed men’s-clothing store in New York, Manafort spent $32,000, $15,000, $24,000, and other multiples of a thousand. For money-laundering experts, this fact alone would be cause for suspicion. It is extremely rare for even a single purchase to end in three zeroes.”
Why would Manafort play such an ostentatious fool? Because, Davidson says, he felt like he could get away with it.
And why was that? Because money-laundering is almost never prosecuted.
And why is that? Because this crime is a main support of both of New York City’s leading industries, real estate and finance.
Adam Davidson again: “A former high-ranking official in New York State government told me that a serious attempt to reduce money laundering in New York City would be impossible because it would so severely damage the local economy.”
Of course, Davidson quickly points out, money laundering benefits only a small part of the local economy, and government facilitation of the crime “transfers wealth away from tax-funded democracies and toward kleptocracies, rewarding crime and punishing legitimate businesses.”
Another example of egregious government facilitation of large-scale crime that mostly damages small-scale taxpayers came to light this week in dear old New Mexico.
As reported by Bruce Krasnow in The (Santa Fe) New Mexican http://www.santafenewmexican.com/news/local_news/appraisal-expert-energy-companies-cheating-state/article_802a1f64-67de-5bbf-8f84-0c19e3fefa58.html
a professional assessor of energy company assets told the State’s Legislative Finance Committee that both the State and local counties were being robbed of tax money by oil and gas industry companies who don’t declare their taxable properties, like oil rigs, and pipelines.
Is there anything taxable that could be “hidden” in more plain sight? And could such huge, above-ground facilities escape the tax assessor’s notice if it weren’t county policy to look the other way?
As an exercise in perverted government process, this is a classic. The Counties (in this case Lea, and Eddy, in the heart of New Mexico’s Southeastern “oil patch”) say, we can’t afford to hire enough assessors to check every company’s equipment, so we put them on an honor system for self-reporting.
And, says the whistleblowing forensic assessor Jerry L. Wisdom, “That honor system is not working.”
Every tax dollar that goes uncollected from the energy companies must be made up by the average taxpayer.
Now that you’re properly steamed up about government facilitation of very rich people’s very expensive crimes, let me introduce to you the Creep of the Week.
The billionaire Joe Ricketts pulled the plug on his recently combined online local news platforms DNAInfo and Gothamist a day after workers voted to unionize.
There had been hints before the union vote that the conservative Chicagoan might do this, but workers believed Ricketts’ professed commitment to large-scale local newsgathering would outweigh his “I am the Boss,” mentality.
Perhaps they should have read his blog more carefully, because there he wrote that he opposed unionization at any of his businesses because, “unions promote a corrosive us-against-them dynamic that destroys the esprit de corps businesses need to succeed.”
No, you bleep-head, you promote corrosive us-against-him dynamics by being such an control freak.
Remember, Ricketts is the guy who owns the Chicago Cubs, and when the team won the World Series last year, breaking at 108-year losing streak, gave out commemorative rings with a string attached. Anyone who ever wanted to sell the ring would get exactly $1 from Mr. Ricketts. Anyone who tried to sell it for memorabilia market-value would get sued.
After the story was reported by the Chicago Sun-Times, the Cubs issued a “correction,” as in mid-flight correction, perhaps? “Players are exempted from signing [the] agreement” that gave Boss Ricketts permanent control over his “gift” jewelry, said the Cubs.
Hmmm. What do the players have that the other recipients of the Cubs World Series rings don’t?
It’s called a union.
“Solidarity forever,” says ex-shop steward Marash, and may it take another 108 years before Ricketts has anything else to celebrate.
KSFR will broadcast the Santa Fe City Council meeting this week, so only 3 HERE & THERE’s are on tap.
On Monday: Carey Gillam, for years an aggressive investigative reporter specializing in the agriculture industry, has written a new book, WHITEWASH: The Story of a Weed-Killer, Cancer and Corruption of Science. In it, she shows how Monsanto has been able to keep the herbicide Roundup, and the GMO seeds made to survive it, on top of Ag-world. The World Health Organization says Roundup’s chief ingredient “probably” causes cancer, but the FDA and USDA say, well, nothing much.
On Tuesday, investigative reporter David Sirota of International Business Times takes a hard look at New Mexico’s Republican Governor Susana Martinez who has incessantly denounced pay-to-play corruption during the administration of her predecessor, Democrat Bill Richardson. Guess what Sirota’s found? Money management firms that contributed $1.2 million to organizations tied to Martinez’ political campaigns got more than $14 million worth of contracts to manage NM state money.
Wednesday is City Council day, but on Thursday, we’re back with a close look at the BREXIT negotiations with RAND Corporation analyst Amb. Charles Ries. Here’s one appalling tidbit: EU negotiators say they’ll help UK Prime Minister Theresa May keep the BREXIT exit price secret from British citizens. Don’t you love democracy in action?
One again, I urge you to marvel at the art and wit of Amy Marash, and thank you for your continued support and listenership.