Monthly Archives: August 2017

Ivanka Is Either A Fake Or Stupid On Equal Pay

A few months ago:

From TPM:

First daughter Ivanka Trump, who made wage equality and workplace protections for women one of her signature issues on the campaign trail and in her personal brand, declared her support for the White House’s announcement Tuesday that it will halt a proposal requiring businesses to disclose employees’ pay, gender, race and ethnicity.

“While I believe the intention was good and agree that pay transparency is important, the proposed policy would not yield the intended results,” Trump told the Wall Street Journal. “We look forward to continuing to work with EEOC, OMB, Congress and all relevant stakeholders on robust policies aimed at eliminating the gender wage gap.”

Wait — information about employees’ pay and gender will not help provide information on gender wage gap?  It sounds to me like JUST the sort of things that is needed.


Maybe We’re Better Off With A Weak Trump?

Trump is a bad president, but he’s bad in two ways. He’s bad because his policies are evil, but he is also proving to be bad in the sense of being hopelessly ineffective.  The latter trait is a good thing if you are concerned about the former trait. The former trait was obvious to anyone paying attention during the campaign, but the latter trait — which couldn’t be known until he had actually taken office — is revealing itself everyday.

Let’s look at the bill of particulars, courtesy of Axios:

  • Speaker Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell are going their own way on tax reform. Hill sources believe his original targets, including a 15% corporate rate, are dead.
  • SecDef Mattis didn’t immediately embrace his full ban on transgender troops.
  • His Justice Department won’t drop the Russia probe.
  • Courts won’t allow his full Muslim ban.
  • Mexico won’t pay for his wall.
  • Congress won’t pay for his wall.
  • The Senate won’t pass his promised health-care reform.
  • Gary Cohn and Sec State Tillerson won’t tolerate his Charlottesville response.
  • North Korea won’t heed his warnings.
  • China doesn’t fear his trade threats.
  • CEOs won’t sit on his councils.
  • Mexico and Canada won’t bend to his will on NAFTA.

And in fact, NOW Defense Secretary Mattis is “suspending” the transgender ban until he can fully assess the impact.  Although, he asserts that Trump’s order gave him the power to do this (and therefore, he is not contradicting Trump), he is… let’s be real… contradicting Trump.

Granted, a weak Trump isn’t ALWAYS a good thing.  North Korea, for example, not being threatened by him makes everyone a little unsteady.  But for the most part, Trump’s initiatives are DOA.

Greg Sargant notes that Trump is going to Missouri tonight to sell a “populist” tax plan, which is nothing more than trickle-down economics.

In reality, what we will actually hear at this speech is the death rattle of whatever pretensions to genuine economic populism Trump has ever harbored, if any. Trump will make it official that this rhetoric is merely a disguise for the same old trickle-down economics we have heard for decades — confirming that his economic agenda is in sync with the very same GOP economic orthodoxy that he so effectively used as a foil to get elected.


Trump’s plan, then, will be sold as targeting the well-connected few. But Axios reports on a remarkable quote about this from another White House official, who was pressed on how exactly Trump’s plan will target the well-connected few, given that it is expected to slash the top rate and corporate rate and repeal the estate tax.

“How I would look at this, from an American worker’s perspective, it’s basically a ‘made in America tax,’ “ the official said, adding that it would benefit workers to bring down the business tax rate to “level the playing field” with the “rest of the world.” Officials added that Trump’s plan would “un-rig” the economy by ending “special interest loopholes that have only benefited the wealthy and powerful few.”

But the broad strokes of that formulation, despite its packaging in the rhetoric of economic nationalism, actually constitute trickle-down economics.

“That’s trickle down,” Steven Rosenthal, a senior fellow at the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center, told me today. “This whole notion that cutting taxes on rich guys and corporations is going to stimulate capital investment — that’s trickle down warmed over once again. We’ve seen this movie before. It always turns out badly.”

I hope enough congresscritters can prevent this from happening.

Meanwhile, Trump himself seems to be understanding that he is ineffective.

Of course, he takes a shot at the media, but this time it is of a whine (“All I Want To Do Is MAGA”, which is a terrible song title, by the way).

Harvey Update

The images just don’t stop. It’s actually pretty incredible that only 15 have died so far.

As they were saying before the hurricane hit, the real problem would not be the hurricane impact, but the rains that would follow for days and days.  According to the Washington Post, 30% of Harris County’s 1,777 square miles are underwater.  Harris County is home to Houston. Harvey has passed the 50” measured single-storm rainfall record for the continental US.

Here is just one little bit of video — floods carrying away the concrete barrier at the San Jacinto Bridge.

Officials say more than 30,000 people may be forced from their homes by Harvey, and many whose homes have been severely damaged or destroyed by deadly winds and astonishing floodwater may need shelter for weeks or months to come.

Another under-reported problem: the floodwaters are becoming a cesspool of harmful chemicals and bacteria.

Trump’s Ego Fires Social Director

Donald Trump is the kind of emotionally unstable individual that would see a crowd of 4,000 to 10,000 and consider it rejection, so he lashed out, and a longtime aide paid the price.

From Bloomberg:

As his surrogates warmed up the audience, the expanse of shiny concrete eventually filled in with cheering Trump fans. But it was too late for a longtime Trump aide, George Gigicos, the former White House director of advance who had organized the event as a contractor to the Republican National Committee. Trump later had his top security aide, Keith Schiller, inform Gigicos that he’d never manage a Trump rally again, according to three people familiar with the matter.

Gigicos, one of the four longest-serving political aides to the president, declined to comment.

So Trump took the stage annoyed, and began his tirade against the media (of course), nonsensically defended his remarks regarding Charlottesville, threatened to shut down the government if they didn’t approve funding for the border wall (that Mexico was supposed to pay for), and then went after the two sitting Arizona senators, John McCain and Jeff Flake.

So what did Gigicos do wrong, that earned him the ire of the mad king?

Gigicos had staged the event in a large multipurpose room. The main floor space was bisected by a dividing wall, leaving part of the space empty. There were some bleachers off to the side, but otherwise the audience was standing — and the scene appeared flat, lacking the energy and enthusiasm of other rallies.

Gigicos has been in charge of arranging Trump’s campaign events for the past two years, and rallies, since he took office. But no more.

Trump shouldn’t be campaigning anyway, and he shouldn’t be wasting his time (on our dollar) with rallies. This presidency is just a reality show with an audience of one: Trump.

This is a good time to check in on the polls, because Pew just conducted a major survey.  I’ll dump the whole thing here, but here’s some major takeaways:

  1. Nearly a third of Republicans say they agree with the president on only a few or no issues, while a majority expresses mixed or negative feelings about his conduct as president.
  2. Issues aside, a majority of all those surveyed (58%) say they do not like the way Trump conducts himself as president, while 25% have mixed feelings about his conduct. Just 16% say they like the way he conducts himself as president.
  3. 58 percent of Republican and Republican-leaning Americans think Trump should be listening more to the more experienced members of his party, while just 34 percent say he should listen less.  (So much for the anti-elite movement)
  4. Among those who approve of Trump’s job performance (36% of the public), more than half (54%) volunteer something about his personality or general approach as what they like most; mentions of Trump’s policies or agenda are a distant second, at 14%.
  5. Half of Americans say they are very or somewhat confident in Trump to negotiate favorable trade agreements with other countries; nearly as many (46%) are at least somewhat confident he can make good appointments to federal courts. Trump draws less confidence in his ability to make wise decisions about immigration and the use of nuclear weapons (40% each). Majorities say they are not too or not at all confident in Trump’s handling of these two issues.
  6. A majority of Americans say prejudiced describes Trump at least fairly well (55%), compared with 42% who think it does not describe him well. And by 65% to 32%, the public thinks selfish is an apt descriptor of the president, including 46% who think it describes Trump “very well.”

  7. Large majorities of Republicans and Republican leaners think intelligent (87%) and decisive (76%) describe Trump at least fairly well. And most Republicans (71%) also think the word honest describes Trump well.  For Dems, it is 23%, 28%, and 10%, respectively.

But there is oh so much more. Dive deep.

As Houston Struggles, The Trump-Russia Collusion Story Deepens

Houston, the 4th largest city in the United States, is essentially paralyzed. Residents had to be rescued by helicopters and boats as streets turned into raging rivers and made evacuation all but impossible. Rain is expected for a few more days.  But the rescue efforts seem to be running along without Katrina-like snafus.

Seriously, the rain amount is insane for Houston:

Obviously, all media attention is turned to this, but as it happens, there is another big development in the Trump-Russia collusion story.

The New York Times reports:

A business associate of President Trump promised in 2015 to engineer a real estate deal with the aid of the president of Russia, Vladimir V. Putin, that he said would help Mr. Trump win the presidency.

The business associate, Felix Sater, wrote a series of emails to Mr. Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen, in which he boasted about his ties to Mr. Putin and predicted that building a Trump Tower in Moscow would be a political boon to Mr. Trump’s candidacy.

“Our boy can become president of the USA and we can engineer it,” Mr. Sater wrote in an email. “I will get all of Putins team to buy in on this, I will manage this process.”

The emails show that, from the earliest months of Mr. Trump’s campaign, some of his associates viewed close ties with Moscow as a political advantage. Those ties are now under investigation by the Justice Department and multiple congressional committees.

There is no evidence in the emails that Mr. Sater delivered on his promises. Mr. Sater, a Russian immigrant, was a broker for the Trump Organization at the time, which means he was paid to deliver real estate deals.

In another email, Mr. Sater envisioned a ribbon-cutting in Moscow. “I will get Putin on this program and we will get Donald elected,” Mr. Sater wrote.

Here is part of that email:

The Washington Post picks up the thread:

A top executive from Donald Trump’s real estate company emailed Vladi­mir Putin’s personal spokesman during the U.S. presidential campaign last year to ask for help advancing a stalled Trump Tower development project in Moscow, according to documents submitted to Congress Monday.

Michael Cohen, a Trump attorney and executive vice president for the Trump Organization, sent the email in January 2016 to Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin’s top press aide.

“Over the past few months I have been working with a company based in Russia regarding the development of a Trump Tower – Moscow project in Moscow City,” Cohen wrote Peskov, according to a person familiar with the email. “Without getting into lengthy specifics. the communication between our two sides has stalled.”

“As this project is too important, I am hereby requesting your assistance. I respectfully request someone, preferably you, contact me so that I might discuss the specifics as well as arranging meetings with the appropriate individuals. I thank you in advance for your assistance and look forward to hearing from you soon,” Cohen wrote.

Cohen’s email marks the most direct interaction yet documented of a top Trump aide and a similarly senior member of Putin’s government.

The email shows the Trump business official directly seeking Kremlin assistance in advancing Trump’s business interests, in the same months when Trump was distinguishing himself on the campaign trail with his warm rhetoric about Putin.

In a statement Cohen submitted to Congressional investigators, he said he wrote the email at the recommendation of Felix Sater, a Russian-American businessman who was serving as a broker on the deal.

This is relevant in context:

We have been told – not credibly – for more than a year that Donald Trump doesn’t have any properties or business interests in Russia. But for the first six months of his presidential campaign he was actively trying to secure a deal to build a Trump Tower in Moscow and in early 2016 a top Trump business executive solicited the assistance of one of Vladimir Putin’s top aides in making the deal happen. This of course was happening while Trump was singing Putin’s praises on the campaign trail.

This is, to put it mildly, a big deal.

UPDATE: A third shoe…

Wall Street Journal enters the fray:

Michael Cohen, an attorney for the Trump Organization, discussed a prospective real-estate deal in Moscow with Donald Trump on three occasions during the presidential campaign, Mr. Cohen said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal.

In 2015, Mr. Cohen said, he informed the then-candidate that he was working on a licensing deal for a Trump Tower in Moscow. He subsequently asked for and received Mr. Trump’s signature on a nonbinding letter of intent for the project in October 2015. And in January 2016, he said, he informed the then-candidate that he had killed the proposal. Mr. Cohen said each conversation was brief.

Mr. Cohen’s communication with the president about the Moscow project may come under scrutiny because of a January 2016 email Mr. Cohen sent to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s top press official to ask for “assistance” in arranging the deal. Mr. Cohen said he didn’t inform Mr. Trump that he had sent the email to the press official, Dmitry Peskov. He didn’t respond when asked why he hadn’t done so.

In the email to Mr. Peskov, Mr. Cohen said communication between the Trump Organization and a Russia-based company that was the prospective developer of the tower had “stalled” and said, “As this project is too important, I am hereby requesting your assistance. I respectfully request someone, preferably you, contact me so that I might discuss the specifics as well as arranging meetings with the appropriate individuals.”

The email was reported by the Washington Post on Monday and was confirmed by a person familiar with the exchange.

Mr. Cohen said in the Journal interview that he didn’t recall receiving a response from Mr. Peskov and opted to abandon the project weeks later. Mr. Peskov didn’t immediately return a request for comment.

The White House declined to comment and referred questions to Mr. Cohen’s attorney, who didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

So Trump was in the loop.