Start Spreading the News!
Winter arrived a bit early by recent standards at the farm, and snow blanketed the area starting in mid-November. The October news was delayed a bit by a trip to New York City to meet with Ben and Sarah and play the role of tourists for a long weekend. Squeezed in there was a visit to the Manhattan courthouse where the Trump Organization is on trial. What a show! It’s one of the only free forms of indoor entertainment in the Big Apple, and it was the highlight of the time in New York.
The government contends the Trump company cheated on its taxes by paying high ranking employees with expensive perks that were not taxed. The company’s Chief Financial Officer has already pleaded guilty to that charge, and he was the recipient of many such benefits. He was required to testify truthfully about that arrangement as part of his plea deal, and as a current high paid employee of the Trump company, he was walking a tightrope between admitting what already has been proven while protecting his employers. Watching part of his several day cross-examination revealed what a tough task that was. The CFO testified that many of the large checks he received were from Trump family members, including Donald. He acknowledged that the entire scheme was known to those family members but insisted they likely didn’t know it was illegal. That’s a tough sell to a jury of basic NYC citizens not used to receiving large checks tax free.
A Rube from Alaska
It's worthwhile describing the courtroom setting. Just getting in was tricky. Most of those attending wore press credentials and were waved in, likely screened before the trial began. Others were obviously officials with other reasons for being there either in support of the parties or interested dignitaries. A rube from Alaska, wearing a Kuskokwim 300 hat, looked suspicious enough to attract the attention of three cops guarding the door. They described the rules and asked about a cell phone, which was produced. “If you take that out of your pocket in the courtroom, you will be removed immediately.” Ok, that’s easy enough.
Entering the courtroom, it was clear that most of the seats to the rear were occupied, mainly by press which accounted for about ¾ of the audience, almost all using laptops. There was some seating near the front near the jury, which was the desired location anyway. A seat about 10 feet from the jury box, with a good view of them, was secured. Evaluating jurors has been a practice for 50 years, and this was going to be no different. It was obvious the jury consisted of working-class folks from across the city. All were casually dressed, with varying levels of apparent interest in the proceedings. The panel was very diverse, with maybe half appearing to be non-white.
One Black man in the back row made eye contact very soon. Jurors tend to scan the courtroom in most cases, as a means of killing time during slow moments in the trial. This guy eyed up the visiting Alaskan and likely identified him as one of the few tourists in the courtroom. Having made eye contact with hundreds of jurors, it was obvious this guy was saying hello without talking. He had a very expressive face and seemed to be enjoying the trial. That eye contact paid off when the CFO was asked a question about his financial situation. One defense lawyer asked a peculiar question. “After paying your $1.9 million tax penalty in this case, were you left financially strapped?” The CFO, who had been paid many millions by the Trumps over the past 50 years answered simply “I still have some money.” With that, the Black man looked over with a smile, which of course was met with a similar response. Making such contact with jurors is an important part of winning a trial. There are strict rules about verbal interaction between lawyers and jurors, but no such rules prevent an occasional eye roll or smile. One juror actually winked in a hallway encounter many years ago in Bethel, shortly before returning a favorable verdict. There was no evidence that the high-priced defense team ever acknowledged the jury in any way. That doesn’t seem like a good strategy.
That exchange about money highlighted the defense’s task with this case. The trial concerns people with millions and perhaps billions of dollars, and the jurors deal every day with money featuring far fewer zeros. A company that dealt with that kind of money and saved a bunch more by cheating won’t get much sympathy from a group of average citizens who don’t even have an opportunity to cheat on their taxes, which are deducted from their paychecks.
It doesn’t help that the Trump outfit has a mob of lawyers working the case. During bench conferences, as many as 10 fancy lawyers crowded around the judge, most from the defense side. It also seems strange that the star witness for the prosecution is still employed by the defendants, earning over $1.4 million last year, and expecting the same this year while on leave with pay. He is expecting another bonus at year’s end, after getting a $500.000 bonus last year without working. That check was signed by Eric Trump. An outside observer might question which side the CFO is on, despite being called by the state. When asked a sticky question, it’s no wonder that it appeared the witness carefully choose his words so as not to implicate the Trump family.
There is no way to predict how a jury will vote, but it seemed from a short time watching that the Trump organization has a tough chore turning this jury its way.
Speaking of Trump, the recent election didn’t go the way he wanted it to. The ALO news has suggested right along that many of the favorite topics of the far right are not that popular overall, but various forms of minority rule have allowed the right far more success than expected. That revealed itself with the recent Supreme Court ruling on abortion which had minimal popular support. Those bothered by that ruling turned out in droves to keep the Senate blue, and defeat many of the election deniers running for Congress. That result is largely the result of young people turning out in large numbers and voting nationwide more that 60 percent for Democrats.
There are many other issues that Republicans support despite general disapproval nationwide. One example is gun control, where greater control of who can purchase a gun is widely popular but blocked by the right. Medicare and Social Security are two more areas where Republicans have widely unpopular ideas about cutting both programs. The final one is global warming, where America’s youth are solidly in support of measures to combat global warming, and Trump said recently it won’t be a problem for 300 years when he announced he was running again in 2024.
Enough serious stuff. Here are the cartoons that made life a little more enjoyable last month.
Mandatory Moose & Newsworthy Dogs
We have a couple of Mandatory Moose this month because there are so many to pick from. Both were caught in the act. The first photo is cleaning up someone's garden in Anchorage, and the second needs no caption.
Dog always are newsworthy on this site. Here is a classic video from Iditarod champion Brent Sass, which might reveal a bit of the appeal of dog mushing.
And here is a former Old Friendly Dog Farm dog named Kaiser that was sent to live with Karen Deatherage, and apparently found a comfortable home.
Here is a story about one unfortunate dog from the Fairbanks area. "Programmed to eat’: Northern pike mauls husky at North Pole gravel pit" (Alaska Public Media).
One last dog photo, from Central Park in New York City, of Balto. He was made famous by the serum run to Nome in 1925, and no one is sure how he was selected. Most involved in the run credited Togo as the lead dog hero of the Serum Run, but somehow Balto emerged as an alternate hero. Regardless, for a retired racer visiting this spot in the city is a required stop.
Former Bethelite Jane McClure
Loyal ALO News readers will remember a previous account about former Bethel lady Jane McClure and her famous Dad writer Mike McClure. Here is an article about his part in a famous song performed by Janis Joplin that folks of a certain age will enjoy.
This article from the Anchorage paper discusses an ALO client’s plight. Warning: the picture is not pleasant. "Homeless Anchorage woman says she lost her fingers to frostbite after jail staff failed to act on her pleas for medical help" (ADN). ALO also settled a serious slip and fall case that happened in the parking lot of an Anchorage business. Here is the video that might have sealed the deal. Meanwhile the employee parking lot out back was smooth and had gravel applied. The client suffered a fractured knee cap and is slow to recover and is hampered at work.
Finally, this photo was taken at a Trump rally in Ohio. It doesn’t take much of a historian to recognize the salute this crowd is giving Trump. Fortunately, the movement appears to be losing traction, but images like this can’t be ignored.