Nel's New Day

June 10, 2019

‘The Best [Corrupt] People’

When Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) got elected, he frequently claimed that he would “surround myself only with the best and most serious people.” These “best people” have proved to be a disaster, even to DDT, and his phenomenal turnover means that at least 50 top officials left him within the past 16+ months since his inauguration.

Some of their names might not be well-known, but their disastrous influence remains. For example, leaving this past week was Kevin Hassett, chair of DDT’s Council of Economic Advisers and advocate of DDT’s tax cuts. Hassett said that his departure has nothing to do with DDT’s disastrous tariff decisions, but he questions a successful forecast in GDP growth for 2019 and is “very much concerned” about the growing fiscal deficit. Other departed economic advisers include Paul Winfree who came from the ultra-conservative Heritage Foundation, Jeremy Katz who also pushed the tax cut bill, Dina Powell who worked with Ivanka Trump on “empowerment of women,” Gary Cohn who was formerly president and COO of Goldman Sachs who wasn’t happy with DDT’s blaming “both sides” in the neo-Nazi protest in Charlottesville (VA) and left after dissatisfaction with DDT’s tariff policy, Everett Eissenstat who left to be GM’s senior vice president of global public policy, Clete Willems who dumped a job to negotiate with China to join a law firm public law and policy practice, and Linda McMahon who helped build World Wrestling Entertainment who did stay with DDT to chair one of his super PACs. And these are only some of the people in his economic world.

Staying, of course, is DDT’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who seems to be charge of almost everything because he doesn’t have any other place to go. Almost totally silent for his first two years, he appeared two times in the past few weeks. One was testimony with hardliner neo-Nazi Stephen Miller in a closed Senate session about DDT’s new immigration plan. Kushner managed to avoid most questions and failed to provide solutions while frequently interrupted by Miller. Republicans publicly praised Kushner for the presentation of a merit-based system for the highest skilled people but privately said that he lacked clear answers. He said that immigrants would be required to pass a civics test to get access to the point system but then avowed that the central purpose is to unify immigrant families, including mothers and children. He couldn’t answer a question about what do to with undocumented immigrants already in the U.S. Because Kushner rejected the idea of DACA, GOP officials gave the immigration plan as much chance as Kushner’s peace plan in the Middle East—which is zero.

Kushner’s next performance, an interview with Axios, got a lot more media play: 

“Uh when there are things that they don’t do that we do not approve of, we we talk about that with them privately, but we feel like we’re in a position now where there’s a lot of interest that we have that are shared with them.”—about Kushner’s relationship with Saudi Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, who tortured and dismembered Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi. (After Kushner’s interview, DDT said he didn’t blame MBS for Khashoggi’s murder.)

“It’s a horrific thing that happened, and what we’ve done is we’ve called for full transparency.”—about whether the Saudis should return Khashoggi’s body for a proper burial.

“Look, I would not have come into government had there been anything salacious and nefarious that I was worried about.”—about the headline, “Background check chief has ‘never seen’ mistakes and omissions at level of Jared Kushner forms.”

“So, the answer is no, absolutely not. You can’t not be a racist for 69 years, then run for president and be a racist. And what I’ll say is that when a lot of the Democrats call the president a racist, I think they’re doing a disservice to people who suffer because of real racism in this country…. Like I said, I wasn’t involved in that.”—a statement that he made over and over about whether DDT is a racist, with the example that DDT continually claimed that President Obama was not born in the United States.

“Look, I think that the president did his campaign the way he did his campaign.”—about whether DDT’s campaign pledge to ban Muslims from the U.S. was “religiously bigoted.”

“It doesn’t make a difference.”—about the number of refugees permitted to settle in the U.S.

“I do think this is a terrible thing. Because you want people who have been successful in this country, who have taken advantage of the greatness of the opportunity that America provides, to go into government and to serve their country. When they get harassed and they have their companies looked at and their employees have to deal with this nonsense because people want to push a narrative, I think that’s a terrible thing.”—about whether Deutsche Bank should examine transactions moving cash from companies Kushner controls to Russians.

“[The meeting was] total waste of time, [and] we were not given anything that was salacious.”—about whether he should have called the FBI about Russian offering dirt on Hillary Clinton and whether he would call the FBI if it happened again.

“Look, I’m not here to be trusted.”—about why Palestinians don’t trust him in the peace negotiations.

Kushner owns part of real estate company Cadre that received $90 million in mysterious foreign funding since he became DDT’s senior adviser. The money was funneled from a Cayman Islands through Goldman Sachs. Kushner was refused a security clearance, but DDT demanded that he be given one.

Another Cabinet member is also being investigated for conflict of interest. Elaine Chao, Transportation Secretary and wife of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), has high-level political connections in China because of her family’s shipping company which helped both Chao and McConnell prosper. Part of Chao’s job is to promote U.S. maritime industry.

Chao’s father James S.C. Chao was once roommate with Jiang Zemin who became president of China. He founded Foremost Group, a New York-based shipping company in 1964 and received a big contract with the U.S. government to ship rice to Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War. In 1984, the Chao family acquired part of a Chinese-owned manufacturer of marine electronic equipment although they can’t remember the investment. With some of its ship-building financed by Chinese loans, Foremost ships over 70 percent of its freight, mostly iron ore, to China for steel manufacturing. DDT has temporarily lifted tariffs on imported steel. Chao’s Transportation Department has cut programs for U.S.-flagged ships and replacing ships to train U.S. mariners. Congress replaced the money, but Chao is still being questioned for her connections and status to boost Foremost’s reputation and visibility. In her confirmation hearings, she failed to mention her family’s deep ties to the Chinese maritime industry and her accolades China gives her, a violation of her questionnaire. Thirteen members of the Chao family donated over $1 million to McConnell’s campaigns and PACs. James Chao gave the couple at least $25 million.

McConnell himself also has problems with taking campaign money from Russians–$3.5 million from oligarch Oleg Deripaska. When DDT wanted to lift sanctions last year against mafia-esque Deripaska, Vladimir Putin’s friend, McConnell pushed the Senate into following DDT’s directions although the GOP House voted 362-53 to keep the sanctions in place. Lifting sanctions allowed Deripaska’s aluminum company Rusal and its parent company En+ back into the U.S. Within four months of McConnell’s favor to Deripaska, who also worked with DDT’s convicted former campaign manager Paul Manafort, Deripaska’s Russian aluminum company Rusal sent $200 million for a $1.7 billion aluminum plant in northeastern Kentucky. Part of the action came from Sen. David Vitter (R-LA), known for his ethical problems with prostitution. Vitter’s wife, one of DDT’s judicial nominees, was not been able to get confirmed for over 18 months—partly because she didn’t support Brown v. Topeka, the Supreme Court case that just celebrated its 55th anniversary for overturning public school segregation. Soon after Sen. Vitter told McConnell about brokering the deal to pour Deripaska’s money into Kentucky, wife Wendy Vitter was confirmed for her lifetime federal judicial term. And the payoffs are all out in the open, no need to hide any of the quid pro quo.

The husband/wife team work well together. Chao designated a special liaison, McConnell’s advance man Scott Inman in McConnell’s 2014 election, to help with grant applications and other priorities from the Transportation Department for McConnell’s state of Kentucky, providing him with at least $78 million for his projects as he runs for re-election in 2020. No other state has this advantage. Earmarks are supposedly no longer legal, but McConnell has found another way to funnel a large amount of money into his state as these details prove. As McConnell said, “All 100 senators may have one vote, but they’re not all equal. Kentucky benefits from having one of its own setting the agenda for the country.” And set it, he does.

December 20, 2016

Trump’s Monsters for Cabinet Positions

Halloween came eight days late this year when Donald Trump (DT) was elected president of the United States on November 8. His selection began a parade of monsters, the like of which has not ever been seen in the Cabinet and other high federal government officials. It’s as if DT was thinking, “How much do I hate the people in the nation? Let me count the ways?” For the past month he has dribbled out names, each one more of a shock, as he uses the government as his personal toy. All his nominees for agency directors are diametrically opposed to the missions of the organizations that they would lead. As Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) said, “Personnel is policy,” and evidenced by DT’s selections, he loves these policies:

Racism, Voter Oppression, Climate Denial—the List of Civil Wrongs Goes On and On:

jeff-sessionsSen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama is DT’s nominee for Attorney General, the person designated to protect legal rights for all the people of the United States through the Department of Justice. He may be the worst choice among all the DT nominees to be confirmed. (Michael Flynn doesn’t require confirmation for his position of Homeland Security Advisor.) It’s been 30 years since the Senate determined that Sessions was unfit to be a federal judge because of his outrageous racist comments, such as calling a black assistant U.S. attorney “boy” and the NAACP “communist inspired.” Yet his xenophobia continues into the 21st century as Sessions calls for mass deportations of undocumented immigrants and connects terror attacks against the U.S. to all Muslim immigrant families. He may also have been the architect of DT’s wall idea and thinks that people born in the United States of foreign parents should not be citizens.

Sessions also opposes voting and LGBTQ rights and is  virulently anti-marijuana—now legal at least for medical purposes in over half the states. Just two years ago, Sessions said, “Good people don’t smoke marijuana.” Last year, he claimed that carbon dioxide is “plant food” and “not a pollutant” and accused White House  Science Advisor John Holdren of advancing a “political agenda” in explaining links between climate change and weather events such as droughts. His votes support pipelines, kill clean energy tax credits, and block the EPA. This is the man who would determine how the law of the country is interpreted and enforced.

Illness and Death:

tompriceTom Price, nominated for Secretary of Health and Human Services, wrote the bills to repeal the Affordable Care Act including the elimination of Medicaid, arguing that the health care “removes the very freedom and liberty that our founders fought for at its very core.” His plan is to privatize (aka get rid of) Medicare by this coming summer, reducing the “vouchers” to where insurance premiums will cost more than Social Security payments. Another Price goal is to decimate Medicaid by drastically cutting funding. Price also opposes paying doctors “based on quality and outcome.” He believes that the First Amendment lets employers refuse birth control to women and supports defunding Planned Parenthood and eliminating abortion. Sessions also sided with BP during its horrendous oil spill, helped create the congressional Tea Party Caucus, and is totally anti-LGBTQ.

Stupidity and Ignorance:

betsy-devosBetsy DeVos as Secretary of Education would wipe out public education through taxpayer vouchers to charter and private schools. Corporations will make a fortune in operating schools with no regulations, a curriculum that promotes religion, and minimum-wage teachers. DeVos, whose money comes from the Amway Ponzi scheme, joins Bill & Melinda Gates, Eli & Edythe Broad, and the Walton family of Wal-Mart fame to control educational policies in the nation. She is pro-creationism, anti-LGBTQ, and anti-science in her belief that global warming is a hoax.

Despite continued research showing charter school failures in many states, the DeVos “leadership” will continue the GOP dismantling of “government schools” to use taxpayer moneys for religious private schools. DeVos has compared her work in education reform to a biblical battleground where she wants to “advance God’s Kingdom.” Lamenting that public schools have “displaced” the church as the center of communities, she says that school choice leads to “greater Kingdom gain.” DeVos and her husband have put hundreds of millions of dollars toward that end.

DeVos’ brother, ex-Navy SEAL Erik Prince, founded the controversial private security contractor Blackwater (now known as Academi) and made considerable donations to first Ted Cruz and later DT. As a lobbyist with no educational experience except attending private schools, DeVos destroyed the schools in Michigan; now she has the same plan for the entire United States.

Fewer Jobs, Lower wages and No Worker Protection:

Andrew Puzder, chief executive officer of CKE Restaurants Inc., listens during a panel discussion at the annual Milken Institute Global Conference in Beverly Hills, California, U.S., on Monday, April 30, 2012. The conference brings together hundreds of chief executive officers, senior government officials and leading figures in the global capital markets for discussions on social, political and economic challenges. Photographer: Jonathan Alcorn/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Jonathan Alcorn/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Andrew Puzder, CEO of CKE Restaurants that includes Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr., has been nominated for Labor Secretary. He opposes raising the minimum wage and wants to automate service jobs to have fewer workers. (Note that Puzder is the choice of the candidate who swore he would give his voters more and better jobs.) Puzder also wants to cut assistance programs and use franchises to avoid paying benefits. His own employees get the lowest wages in the nation and are forced to use taxpayer money to survive. The fast food lobby is ecstatic: International Franchise Association President and CEO Robert Cresanti is looking forward to reducing the number of workers eligible for overtime pay and elimination of accountability for labor law violations at their franchises.

In 2004, Puzder settled three class-action lawsuits about overtime pay against his company for $9 million. A lawsuit against his company in 2013 for not paying managers overtime is still pending, and Puzder said in 2014 that his company had spent $20 million on labor lawsuits in the previous eight years. In another arena, Puzder was accused of domestic abuse by his first wife; police were called to their home at least twice.

Over 100 years ago, the Department of Labor was created “to foster, promote, and develop the welfare of the wage earners of the United States, to improve their working conditions, and to advance their opportunities for profitable employment.” Now it will support the wealthy—and the robots.

Like DT, Puzder would suffer from massive conflict of interest because he would run the agency in charge of investigating employees—lime himself—for labor violations. The couple are also top-notch misogynists.  One of Puzder’s commercials is here.

puzder-philosophy

Lack of Transportation:

elaine-chaoElaine Chao, wife of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConell (R-KY) and former Secretary of Labor under George W. Bush, is DT’s nominee for the Department of Transportation. She has already shown her undying allegiance to business interests over enforcing laws to protect U.S. workers by mistreatment of workers in an epidemic of illegal salary underpayment as employers stole workers’ wages, identified by reports from the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office (GAO). Chao also faked records to make her wage and hour office look better at resolving cases than it was in reality. She was also on the board of Wells Fargo when it scammed its customers for $2.4 million but stayed silent when former CEO John Stumpf quit after congressional hearings. If she is confirmed, Chao will oversee over three times the number of employees who report to the Labor Secretary and be responsible for the safety of roads, airplanes, and rails.

Rep. Bill Shuster, head of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, has said that DT likes the idea of privatizing air traffic control, a disaster ever since President Reagan eliminated its union and banned over 11,000 former employees from federal service for life early in his first term. Another possibility is privatizing airport security. (It might be noted that McConnell was adamant about not telling the people of the U.S. that Russia was exerting deliberate control over the 2016 presidential election. Chao’s nomination may be his reward.) Drone and driverless car industries would be delighted with Chao in this position because of her reputation for loose regulations.

The Disappearance of Small Businesses: 

linda-mcmahonLinda McMahon, the former World Wrestling Entertainment chief executive, has been nominated for Secretary of the Small Business Administration. With her reputation for crushing smaller competitors to achieve success, she’s another choice that opposes the agency mission. When she and her husband, Vince, took over WWE from Vince’s father, it was already a sizable business controlling wrestling in the mid-Atlantic and Northeast region. Showing little concern for a pact keeping independent wrestling businesses out of each other’s territories, WWE moved in, destroyed the competition, and established a monopoly. She declares wrestlers “independent contractors” and avoids such requirements as providing health insurance. The Small Business Administration acts as an advocate for small businesses by running a large loan guarantee program for them, helping with disaster relief, and advising on issues such as health care regulations. Small business owners are worried about McMahon controlling the agency.

And there are more!

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