The subtle racism in New York Times’ coverage of the Trump clan in China.

Jill Abramson has an Op-Ed in today’s NY Times that cover an important topic. The blatant corruption of the Trump family and the many ways in which they are leveraging their new found power to do business in China.

Yet, the article carries a racist sub-text, that this corruption somehow originates from China, rather than the Trumps themselves.

The Chinese know that one of the best ways to curry favor with any ruler is to shower riches on his family members. There are so many millionaires among the children of its leaders that they have a moniker: the Princelings.

Let’s not kid ourselves NYT, everyone knows this is a good way to curry favor with politicians. It isn’t a scheme shifty orientals came up with to corrupt the unblemished American political class, forcing them to peddle influence. We’ve executed quite a lot of corruption on our own, thank you very much. Both the former speaker of the NY Assembly and the Senate majority leader have been sentenced to jail for corruption. Skelos’ son got a lot of “consulting” gigs while his father was majority leader.

This uniquely Chinese brand of influence peddling is now being lavished on President Trump’s Princelings and Princesslings. Suddenly, all kinds of business opportunities have opened up for Trump family members in the notoriously closed Chinese market.

There’s nothing “uniquely Chinese” about this. Look at the careers of the children of many a senior politician and you’ll see how they’ve been aided by the helping hand of their powerful parents’ friends. “All kinds of business opportunities” open up for politicians and their families everywhere, when they attain or leave high-office.

Perhaps the NYT is unaware that American firms, including several blue chip investment banks have faced SEC investigations and penalties for hiring the relatives of politicians and senior business people to win business. Did someone twist their arm to do that? What about the hundreds of American firms who engaged in rampant bribery, leading to the passage of the FCPA? 

Their family enterprises are seeking private favors from China, the second most powerful economy in the world. This is the country that is our biggest rival in the Pacific, one that the president himself says has hurt American workers. Then he mimics its infamous Princeling culture.

This isn’t the petty Washington corruption of lobbying favors or excess campaign donations. It is far more unseemly and dangerous to democracy.

This is the truly damaging thing about the Trump presidency, and about commentary of the sort the NYT is presenting here. The Trumps are brazen about their corruption and sycophancy, flaunting it at their own country club, in full view of TV cameras. That creates a tendency to view with nostalgia the equally damaging, pervasive influence peddling that other politicians engage in. It’s a version of all the “I never thought I’d miss GW Bush” comments. I don’t miss the guy who led us into an ill-advised war that has left an entire region of the world in chaos, destroyed the lives of tens of millions and left over a million dead.

The Trump clan’s shamelessness shouldn’t blind us to the ills of the more normal forms of corruption we have grown accustomed to.

Omaha General Election results – Mello loses mayoral race

I know he’s no longer endorsed by DKos, but he is still a Democrat, and there was an election today in Omaha.

It looks like Heath Mello has lost. Omaha Herald says:

There are 282,290 registered voters in the City of Omaha, with 35 percent registered as Republicans and 41 percent as Democrats.

Results from WOWT:

Jean Stothert (R)51,413 53%
Heath Mello (D)44,97747%

Only the 7th district race is competitive on a party basis, but here are the early votes for them.

District 1:

Pete Festersen (D) 7,25886%
Grant Sturek (D)1,16714%

District 2:

Ben Gray (D)2,80864%
Dennis Womack (D)1,55836%

District 3:

Chris Jerram (D)5,74283%
D’Shawn Cunningham (D)1,20717%

District 4:

Vinny Palermo (D)2,41353%
Jim Rogers (D)2,13147%

District 5:

Rich Pahls (R)6,815100%

District 6:

Brinker Harding (R)6,71365%
Dwite Pedersen (R)3,61135%

District 7:

Aimee Melton (R)5,30966%
Brian Thommes (D)2,75834%

Kushner’s NJ project is in trouble, which is why they’re trying to raise money overseas.

Bloomberg reported today that the Kushner tower in Jersey City has suffered several setbacks including:

  • Losing the anchor tenant (WeWork)
  • Losing NJ subsidies (because Jersey City won’t support them)

Though Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop had written a letter to the state in support of the tower and was considering issuing $10 million in city bonds to help it along, this past weekend he stated publicly what he earlier told the family: that he opposes the Kushners’ new petition for $30.4 million in city bonds and a 30-year tax abatement. — www.bloomberg.com/…

WeWork was supposed to help attract a live/work community to the towers and purchase half the property. Now that they’ve pulled out, the project need to raise equity and figure out an alternative plan to attract tenants/buyers for the commercial/residential spaces.
 

The China pitch illustrates an emerging pattern for the family of the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser. The Kushners increasingly are turning to international investors, often in China, to get tough deals done. It previously lobbied Anbang Insurance Group Co., a Chinese financial behemoth, for a redevelopment of its troubled tower at 666 Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. Those negotiations fell apart. — www.bloomberg.com/…

It seems as if the Kushners have also learned something else from Trump. When your initial plan fails, come up with a more bombastic one.

Oddly, the version Meyer promoted in China is bigger, grander and more than twice as expensive as plans pitched to the New Jersey Economic Development Authority in November 2015. It will cost nearly $1 billion, including $150 million from Chinese investors, $301 million in owner equity and $525 million in debt, according to a pitchbook for an upcoming meeting in Guangzhou. It will have more than double the 744 apartments originally proposed to New Jersey. — www.bloomberg.com/…

The Kushners bought the site in 2015 for $27 million, the prior owner too, had a grand redevelopment plan that didn’t go anywhere.

This isn’t the first time a developer has promised to build on the lot now set for One Journal Square, which the planning board chair noted when he voted to approve the newest plans.

“It feels like every year or so we vote on this same project over and over again,” he said. — NJ.com

Jimmy Carter says he voted for Bernie.

Only hours after Kos’ most recent screed on “Bernie Sanders dead-enders”, “Bernie Bros” and the “alt-Left” hit the front page, former President Jimmy Carter responded to Kos by telling a crowd at the Carter Center he voted for Bernie Sanders.

Just kidding. Jimmy Carter doesn’t give a flying fig what Kos thinks, and neither should you.

But I wasn’t kidding about Carter saying he voted for Bernie.

Count Jimmy Carter among the Democrats with a political crush on Bernie Sanders. So much so that the former president suggests he voted for Sanders over Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential primary.

Carter and Sanders appeared together Monday at The Carter Center in Atlanta.

At one point, the Vermont senator launched into a version of his populist campaign pitch.

When Sanders finished railing against a growing American oligarchy, Carter smiled and said, “Y’all see why I voted for him?” — ABC News

Their entire conversation is below and worth a listen, the broad subject was human rights. The video starts with a screening of Valarie Kaur speaking at Rev Barbers’ Moral Mondays.

The exchange about Carters’ vote comes in at 20:30 minutes. President Carter made the comment immediately after Bernie spoke (at 19:00 min) about:

  • How Donald Trump didn’t win the election, but the Democratic party lost the election
  • Bringing workers of all colors into the party
  • a 50 state strategy that crosses red and blue states
  • If we had 80% voter turnout like France, the “Republican party would be a significant minority”.

PS. If you’re having trouble with the video, elencarlena has transcribed the exchange in a comment below.

The discussion touched on health care, income inequality, nuclear weapons and peace. CNN is also covering Carter’s comment on voting for Bernie:

Like Sanders, Carter has long railed against the influence of money in politics. He said in 2015 that the US was essentially no longer democratic in nature.

“Now it’s just an oligarchy with unlimited political bribery,” Carter said. — CNN

Kushner family touting Trump ties while selling green cards to foreign investors for $500k.

The EB-5 program allows investors to, in effect, buy a green card if they invest 1 million (or $500k in certain areas). The investment has to create or preserve a certain number of jobs in the US. Real-Estate developers have been using this program to offer investors apartments/equity with green cards attached for years. Trump himself has marketed properties and raised capital by wooing foreign investors with the same promise of a green card.

This week, Jared Kushner’s sister was in China, touting her family’s ties to the White House as she marketed there family’s development in Jersey City, NJ. The slides had a picture of Donald Trump on them, suggesting Jared’s father-in-law could expedite their visas.

Mr. Trump’s political power was palpable at the Shanghai event even if his name went unsaid. As on Saturday in Beijing, one slide that was presented to the Shanghai audience, describing who will decide the future of the visa program for foreign investors, included a photograph of Mr. Trump, as shown by a snapshot taken by an audience member. — NY Times

The Washington Post researcher for the story on the ground was threatened and harassed.

Journalists barred from China event pitching investment in Kushner project — The Hill

Jared Kushner still retains his interest in the family real-estate business, though he has resigned from his executive positions. The New Yorker called it his Trumpian “divestment” strategy.

Over several hours of slide shows and presentations, representatives from the Kushner family business urged Chinese citizens gathered at a Ritz-Carlton hotel to consider investing hundreds of thousands of dollars in a New Jersey luxury apartment complex that would help them secure what’s known as an investor visa. […]

The tagline on a brochure for the event: “Invest $500,000 and immigrate to the United States.”

And the highlight of the afternoon was Meyer, a principal for the company, who was introduced in promotional materials as Jared’s sister.

— WaPo

@subirgrewal

I modified the title of this diary to say “foreign investors” instead of “Chinese investors”. It was not my intent to spark any kind of anti-immigrant sentiment. As most people on this site know, I’m a first-generation immigrant.

This is a piece about the Kushner family trying to leverage their ties to the White House in their business. This isn’t about the EB-5 visa per se, though there are legitimate questions as to whether its use by real-estate developers to raise cheap capital is in keeping with the spirit of the program. There are numerous comments exploring the drawbacks of the program. Pres. Obama, Sen. Leahy and Sen. Feinstein have all been somewhat skeptical of the creative uses real-estate developers have put the program to. I have several links in a comment below that explain the concerns about gerrymandering and lobbying by developers to qualify for the lower 500k investment threshold. This PBS piece is a good place to start if you want to know more.

Republicans vote to make rape a pre-existing condition again.

As several news sources have pointed out, prior to the ACA, insurers could deny coverage to victims of sexual assault.

Prior to the passage of Obamacare, survivors of sexual assault who sought medical attention for injuries sustained during the assault could be denied coverage later on because rape was considered a pre-existing condition. The National Women’s Law Center launched a campaign at the time “Being a Woman is Not a Pre-Existing Condition,” as Gina Scaramella from the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center recalled.

Under the new MacArthur-Meadows Amendment in Trumpcare, states would be allowed to waive the ban on denying coverage for pre-existing conditions. It also allows states to waive preventative health services like vaccinations, mammograms and gynecological screenings. For those who survive a sexual assault, care can often be needed from the physical trauma as well as mental. Survivors can contract sexually transmitted infections and women can be impregnated, despite the claim that women’s bodies can “shut that whole thing down.” 

— Sarrah K. Burris in Raw Story

As people learned from late-night TV last week, babies can have “pre-existing” conditions at birth. Prior to the ACA, insurance companies could treat complications during or after delivery as “pre-existing conditions” to deny coverage to mothers as well.

The new MacArthur-Meadows Amendment will allow states to discriminate based on medical history, reportedly without addressing the subsequent high cost of health care for millions of Americans.

In addition to rape, postpartum depression, cesarean sections, and surviving domestic violence are all considered preexisting conditions. Companies can also deny coverage for gynecological services and mammograms.

— Sarah Spellings in New York Magazine

When the ACA was first passed in 2009, Huffington Post reported on this aspect of the health insurance debate multiple times, interviewing survivors of sexual assault who had been denied coverage:

Some women have contacted the Investigative Fund to say they were deemed ineligible for health insurance because they had a pre-existing condition as a result of a rape, such as post traumatic stress disorder or a sexually transmitted disease. Other patients and therapists wrote in with allegations that insurers are routinely denying long-term mental health care to women who have been sexually assaulted. […]

Fallon says she now has trouble getting coverage for gynecological exams. To avoid the hassle of fighting with her insurance company, she goes to Planned Parenthood instead and pays out of pocket.

A New Mexico woman told the Investigative Fund she was denied coverage at several health insurance companies because she had suffered from PTSD after being attacked and raped in 2003. She did not want to disclose her name because she feared that she would lose her group health insurance if she went on the record as a rape victim. “I remember just feeling infuriated,” she said.

—  Danielle Ivory in HuffPo

Christina Turner was drugged and raped by two men in 2002. After taking anti-HIV drugs prescribed by her doctor as a preventative measure, Turner was denied health insurance. The HIV drugs, Turner was told, raised too many health questions for her insurer.

— T.J. Ortenzi in HuffPo

This is what Republicans in the house voted for today.

Why do 67% of Americans think Democrats are out of touch with the concerns of most people?

That 67% of Americans think Democrats are out of touch with their concerns should worry all of us. I don’t have a good explanation, just a few thoughts that some of our preconceptions may not be completely accurate.

Looking through the cross-tabs of this poll, I can say that it’s not just racist white people, note that 60% of non-white Americans say Democrats are out of touch.

And before we jump to the conclusion that it’s just misogynist men, please note that 59% of American women say Democrats are out of touch.

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and before we jump to the conclusion that it’s just awful Republicans, please note that 75% of independents, and 44% of Democrats said the party is out of touch:

Screen_Shot_2017-05-01_at_3.05.47_PM.png

That 44% of self-declared Democrats think the party is out of touch should cause some very serious soul-searching. People who have consistently voted for Democrats, seem to be saying the party is out of touch.

Before we console ourselves that Republicans must doing worse than Democrats, note that they are not:

Screen_Shot_2017-05-01_at_3.09.45_PM.png

Before we insist that Trump must be doing worse than Democrats, please note that he is not:

Screen_Shot_2017-05-01_at_3.10.12_PM.png

It’s also worth noting that income and education don’t explain the disaffection with Democrats. Americans across levels of educational attainment and household income think Democratic party is out of touch.

Screen_Shot_2017-05-02_at_10.00.53_AM.png
Screen_Shot_2017-05-02_at_10.01.11_AM.png

We do a little better with voters from households earning <50K, but it is not as big a difference as we might think. 62% of households making less than 50K think the Democratic party isn’t in touch with their priorities.

The poll results are from a telephone survey of 1,004 randomly selected adults in the US. 74% of respondents voted in the election. Of those, 46% voted for Hillary Clinton while 43% voted for Donald Trump. In one bright spot, when all respondents (including those who didn’t vote in 2016) are asked whom they would vote for today, support for Trump drops to 37%.

the Democratic Party is viewed as far more out of touch by Democrats than Trump or the GOP are by Republicans. — WaPo

The same poll asked voters in 2014 whether they thought Democrats were in touch, 48% said yes back then. In 2013, 43% had said Democrats were in touch. How did we drop to 28% between 2014 and 2017?

PS. Obama’s “in-touch” numbers were even better than Democrats at 48% and 51% in 2014 and 2013 respectively.

Top Democratic pollsters have conducted private focus groups and polling in an effort to answer that question, and they shared the results with me.

A shockingly large percentage of these Obama-Trump voters said Democrats’ economic policies will favor the wealthy — twice the percentage that said the same about Trump. I was also permitted to view video of some focus group activity, which showed Obama-Trump voters offering sharp criticism of Democrats on the economy. […]

Skepticism about the Democratic Party was echoed rather forcefully in the focus groups that I watched. In one, Obama-Trump voters were asked what Democrats stand for today and gave answers such as these:

“The one percent.”

“The status quo.”

“They’re for the party. Themselves and the party.”

One woman, asked whether the Democratic Party is for people like her, flatly declared: “Nope.” — WaPo

So, what do you think is going on here and why do so many Americans now think the Democratic party is so out of touch?

Wilbur Ross calls Syrian airstrikes “after dinner entertainment” that “cost nothing”

Speaking at the Milken Institute Global Conference on Monday, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross recalled the scene at Mar-a-Lago on April 6, when the summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping was interrupted by the strike on Syria.

“Just as dessert was being served, the president explained to Mr. Xi he had something he wanted to tell him, which was the launching of 59 missiles into Syria,” Ross said. “It was in lieu of after-dinner entertainment.”

As the crowd laughed, Ross added: “The thing was, it didn’t cost the president anything to have that entertainment.” — Variety

Each of those missiles will cost roughly 1.5 million to replace. That doesn’t account for the operational costs of the mission, moving materiel into position to fire those missiles, activating staff etc.

Sure, it didn’t personally “cost” Trump anything. From his perspective, it was free marketing for the chocolate dessert at Mar-a-Lago.

But what about the cost to us? This missile/bombing cost roughly $100 million. That’s a hundred million dollars we no longer have for education, infrastructure or health-care. It was set alight to create a trans-continental fireworks show and impress Trump’s “guests”?

Are the armed-forces of the United States merely “after-dinner entertainment” for Trump and the billionaires in his cabinet who weaseled out of the draft?

And what about the countries we are bombing? During Trump’s brief tenure, we have dropped bombs on Iraq, Syria and Yemen, killing hundreds of civilians. What about the moral cost of this carnage? What about the long-term implications of a superpower dropping bombs on brown people across the Middle East as “after-dinner entertainment”?

Just a room full of rich people laughing at bombing another another country from a 200k a year private club https://t.co/XOfnss6TEWpic.twitter.com/Kqq3FzNVBs— Mazel Tov Cocktail (@AdamSerwer) May 1, 2017

If you haven’t joined the #Fightfor15, you have zero credibility on the #Fightfor400k

Over 41 million American workers make less than $15 an hour. And these workers are disproportionately women or PoC. 

Here’s who makes less than $15 an hour while working full-time:

  • Over 3.8 million Latino women, or 50% of the population
  • Over 3.4 million Black women, almost 50% of the population
  • Over 12 million White women, a third of the population
  • Almost a million Asian women, over 25% of the population
  • Over 3.5 million Latino men, over a third of the population
  • Over 2 million men Black men, that’s a third of the population
  • Over 10 million White men, almost 25% of the population
  • Almost 0.8 million Asian men, almost 20% of the population

When we include part-time workers, the stats look even worse, with roughly a half of all women workers making less than $15/hr. Low-wage workers are clustered in the retail, food-service and home care industries.

So if you’ve spent the last two days fighting for Barack Obama’s right to make $400,000 per hour for a speech, that’s great. But you damn well better spend the other 363 days of the year fighting for the 41 million American workers who need your solidarity to raise the federal minimum to a living wage.

Bobby Scott (VA) and Keith Ellison (MN) will introduce a bill to raise the minimum wage to $15 within four years. Senator Patty Murray (WA) and Senator Bernie Sanders (VT) will present an identical bill in the Senate. The Senate bill has 22 co-sponsors, including Schumer, Durbin, Blumenthal, Booker, Brown, Cantwell, Gillibrand, Feinstein, Franken, Harris, Hirono, Kaine, Leahy, Markey, Merkley, Reed, Schatz, Van Hollen, Warren, Whitehouse and Wyden.