Sunday, January 29, 2017

An American Disgrace: Trump’s Week One Historically Bad

It has been quite a first week for our new Commander in Chief, alienating millions, while beginning the work of serving his billionaire sponsors. As I reported last weekend, he still seems obsessed with his ratings and can’t seem to get over the fact that more people protested Saturday than attended his inauguration Friday. Or even the fact that he lost the popular vote, now pushing those around him to waste time and government funding to launch an investigation that is sure to prove fruitless (WP). Let’s look at the other lowlights from one of the worst first weeks in Presidential history …

·   Trump issued a gag order to the EPA, while eliminating any reference to global warming, then did the same to the FDA and Parks Service. After major political blowback, they not only rescinded that order but pretended they never issued it to begin with (WP, Observer).
·     Issued a blanket hiring freeze across the entire government, which seems odd if he was going to “clean up” Washington. This time it was Veteran’s Affairs who complained the loudest, partially as a result of his stated conviction to fix the problem, and again the administration reversed itself – at least regarding Veteran’s Affairs (Daily Caller).
·   Repeated his oft-cited claim that we should have taken the oil from Iraq and that maybe we can do it in the future. ISIS is using Trump’s words in its latest recruitment videos (NY Magazine).
·   Signed an executive order to make the military bigger, even as he has no authority to do so (Breaking Defense). Same thing with the wall, which he will need Congressional funding to actualize (PolitiFact). Same, more or less, with Obamacare, though the administration ended all PSAs and other reminders to millions of Americans to sign up for healthcare by Tuesday (even those already paid for).
·     The Office on Violence Against Women runs 25 grant programs to reduce sexual assault, domestic violence, and dating violence. Donald Trump wants to get rid of these programs, potentially overturn Roe vs. Wade, defund Planned Parenthood and essentially make it harder for women to get reproductive care, abortions or even contraception.
·   Obviously, the most troubling announcement this week regards immigration and his, arguably, unconstitutional order to stop all immigration/visa visits from seven predominantly Muslim countries. Parts of that executive order have already been blocked by a Brooklyn judge (NYT). Even worse, it turns out only countries Trump has no business interests in were included on the list (WP).
·   Finally, is his ceaseless attack on the media and the fascist implications of top strategist Bannon calling mainstream media their enemy and telling them to keep their mouths shut for a while (WP, TNY).
·   One postscript – in an announcement commemorating Holocaust Remembrance Day, the administration didn’t mention Jews or anti-Semitism, apparently on purpose (TPM).

When we put it altogether, we see a new administration that is demonstrating many of the traits of a burgeoning fascist state. They have their scapegoats, ultra-nationalist discourse, manipulation of the truth to serve their agenda, populist undertones at the same time they tie business and government further together, a reactionary agenda that is anti-women, anti-black, anti-Muslim, anti-gay and anti-immigrant and an attack on the institutions that could challenge them including education, media and, even, scientific research itself. Scary times indeed, though the continuing protests and general popularity of the president with midterm elections less than two years away could start to give some members of the GOP Congress pause …

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Arsenal Subs Shine in 5-0 Victory over Southampton (FA Cup)

Arsenal cruised to a victory against a side that has taken more than a few vital points, and a shot at a trophy, away from Arsenal over the past few seasons. The Saints potentially suffering from a hangover after their huge EFL semifinal victory over Liverpool, made 9 changes and, while Arsenal also rotated heavily, a few were players just coming back from injury. In the end, 5-0 seemed about right from a dominant Gunner performance.

Three thoughts on game:

1. Welbeck Impresses: the great tragedy of Welbeck’s injury almost a year ago was that he seemed to have finally found a finishing touch that had eluded him for much of his career. In just his second appearance, and first start, since returning, Welbeck showed that eye for the goal might have remained throughout his months of recovery away from the pitch. His two goals in the first 22 minutes were both fine finishes that showed great poise.

The first, in the 15th minute, was started by a dynamic Maitland-Niles, who pushed the ball forward to Perez. The Spaniard sent in a fine one-touch through ball to a charging Welbeck, who looked up, waited for the keeper to charger and then sent a lofted toe poke over him and into the roof of the net. The second, 7 minutes later, involved an excellent takedown of a long, over-the-top pass from Ox, a move to his left and then a finely placed finish between keeper and defender. In fact, Arsenal were quite direct throughout, a strategy one doesn’t often see from a Wenger side.

For Arsenal’s third, Welbeck showed his pace, catching up to a Perez pass a little too long and cutting it back for Walcott to finish (35’). Arsenal’s fourth came after his replacement, Sanchez, assisted Walcott for his second of the evening. The Southampton product completed his hat trick in the 84th, again assisted from Sanchez.

Welbeck could be a key contributor if Arsenal can stay close to a storming Chelsea, either returning to the wing where he played at times last season, as a potential third-choice striker behind Sanchez and Giroud or an impact sub. A final possibility, though unlikely with Wenger at the helm, is to set up in a 4-4-2 where he sits alongside Sanchez up front with some combination of four midfielders behind him. While Xhaka and Elneny are out, it could be an option, though probably not against Chelsea.

2. Future Stars? The youngsters in the side today showed some silky skills, poise and guile that bely their age and experience. Reine-Adelaide was the most impressive of the trio, electrifying on the ball, able to rebound after a bad touch or losing the ball and astounding with slick passing and excellent vision. Sitting deeper, Maitland-Niles displayed great discipline as the other Arsenal midfielders charged forward to get involved in the attack quite often and provided the assist to the assist on the opening goal. And Rob Holding, who we saw in the starting lineup earlier in the season, was more solid than in many of those appearances; a player who could well make his way back to the starting 11 at some point if Koscielny or Mustafi go down (though let’s hope that is for a future season!). Arsenal have had a number of promising youth that have failed to make the move up, though a few have found success at other clubs, but one could see one of these youngsters making the move up sooner rather than later.

While not a youngster at 27, Lucas Perez was impressive once again and must be wondering what he has to do to get in the side on a regular basis. Unfortunately, he has little chance of supplanting Sanchez either on the left or through the middle, Giroud when Sanchez does start on the left and a dynamic and improving Iwobi on the other wing, with Ox and Walcott back from injury making it even harder. A run deep in the FA Cup might be his best shot to see further starts, though he is another available impact sub and could slot into the starting 11 with any injuries to key players, or in games surrounding at least two more Champions League ties.

Looking across the side, Arsenal arguably have the deepest and most talented side at their disposal since the Invincibles, with cover at every position on the pitch, except for a natural replacement for Cazorla. If they were to lose Sanchez or Ozil, however, big money would have to be spent to replace them, with no guarantee they could hit their heights upon arriving at the Emirates. Given the falloff for Ozil and Iwobi’s ability to slot in to the number 10 relatively seamlessly, it is Sanchez who is the player who must be resigned if Arsenal are to continue their march toward an elusive first title in 13 years.

3. Saints Subs Dominated: Southampton clearly have one of the better academies in England, if not Europe, cultivating the talents of so many stars that now play for other sides. Arsenal alone have snatched up three of them in recent years, including two starters in this game – Ox and Walcott – and one youngster they let out on loan this season (Chambers). Liverpool, of course, are loaded with ex-Saints including Lovren, Lallana, Clyne, Lambert and the sorely missed at the ACN, Mane.

Today, the youngsters were far less impressive, finding it hard to string together more than a few passes at a time, losing the ball in their own side far too often and failing to keep the disciplined back line that has made the Saints a formidable side to break down, particularly for an Arsenal side that has had their fair share of reversals against the South coast side over the past few season, including an exit from the EFL Cup that Southampton built on to beat Liverpool and head to the final against United next month. Sitting in the bottom half of the table, however, with that chance at silverware in the offing, this might be a loss that won’t cause too much consternation for the side. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Trump's First Days Confirm Worst Fears

Seemingly more interested in “ratings” than executing his agenda, Trump has had one of the most inauspicious starts to a Presidential term. His poll and favorability ratings are falling, his claims of a mandate misguided and his promises to the people who voted for him already in tatters.

There is a surreal element to a President being labelled a liar after only three days in the White House, not only by the New York Times but the Wall Street Journal, for continuing to claim that at least three million Americans voted illegally – all for Hillary Clinton, of course. But that was just the latest lie in the past five days, with the other about the size of the crowd that witnessed his inauguration (NYT). Both issues, along with his incessant bragging about the number of people cheering him on at the CIA  this past weekend, all reinforce the notion that Trump will run the country as he did The Apprentice, based predominantly on ratings, and that the truth is an inconvenience he is not terribly interested in supporting.

Of course, if Trump only cared about his ratings and popularity, there would be little reason for fear. The problem is the very real policies he is already starting to pursue, including an agenda to undermine any attempts to deal with global climate change (The Free Thought Project), an isolationist cum imperialist foreign policy that hearkens back to the Monroe Doctrine (Salon), an anti-labor stance that appears set to hurt the average American worker even more than the 40-year attack on their wages and benefit (Morning Consult), and the realization of his anti-immigrant, anti-feminist, anti-LGBT campaign rhetoric (CNN).

Of course, with the Orwellian ramblings of his Press Secretary Sean Spicer (Raw Story) and aid Kellyanne Conway (Crooksandliars), who is much smarter than the media gives her credit for being, it might be hard to know what Trump is actually thinking, except for his continued addiction to twitter (Business Insider). Trump appears to live in a bubble that mixes his megalomaniacal nature with one of the most easily bruised egos of any leader in the world. Since his popularity is likely to decrease over time, who knows how he will confront the increasingly vociferous attacks of not only his enemies but former supporters.

The real problem, as I’ve written before, is the general direction he appears poised to take the country. He has selected an administration team made up of individuals who generally detest the very offices they will head, of millionaires and billionaires who consistently support corporate interests over those of American citizens and filled with far too many members of an alt-right that has just been fully mainstreamed, a mere six years after the Tea Party took them from the fringe to the seat of American political power. His agenda will be uber-nationalistic, pro-corporate, anti-environment, anti-Muslim, anti-feminist, anti-poor and working class, anti-environment, anti-science and anti-truth.

At its core, the administration appears to be fulfilling our worst fears – an acceleration of the march toward fascism. If that sounds extreme, think of how fascism rose in the past. It’s central tenets revolve around manipulating the truth to serve their interests, merging politics with the corporate power structure, uber-nationalism, scapegoating one or more groups that are already oppressed, controlling the media, using militaristic rhetoric (if not action), building coalitions around hate and attempting to quash all attempts at dissent. Fascism essentially begins with this last element, controlling the flow of information so that critique is eliminated through intimidation, control and, if necessary, violence. But we have seen each element of these tenets promoted by our new President and his most fervent supporters.

Only the future will tell whether his supporters continue to believe his bluster and misinformation campaign as they see their quality of life decline and the country itself fall into peril. 

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Arsenal Steal Victory to Move to Second

Arsenal hosting Burnley at the Emirates today should have been relatively straightforward three points. While the side were well clear of the relegation zone coming in, they had earned a solitary point from their travels all season, ironically against Manchester United. However, Arsenal were only able to crack their defense with a last gasp, offsides and hand-balled, winner from Koscielny in the first matchup at home and, given the fact they have often spurned opportunities when those around them stutter in recent seasons, there was certainly some anxiety heading into the afternoon match.

In the first half, Arsenal dominated possession and created a number of half-chances, but were profligate in and around the box and left the field after 45 minutes with everything to play for; while Burnley had their own chances to take an unlikely lead (particularly given the fact they have scored a mere three away goals all season). The Gunners came out for the second half with more fervor and were finally ahead after 59 minutes when Mustafi scored his first goal in an Arsenal shirt with a well-placed header from an Ozil corner. They looked set to cruise to victory until Xhaka went in for an ill-advised tackle in the Burnley half, getting sent off six minutes after the goal. The Gunners hung tough and had a few chances to put the game away, but then Coquelin added his own mistake to the procession, swiping at a ball in the box and catching Ashley Barnes legs. Gray stepped up and scored right down the middle behind a diving Cech. But a few minutes later, it was the Gunners celebrating after another controversial call allowed Sanchez to win it with a panenka kick in the 98th minute. Three thoughts on the three points Arsenal stole today:

1. Xhaka Must Get More Disciplined: as anyone who follows English football already probably knows, Granit Xhaka has a reckless side to his otherwise smooth and stalwart game and has earned more reds in the past few seasons than any other player in European football – an extraordinary 9 in the past 3 years. This was his second for Arsenal, almost costing them two points and making him unavailable for the crucial clash with Chelsea in a fortnight.

Xhaka is still young, has an excellent range of passing, an eye for long-range shooting that is useful on a side like Arsenal that still occasionally tries to pass the ball into the net and more defensive skills than all of the Gunner’s midfielders save Coquelin. But he has got to learn to control his tackles, particularly when he loses the ball. Arsenal have lost too many big games over the past several years due to a red that put them at a disadvantage. To include just the most obvious cases, there are the two games against Chelsea two seasons ago, the 2006 Champions League final, the second leg at Barcelona in 2011 and the first leg against Bayern two years ago.

It has been impressive to see the change in Diego Costa under the tutelage of new Chelsea coach Conte and Wenger might want to steal a page from his playbook in calming down the youngster’s energetic drive for victory. Of course, maybe Wenger should be attempting to filch the entire playbook!

2. Off Night for Many Gunners: Arsenal found a way to pull out a tough victory again today, though they arguably benefitted from another questionable call against an aggrieved Burnley side who could easily have earned two points in their two games with the Gunners. Koscielny was clearly offsides before the rather obvious kick to the face he received with a chance to head the ball into the back of the net, just as he was offsides for the late winner earlier in the season. However, it is worth noting that Xhaka’s red might have been a little harsh and that Arsenal should have had a chance to make it 2-0 after Mustafi was clearly fouled by Gray in the box before the red, equalizer and late winner.

Even with the adrenaline rush the late winner will provide, keeping Sanchez even with Costa at the summit of the Golden Boot race, the game might have left more questions than answers. Giroud’s scoring streak as a starter finally came to an end and there have been clear signs of less dynamism in attack since he and Ramsey were reinstalled in the starting lineup; forgoing the destruction of a poor Swansea side.

The first question, then, is whether Sanchez should be restored to the fulcrum of the attack, a position that has provided Arsenal with their best performances of the season. Wenger can experiment a little with restoring that formation against Southampton in the FA Cup or the visit of Watford. Given the improving form of Iwobi and the availability of Perez or Ox to play on the opposite wing, it might give the offense the spark it has been missing intermittently in the past month or so. Restoring Bellerin to the right side would also benefit the attack, even as Gabriel has been better than anticipated filling in for the young Spaniard.

Another question is what to do about the continued absence of the oft-injured Santi Cazorla, who might well be done for the season. Xhaka and Coquelin have done their parts to fill the large gap his absence has created in the Gunner’s transitional game, but Ramsey has generally not been up to snuff, seemingly more interested in impressing with tricks than finishing clear scoring chances or quickly finding the right outlet for a pass. After nine years with the club, there is a real question of whether Ramsey will ever again reach the heights of three seasons ago and where he really fits into a fully-fit side now. It might be time for Wenger to contemplate replacing both Ramsey and Cazorla for next season, assuming he decides to renew his own contract. Cazorla would be sorely missed, but he has been missed for parts of most of his seasons with the club. Ramsey might come good again, but his attitude and taste for flair over results, are both troubling at this point in his career.  

A third more immediate concern that has now emerged is what to do in Xhaka’s absence. Wenger could simply put Coquelin back into the starting 11 and stick with Ramsey, who does still have his moments of brilliance, like the rabona cross that almost opened the scoring in the first half, but his lack of discipline, tendency to give the ball away in dangerous positions and meandering nature on the ball have all cost the Gunners this season. On the other hand, there aren’t many alternatives with Elneny still at the African Cup of Nations and Cazorla on long term DL. Wenger could bring Ox in, but that would mean less defensive coverage, though it would provide more attacking threat. In any case, it is a conundrum with few options but huge implications for the Gunners staying in the title hunt.

3. Title Race Run? a final question for Arsenal is whether they are truly in contention for the title. Their late victory was crucial, as it pushed them back into second, two weeks after they had fallen all the way to fifth. That came courtesy of a costly draw for United (1-1 to Stoke), a fortuitous 2-2 draw between City and Tottenham and a bizarre 3-2 home loss to the Swans by Liverpool. However, the momentum was quickly quashed, as Chelsea also benefitted from a missed penalty call – though this one against them – in what was ultimately a 2-0 victory over bottom-dwelling Burnley.

That victory for Chelsea extended their lead to eight points over the Gunners with a nice run of fixtures after a trip to Anfield and a visit from Arsenal. If the two sides take advantage of what has looked like a slightly more lackluster side over the past few weeks, the title race could reopen in a big way. If, however, Chelsea win both of those games, they could easily run away with the crown for the second time in three years. Arsenal again have their destiny partially in their own hands, needing a victory at the Bridge in two weeks to close the gap, but can do little about Chelsea’s results in their other games.

Assuming Chelsea get something out of one of those two games, their chances of keeping their lead appears to grow almost unassailable. However, a lot will be known two weeks from tonight. Below Chelsea, quite a race for the Top 4 is developing, with only six points separating Arsenal in second from United in sixth. Two sides will be on the outside looking in at the end of the season and while those two are currently the Manchester sides, plenty of matches are left to be played between the top 6.

Arsenal can be satisfied with bouncing back after the disappointing capitulations against Everton and City, but those two games together with the ultimately disappointing 3-3 draw with Bournemouth would have given them the eight points that now separate them from Chelsea at the summit. The season is far from over, but the holiday season could again be the undoing of the Gunners, while Chelsea move closer to securing another title at the expense of the side that a little over a decade ago saw them as little more than an afterthought. 

Monday, January 16, 2017

Arsenal Cruise to 4-0 Victory over Swans after Slow Start

Arsenal have had their struggles with Swansea City over the past few seasons, blowing leads in a couple of key matchups that helped scupper their title challenges in the past. With the Gunners form uneven over the past few weeks and the Swans seemingly revitalized by the hire of Paul Clement, some pundits actually picked Swansea to pull off another scalping of Arsenal. For the first 20 minutes, it looked like they might, as the Gunners looked flat as the Swans were soaring.

However, Swansea had shipped 45 goals in 20 games this season and when Giroud finally broke the deadlock in the 37th minute, finishing off a move that benefitted from a misdirected clearance and Ozil’s fourth league assist of the season, the Gunners were off and running. Iwobi was the instigator of the next two goals, both careening off Swan’s defenders and into the net (off of Jack Cork in the 54th minute and Kyle Naughton in the 67th). Sanchez then finished the scoring in the 73rd, again benefitting from a misdirected clearance and carom.

Three thoughts on the game:

1. Giroud and Sanchez Continue to Shine: after several late goals to garner wins or salvage draws for his side, Giroud scored the first of this game in the 37th minute, finishing smartly after Ozil poked the ball forward to him from the middle of the box after the first of four fortuitous deflections. That makes 11 goals in his last 9 league starts (with at least one in each) and 5 in his last 5 appearances. He left the game in the second half with a knock that Wenger hopes is not too serious, as the Frenchman has taken the competition for a starting berth to heart, playing some of his best football since arriving at Arsenal.

On the other hand, the unsettled Sanchez appears disgruntled after again being consigned to the left side of the pitch after a hot start through the center. Luckily, it has not adversely affected his drive and productivity, as he equaled Costa’s lead at the top of scoring chart with Arsenal’s fourth, slotting past ex-Gunner Fabianski for his 14th of the campaign. That was followed, in the 79th minute, by a major sulk after Wenger took him off to give Welbeck his first league appearance in 10 months. Sanchez could be pushing for an exit this summer, but if he wants to help the side keep pushing for the title, he really needs to grow up.

2. Iwobi Shaping into a Key Contributor: Arsenal bossed 57 percent of possession after a shaky start, finally ending a winless run on the road, even as Swansea were able to almost match their 14 shots with 12 of their own. Youngster Alex Iwobi had a lot to do with their success, the impetus for both of the Swans own goals and unlucky not to get one for himself. He is maturing before our eyes, as he improves in and around the box, his poise and decision-making markedly improved from earlier in the season. In 20 starts and 6 sub appearances across four competitions, Iwobi has a mere three goals and three assists, but he is contributing substantially more in the buildup to many of the 48 goals Arsenal have scored in the league, only one behind leaders Liverpool. Earlier in the season, Iwobi often lost his composure in attack, particularly on the break, missing an open man or shooting wildly with a good chance to score. Now he is picking out those passes a lot more often and serving as a good backup to Ozil at the #10 while contributing from the wing when the German starts. With Ozil short of the assists he was piling up until the second half of last season, Iwobi has become an essential cog in the Arsenal attacking machine.  

3. Around the Horn: It was a relatively good weekend for the Gunners, picking up points on all of their main competitors for the Top 4 except Tottenham and league-leading Chelsea. Earlier Sunday, City, who can’t seem to maintain any consistency from week to week were absolutely pummeled by Everton 4-0. They actually started the game the better side, but Everton played on the counter to great effect while defending excellently, giving Guardiola the worst league loss of his storied career. That loss coupled with United settling for a 1-1 home draw with Liverpool, after Ibrahimovic again came to the rescue with a late equalizing header, leaves the two Manchester clubs on the outside looking in, at least for a week. Arsenal’s three points pushed them to fourth, even on points with Liverpool and a mere point behind a Tottenham side the cruised past West Brom 4-0 on Saturday.

There was hope among the chasers that Chelsea might suffer in the absence of their own unsettled star, Diego Costa, but Chelsea dismantled the Cinderella champions of last season 3-0 in the end. For Leicester, it was their 10th loss in the first 21 games of the season, against only 5 wins and 6 draws, and while they are on to the Round of 16 in the Champions League after winning their group, they will have to string together some wins to ensure they are still in the Premier League next season.

At the bottom, Hull beat Bournemouth 3-1 while Sunderland lost to an up and down Stoke by the same score, leaving Sunderland and Swansea tied in the cellar and Hull a point above them, only separated from the sinking Crystal Palace by goal difference (though a sizable -15 differential). Middlesboro sit 4 points above the duo and Leicester a mere 5. As we enter the final 17 games of the season, it appears to the battle at the bottom could be as compelling as that at the top, with Chelsea facing off against their nearest competitors in February and March while the bottom six still have plenty of matchups to decide their collective fate. 

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Despicable Thee: Trump’s Administration in a Nutshell

Trump ran as an outsider candidate who could shake things up in Washington DC. That is certainly turning out to be the case, though he will accomplish it with one of the most radically-right-wing administrations ever, even surpassing those of Ronald Reagan and George Bush Jr. The administration is packed with conspiracy theorists, right wingers, a few alt-righters, billionaires and more corporate lackeys than one might find at Davos most years.

Trump also continues to display the sort of erratic, half-cocked attitude that left so many worrying from the moment we started taking him seriously as a candidate (of course, for some, that was November 9 of last year). In recent weeks, Trump hinted at starting another nuclear arms race for no apparent reason (WP) a trade war with China, though apparently without thinking through even what percentage he wants on his tariff (TPM), and selecting the hardcore China Hawk Peter Navarro as head of the National Trade Council. He has ramped up twitter wars with the intelligence community (Daily Kos), the media (The Independent) and, most recently, Meryl Streep (Time).

Today, in his first news conference (NYT) since well before the election concluded, he finally admitted that Russia was behind the hacking, before claiming hacking isn’t so bad, that maybe others were involved and a host of other hedges. He then added some fun lies and claimed he is too careful to be caught on tape when hanging around hookers in other countries (hoping his constituents had forgotten this moment that should have cost him the office alone: You Tube). And he added that he will not be releasing his tax returns and that “no one cares,” even as 60 percent of Americans believe he, in fact, should make them available for public scrutiny (Politifact).

So while better relations with Russia might be in the offing (The New Yorker), even if they are forced to further stultify economic development to engage in another arms race post-Cold War, China is already feeling beleaguered before Trump even steps into the White House as Commander in Chief. Trump has antagonized a whole host of foreign leaders through twitter and even launched two recent tweets that could, in a worst-case scenario, cease life on this planet. We can only hope our worst fears go unrealized.

So as the confirmation hearings are pushed through by Republicans without the Ethics Office even having time to properly vet candidates and potential conflicts of interest, let’s take a look at some of the most troubling members of a truly horrifying future cabinet (The Hill).

Top Officials

Vice President
As I mentioned in a previous post, Pence is one of the most virulently anti-choice (see H. B. 1337), anti-gay (see Indiana Senate Bill 101), anti-media (he planned to start a state-run, taxpayer-funded news service that would run pro-administration news and mete it out to local papers) and anti-science (intelligent design proponent and global warming doubter) politicians in the country. He does, at least, have experience in government, unlike most of the names that will follow.

Chief Strategist
Breitbart founder and executive chair Steve Bannon is among the most radical voices in the entire administration (Forbes), and one that appears to be in a position to have huge influence over the administration. He has been making up the news for a long time at Breitbart, has a racist past littered with tacit support for the white supremacist oriented alt-right and doesn’t much care for Jews either. Not even close to a billionaire (his net worth is estimated at $10 million) but he does have a history of potentially beating his wife. Like most of the administration, he has no experience in government.

Senior Advisor
Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, a billionaire himself, is set to join the administration as Senior Advisor (WP). The chances of future conflicts of interest, alongside essentially skirting the nepotism laws of the country, are only the start for a man who was one of Trump’s biggest supporters, spreading lies and misinformation without a smidgeon of compunction. He is in midst of negotiating a big real estate deal with a shady Chinese conglomerate with close ties to the government, has been involved in West Bank settlements deemed illegal by the UN and has a father that had to abandon his post as the CEO of the company his son now runs. Along with his wife and Trump himself, the three create a triumvirate of potential corruption not seen since the Grant administrations.

Justice Department
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) has been selected as his attorney general, a man deemed too racist by Republicans to become a federal judge in the 80s (with good cause!), who calls the NAACP and ACLU “un-American” and said he thought the KKK was “okay.” He is vehemently anti-immigrant, having opposed nearly every bill that has come before the Senate in the past 20 years offering amnesty to illegal immigrants seeking citizenship or work visas. He’s also a debt hawk, a military hawk and a climate change skeptic (The Guardian). He is one of the few others with government experience and has worked with Democrats in the past, but is considered one of the architects of Trump’s run and the choices of his administration.

Since Sessions is currently going through the confirmation process, let’s take a closer look at some of his most egregious lowlights:

• Sessions said he thought the Ku Klux Klan was OK until he found out some members smoked marijuana.
• He attacked the NAACP and the ACLU as “un-American” for “forcing civil rights down the throats of people.”
• He was one of the first supporters of Trump’s proposed ban on Muslims entering the country.
• He’s opposed nearly every immigration bill put forward in the last two decades that’s included a path to citizenship.
• He opposes same-sex marriage as well as sexual relationships between same-sex partners.
• Confronted with Trump’s remarks about grabbing women by their genitals, Sessions said it would be a “stretch” to “characterize that as sexual assault.”
• He voted against the 2013 reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act.
• He referred to a white attorney who took on voting-rights cases as a “traitor to his race,” and has faced allegations that he used the n-word to describe a Democratic official in Alabama.
• He’s repeatedly worked to block NSA privacy reforms, including the mild reforms put in place under the USA Freedom Act.
• He sided with the FBI in its effort to force Apple to break the iPhone’s encryption, and has pushed legislation that would force technology companies to turn over customers’ private information to law enforcement.
• He's an old friend of Breitbart News, the site that mainstreamed white nationalism and has promoted racism, misogyny and other forms of hate.
• In the 1986 confirmation hearing that led to the rejection of Sessions as a federal judge, witnesses testified that he referred to a black attorney as “boy,” and described the Voting Rights Act as “intrusive.”

CIA Director
Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.) will be the next CIA director. He ran the Benghazi Committee, authored a report excoriating Clinton, has close connections to the Koch brothers) and is a member of the Tea Party movement. He is also a firm believer in “spying on everyone” and would like to execute Edward Snowden. He wrote in a Wall Street Journal, “Congress should pass a law re-establishing collection of all metadata, and combining it with publicly available financial and lifestyle information into a comprehensive, searchable database.” (McClatchydc). He does have government experience, as a Representative of Kansas (since 2011), but is just the sort of anti-government conservative who has helped blocked Obama’s agenda for the past six years.

Secretary of State
Among the truly apoplectic-inducing appointees, also now in the midst of his confirmation hearing (NYT), is the selection of the Exxon-Mobil CEO as the next Secretary of State. The Rex Tillerson tilt appears to be a further sign that not only did Russia get the man they wanted but that he is going to repay them in spades with one of the friendliest figures to their economic interests in all of America. Tillerson has pretty consistently abrogated any responsibility to national interests while CEO of Exxon-Mobil, including in Africa and even Iran (The Guardian). He has shown little interest in protecting the interests of the average American, the environment or even the interests of America itself (MSNBC).

National Security Advisor
The fiery retired lieutenant general Michael T. Flynn will be Trump’s White House national security adviser. He, like Tillerson, has close ties to Russia (and has been paid to give speeches there), led “lock her up” cheers against Clinton during the campaign (and compared her to al-Qaeda combatants he faced in Afghanistan and Iraq), and has consistently made derogatory comments about Muslims (WP). He has extended the same “liar” tag he used for Clinton to Obama, called the U.S. Justice System “corrupt,” and, most troubling, has a history of spreading fake news, only surpassed by Bannon among future cabinet level officials (Politico). And he is but one of a coterie of ex-generals who will now line the corridors of power, with many only normalized by their relative distance from the radical Flynn.

Department Heads

Trump’s new head of the EPA, Scott Pruitt, is a global warming doubter and long ally to the oil and gas industry (NYT). Given comments from he and Trump’s advisors, we can expect more drilling, less reporting on global warming (if any), pro-corporate/anti-consumer decisions regarding air, water and land pollution, deregulation of coal, oil and gas and little effort to research or fund renewable energy sources. He does have experience in government, as a State Senator and then Attorney General of Oklahoma, but that’s about the only good thing anyone who cares about the environment can say.

New Energy secretary, Rick Perry, is another friend to the biggest polluters in the world and someone who doesn’t even believe the department should exist (The Union). It’s actually pretty extraordinary the list of flunkies that have made their way into this administration, including, of course, the President himself. Apparently losing elections or primaries appears to Trump as the best sort of advertisement for serving in his administration.

Department of Health and Human Services 
Tom Price is a strident opponent of Obamacare and wants to transform Medicaid to block grants for the states. Enacting these two reforms would be a boon to the insurance and medical industries, but substantially less so for consumers (USA Today). He is a friend to Big Pharma, private hospitals and really the entire for-profit health industry.

National Endowment of the Arts
Sylvester Stallone has already, supposedly, said no thank you to overtures from the Trump transition team to take over the NEA, but seriously? Everyone loves Rocky, but is an actor without a stellar career who recently retired really in a position to lead what is left of the NEA, constantly gutted by conservatives who would rather the public have no access to, you know, the truth (Breitbart).

Department of Labor
Andy Puzder is the CEO of Hardee’s/Carl’s Jr. and has been an enemy of labor for most of his career (NYT). He is paid more in a day than most of his workers in an entire year. He is against the minimum wage, against unions, against overtime, considers employees as nothing more than an “extra cost” and actually wants to replace them with robots in the future. Since he became CEO, his restaurants have been charged with 98 federal or city safety violations. Given the continued vibrancy of the $15 movement and the promises made by Trump, one can think of few choices less favorable for workers (besides maybe a Koch brother). And he doesn’t have any experience in government.

Housing and Urban Development
Ben Carson appears to be insane (Salon). That is not really an exaggeration. He also has a long history of finding the truth an inconvenience he would rather avoid whenever possible. As I’ve mentioned in the past, he questioned his own fitness for government service, has no experience with housing and/or urban development and has no experience in government.

Department of Education
Another billionaire, Betsy DeVos, is the next Education Secretary under Trump. DeVos is a strong advocate for vouchers and charter schools, like the Koch brothers a huge contributor to the GOP cause, at least tangentially connected to the Christian Reform movement and has little relevant experience to bring to the job (NEA). While she seems substantially less radical than some of Trump’s other picks, the real fear here is that she will march us further along the path toward privatizing public schooling in America

U.S. Ambassador to the UN
South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley as the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations might be one of his saner choices (NYT), but she – like Trump, Pence, Bannon, Kushner and Reince Priebus – has no foreign policy experience at all. In an increasingly dangerous world and one that Trump did his best to alienate during the campaign, one hoped he might temper his temper with some seasoned veterans who could mend fences and ensure smooth diplomacy moving forward. Guess again on that one.

These are only some of the radicals and unqualified nominees Trump has selected and perfectly exemplify an administration that seems intent on serving corporate interests over those of the American public, of reversing anything good the Obama administration accomplished and of setting a perilous course for our collective future, with the captain at the helm the scariest of them all.