Tag Archives: committee

One Chart Shows How the Trump Tax Plan Will Totally Pay For Itself

Mother Jones

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Here’s the first quick-and-dirty estimate of how much Donald Trump’s tax plan would cost. It comes from the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget:

Oh please. This is a ridiculously pessimistic estimate because CRFB doesn’t account for the economic growth this tax plan will unleash. They estimate that productivity would need to grow 3.8 percent per year to make Trump’s plan pay for itself, something they scoff at. But that’s well within reason:

I don’t see a problem with that. Do you? Yes? That’s probably because you don’t believe in the power of the white American worker. That’s why you lefties lost the election.

Perhaps you sense that I’m taking this less than seriously. Guilty as charged. But if Trump himself doesn’t take his plans seriously, why should I?1

1Also, the eagle-eyed might have noticed that although the 1-page tax plan summary we got today was very similar to Trump’s campaign document, one thing was left out: it no longer claims to be revenue neutral. Funny how that works.

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One Chart Shows How the Trump Tax Plan Will Totally Pay For Itself

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Devin Nunes Is Playing a Familiar Republican Game Today

Mother Jones

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When a big story breaks while I’m at lunch, it can be a real pain in the ass. Instead of following it in real time, I have to rush around later trying to piece together what’s happened. On the other hand, sometimes this is a blessing, because by the time I get to the story it’s clearer what the real issue is. I think today is an example of the latter.

For starters, here’s a nutshell summary of what happened. Devin Nunes, the Republican chair of the House Intelligence Committee, took the stage a few hours ago to declare himself “alarmed.” He believes that some of Donald Trump’s transition team might have been “incidentally” recorded during surveillance of foreign nationals. He won’t say who. Nor will he say who the foreign nationals were, other than “not Russian.” And as soon as he was done with his press conference, he trotted off to the White House to brief President Trump.

There are several problems here. First, Nunes didn’t share any of this with Democrats on the committee. Second, incidental collection is both routine and inevitable in foreign surveillance. Congress has had ample opportunity to rein it in if they wanted to, and they never have. Third, if this was part of a criminal investigation, Nunes may have jeopardized it by going public. Fourth, the chair of the Intelligence Committee isn’t supposed to be briefing the president on the status of an investigation into the president’s activities.

This is plenty to embarrass the great state of California, from which Nunes hails. But for what it’s worth, I don’t think any of this is the biggest issue. This one is:

He claims to have gotten the information personally from an unspecified source, and had not yet met with FBI Director James Comey to review the raw intelligence intercepts he was provided. Why would he go public without first consulting spies to see if what he had was actually worth sharing with the public?

Oh. This is one of those deals where the Republican chair of a committee gets some information; releases a tiny snippet that makes Republicans look good; and then eventually is forced to release the entire transcript, which turns out to be nothing at all like the snippet. We’ve seen this gong show a dozen times in the past few years.

My advice: ignore everything Nunes said. He’s obviously carrying water for Trump, hoping to drive headlines that vaguely suggest the Obama administration really was listening in on Trump’s phone calls. I gather that he’s succeeded on that score. For now, though, there’s no telling what this raw intel really says. Eventually the intelligence community will provide analysis, and committee Democrats will get to see the transcripts too. Then we’ll have a fighting chance of knowing whether it’s important or not. In the meantime, everything Nunes said is literally worthless. He’s not “probably right” or “probably wrong.” He’s nothing.

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Devin Nunes Is Playing a Familiar Republican Game Today

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House Democrats Demand Investigation of Trump’s National Security Adviser

Mother Jones

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On Monday night, all 17 Democrats on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform sent a letter to Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), the committee chairman, requesting that he either initiate a full investigation of Michael Flynn—President Donald Trump’s national security adviser who was caught misrepresenting conversations he had with the Russian ambassador—or “step aside and allow the Committee to vote on conducting basic oversight going forward.”

Flynn has been under fire since the Washington Post reported last week that he had discussed “US sanctions against Russia with that country’s ambassador to the United States during the month before President Trump took office,” despite claims to the contrary from Trump administration officials, including White House press secretary Sean Spicer and Vice President Mike Pence. Flynn, too, had previously denied discussing with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislya the sanctions levied by President Barack Obama in response to Moscow’s meddling in the 2016 election during a series of conversations in late December. But a spokesman for Flynn told the Post on Thursday that “he couldn’t be certain that sanctions never came up.”

On Monday, Kellyanne Conway, a senior White House adviser, said Flynn “does enjoy the full confidence of the president.” Less than an hour later, Spicer issued a statement saying that Trump was “evaluating the situation.” Monday night, the Post reported that then-Acting Attorney General Sally Yates told the White House in late January that she believed “Flynn had misled senior administration officials about the nature of his communications with the Russian ambassador.” The paper noted that she had “warned that Flynn was potentially vulnerable to Russian blackmail.”

The House Democrats’ letter to Chaffetz notes that Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), the ranking Democrat on the committee, has repeatedly asked Chaffetz to investigate Flynn’s contacts with the Russian government and put forward the case for an investigation:

Grave questions have been raised about the fitness of General Flynn to serve as National Security Adviser and to continue having access to classified information. It has now been reported that General Flynn took payments of an undisclosed amount to travel to Moscow to dine with Vladimir Putin and celebrate RT, which US intelligence officials warn is the “Kremlin’s principal international propaganda outlet”; that he potentially failed to obtain the consent of Congress to receive those funds in violation of the Constitution; that he communicated repeatedly with Russian officials while that nation was engaged in an attack on our democracy and our presidential election; that he secretly discussed with the Russian ambassador, in possible violation of the Logan Act, sanctions imposed by President Obama in response to these Russian attacks; and that he may have lied about these discussions not only to the American people, but to his own White House colleagues, including the Vice President.

If you are not willing to initiate this investigation…then we ask that you not prevent us from calling up this matter at the next business meeting so we may request a vote on this and other proposals going forward on this matter.

Chaffetz, who was eager to investigate Hillary Clinton’s email controversy, has come under pressure from Democrats on the committee and his own constituents for going soft on Trump and not launching inquiries regarding Trump’s financial conflicts of interest. Cummings and other Democrats have previously asked Chaffetz for a committee investigation of contacts between Trump associates and Russia—and he has ignored these requests.

Read the full letter below:

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House Oversight Democrats Letter to Chaffetz Feb. 13 (PDF)

House Oversight Democrats Letter to Chaffetz Feb. 13 (Text)

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House Democrats Demand Investigation of Trump’s National Security Adviser

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Chronic Marijuana Use Is Up In Colorado

Mother Jones

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A new report from the Colorado Retail Marijuana Public Health Advisory Committee tells us that among 18-25 years olds, 13 percent report using marijuana daily or near-daily. Mark Kleiman is taken aback that this has gotten hardly any attention:

We know from other studies by Beau Kilmer and his group at RAND that daily/near-daily smokers consume about three times as much cannabis per use-day as less frequent smokers, enough to be measurably impaired (even if not subjectively stoned) for most of their waking hours….The National Survey on Drug Use and Health finds that about one-half of daily or near-daily smokers meet the diagnostic criteria for Substance Use Disorder. That’s a frightening share of users, and of the total population, to be engaging in such worrisome behavior.

….More and more people using cannabis more and more often is a trend that pre-dates legalization and is not restricted to states that have legalized….What is clear is that lower prices…make it easier for users to slip into heavy daily use. Indeed, that’s the main — some of us would say the only significant — risk of legalization. That risk could be reduced by using taxes to prevent the price collapse. So a report on the effects of legalization that neglects heavy use is like a review of the last performance of “Our American Cousin” that doesn’t mention John Wilkes Booth.

That sounds like a lot. On the other hand, if half of daily marijuana users typically have substance use disorders, that about 6.5 percent in Colorado. Here are the national figures for the past decade:

The Colorado figure is higher than than the national figure, but not hugely higher. It’s probably not a reason to panic, but it does bear watching.

The kind of people who read this blog are probably in favor of marijuana legalization—as I am—largely because they’re the kind of people who use it occasionally and don’t see a lot of harm in it. But like alcohol, there’s a certain share of the population that will fall into addiction, and that share is likely to increase as marijuana prices come down. There’s never a free lunch.

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Chronic Marijuana Use Is Up In Colorado

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Petraeus Warns That Divisive Actions on Muslims Strengthen Extremists

Mother Jones

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President Donald Trump has faced criticism from across the political spectrum after signing an executive order last Friday restricting travel from seven majority-Muslim countries. On Wednesday, one of Trump’s favorite military minds appeared to add his voice to the public condemnation.

General David Petraeus, a finalist for secretary of state in the Trump administration despite his disgraced exit from the CIA, told the House Armed Services Committee that broad-brush statements from Trump and others in his administration about Islam and Muslims complicate the fight against groups like ISIS.

“We must also remember that Islamic extremists want to portray this fight as a clash of civilizations, with America at war against Islam,” Petraeus said at a hearing on national security threats and challenges. “We must not let them do that. Indeed, we must be very sensitive to actions that might give them ammunition in such an effort.”

Trump’s executive order grew out of his campaign promise to implement a “Muslim ban.” It followed reports that the Trump administration was considering reopening CIA black sites, based on a draft executive order that replaced phrases like “global war on terrorism” and “jihadist” with “radical Islamic terrorism” and “Islamist.” This weekend, Trump also elevated adviser Steve Bannon by giving him a seat on the National Security Council’s Principals Committee. Bannon has said that Islam is a “religion of submission” and frequently hosted and praised guests on his radio show who disparaged Islam.

At Wednesday’s hearing, Petraeus also pushed back on Trump’s suggestions that NATO alliances might be weakened and Russian aggression tolerated. Trump has called NATO “obsolete” and has worried leaders across the world with his seemingly soft stance on Russia.

“Americans should not take the current international order for granted,” the retired general said. “It did not will itself into existence. We created it. Likewise, it is not naturally self-sustaining. We have sustained it. If we stop doing so it will fray and eventually collapse. This is precisely what some of our adversaries seek to encourage.”

Petraeus told the committee that “conventional aggression” may get US adversaries like Russia “a bit of land on its periphery,” but the real fight is more fundamental. “The real center of gravity is the political will of the major democratic powers to defend Euro-Atlantic institutions like NATO and the European Union,” Petraeus said. “That is why Russia is working tenaciously to sow doubt in the legitimacy of these institutions and our entire democratic way of life.”

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Petraeus Warns That Divisive Actions on Muslims Strengthen Extremists

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