Tag Archives: party

The Entire World Is Adapting to Having an Idiot in the White House

Mother Jones

Over at the Washington Post, Greg Miller and Greg Jaffe report that President Trump is an idiot:

President Trump revealed highly classified information to the Russian foreign minister and ambassador in a White House meeting last week, according to current and former U.S. officials, who said that Trump’s disclosures jeopardized a critical source of intelligence on the Islamic State….The partner had not given the United States permission to share the material with Russia, and officials said that Trump’s decision to do so risks cooperation from an ally that has access to the inner workings of the Islamic State.

….“This is code-word information,” said a U.S. official familiar with the matter, using terminology that refers to one of the highest classification levels used by American spy agencies. Trump “revealed more information to the Russian ambassador than we have shared with our own allies.”

Meanwhile, over at Foreign Policy, Robbie Gramer reports that our allies think Trump is an idiot too:

NATO is scrambling to tailor its upcoming meeting to avoid taxing President Donald Trump’s notoriously short attention span. The alliance is telling heads of state to limit talks to two to four minutes at a time during the discussion, several sources inside NATO and former senior U.S. officials tell Foreign Policy. And the alliance scrapped plans to publish the traditional full post-meeting statement meant to crystallize NATO’s latest strategic stance.

….“It’s kind of ridiculous how they are preparing to deal with Trump,” said one source briefed extensively on the meeting’s preparations. “It’s like they’re preparing to deal with a child — someone with a short attention span and mood who has no knowledge of NATO, no interest in in-depth policy issues, nothing,” said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “They’re freaking out.”

The Republican Party has a lot to answer for. When that day comes, it’s going to come hard.

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The Entire World Is Adapting to Having an Idiot in the White House

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How to Pass a Thousand-Year Tax Cut

Mother Jones

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Republicans would like to pass a permanent tax cut. Sadly for them, Senate procedures prevent that. The only way to avoid a Democratic filibuster is to pass their tax plan via reconciliation, which requires only 51 votes in the Senate and can’t be filibustered. But thanks to the Byrd Rule, any reconciliation bill that increases the deficit beyond a 10-year window is once again subject to a filibuster, and that would doom any tax measure. This limits Republicans to tax plans that sunset in 2028.

But wait. Maybe there’s an alternative. The Wall Street Journal explains:

President Donald Trump has said he wants to cut taxes, big-league, and Republicans are having trouble squeezing his ambitions into congressional rules forbidding bigger deficits after a 10-year budget scoring window.

Some lawmakers are exploring a way around that problem: Make the window bigger. Sen. Pat Toomey (R., Pa.) suggested last week a “longer horizon” to overcome obstacles posed by the process known as reconciliation….A 15-year, 20-year or 30-year budget window could let Republicans pass a temporary tax cut that is long enough to give companies confidence to invest but short enough so its fiscal effects peter out by the 2030s or 2040s.

Surprised? That’s because everyone always talks about the Byrd Rule forbidding deficit increases beyond a 10-year “budget window.” But that’s not what it says. Here’s the actual relevant language:

A provision shall be considered to be extraneous if it decreases revenues during a fiscal year after the fiscal years covered by such reconciliation bill or reconciliation resolution.

In this context, “extraneous” means it can be filibustered, and there’s nothing in there about ten years. That’s just custom. If Republicans felt like it, they could pass a bill that “covers” the next millennium and sunsets in 3018. Here is Daniel Hemel, an assistant professor of law at the University of Chicago:

“I don’t think there’s anything magical about the number 10, other than 10 has been the maximum number for long enough that 11 would seem like a break from Senate norms.”

But who cares about Senate norms? Not Republicans. So there must be something more to this or they’d just go ahead and do it. One possibility is that there are still a handful of old-school deficit hawks left in the party, and they won’t vote for a longer budget window. Or there might be some arcane technical issue involved. I would be fascinated to hear from a real budget expert on this.

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How to Pass a Thousand-Year Tax Cut

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Tom Perez Wins Race for DNC Chair

Mother Jones

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The election for DNC chair is over, and Tom Perez won:

Sigh. This is so ridiculous. I know that Keith Ellison was the “Bernie guy” and Perez was the “Obama/Hillary guy,” but it’s nuts that this got turned into some kind of ideological showdown. Not only are Ellison and Perez about equally progressive, but DNC chair isn’t a policy position anyway. It’s a fundraising and managerial position. I didn’t really care one way or the other between the two because I have no idea which of them is a better manager and fundraiser.

In any case, thank goodness that Ellison and Perez themselves are grownups. Perez, in what was obviously a prearranged move, immediately offered Ellison the deputy chair job, and Ellison accepted:

This strikes me as the best of all outcomes. Democrats get to keep Ellison in Congress, and hopefully Perez will give him some real authority at the DNC. Better two high-profile guys there than one.

Besides, national-level purity contests are stupid. Democrats are fine at the national level. It’s every other level that they suck at. Anybody who spends any time or energy continuing to fight over some national standard of progressiveness at the DNC is just wasting everyone’s time. From a party standpoint, state and local races are all that matter for the next couple of years.

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Tom Perez Wins Race for DNC Chair

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Standing Rock is burning.

Democratic Party insiders will vote for a new chair this weekend. The winner will get the tough job of trying to rebuild a damaged party.

Ten people are in the running, but the victor is likely to be one of the top two contenders: Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison or former Labor Secretary Tom Perez. Ellison backed Bernie Sanders in the Democratic presidential primary last year, and Sanders is backing Ellison in this race. In 2012 and 2015, Ellison and Sanders teamed up to push a bill to end subsidies for fossil fuel companies.

Climate activist (and Grist board member) Bill McKibben argues that Ellison, a progressive who is “from the movement wing,” would help the party regain credibility with young people.

A coalition of millennial leaders endorsed Ellison this week, including a number of activists from climate groups. “We want a chair who will fight to win a democracy for all and overcome the profound crises of our time — from catastrophic climate change to systemic racism, historic economic inequality to perpetual war,” they wrote.

350 Action, the political arm of climate group 350.org, endorsed Ellison earlier this month:

And Jane Kleeb, a prominent anti-Keystone activist and a voting DNC member, is backing Ellison too:

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Standing Rock is burning.

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Steven Mnuchin Just Doesn’t Understand

Mother Jones

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This is adorable:

When Steven Mnuchin, Donald Trump’s pick for secretary of the Treasury, was asked about tax reform in his confirmation hearing on Wednesday, he took things in a surprising direction: He suggested that the IRS needed a larger staff.

“I was particularly surprised, looking at the IRS numbers, that the IRS headcount has gone down quite dramatically, almost 30 percent over the last number of years,” Mnuchin said in response to a question from Sen. Orrin Hatch, a Utah Republican….“Now perhaps the IRS just started with way too many people,” Mnuchin added. But he suggested that “staffing of the IRS is an important part of fixing the tax gap.”

That’s, um, surprising, all right. Yessir, Mr. Mnuchin. Very surprising indeed.

For those of you who don’t get the joke, this is sort of like Mnuchin testifying in front of a bunch of mafia dons and expressing surprise that they charge such high interest rates in their lending operation. Maybe with lower rates you gentlemen could expand into the suburban market and gain a share of the home equity business? Lotta kitchen remodels out there.

Basically, Mnuchin looked at the IRS numbers like a normal person and was surprised to see that they weren’t trying to maximize tax collections. He apparently didn’t realize that the Republicans he was testifying in front of have been very deliberately slashing the IRS budget for years precisely so they can’t maximize tax collections. The last thing Republicans want is an IRS that audits rich people more closely.

Mnuchin will learn. After all, Donald Trump did. Remember when Trump suggested that women who get abortions should be punished? He had no idea what he was talking about, and just assumed that since Republicans consider abortion bad, the maximal anti-abortion position must be good. He didn’t realize that jailing middle-class teenagers is a position unpopular enough to jeopardize GOP reelection prospects, and as a result Republicans have long insisted that even if they manage to make abortion illegal, they will always consider women who get abortions to be “victims” of unscrupulous butchers, not lawbreakers. That’s the party line, anyway, and everyone is expected to know it.

Before long, I’m sure Mnuchin will learn to listen respectfully to harangues about the gold standard and fiat money and ending the Fed. It’s a small price to pay for the opportunity to occupy the position once held by Alexander Hamilton.

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Steven Mnuchin Just Doesn’t Understand

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Riveting Moments From Donald Trump Inauguration Protests—Updated

Mother Jones

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In the coming days, crowds of Donald Trump supporters will take to the streets to welcome the new president, including at Thursday’s Make America Great Again rally at the Lincoln Memorial and Friday’s inaugural parade outside the White House.

But a whole lot of people are organizing to protest Trump, including more than 1 million people who are expected to participate in women’s marches around the world.

Here are highlights from some of the protests. Come back here for more news as we update this story.

January 20

Mother Jones reporters are on the scene covering the protests ahead of today’s swearing-in ceremony:

January 19

Tensions are high as protesters confront Trump supporters attending the “Deploraball,” an inauguration celebration at the National Press Club in Washington, DC.

Protesters rally outside the Trump International Hotel in New York, joined by New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, filmmaker Michael Moore, actor Alec Baldwin, and other high-profile speakers.

January 18

Hundreds gather for a “Queer Dance Party” outside of Vice President-elect Mike Pence’s Chevy Chase house. Firas Nasr, founder of WERK for Peace, tells DCist that the event is meant to show that “homophobia and transphobia is wrong and should be resisted.” As Indiana’s governor, Pence had a poor record on LGBT rights, signing a bill to protect businesses that discriminated against gay people.

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Riveting Moments From Donald Trump Inauguration Protests—Updated

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Surprise! WikiLeaks’ Assange Backs Trump on Russia Hacking Report

Mother Jones

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During a live press conference broadcast from the Ecuadorian embassy in London via Twitter’s livestream app Persicope, WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange on Monday blasted the recent US intelligence report on Russian hacking during the 2016 election.

“It is, frankly, quite embarrassing to the reputation of the US intelligence services to be putting out something that claims to be a report like that,” Assange said. “This is a press release. It is clearly designed for political effect and US intelligence have been politicized by the Obama administration in the production of this report and a number of other statements.”

Assange called the report a “political attack cannon against Donald Trump” and a way “to defend the reason why the Democratic Party lost.” And he claimed that its true purpose was to bolster certain officials within the Democratic Party and “delegitimize the election of Donald Trump.”

Assange’s press conference comes three days after the US Office of the Director of National Intelligence released a declassified report outlining its assessment of alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential campaign via hacks of US political targets, including the Democratic National Committee and the personal email account of John Podesta, Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman. The materials were stolen from those organizations by Russian intelligence, according to the report, and then passed to WikiLeaks, but it does not specify whether this occurred through an intermediary. An online persona known as “Guccifer 2.0” claimed credit for the DNC hack and for passing the information along to WikiLeaks and also for providing the material to media outlets and reporters.

“Moscow most likely chose WikiLeaks because of its self-proclaimed reputation for authenticity,” the declassified report stated, adding that the material published by WikiLeaks did “not contain any evident forgeries.” The report stated that Russian intelligence fed the materials to WikiLeaks but didn’t say how, or whether it was through a third-party. The Washington Post reported Thursday night that US intelligence had identified the “actors” involved in getting the materials to WikiLeaks.

Assange has consistently denied that the materials came from the Russian government and addressed the issue again on Monday.

“We haven’t said we know or don’t know our sources,” he said. “We have made one statement, which is that our sources in the US election-related matter are not a state party.” Assange noted the “incredible care” with which WikiLeaks speaks about its sources, but this case “does not sufficiently threaten our sources to make this very bland disclosure.” With a “state” source, however, “we would have a lot less concern in attempting to protect them.”

Assange’s explanation seems to leave the door open that an intermediary passed the material from Russian intelligence to WikiLeaks.

Assange also discussed the penchant for outgoing administrations to destroy information on the way out the door and said WikiLeaks’ recent offer of $30,000 for information that leads to “the arrest or exposure of Obama admin sic officials destroying info sic,” is an effort to preserve information that belongs to the public. He implored government employees with access to data to grab it (not mentioning that doing so is a serious crime).

“Our request to system administrators in the Obama administration, and this goes for other administrations around the world, is take the data,” he said. “Just take it now, keep it under your bed, or with your mother, and then you can give that to WikiLeaks or other journalists at your leisure. Get a hold of that history and protect it because that is something that belongs to humanity and does not belong to a political party.”

Assange blasted President Obama for his administration’s treatment of whistleblowers but said that things weren’t likely to improve under a President Trump.

“While there are some anti-DC elements in the Trump cabinet and a lot in his base, very quickly, based on the history of all previous administrations, the Donald Trump administration will form its own establishment and enter into a power-sharing relationship with the existing powers in DC,” Assange said. “No system of authority likes those who undermine its authority.”

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Surprise! WikiLeaks’ Assange Backs Trump on Russia Hacking Report

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Did Putin Swing the Election to Trump? Of Course He Did.

Mother Jones

Did Russian hacking during the 2016 campaign tip the election to Donald Trump? In the LA Times today, Noah Bierman and Brian Bennett have this to say:

The truth is no one knows for sure because the election was so close in so many states that no one factor can be credited or blamed, especially in last year’s highly combustible campaign.

This is exactly backward. The fact that the election was so close means that lots of things might have tipped the election all by themselves. The Russian hacking is one of them. Consider Bierman and Bennett’s own case:

Extensive news coverage of the how the leaked emails showed political machinations by Democratic Party operatives often drowned out Clinton’s agenda….English-language news channel Russia Today…posted a video on YouTube in early November, for example. Called “Trump Will Not Be Permitted to Win,” it featured Julian Assange, the fugitive founder of WikiLeaks, and was watched 2.2 million times….U.S. intelligence officials say anti-Clinton stories and posts flooded social media from the Internet Research Agency near St. Petersburg, which the report described as a network of “professional trolls” led by a Putin ally.

Putin’s most tangible victory may have come last summer. On the eve of the Democratic National Convention in July, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) was forced to quit her post as Democratic National Committee chairwoman after emails posted on Wikileaks showed that supposedly neutral DNC officials had backed Clinton over her rival, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, in the primaries.

….In October, Trump similarly seized on leaked emails from Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta. They showed that Donna Brazile, a former CNN commentator who replaced Wasserman Schultz at the DNC, had shared a pair of questions with Clinton’s team before a televised candidates’ forum and debate….The leak showed nothing illegal. But it bolstered the idea that Clinton was a Washington insider who benefited from fellow elites.

….The most damaging leaks for Clinton may have been transcripts of excerpts of her highly paid speeches to Wall Street bankers, released in October….There were no smoking guns in the leaks. But they included her admission that her growing wealth since she and Bill Clinton left the White House in 2001 had made her “kind of far removed” from the anger and frustration many Americans felt after the 2008 recession. She also called for “a hemispheric common market, with open trade and open borders, some time in the future, with energy that is as green and sustainable as we can get it.”

That’s a lot of stuff! Does it seem likely that all of this, plus the fact that it kept Clinton’s email woes front and center, made a difference of 1 percent in a few swing states? Sure, I’d say so. Did other things make a difference too? Yes indeed. But given how close the election was, there’s a pretty good chance that Putin’s campaign of cyber-chaos had enough oomph to swing things all by itself.

I’m a little surprised this hasn’t produced more panic. In the United States I understand why it hasn’t: Democrats don’t want to sound like sore losers and Republicans don’t care as long as their guy won. But what about the rest of the world? It’s been common knowledge for a while that Russia does this kind of stuff, but their actions in the US election represent a quantum leap in how far they’re willing to go. And there’s not much doubt that Putin will keep at it.

After all, it worked a treat. And thanks to a gullible press and normal partisan politics, it’ll keep working. The next leak will get as much attention as these did, and the one after that too. We have no societal defense against this stuff.

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Did Putin Swing the Election to Trump? Of Course He Did.

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Trump Hires an Adviser He Once Called an Untrustworthy Liar

Mother Jones

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A decade after deriding her as irresponsible and dishonest, Donald Trump has hired the controversial reality star-turned-political operative Omarosa Manigault to advise him in the White House. The incoming Trump administration announced Wednesday afternoon that Manigault will serve as assistant to the president and director of communications for the office of public liaison.

The hire marks the latest twist in the former Apprentice contestant’s longstanding relationship with her reality television boss. Manigault was a prominent surrogate for Trump during the campaign, helping organize a meeting between Trump and several black pastors in 2015. Last year, she served as the vice-chair of the National Diversity Coalition for Trump, a grassroots network of nonwhite Trump supporters unaffiliated with the campaign. In July, Manigault officially joined the Trump campaign as the director of African American outreach, overseeing an outreach effort that was frequently criticized for relying on stereotypes of black communities. She currently serves as a member of Trump’s transition team.

Despite Manigault’s extensive work for his campaign, Trump hasn’t always had the highest opinion of her. In a 2004 interview with Playboy, Trump said that she was “difficult for people to handle” during her time on The Apprentice and that she was a far better reality TV villain than he had expected. “I couldn’t believe she was lying on camera like she was,” he said. “She’s got a problem or something.

When asked if he would ever serve as a business reference for Manigault, Trump said that he would not recommend her for an executive position, but that he “might serve as a reference for her to be on a soap opera.” He added, “She’s wonderful on TV, and she gets ratings. I just wouldn’t necessarily want her running my church.”

Manigault’s new gig won’t be her first time working for a presidential administration. She previously worked in the Clinton administration, where, according to People, she was fired from four different jobs in a two-year span. The experience didn’t seem to sour Manigault on Democrats: Before Trump jumped into the race, she eagerly voiced her support of Hillary Clinton.

But once her former boss entered the fray, it didn’t take long for Manigault to change her tune and her party. “Every critic, every detractor, will have to bow down to President Trump,” she told PBS’s Frontline last year in an interview before the presidential election. “It is the ultimate revenge to become the most powerful man in the universe.”

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Trump Hires an Adviser He Once Called an Untrustworthy Liar

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ERP Blogstorm Part 3: Banking

Mother Jones

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Part three of our series of charts from the Economic Report of the President is all about banking. Mostly, it’s a trip down memory lane. Here’s a look at the worldwide market in derivatives over the past couple of decades:

The volume of derivatives went from $10 trillion to $35 trillion in two years starting right before the market crashed. Here’s another perspective on that:

In 1990, shadow banking was about the same size as the traditional banking sector. By 2007 it was more than twice as big. Just before the crash, shadow banking comprised two-thirds of the entire banking industry and it was almost entirely unregulated. This is why I was happy that Hillary Clinton at least mentioned shadow banking during the campaign.

Here’s how all this affected tradition banks:

In 2007, losses from trading amounted to about $30 billion. By 2009 that had skyrocketed to about $100 billion—and that’s in addition to about $40 billion in traditional loan losses. This is what happens when you start with a housing market that’s already in bubble territory and then egg it on with insane levels of rocket science derivatives, most of them unregulated bastard offspring of the shadow banking sector.

So what’s happened since then? We had a huge crash, the Fed instituted higher capital ratios for “systemically important financial institutions,” and we passed the Dodd-Frank reforms. Here’s what banks look like now:

Before the Great Recession, the biggest banks (green line) had Tier 1 equity ratios of about 7 percent. That’s why they couldn’t weather the crash. Today they’re above 12 percent. Is that enough? Maybe not. But it’s a helluva lot better than it used to be.

Finally, here’s an intriguing chart that shows one of the specific consequences of Dodd-Frank:

Most single-name derivatives are now cleared through a central clearinghouse, which makes it easy for traders to cancel out mirror-image positions they hold. This is called “compression,” and it reduces the total volume of derivatives and increases the safety of the financial system. Today, derivatives worth $200 trillion (notional) are compressed out of existence each year.

Needless to say, Republicans are hellbent on repealing Dodd-Frank. Sure, it makes the banking system safer and helps protect consumers, but big banks don’t like it, so that’s that. The party of Donald Trump, the working man’s president, will do whatever Wall Street tells them to do. Funny how that works, isn’t it?

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ERP Blogstorm Part 3: Banking

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