Something needs to be said about this.
Smooth-talking con artists are familiar figures in American folklore. The well-dressed hustler arrives in an unsuspecting town. He pitches some miracle cure or get-rich-quick scheme, door-to-door or from atop a soapbox. Then before his customers realize they've been duped, he steals away in search of his next mark. It's a risky vocation, one that demands quick feet, a keen understanding of human nature, and a talent for telling stories that both arouse and reassure.
But when it comes to profiting off people's hopes and fears, by far the most successful purveyors of lucrative lies and false promises are some of the denizens of this country's palatial estates, corporate boardrooms, and corridors of political power. And unlike their small-time counterparts, they're never on the run - despite the misery they leave in their wake. Enter Donald J. Trump, soon to be the 45th President of the United States.
In a country beset by extreme and distressing inequality, America's premier hustler sold the electorate a wagonload of beguiling and deceptive tales about what's gone wrong, who's to blame, and how he'll make things better. He persuaded not through rational argument, analysis, and truth-telling, but rather by manipulating our imperfect reasoning and our unreasoning emotions. Although this playbook has been around for a long time, Americans have never witnessed this level of mastery before. Trump's unanticipated success dramatically illustrates the importance of understanding the "mind games" that allowed him to win, despite breaking almost every rule of evidence, logic, and propriety.
. . . we're susceptible to manipulation by those who misrepresent dangers in order to advance their own agenda.
On the campaign trail, Trump consistently fed our worries about vulnerability. Describing himself as "the law and order candidate," he warned that "our very way of life" was at risk, and assured us that only he could protect us from a wide range of purportedly catastrophic threats. Promising to build a "great wall" along our border with Mexico, he falsely claimed, "They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists." With similar over-the-top rhetoric, he railed against bringing Syrian refugees to the U.S. as "a personal invitation to ISIS members to come live here and try to destroy our country from within." Trump also exploited fears in a different way: by issuing disturbing threats of his own. For example, responding to a protester at a rally, he told the crowd, "You know what they used to do to a guy like that in a place like this? They'd be carried out on a stretcher, folks." He also had a warning for media representatives who criticized him: "We're going to open up libel laws, and we're going to have people sue you like you've never got sued before."
. . . We tend to divide the world into people and groups we deem trustworthy and others we don't. Unfortunately, the judgments we make can be flawed and imprecise. Sometimes these errors create unwarranted barriers of distrust that interfere with the building of coalitions and working together toward mutually beneficial goals. Those who have a vested interest in preventing such collaborative efforts often manipulate our suspicions in order to promote their own agenda.
. . . Control over what happens in our lives is very important to us, and we therefore resist feelings of helplessness. But if we nonetheless come to believe that our efforts are futile, eventually we stop trying. This is true for individuals and groups alike. That's why a sense of collective helplessness is such a serious obstacle to effective political mobilization. Manipulating our perceptions of what's possible and what's not is a common strategy for those seeking to advance their own interests.
To be clear, it certainly makes sense that our core concerns - about vulnerability, injustice, distrust, superiority, and helplessness - should be front-and-center when it comes to thoughtful deliberations about matters of public policy and the common good. Meaningful, far-reaching progressive change requires nothing less. But it's profoundly destructive - and deeply immoral - when these concerns are instead exploited in a manipulative and disingenuous manner to advance narrow interests that bring harm and suffering to so many. That's the legacy of Trump's successful presidential campaign. It's also a disturbing preview of what we should expect from him and his administration going forward.
. . . In some ways, then, Trump's move to Washington will simply reinvigorate a well-entrenched predatory agenda that already enriches the few at the expense of everyone else. But there's also something that clearly makes him qualitatively worse than many other prevaricating one-percenters: he brings to the White House a toxic brew of bigotry, belligerence, and brutality. This has obvious and far-reaching significance. It means that those who are now disadvantaged - especially people of color and other marginalized groups - will face even tougher times ahead as scapegoating and misdirected hostility intensify.
. . . There are avenues for withstanding and rebuffing the coming onslaught. The mind games used by Trump and others like him are primarily designed to mislead, to confuse, and, most importantly, to suppress broad opposition to extreme inequality and the withering of democracy. That's why their worst nightmare is the formation of strong coalitions that bridge stubborn cultural, racial, religious, gender, and class divides. Building and nurturing these coalitions must therefore be a top priority. It's an endeavor that will require unwavering support for those most immediately at risk and, simultaneously, a clear recognition of what we share in common: voices that have grown weaker, opportunities that have grown scarcer, and children whose futures have grown dimmer. In short, organized and unrelenting resistance will be a key element in obstructing the new administration's calamitous ambitions.
Read the entire essay here.
Money and the military define the Cabinet of Donald Trump’s presidency. For a man who ran to help the “forgotten Americans,” there are few “forgotten” people in his team. Most of the Cabinet appointees have experiences far from the crises that wrack rural and industrial America. Amongst the billionaires are mostly people who inherited their money. They do not have the spark of entrepreneurism that is one of the core values of American society. The ex-military men are all generals, people who have long looked at war from the control room and not from the battlefield. Their sensibility is not that of the retired warrior who worries about war. These are men of great braggadocio; for them the battlefield is not a place of great pain but one of honour. For them, battle is worthy. For the billionaires, free-market capitalism is good. Neither the world of money nor the world of the military is prepared to address the actual grievances of the population or the transformation of America’s place in the world. This is a government of fables. It is appropriate that it is led by Trump, a man made more by the world of entertainment than by the world of governance. Glitz is the order of the day. Rhetoric will stand in for policy. Drama is guaranteed.
Civilian control over the military is a fundamental aspect of the United States government’s culture. When President Dwight Eisenhower — a former general — chose General George C. Marshall to be his Secretary of Defence in 1950, the U.S. Congress worried about undue military influence on policy. The National Security Act of 1947 had prohibited military officers from being in charge of the Defence Department. Eisenhower, a war hero, asked Congress for a waiver, which it provided. But in the waiver, Congress said that this was an exception and that it hoped never to have to provide such leeway again.
A decade later, in his farewell speech, Eisenhower bemoaned the increased power of the military and of military industry over the U.S. government. He called this the “military-industrial complex”, which was the “conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry”. “The total influence - economic, political, even spiritual - is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the federal government,” the old military hero said plaintively. “The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.” Matters are graver now. The military-industrial complex is larger and more firmly rooted in the economy, politics and the culture of the country. Patriotism is now defined largely as fealty to the military and is reflected in virtual worship of the national flag.
. . . Senator Chris Murphy of the Foreign Relations Committee admits to being concerned about this number of military men in the Cabinet. They are men of merit, he concedes, but one of the lessons learned over the past 15 years is that “when we view problems in the world through a military lens, we make big mistakes”. If a hammer is the instrument held by the government, it will go in search of a nail. Other tools are needed to solve problems. These are not in hand. Hammers are everywhere. But even Murphy’s statement about their merit is questionable. Flynn and Mattis hold strong views against Islam, while Flynn is prone to the wildest conspiracy theories. This does not bode well for the man who is tasked with separating the wheat from the chaff that comes to the President’s desk. If Trump is unpredictable, so too is Flynn. Military men will surround Trump but not those of the most rational disposition.
. . . Trump’s campaign rhetoric was plainly oppositional. It sparked a sense that this billionaire had heard the pain of the “forgotten American”. Trump suggested that he would use his business savvy to bring back work for Americans and to turn around a sagging U.S. economy. To help him, Trump has turned to the business class. Amongst his major picks are some of the richest people in the U.S. The total net worth of the first half of Trump’s Cabinet is over $14.5 billion - 30 times more than the net worth of the men and women in George W. Bush’s Cabinet. In other words, half of Trump’s Cabinet is worth 30 times the entirety of Bush’s Cabinet. Plutocracy, not democracy, is the order of the day.
The men who will manage the U.S. economy are all from amongst the wealthiest families. The Commerce Department will be led by Wilbur Ross, the “king of bankruptcy” (worth $2.9 billion), and assisted by Todd Ricketts, heir to the discount brokerage fortune of his father (worth $5.3 billion). The Secretary of the Treasury, Steven Mnuchin (worth $46 million), worked at Goldman Sachs and then invested in two of Trump’s projects at his own boutique investment firm. Neera Tanden, president of the liberal think tank Centre for American Progress, said that these appointments were “a betrayal of his [Trump’s] message to working-class voters. Trump claimed he would fight the global elite billionaire class”, but instead he has filled his Cabinet with the wealthy.
Behind the scenes, in Trump’s transition team, are even more wealthy men and women. Leading the pack is Stephen Schwarzman of the private equity firm Blackstone. His net worth is $9.9 billion. Schwarzman leads a group that includes the CEOs of JP Morgan Chase, BlackRock, Disney, Walmart, IBM and General Motors. It is this group that has pushed for deregulation and for a tax regime that advantages corporations and the very rich. The stock market has had several record days in anticipation of greater corporate earnings during the upcoming Trump years.
Even in the human services section, Trump has chosen very wealthy people who have little understanding of or sympathy for the “forgotten Americans.” Betsy DeVos, heir to the Amway fortune (worth $5.1 billion), is to head the Education Department. She is against public education and wants more private initiative. This is not going to be favourable for the working class and the working poor. Ben Carson (worth $26 million), who ran for President, will head the Housing and Urban Development Department. He believes that social welfare programmes, including housing programmes for the poor, create dependency and should be curtailed. Neither Betsy DeVos nor Carson is in line with the mission of the departments that each will run. The “forgotten Americans” will not be at the top of their agenda. Their task will be cost-cutting.
Trump’s form of nationalism is incoherent. Hope for the “forgotten Americans” comes more in the unsustainable claims made by Trump. Promises of jobs, good infrastructure and decent public services are easy to make and hard to deliver upon. His team is averse to major public expenditure to produce the kind of society he said he would produce. They are keener on tax cuts and less regulation, the very policies that will sharpen the social divide in the U.S. Trump’s nationalism is not rooted in social and economic policy. If it were, Trump would be forced to reconsider the tax cuts to the wealthy and the deregulation of the economy. Greater stress on working people is hardly the medicine for social inequality. Trump’s nationalism emerges out of cultural claims about who is an American. It is the reason why there is so much hateful rhetoric against immigrants and Muslims, people who are said not to be Americans.
Stephen Bannon, Trump’s adviser, gave a speech to the Vatican in 2014 where he bemoaned the excesses of free-market capitalism and of crony capitalism. Profit and corruption, he said, should not define the economy. Other values need to be promoted, values of nation and religion. Bannon argued that the antidote to free-market and crony capitalism is “Judeo-Christian capitalism.” “People are looked at as commodities,” Bannon complained of the current order. He wants “Judeo-Christian” values to constrain the profit motive. The road to this kind of “Judeo-Christian” capitalism, Bannon said, was to be through the production of a “church militant”, which would be strengthened by a war against Islam. The leap from the problems of free-market and crony capitalism to a war against Islam is confounding. It is what anchors Bannon’s views. To bring the wealthy and the generals into the Cabinet goes along the grain of this kind of approach. Problems of the “forgotten Americans” will not be solved by compassionate social policy. They are to be solved by more social inequality and more wars.
Read the entire essay here.
Funny how one doesn't remember the MSM coverage of the body counts during the last election.
Especially with all that time needing to be filled in before The Donald reached the podium.
Or the never-ending body counts from the continual bombing.
During its final years in office, the Obama administration has devised a new form of warfare with major implications for how the U.S. government confronts its enemies. With the ability to quickly locate and eliminate potential adversaries with little to no risk to U.S. forces, the Obama administration has begun to eradicate some of its main enemies in a new kind of exterminatory warfare.
. . . Indeed, U.S. officials are waging a major military campaign to eradicate IS. Arguing that that the militant group poses a special threat to the Middle East and the rest of the world, they have made it their goal to completely eliminate the organization. “We want to wipe ISIL entirely off this map,”
McGurk confirmed once again this past week.
In other words, U.S. officials have decided to wage exterminatory warfare against IS.
. . . To wage exterminatory warfare against the Islamic State, the Obama administration has employed a number of specific measures. Taking advantage of the extraordinary air power of the U.S. military, the Obama administration has waged an unprecedented air campaign to kill its targets.
The Obama administration has been especially effective at killing IS’s senior leaders. Since its first began its military campaign against IS in August 2014, the Obama administration has killed hundreds of senior leaders, according to U.S. officials. “It’s a short career as a leader in ISIL,” U.S. Colonel Steve Warren acknowledged during a press briefing in March 2016. “You’re not going to last very long. You won’t make it to retirement.” The main reason, Warren specified, is that coalition forces are constantly killing IS leaders as well as their replacements. “We’ll kill them,” Warren stated. In some cases, “we’ve gone three deep in a position.”
Moreover, U.S. officials insist that they must continue with their assassination program. As new leaders rise to fill the ranks, U.S. officials keep targeting them for elimination. “We must keep systematically eliminating every key leader we find, and we must deny them safe haven wherever they may seek it,” Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter has insisted.
. . . After making his point, McGurk also confirmed that coalition forces would continue with the broader program of assassinating all IS leaders. “And those are operations we don’t always talk about, but that is happening every single day, every single night,” McGurk stated. “When we see their leaders, we make sure that their leaders are eliminated.”
In short, U.S. officials are waging a major assassination program in which they are killing hundreds of IS leaders. Not only have they made it their goal to assassinate all of the current leaders of IS, but they have continuously worked to kill anyone who steps in to replace them. “And as these leaders are replaced, we target and kill their replacements,” McGurk has confirmed.
Sounds like misbehavior to me.
Republican nominee Donald Trump has placed immigration at the core of his presidential campaign. He has claimed that undocumented immigrants are "taking our jobs" and "taking our money," pledged to deport them en masse, and vowed to build a wall on the Mexican border. At one point he demanded a ban on Muslims entering the country. Speaking to supporters in Iowa on Saturday, Trump said he would crack down on visitors to the United States who overstay their visas and declared that when any American citizen "loses their job to an illegal immigrant, the rights of that American citizen have been violated." And he is scheduled to give a major address on immigration in Arizona on Wednesday night.
But the mogul's New York modeling agency, Trump Model Management, has profited from using foreign models who came to the United States on tourist visas that did not permit them to work here, according to three former Trump models, all noncitizens, who shared their stories with "Mother Jones." Financial and immigration records included in a recent lawsuit filed by a fourth former Trump model show that she, too, worked for Trump's agency in the United States without a proper visa.
Foreigners who visit the United States as tourists are generally not permitted to engage in any sort of employment unless they obtain a special visa, a process that typically entails an employer applying for approval on behalf of a prospective employee. Employers risk fines and possible criminal charges for using undocumented labor.
Founded in 1999, Trump Model Management "has risen to the top of the fashion market," boasts the Trump Organization's website, and has a name "that symbolizes success." According to a financial disclosure filed by his campaign in May, Donald Trump earned nearly $2 million from the company, in which he holds an 85 percent stake. Meanwhile, some former Trump models say they barely made any money working for the agency because of the high fees for rent and other expenses that were charged by the company.
Canadian-born Rachel Blais spent nearly three years working for Trump Model Management. After first signing with the agency in March 2004, she said, she performed a series of modeling gigs for Trump's company in the United States without a work visa. At "Mother Jones" ' request, Blais provided a detailed financial statement from Trump Model Management and a letter from an immigration lawyer who, in the fall of 2004, eventually secured a visa that would permit her to work legally in the United States. These records show a six-month gap between when she began working in the United States and when she was granted a work visa. During that time, Blais appeared on Trump's hit reality TV show, "The Apprentice," modeling outfits designed by his business protégés. As Blais walked the runway, Donald Trump looked on from the front row.
Former Trump model Rachel Blais appeared in a 2004 episode of Donald Trump's hit NBC reality show, "The Apprentice." Trump Model Management had yet to secure her work visa. NBC
Two other former Trump models - who requested anonymity to speak freely about their experiences, and who we are giving the pseudonyms Anna and Kate — said the agency never obtained work visas on their behalf, even as they performed modeling assignments in the United States. (They provided photographs from some of these jobs, and "Mother Jones" confirmed with the photographers or stylists that these shoots occurred in the United States.)
Each of the three former Trump models said she arrived in New York with dreams of making it big in one of the world's most competitive fashion markets. But without work visas, they lived in constant fear of getting caught. "I was pretty on edge most of the time I was there," Anna said of the three months in 2009 she spent in New York working for Trump's agency.
"I was there illegally," she said. "A sitting duck."
According to three immigration lawyers consulted by "Mother Jones," even unpaid employment is against the law for foreign nationals who do not have a work visa. "If the US company is benefiting from that person, that's work," explained Anastasia Tonello, global head of the US immigration team at Laura Devine Attorneys in New York. These rules for immigrants are in place to "protect them from being exploited," she said. "That US company shouldn't be making money off you."
Two of the former Trump models said Trump's agency encouraged them to deceive customs officials about why they were visiting the United States and told them to lie on customs forms about where they intended to live. Anna said she received a specific instruction from a Trump agency representative: "If they ask you any questions, you're just here for meetings."
Trump's campaign spokeswoman, Hope Hicks, declined to answer questions about Trump Model Management's use of foreign labor. "That has nothing to do with me or the campaign," she said, adding that she had referred "Mother Jones" ' queries to Trump's modeling agency. "Mother Jones" also sent detailed questions to Trump Model Management. The company did not respond to multiple emails and phone calls requesting comment.
"Honestly, they are the most crooked agency I've ever worked for, and I've worked for quite a few," said Rachel Blais.
Fashion industry sources say that skirting immigration law in the manner that the three former Trump models described was once commonplace in the modeling world. In fact, Politico recently raised questions about the immigration status of Donald Trump's current wife, Melania, during her days as a young model in New York in the 1990s. (In response to the "Politico" story, Melania Trump said she has "at all times been in compliance with the immigration laws of this country.")
Kate, who worked for Trump Model Management in 2004, marveled at how her former boss has recently branded himself as an anti-illegal-immigration crusader on the campaign trail. "He doesn't want to let anyone into the US anymore," she said. "Meanwhile, behind everyone's back, he's bringing in all of these girls from all over the world and they're working illegally."
Now 31 years old and out of the modeling business, Blais once appeared in various publications, including "Vogue," "Elle," and "Harpers Bazaar," and she posed wearing the designs of such fashion luminaries as Gianfranco Ferré, Dolce & Gabbana, and Jean Paul Gaultier. Her modeling career began when she was 16 and spanned numerous top-name agencies across four continents. She became a vocal advocate for models and appeared in a 2011 documentary, "Girl Model," that explored the darker side of the industry. In a recent interview, she said her experience with Trump's firm stood out: "Honestly, they are the most crooked agency I've ever worked for, and I've worked for quite a few."
Freshly signed to Trump Model Management, the Montreal native traveled to New York City by bus in April 2004. Just like "the majority of models who are young, [have] never been to NYC, and don't have papers, I was just put in Trump's models' apartment," she said. Kate and Anna also said they had lived in this apartment.
"The apartment was like a sweatshop," said a former Trump model.
Models' apartments, as they're known in the industry, are dormitory-style quarters where agencies pack their talent into bunks, in some cases charging the models sky-high rent and pocketing a profit. According to the three former models, Trump Model Management housed its models in a two-floor, three-bedroom apartment in the East Village, near Tompkins Square Park. "Mother Jones" is withholding the address of the building, which is known in the neighborhood for its model tenants, to protect the privacy of the current residents.
When Blais lived in the apartment, she recalled, a Trump agency representative who served as a chaperone had a bedroom to herself on the ground floor of the building. A narrow flight of stairs led down to the basement, where the models lived in two small bedrooms that were crammed with bunk beds - two in one room, three in the other. An additional mattress was located in a common area near the stairs. At times, the apartment could be occupied by 11 or more people.
"We're herded into these small spaces," Kate said. "The apartment was like a sweatshop."
Trump Model Management recruited models as young as 14. "I was by far the oldest in the house at the ripe old age of 18," Anna said. "The bathroom always smelled like burned hair. I will never forget the place!" She added, "I taught myself how to write, 'Please clean up after yourself' in Russian."
A detailed financial statement provided by Blais shows that Trump's agency charged her as much as $1,600 a month for a bunk in a room she shared with five others.
Living in the apartment during a sweltering New York summer, Kate picked a top bunk near a street-level window in the hopes of getting a little fresh air. She awoke one morning to something splashing her face. "Oh, maybe it's raining today," she recalled thinking. But when she peered out the window, "I saw the one-eyed monster pissing on me," she said. "There was a bum pissing on my window, splashing me in my Trump Model bed."
"Such a glamorous industry," she said.
Blais, who previously discussed some of her experiences in an interview with Public Radio International, said the models weren't in a position to complain about their living arrangements. "You're young," she remarked, "and you know that if you ask too many questions, you're not going to get the work."
A detailed financial statement provided by Blais shows that Trump's agency charged her as much as $1,600 a month for a bunk in a room she shared with five others. Kate said she paid about $1,200 a month - "highway robbery," she called it. For comparison, in the summer of 2004, an entire studio apartment nearby was advertised at $1,375 a month.
From April to October 2004, Blais traveled between the United States and Europe, picking up a string of high-profile fashion assignments for Trump Model Management and making a name for herself in the modeling world. During the months she spent living and working in New York, Blais said, she only had a tourist visa. "Most of the girls in the apartment that were not American didn't have a work visa," she recalled.
Anna and Kate also said they each worked for Trump's agency while holding tourist visas. "I started out doing test-shoots but ended up doing a couple of lookbooks," Anna said. (A lookbook is a modeling portfolio.) "Nothing huge, but definitely shoots that classified as 'work.'"
Employers caught hiring noncitizens without proper visas can be fined up to $16,000 per employee and, in some cases, face up to six months in prison.
The three former Trump models said Trump's agency was aware of the complications posed by their foreign status. Anna and Kate said the company coached them on how to circumvent immigration laws. Kate recalled being told, "When you're stuck at immigration, say that you're coming as a tourist. If they go through your luggage and they find your portfolio, tell them that you're going there to look for an agent."
Anna recalled that prior to her arrival, Trump agency staffers were "dodging around" her questions about her immigration status and how she could work legally in the United States. "Until finally," she said, "it came to two days before I left, and they told me my only option was to get a tourist visa and we could work the rest out when I got there. We never sorted the rest out."
Arriving in the United States, Anna grew terrified. "Going through customs for this trip was one of the most nerve-wracking experiences of my life," she added. "It's hard enough when you're there perfectly innocently, but when you know you've lied on what is essentially a federal document, it's a whole new world."
"Am I sweaty? Am I red? Am I giving this away?" Anna remembered thinking as she finally faced a customs officer. After making it through immigration, she burst into tears.
Industry experts say that violating immigration rules has been the status quo in the fashion world for years. "It's been common, almost standard, for modeling agencies to encourage girls to come into the country illegally," said Sara Ziff, the founder of the Model Alliance, an advocacy group that claimed a major success in 2014 after lobbying the New York State legislature to pass a bill increasing protections for child models.
Bringing models into the United States on tourist visas was "very common," said Susan Scafidi, the director of Fordham University's Fashion Law Institute. "I've had tons of agencies tell me this, that this used to happen all the time, and that the cover story might be something like 'I'm coming in for a friend's birthday,' or 'I'm coming in to visit my aunt,' that sort of thing."
For their part, modeling agencies have complained about the time and resources required to bring a foreign model into the country and have insisted that US immigration laws are out of step with their fast-paced industry. "If there are girls that we can't get into the United States, the client is going to take that business elsewhere," Corinne Nicolas, the president of Trump Model Management, told the "New York Daily News" in 2008. "The market is calling for foreign girls."
In 2007, a few years before his career imploded in a sexting scandal, former Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) sponsored a bill that would give models the same kind of work visas that international entertainers and athletes receive. The tabloids had a field day — "Give me your torrid, your pure, your totally smokin' foreign babes," screamed a "Daily News" headline — and the effort ultimately failed.
Trump Model Management sponsored only its most successful models for work visas, the three former models said. Those who didn't cut it were sent home, as was the case, Blais noted, with many of her roommates.
"It was very much the case of you earn your visa," Anna said. "Essentially, if you got enough work and they liked you enough, they'd pay for a visa, but you weren't about to see a dime before you could prove your worth."
The company eventually secured an H-1B visa for Blais. Such visas allow US companies to employ workers in specialized fields. According to financial records provided by Blais, the company deducted the costs of obtaining a work visa from her earnings. (The agency did not obtain work visas for Anna and Kate, who each left the United States after their stints with Trump Model Management.)
H-1B visas have been increasingly popular in the high-tech field, and Trump's companies, including Trump Model Management, have used this program extensively in the past. But on the campaign trail, Trump has railed against the H-1B program and those who he says abuse it. "I will end forever the use of the H-1B as a cheap labor program and institute an absolute requirement to hire American workers first for every visa and immigration program," Trump said in March. "No exceptions."
Nearly three years after signing with Trump's agency, Blais had little to show for it — and it wasn't for lack of modeling jobs. Under the contracts that she and other Trump models had signed, the company advanced money for rent and various other expenses (such as trainers, beauty treatments, travel, and administrative costs), deducting these charges from its clients' modeling fees. But these charges — including the pricey rent that Blais and her roommates paid - consumed nearly all her modeling earnings. "I only got one check from Trump Models, and that's when I left them," she said. "I got $8,000 at most after having worked there for three years and having made tens of thousands of dollars." (The check Blais received was for $8,427.35.)
"This is a system where they actually end up making money on the back of these foreign workers," Blais added. She noted that models can end up in debt to their agencies, once rent and numerous other fees are extracted.
This is known in the industry as "agency debt." Kate said her bookings never covered the cost of living in New York. After two months, she returned home. "I left indebted to them," she said, "and I never went back, and I never paid them back."
The experiences the former Trump models related to "Mother Jones" echo allegations in an ongoing class-action lawsuit against six major modeling agencies by nine former models who have claimed their agencies charged them exorbitant fees for rent and other expenses. One plaintiff, Marcelle Almonte, has alleged that her agency charged her $1,850 per month to live in a two-bedroom Miami Beach apartment with eight other models. The market rate for apartments in the same building ran no more than $3,300 per month, according to the complaint. (Trump Model Management, which was initially named in an earlier version of this lawsuit, was dropped from the case in 2013, after the judge narrowed the number of defendants.) Models "were largely trapped by these circumstances if they wanted to continue to pursue a career in modeling," the complaint alleges.
"It is like modern-day slavery" Blais said of working for Trump Model Management - and she is not alone in describing her time with Trump's company in those terms. Former Trump model Alexia Palmer, who filed a lawsuit against Trump Model Management for fraud and wage theft in 2014, has said she "felt like a slave."
Palmer has alleged that she was forced to pay hefty — sometimes mysterious — fees to Trump's agency. These were fees on top of the 20 percent commission she paid for each job the company booked. Palmer charged that during three years of modeling for Trump's company, she earned only $3,880.75. A New York judge dismissed Palmer's claim in March because, among other reasons, she had not taken her case first to the Department of Labor. Lawyers for Trump Model Management called Palmer's lawsuit "frivolous" and "without merit."
Palmer filed a complaint with the Department of Labor this spring, and in August the agency dismissed the case. Palmer's lawyer, Naresh Gehi, said he is appealing the decision. Since he began representing Palmer, he said, fashion models who worked for other agencies have approached him with similar stories. "These are people that are coming out of the closet and explaining to the world how they are being exploited," he said. "They are the most vulnerable."
Documents filed in Palmer's case indicate that she worked in the United States without a work visa after being recruited by Trump's agency from her native Jamaica. Gehi declined to discuss his client's immigration status.
A Caribbean model contest launched Palmer's career in 2010, and at age 17 she signed an exclusive contract with Trump Model Management in January 2011. Department of Labor records show she received approval to work in the United States beginning in October 2011. Yet according to a financial statement filed as evidence in her case, Palmer started working in the United States nine months before this authorization was granted. Her financial records list a January 22, 2011, job for Condé Nast, when she posed for a "Teen Vogue" spread featuring the cast of "Glee." (The shoot took place at Milk Studios in Los Angeles.)
"That whole period, from January to September, was not authorized," said Pankaj Malik, a partner at New York-based Ballon, Stoll, Bader & Nadler who has worked on immigration issues for over two decades and who reviewed Palmer's case for "Mother Jones." "You can't do any of that. It's so not allowed."
Trump has taken an active role at Trump Model Management from its founding. He has personally signed models who have participated in his Miss Universe and Miss USA competitions, where his agency staff appeared as judges. Melania Trump was a Trump model for a brief period after meeting her future husband in the late 1990s.
"I left with a bad taste in my mouth. I didn't like the agency. I didn't like where they had us living. Honestly, I felt ripped off."
The agency is a particular point of pride for Trump, who has built his brand around glitz and glamour. "True Trumpologists know the model agency is only a tiny part of Trumpland financially," the "New York Sun" wrote in 2004. "But his agency best evokes a big Trump theme - sex sells." Trump has often cross-pollinated his other business ventures with fashion models and has used them as veritable set pieces when he rolls out new products. Trump models, including Blais, appeared on "The Apprentice" — and they flanked him at the 2004 launch of his Parker Brothers board game, "TRUMP."
Part of Blais' job, she said, was to serve as eye candy at Trump-branded events. Recalling the first time she met the mogul, she said, "I had to go to the Trump Vodka opening." It was a glitzy 2006 gala at Trump Tower where Busta Rhymes performed, and Trump unveiled his (soon-to-be-defunct) line of vodka. "It was part of my duty to go and be seen and to be photographed and meet Donald Trump and shake his hand," she remembered.
Trump made a strong impression on her that night. "I knew that I was a model and there was objectification in the job, but this was another level," she said. Blais left Trump Model Management the year after the Trump Vodka gala, feeling that she had been exploited and shortchanged by the agency.
Kate, who went on to have a successful career with another agency, also parted ways with Trump's company in disgust. "My overall experience was not a very good one," she said. "I left with a bad taste in my mouth. I didn't like the agency. I didn't like where they had us living. Honestly, I felt ripped off."
These days, Kate said, she believes that Trump has been fooling American voters with his anti-immigrant rhetoric, given that his own agency had engaged in the practices he has denounced. "He doesn't like the face of a Mexican or a Muslim," she said, "but because these [models] are beautiful girls, it's okay? He's such a hypocrite."
Close but no . . . .
Too bad no one has reported in depth on these ventures.
And, come onnn.
Isn't this how most of the richies get into the best schools?
Let's check out those test scores.
The rich buy their children access to elite colleges. At least one such student is now poised to become one of the most powerful figures in the country.