Saturday, June 13, 2015

Last Call For Relaunch Sequence

Hillary Clinton took to New York's historic Roosevelt Island to give a speech about her domestic platform for 2016.  There's a lot there, but whether or not she can get Republicans to go along is anyone's guess.

As we have since our founding, Americans made a new beginning.

You worked extra shifts, took second jobs, postponed home repairs... you figured out how to make it work. And now people are beginning to think about their future again - going to college, starting a business, buying a house, finally being able to put away something for retirement.

So we're standing again. But, we all know we're not yet running the way America should.

You see corporations making record profits, with CEOs making record pay, but your paychecks have barely budged.

While many of you are working multiple jobs to make ends meet, you see the top 25 hedge fund managers making more than all of America's kindergarten teachers combined. And, often paying a lower tax rate.

So, you have to wonder: "When does my hard work pay off? When does my family get ahead?"


I say now. (Cheers, applause.)

Prosperity can't be just for CEOs and hedge fund managers.

Democracy can't be just for billionaires and corporations. (Cheers, applause.)

Prosperity and democracy are part of your basic bargain too.

You brought our country back.

Now it's time -- your time to secure the gains and move ahead.

And, you know what?

America can't succeed unless you succeed. (Cheers, applause.)

That is why I am running for President of the United States. (Cheers, applause, chanting.)

It was a pretty good speech, actually.  Clinton laid out much of what she planned to call for as president if elected.

For decades, Americans have been buffeted by powerful currents.

Advances in technology and the rise of global trade have created whole new areas of economic activity and opened new markets for our exports, but they have also displaced jobs and undercut wages for millions of Americans.

The financial industry and many multi-national corporations have created huge wealth for a few by focusing too much on short-term profit and too little on long-term value... too much on complex trading schemes and stock buybacks, too little on investments in new businesses, jobs, and fair compensation. (Cheers, applause.)

Our political system is so paralyzed by gridlock and dysfunction that most Americans have lost confidence that anything can actually get done. And they've lost trust in the ability of both government and Big Business to change course.

Now, we can blame historic forces beyond our control for some of this, but the choices we've made as a nation, leaders and citizens alike, have also played a big role.

Our next President must work with Congress and every other willing partner across our entire country. And I will do just that -- (cheers, applause) to turn the tide so these currents start working for us more than against us.

At our best, that's what Americans do. We're problem solvers, not deniers. We don't hide from change, we harness it. (Cheers, applause.)

But we can't do that if we go back to the top-down economic policies that failed us before.

Americans have come too far to see our progress ripped away.

Now, there may be some new voices in the presidential Republican choir, (laughter) but they're all singing the same old song...

A song called "Yesterday." (Laughter, cheers, applause.)

You know the one -- all our troubles look as though they're here to stay (laughter)... and we need a place to hide away... They believe in yesterday.

And you're lucky I didn't try singing that, too, I'll tell you! (Laughter, cheers, applause.)

We'll see what she can back that up with.

Making Off With The Crown Jewels

We're learning more and more about just what a mother lode of intelligence information hackers got from raiding the US government's personnel files, and as John Schindler points out, if the hackers are working for the Chinese or Russians, then America is in real trouble.

With each passing day the U.S. government’s big hacking scandal gets worse. Just what did hackers steal from the Office of Personnel Management? Having initially assured the public that the loss was not all that serious, OPM’s data breach now looks very grave. The lack of database encryption appears foolhardy, while OPM ignoring repeated warnings about its cyber vulnerabilities implies severe dysfunction in Washington.

To say nothing of the news that hackers were scouring OPM systems for over a year before they were detected. It’s alarming that intruders got hold of information about every federal worker, particularly because OPM previously conceded that “only” 4 million employees, past and present, had been compromised, including 2.1 million current ones. Each day brings worse details about what stands as the biggest data compromise since Edward Snowden stole1.7 million classified documents and fled to Russia.

Then there’s the worrisome matter of what OPM actually does. A somewhat obscure agency, it’s the federal government’s HR hub and, most important, it’s responsible for conducting 90 percent of federal background investigations, adjudicating some 2 million security clearances every year. If you’ve ever held a clearance with Uncle Sam, there’s a good chance you’re in OPM files somewhere.

And of course the problem is the hack was extensive and allowed reams of information out.

Here’s where things start to get scary. Whoever has OPM’s records knows an astonishing amount about millions of federal workers, members of the military, and security clearance holders. They can now target those Americans for recruitment or influence. After all, they know their vices, every last one—the gambling habit, the inability to pay bills on time, the spats with former spouses, the taste for something sexual on the side—since all that is recorded in security clearance paperwork. (To get an idea of how detailed this gets, you can see the form, called an SF86, here.) Speaking as a former counterintelligence officer, it really doesn’t get much worse than this.

Do you have friends in foreign countries, perhaps lovers past and present? The hackers know all about them. That embarrassing dispute with your neighbor over hedges that nearly got you arrested? They know about that, too. Your college drug habit? Yes, that too. Even what your friends and neighbors said about you to investigators, highly personal and revealing stuff, that’s in the other side’s possession now.

Perhaps the most damaging aspect of this is not merely that millions of people are vulnerable to compromise, through no fault of their own, but that whoever has the documents now so dominates the information battlespace that they can halt actions against them. If they get word that an American counterintelligence officer, in some agency, is on the trail of one of their agents, they can pull out the stops and create mayhem for him or her: Run up debts falsely (they have all the relevant data), perhaps plant dirty money in bank accounts (they have all the financials, too), and thereby cause any curious officials to lose their security clearances. Since that is what would happen.

So yes, this hack was bad.  We need to clean up this mess, but the reality is that between this and the Snowden documents, US intelligence is all but in complete tatters in 2015.  This is where government is most certainly not working properly, and fixing it will take years of not decades.

Trading Places

For now, fast track trade pact authority for President Obama is off the table as House Democrats folded and Republicans didn't have the votes.

Hours after President Obama made a dramatic, personal appeal for support, House Democrats on Friday thwarted his push to expand trade negotiating power — and quite likely his chance to secure a legacy-defining accord spanning the Pacific Ocean.

In a remarkable blow to a president they have backed so resolutely, House Democrats voted to end assistance to workers displaced by global trade, a program their party created and has supported for four decades. That move effectively scuttled legislation granting the president trade promotion authority — the power to negotiate trade deals that cannot be amended or filibustered by Congress.

“We want a better deal for America’s workers,” said Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the House minority leader, who has guided the president’s agenda for two terms and was personally lobbied by Mr. Obama until the last minute.

The vote that prevented the president from obtaining trade promotional authority now imperils the more sweeping Trans-Pacific Partnership, a proposed trade agreement with 11 other nations along the Pacific Ocean that affects 40 percent of the global economy on goods ranging from running shoes to computers.

“They have taken their own child hostage,” said Representative Charlie Dent, Republican of Pennsylvania, adding, “Does it hurt the president? Of course it hurts the president, but it hurts America more.”

The Democratic revolt left Republican leaders trying to summon support from their own party for trade adjustment assistance, a program they have long derided as a waste of money and a concession to organized labor. Eighty-six Republicans voted for the program, more than double the 40 Democrats who supported it. But the trade adjustment assistance bill failed when 303 voted against it.

Republican leaders then passed, in a 219-to-211 vote, a stand-alone bill that would grant the president the trade negotiating authority he sought. But that measure cannot go to the president for his signature because the Senate version of the legislative package combined both trade adjustment and trade promotion.

The House will try again to pass the worker protection part of the deal again on Tuesday,  but at this point things are looking pretty grim.  We'll see what happens, and the trade legislation is far from over, but it's going to be a long trek to the top of this.
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