Opinion | I Helped Create the Nation’s Top Spy Job. It’s About to Be Destroyed. – By Jane Harman – The New York Times

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Ms. Harman was a lead author of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, which created the director of national intelligence position.

Credit…Bernd Von Jutrczenka/DPA, via Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

“It’s a really bad day at the office when the spooks are spooked. That’s what happened on Wednesday when President Trump announced that Richard Grenell, the ambassador to Germany, will become the acting director of national intelligence. Though Mr. Grenell is credited with effectively pushing the White House’s agenda on Iran and China, he has virtually no intelligence experience and is viewed as very partisan. This rattled the spy community and stoked fears that a purge may be coming, fears that seemed to be confirmed on Friday when Mr. Grenell ousted his office’s No. 2 official. In fact, our whole country should be spooked.

Mr. Grenell was appointed after the president reportedly became angered by a congressional briefing that said Russia is trying to help him in the 2020 election by meddling in the Democratic primaries. So Mr. Trump removed Joseph Maguire, the highly regarded acting director of national intelligence, and temporarily assigned Mr. Grenell, who is keeping his other roles.

Reports say that Kashyap Patel, a former National Security Council staff member who sought to discredit the Russia inquiry, is a senior adviser to Mr. Grenell. The worry is that this new team is meant to do one thing: undermine the core mission of the intelligence community, which is to speak truth to power.

We’ve seen this movie before, and it didn’t end well. In 2004, the C.I.A.’s director, Porter Goss, forced out career experts over a counterintelligence dispute. A review of that activity by the Silberman-Robb Commission ultimately resulted in Mr. Goss’s resignation. The coming purge could be far worse.”

Opinion | Bernie Sanders Is Making a Big Mistake – By David Leonhardt – The New York Times

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Opinion Columnist

Credit…Tamir Kalifa for The New York Times

“The last four presidents — Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump — are four very different politicians. But they have one crucial similarity: They all tried to appeal to voters who weren’t obvious supporters.

Clinton promised a “third way,” distinct from traditional Democratic or Republican policies. Bush ran on compassionate conservatism. Obama said that red and blue America shared more in common than pundits claimed.

Even Trump, radical as he is, flouted Republican orthodoxy by sounding like a populist Democrat on Social Security, Medicare and trade. Polls showed that voters judged Trump to be more moderate than any Republican nominee since the 1970s.

The art of peeling off voters — those in the middle or those who aren’t ideological — may be the most important skill in politics. It doesn’t require a mushy centrist policy agenda, either. Trump has made that clear. So, in earlier eras, did Ronald Reagan and Franklin D. Roosevelt.”

 ‘Politics of Hate’ Takes a Toll in Germany Well Beyond Immigrants – By Katrin Bennhold and Melissa Eddy – The New York Times

“COLOGNE, Germany — The last time Henriette Reker ran for mayor, she was nearly killed.

Ms. Reker was handing out flowers to voters at a bustling market in Cologne in 2015, when a man took a rose with one hand and rammed a kitchen knife into her throat with the other. He wanted to punish her for her pro-refugee stance.

Five years later, Ms. Reker is running again. But she is an exception. Since she recovered from a coma to find herself elected, far-right death threats have become an everyday reality, not just for her but for an increasing number of local officials across Germany.

The acrimony is felt in town halls and village streets, where mayors now find themselves the targets of threats and intimidation. The effect has been chilling.

Some have stopped speaking out. Many have quit, tried to arm themselves or taken on police protection. The risks have mounted to such an extent that some German towns are unable to field candidates for leadership at all.”

David Lindsay: This is shockingly bad news about Germany.  The rise of the the extreme right there, and the violence and killings, seem to be an unexpected reaction to Merkel’s accepting over a million refugees in 2015, without the support of many Germans who felt threatened or betrayed.

It May Be the Biggest Tax Heist Ever. And Europe Wants Justice. – by David Segal – The New York Times

“. . .  Today, the men stand accused of participating in what Le Monde has called “the robbery of the century,” and what one academic declared “the biggest tax theft in the history of Europe.” From 2006 to 2011, these two and hundreds of bankers, lawyers and investors made off with a staggering $60 billion, all of it siphoned from the state coffers of European countries.

As one participant would later put it, taxpayer funds were an irresistible mark for a simple reason: They never ran out.

The scheme was built around “cum-ex trading” (from the Latin for “with-without”): a monetary maneuver to avoid double taxation of investment profits that plays out like high finance’s answer to a David Copperfield stage illusion. Through careful timing, and the coordination of a dozen different transactions, cum-ex trades produced two refunds for dividend tax paid on one basket of stocks.

One basket of stocks. Abracadabra. Two refunds.

The process was repeated over and over, as word of cum-ex spread like a quiet contagion. Germany was hardest hit, with an estimated $30 billion in losses, followed by France, taken for about $17 billion. Smaller sums were drained away from Spain, Italy, Belgium, Austria, Norway, Finland, Poland and others.

Outrage in these countries has focused on the City of London, Britain’s answer to Wall Street. Less scrutinized has been the role played by Americans, both individual investors and branches of United States investment banks in London, including Morgan Stanley, JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America Merrill Lynch.”

Opinion: What has happened to Hamden? – By Ann M. Altman – New Haven Register

“In 1974, heavily pregnant, I moved to Whitneyville from New Haven. Hamden seemed a natural place for Yale faculty to raise a family, with excellent schools and public services and, in the 1980s and 1990s, it didn’t disappoint.

The elementary school, middle school and high school provided a wonderful education to both my children. My son, having completed the high school curriculum, was able to take courses at Yale University during his senior year, with the bill picked up by the Board of Education. My daughter benefited from the extraordinary theater program, helping to teach classes for special education students and winning ensemble prizes at the state drama competition. As she said on one such occasion, “When I saw that all the judges were crying, I knew we’d won.”

Now, decades later, what has happened to Hamden? It is still outstanding, first in its class in Connecticut but, unfortunately, not because of its schools and public services but because it has the highest per capita debt of all the 169 towns in the state.

According to the municipal finance indicators published recently by the state’s Office of Policy and Management, every man, woman and child in Hamden is in debt to the tune of $18,368.

To give you an idea what that means, consider that the per capita debt in Bridgeport is $13,776 and in Hartford it is $11,700. Even New Haven, the second on the list, only has a per capita debt of $15,595.

How do the financial markets view Hamden’s remarkable record of first- (or worst-) in-state? Moody’s has lowered Hamden’s bond rating to Baa3, one grade above “junk,” adjudging the town among the bottom three in Connecticut.

To meet the town’s financial obligations, taxes on homeowners have been raised exorbitantly, with the mil rate now approaching 50. In addition, homeowners have to pay separately for treatment of their wastewater, a service that was included in taxes paid in the 1980s and 90s.

Source: Opinion: What has happened to Hamden? – New Haven Register

Opinion | Warren, Bloomberg and What Really Matters – By Paul Krugman – The New York Times

Dems should be talking about financialization and fraud.

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Opinion Columnist

Credit…Calla Kessler/The New York Times

“Wednesday’s Democratic debate was far more informative than previous debates. What we learned, in particular, was that as a presidential candidate, Michael Bloomberg is a great businessman — and that Elizabeth Warren remains a force to be reckoned with.

Both lessons ran very much counter to the narrative that the news media has been telling in recent weeks. On one side, there has been a palpable eagerness on the part of some news organizations and many pundits to elevate Bloomberg; on the other side, complaints by Warren supporters about her “erasure” from news coverage and polling aren’t wrong.

What does all this mean for the nomination? I have no idea. But maybe the Warren-Bloomberg confrontation will help refocus discussion away from so-called Medicare for all — which isn’t going to be enacted, no matter who wins — to an issue where it matters a lot which Democrat prevails. Namely, are we going to do anything to rein in the financialization of the U.S. economy?

During the U.S. economy’s greatest generation — the era of rapid, broadly shared growth that followed World War II — Wall Street was a fairly peripheral part of the picture. When people thought about business leaders, they thought about people running companies that actually made things, not people who got rich through wheeling and dealing.”

Opinion | I Was the Judge in the Stop-and-Frisk Case. I Don’t Think Bloomberg Is Racist. – The New York Times

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Ms. Scheindlin, a former district court judge, presided over the 2013 stop-and-frisk lawsuit.

Credit…Allison Joyce/Getty Images

“In 2013, I ruled in Floyd vs. City of New York that the tactics underlying the city’s stop-and-frisk program violated the constitutional rights of people of color. While Michael Bloomberg was mayor of New York, black and Latino people were disproportionately stopped, and often frisked, millions of times, peaking at 690,000 in 2011. After my rulingthe number of stops plummeted to 11,000 in 2018. And crime did not rise.

Despite this, Mayor Bloomberg continued to zealously defend stop-and-frisk, including in eyebrow-raising comments at the Aspen Institute in 2015 which recently resurfaced. He apologized for the policy only days before jumping into the presidential race. Many people are wondering — is he a racist? I don’t think so. Not if you look at many other valuable things he has done for minorities. I don’t believe he ever understood the human toll of stopping black and Latino men, 90 percent of which did not result in a summons or arrest. But the stops were frightening, humiliating and unwarranted invasions of black and brown people’s bodies.

At the time of the Floyd trial, and still today, I am convinced that Mayor Bloomberg believed that the stop-and-frisk policy — which began under Rudy Giuliani, his immediate predecessor, but grew dramatically during Mr. Bloomberg’s tenure — was protecting African-Americans, who were disproportionately the victims of crime. Although it has been widely disproved, he believed in the “broken windows” theory of policing, where stopping small infractions would prevent an escalation of crime. He believed his police commissioner, Ray Kelly, who told him that young black men would leave their guns at home if they thought they would be stopped. This was misguided because a stop based on racial profiling instead of reasonable suspicion is unconstitutional. But this does not mean he hates black people. The most I can say is he had a pure heart but an empty head; the stop-and-frisk program was very poorly executed.

Opinion | Winners and Losers of the Democratic Debate – The New York Times

“Welcome to Opinion’s commentary for the Feb. 19 Democratic presidential candidate debate in Las Vegas. In this special feature, Times Opinion writers rank the candidates on a scale of 1 to 10: 1 means the candidate probably didn’t belong on the stage and should probably drop out; 10 means it’s on, President Trump. Here’s what our columnists and contributors thought about the debate.

Read what our columnists and contributors thought of the Feb. 8 debate.

Elizabeth Warren8.4/10Average score”

 

 

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT Comment:
Actually, while I’ve been a Biden supporter because of old Nate Cohn polls, my partner and I thought Michael Bloomberg won the debate. Read carefully what Daniel McCarthy wrote in this artice: “(5/10) — He isn’t ashamed of what he is, distasteful as that may be to other Democrats, particularly where his wealth and ugly history with women and minorities are concerned. His lack of defensiveness might let him brazen his way through the primaries as Trump did in the G.O.P.” We saw a sad but determined patriot and wise elder, deeply concerned about Trump. He showed up unprepared possibly on purpose. He showed up unarmed. We did not enjoy the others trying to cut him, in their fear of his power, resume and fortune.
I enjoyed listening to a former Obama political consultant on NPR this morning, who noted that Bloomberg showed up to take all this shit, before two primaries he isn’t in, to get it all out before the next debate, which he will prep for, and which will be before super Tuesday. Based on what we saw last night, I now expect Michael Bloomberg to prevail. This will not be a bad thing in my view, since I fear that neither Sanders or Warren will be able to win the electoral college, since every Republican I have interviewed, has said they would vote for Trump over either of these two, who they see as extremists.

 

 

Opinion | To Survive Disaster, Plan for the Worst – By Tina Rosenberg – The New York Times

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Ms. Rosenberg is a co-founder of the Solutions Journalism Network, which supports rigorous reporting about responses to social problems.

Credit…Rehman Asad/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

“Disaster relief works like this: There is a flood, a drought, an earthquake, a famine, an exodus of refugees. Reporters swarm in, broadcasting images of suffering. Humanitarian workers on the ground analyze who needs what relief and draw up plans. The government asks for help. The United Nations coordinates international pledges. Relief comes in — money, bags of grain, medical supplies.

But by that point, weeks or months have gone by.

Rarely is there preplanning, pre-fundraising, or pre-agreement on a plan. “This is medieval,” said Stefan Dercon, a professor of economic policy at Oxford and a former chief economist of Britain’s bilateral aid agency, the Department for International Development. He and Daniel Clarke, head of the London-based Center for Disaster Protection, wrote the book “Dull Disasters? How Planning Ahead Will Make a Difference.”

“It is as if financial instruments such as insurance do not exist,” they wrote. “This is begging-bowl financing at its worst.”

But here’s what can happen instead — what, in fact, did happen in the Kurigram district of northwest Bangladesh in July. With colossal rains predicted, the United Nations World Food Program and the Bangladesh government identified about 5,000 particularly vulnerable families. Three days before the flood hit, they used mobile phone banking to send each family the equivalent of $53. With that money, the families secured their houses and belongings — for example, buying materials to lift their furniture off the ground. And they could pay the costs of taking their livestock and fleeing.”

Fossil Fuels Are to Blame for Soaring Methane Levels, Study Shows – By Hiroko Tabuchi – The New York Times

“Oil and gas production may be responsible for a far larger share of the soaring levels of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, in the earth’s atmosphere than previously thought, new research has found.

The findings, published in the journal Nature, add urgency of efforts to rein in methane emissions from the fossil fuel industry, which routinely leaks or intentionally releases the gas into air.

“We’ve identified a gigantic discrepancy that shows the industry needs to, at the very least, improve their monitoring,” said Benjamin Hmiel, a researcher at the University of Rochester and the study’s lead author. “If these emissions are truly coming from oil, gas extraction, production use, the industry isn’t even reporting or seeing that right now.”

Atmospheric concentrations of methane have more than doubled from preindustrial times. A New York Times investigation into “super emitter” sites last year revealed vast quantities of methane being released from oil wells and other energy facilities instead of being captured.”