I have a huuuge crush on Steven Aftergood.
What a great name.
Now here's a national hero on whom you couldn't do much better to model your behavior.
(Click on his name link for more information.)
Posted on Mar.22, 2016 in Intelligence
“DNI Representatives serve as the principal advisors to their assigned organizations for IC matters, as a conduit between the DNI and their assigned organizations, and as the DNI’s personal representatives to a variety of U.S. and foreign partners and international organizations,” according to a declassified December 2009 Intelligence Community Directive that was made public last week. See DNI Representatives, ICD 402, 23 December 2009, amended 06 September 2012.
If I have to listen to one more Obama encomium about Lying Paul Ryan's* immense humanity, he who famously is just awaiting "his" turn to disappear the rest of the U.S. social safety net - Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and VA benefits - I will be wretching forever.
Thank whoever that our woman at Sardonicky is on the job:
"New York Times" columnist Paul Krugman, apparently feeling confident enough in a Hillary coronation to cease and desist from his serial rabid Bernie-bashing, is regressing back to his own true area of expertise: bashing the Republican Party in general, and Paul Ryan in particular. Like just about everybody in the liberal class, Krugman whines that the GOP, in all its "invincible ignorance," is disowning its own responsibility for the rise of Donald Trump:
Like just about everyone in the Republican establishment, Mr. Ryan is in denial about the roots of Trumpism, about the extent to which the party deliberately cultivated anger and racial backlash, only to lose control of the monster it created. But what I found especially striking were his comments on tax policy. I know, boring — but indulge me here. There’s a larger moral.You might think that Republican thought leaders would be engaged in some soul-searching about their party’s obsession with cutting taxes on the wealthy. Why do candidates who inveigh against the evils of budget deficits and federal debt feel obliged to propose huge high-end tax cuts — much bigger than those of George W. Bush - that would eliminate trillions in revenue?As is his wont, Krugman glosses right over Democratic complicity (Third Way free-market Clintonism) in the rise of Trump. My published response:
Since the official embrace of ignorance has been a mainstay of right-wingery for more than 200 years, the GOP is simply following a grand old tradition. Their beef with Trump is that he wears his ignorance on his sleeve.Lyin' Ryan and his cohort, meanwhile, couldn't survive without the complicity of the other big business party. Just last week*, President Obama praised him for being a good husband, father and a patriot. He doesn't often agree with him, of course, but he has no reason to doubt Ryan's sincere concern for "folks."Obama (and the entire Establishment, it seems) are, however, chiding the young agitators who are disrupting Trump's fascist rallies. What really scares them is bottom-up democracy, citizens who aren't just consumers, and the inclusive message of Bernie Sanders.They would prefer to work with nice family men like Ryan to quietly "trim" or "reform" social programs, while pouring trillions of dollars into permanent war and the surveillance state. Every extra crumb for the needy is offset by a reward for the rich. The slow destruction of the safety net and the funneling of all the wealth to the top 1% must be conducted calmly and efficiently.Their Exceptional America is for the exceptional top 1%. They, who are so devoted to family: their own. They are true patriots, whose love for the corporate state trumps everything: particularly the "folks" they claim to represent.Hear the duopoly roar: politely, seriously, invincibly.*Obama's complete "both sides do it" remarks at a St. Patrick's Day luncheon can be found here. The salient excerpts, in which he fawned over Ryan and scolded political protesters for being rude to The Donald, implicitly including the Black Lives Matter activists, are here:
And so I know that I’m not the only one in this room who may be more than a little dismayed about what’s happening on the campaign trail lately. We have heard vulgar and divisive rhetoric aimed at women and minorities -- at Americans who don’t look like “us,” or pray like “us,” or vote like we do. We’ve seen misguided attempts to shut down that speech, however offensive it may be. We live in a country where free speech is one of the most important rights that we hold.(Except when militarized police forces get together and use batons and pepper spray to squelch free speech at Occupy camps and at anti-war and anti-corporate "free trade" protests. It is "misguided" for protesters to shut down roads that lead to a demagogue whose whole raison d'etre is to incite riots.)
In response to those attempts, we’ve seen actual violence, and we’ve heard silence from too many of our leaders. Speaker Ryan, I appreciated the words on this topic that you shared with us this morning. But too often we’ve accepted this as somehow the new normal.(No word about the physical courage of people who are willing to get beaten up for their protests against racism and xenophobia. Aren't their protests also free speech? Probably what Obama really fears is the whole corrupt duopoly collapsing in upon itself, and of course, protests at Hillary Clinton's rallies. Better be quiet little consumer-citizens and wait for the Adult President to tell Trump jokes to lighten things up a bit.)
And it’s worth asking ourselves what each of us may have done to contribute to this kind of vicious atmosphere in our politics. I suspect that all of us can recall some intemperate words that we regret. Certainly, I can. And while some may be more to blame than others for the current climate, all of us are responsible for reversing it. For it is a cycle that is not an accurate reflection of America. And it has to stop. And I say that not because it’s a matter of “political correctness,” it’s about the way that corrosive behavior can undermine our democracy, and our society, and even our economy....(This is from the guy who until quite recently openly embraced Grand Bargain austerity and the Sequester, is still covering up portions of the CIA torture report, still shielding war criminals, shielding Wall Street criminals, waging wars both openly and secretly, killing thousands of civilians in drone strikes, and orchestrating coups in Honduras, Ukraine and other democratic countries. Violence is, and always has been, an accurate reflection of America. And yet Obama is singling out protesters at Trump's political rallies and glossing over the de facto social policy violence of Paul Ryan.)
And this is also about the American brand. Who are we? How are we perceived around the world? There’s a reason that America has always attracted the greatest talent from every corner of the globe. There’s a reason that “Made in America” means something. It’s because we’re creative, and dynamic, and diverse, and inclusive, and open. Why would we want to see that brand tarnished? The world pays attention to what we say and what we do....(America is pure propaganda, an advertising brand, a low-wage talent magnet, a maudlin appeal to patriotism in order to quell anger and dissent. Not much is actually made in America any more, thanks to NAFTA, the WTO inclusion of China into the Walton family oligarchy, and other "trade" deals. Obama seems more concerned about his reputation and legacy and public relations than about the reality that the whole world has been noticing for quite some time now.)
So when we leave this lunch, I think we have a choice. We can condone this race to the bottom, or accept it as the way things are and sink further. Or we can roundly reject this kind of behavior, whether we see it in the other party, or more importantly, when we see it in our own party, and set a better example for our children and the rest of the country to follow. It starts with us.(And if the duopoly has anything to say about it, the horrible example they set will be kept largely confined to opulent rooms behind closed doors. After all, this administration is credited with being the most secretive in memory. If only the angry citizens would just shut up, the kids won't look around and discover that one out of every 30 of them is homeless for the sole reason that the elite political class has never seen fit to implement a humane, affordable housing policy in this country.)
Speaker Ryan, you and I don’t agree on a lot of policy. But I know you are a great father and a great husband, and I know you want what’s best for America. And we may fiercely disagree on policy -- and the NFC North -- (laughter) -- but I don’t have a bad word to say about you as a man. And I would never insult my fellow Irish like that....That’s what carried us through other times that were far more tough and far more dangerous than the one that we're in today -– times where we were told to fear the future; times where we were told to turn inward and to turn against each other. And each time, we overcame those fears. Each time, we faced the future with confidence in who we are and what we stand for, and the incredible things that we’re capable of together.The corrupt duopoly is capable of so much more. Capitalism is awesomely incredible. The only thing the elites have to fear is Bernie Sanders-style Democratic Socialism.
"Lying Ryan" Krugman dissection from "The New York Times": (don't click on the link)
Remember Paul Ryan? The speaker of the House used to be a media darling, lionized as the epitome of the Serious, Honest Conservative — never mind those of us who actually looked at the numbers in his budgets and concluded that he was a con man. These days, of course, he is overshadowed by the looming Trumpocalypse.
But while Donald Trump could win the White House — or lose so badly that even our rotten-borough system of congressional districts, which heavily favors the G.O.P., delivers the House to the Democrats — the odds are that come January, Hillary Clinton will be president, and Mr. Ryan still speaker. So I was interested to read what Mr. Ryan said in a recent interview with John Harwood. What has he learned from recent events?
And the answer is, nothing.
Like just about everyone in the Republican establishment, Mr. Ryan is in denial about the roots of Trumpism, about the extent to which the party deliberately cultivated anger and racial backlash, only to lose control of the monster it created. But what I found especially striking were his comments on tax policy. I know, boring — but indulge me here. There’s a larger moral.
You might think that Republican thought leaders would be engaged in some soul-searching about their party’s obsession with cutting taxes on the wealthy. Why do candidates who inveigh against the evils of budget deficits and federal debt feel obliged to propose huge high-end tax cuts — much bigger than those of George W. Bush — that would eliminate trillions in revenue?
And economics aside, why such a commitment to a policy that has never had much support even from the party’s own base, and appears even more politically suspect in the face of a populist uprising?
But here’s what Mr. Ryan said about all those tax cuts for the top 1 percent: “I do not like the idea of buying into these distributional tables. What you’re talking about is what we call static distribution. It’s a ridiculous notion.”
Aha. The income mobility zombie strikes again.
Ever since income inequality began its sharp rise in the 1980s, one favorite conservative excuse has been that it doesn’t mean anything, because economic positions change all the time. People who are rich this year might not be rich next year, so the gap between the rich and the rest doesn’t matter, right?
Well, it’s true that people move up and down the economic ladder, and apologists for inequality love to cite statistics showing that many people who are in the top 1 percent in any given year are out of that category the next year.
But a closer look at the data shows that there is less to this observation than it seems. These days, it takes an income of around $400,000 a year to put you in the top 1 percent, and most of the fluctuation in incomes we see involves people going from, say, $350,000 to $450,000 or vice versa.
As one comprehensive survey put it, “The majority of economic mobility occurs over fairly small spans of the distribution.” Average incomes over multiple years are almost as unequally distributed as incomes in any given year, which means that tax cuts that mainly benefit the rich are indeed targeted at a small group of people, not the public at large.
And here’s the thing: This isn’t a new observation. As it happens, I personally took on the very same argument Mr. Ryan is making — and showed that it was wrong — almost 25 years ago. Yet the man widely considered the G.O.P.’s intellectual leader is still making the same old claims.
O.K., maybe I’m just indulging a pet peeve by focusing on this particular subject. Yet the persistence of the income mobility zombie, like the tax-cuts-mean-growth zombie (which should have been killed, once and for all, by the debacles in Kansas and Louisiana), is part of a pattern.
Appalled Republicans may rail against Donald Trump’s arrogant ignorance. But how different, really, are the party’s mainstream leaders? Their blinkered view of the world has the veneer of respectability, may go along with an appearance of thoughtfulness, but in reality it’s just as impervious to evidence — maybe even more so, because it has the power of groupthink behind it.
This is why you shouldn’t grieve over Marco Rubio’s epic political failure. Had Mr. Rubio succeeded, he would simply have encouraged his party to believe that all it needs is a cosmetic makeover — a fresher, younger face to sell the same old defunct orthodoxy. Oh, and a last-minute turn to someone like John Kasich would, in its own way, have similar implications.
What we’re getting instead is at least the possibility of a cleansing shock — of a period in the political wilderness that will finally force the Republican establishment to rethink its premises. That’s a good thing — or it would be, if it didn’t also come with the risk of President Trump.
Given the recent flood of op-eds and editorials on the wonders of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the Obama administration must be about to present the deal to Congress for approval. Otherwise, it's hard to see why so many pieces would spontaneously appear on the TPP. Since there is real money at stake, we can expect the debate to get pretty low and nasty, with the pro-TPP forces liberally substituting ad hominems and claims to expertise for serious arguments.
But this is just the beginning of the fun when it comes to the TPP. The very pro-TPP Peter Peterson Institute for International Economics produced a study showing that the deal will add 0.5 percentage points to GDP when its effects are fully felt in 2030. While this projection is supposed to convince people of the huge benefits of the TPP, taken at face value it means we will be as rich on January 1, 2030 as we would otherwise be on March 15, 2030.
But even this limited projected gain is dubious. The model used to project this result explicitly assumes that the TPP cannot increase unemployment. If people are concerned that the TPP will lead to a further rise in the US trade deficit, which would cost jobs, the Peterson Institute model has nothing to tell them on the topic. It rules out this possibility by assumption.
The Peterson Institute has a long track record of pushing trade deals and dismissing concerns about trade deficits and unemployment. Back in 2000 it published a paper that dismissed as "extravagant" the concerns raised by Rob Scott, my former colleague at the Economic Policy Institute, that admitting China to the WTO will cost 817,000 jobs.
Scott ended up being far off the mark on this one. The actual job loss figure was probably close to three times his projection.
Of course the story with China was its decision to deliberately hold down the value of its currency, which allowed it to run massive trade surpluses with the United States and other countries. In spite of demands by members of Congress and numerous economists, including the Peterson Institute's former president Fred Bergsten, the TPP includes no provisions that will prevent currency management by the countries in the pact.
But the real story of the TPP is that it has little to do with trade. After all, we already have trade agreements with six of the other 11 participants in the deal. After NAFTA, there are not many trade barriers to remove with Canada and Mexico.
The deal is about putting in place a pro-business regulatory structure.
It was largely negotiated by business trade groups who crafted a deal to boost their profits.
The TPP will put into question every health, safety and environmental regulation that governments at any level seek to implement.
The assurances from the Obama administration to the contrary on this front are absolutely worthless.
The TPP sets up an extra-judicial system, not bound by precedent and not subject to appeal, which can impose large fines for any measure it chooses.
Former President Obama will not be pulling money out of his personal bank account to compensate anyone if his assurances prove to be wrong.
But the most pernicious part of the deal is its extension of protectionism in the form of stronger and longer patent and copyright protection. This will raise the price of the protected products, most importantly prescription drugs.
While the public in the United States has been focusing on making drugs cheaper, our TPP negotiators were working to make them more expensive.
High drug prices are a serious problem in the United States; they can prove deadly in poorer countries where large segments of the population can't afford to pay Pfizer tens of thousands of dollars for the drugs on which it holds patent monopolies.
Incredibly, it doesn't seem the Peterson Institute folks included the impact of these protections in its modeling of the TPP.
The long and short is that the TPP offers almost none of the classic benefits associated with free trade, since it does very little in terms of reducing trade barriers.
The deal is about increasing corporate profits at the expense of the public in all of the countries that are parties.
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Esther Kersley, openDemocracy: Unsurprisingly, remote warfare methods are having negative consequences in theaters across Latin America where the war on drugs is playing out. Remote warfare does not offer a new approach to the problem of illicit drug trafficking. Rather, it represents an unchanged strategy dressed up with new tactics.
. . . If you don't lose your car, your bank account or your personal belongings to a pawn shop or pay day loan, you will probably still wind up with more debt, less money and a lower credit score. And, good luck finding your next job or apartment in that scenario. This is what people mean when they say that the system is rigged, and it's why we need Congress to fight for laws that put people ahead of corporate profits. Let's break this immoral cycle and un-rig the system by casting a vote in November.