Big Money Obama

That should be his new rap name, don’t you think?

Obama retains the support of most progressive interest groups, which are working furiously to help him advance immigration reform (generally favored by big business and also supported by some Republicans) and gun control. But his chief claim to liberal greatness since passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010 is probably the policy “evolution” that led him to support marriage equality—and that position is also supported by most major corporations. After all, the Defense of Marriage Act causes a lot of bureaucratic problems as well as moral ones, and Wall Street donors have been instrumental in pushing gay marriage into the political mainstream. So Obama’s personal progress on that issue has been consistent with changing corporate mores as much as any concept of justice.

“In 2008 you could sort of hope [Obama] was not going to be phenomenally corrupt,” said another Democratic congressional aide. But, “He believes corporations should run the world. Obama was hired to destroy liberalism and he succeeded.”

The big argument taking place among Beltway reporters and bloggers in recent weeks has been over how much power Obama has when it comes to the gridlock besetting the government. But the genuinely challenging politics of advancing big-ticket items like immigration in the face of unprecedented partisan polarization should not obscure more troubling—and personal, rather than institutional—facts. The growth of income inequality has worsened under Obama, no one has been put in jail for destroying the economy, and cash is sloshing around elections more than ever before. While the mildly redistributive impact of his health-care overhaul remains admirable, getting rid of the one part of the sequester that only affects rich businessmen by restoring funding for air-traffic controllers is not.

So while it is true that our political system is dominated by a bunch of conservative old white men from sparsely populated states and a Senate that probably shouldn’t even exist, Obama isn’t necessarily part of the solution. So far in his second term, he’s beginning to validate the left-wing caricature of himself as a technocrat tool of financial elites intent on earning a shitload of money after he leaves office.

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Take them, we weren’t using those civil liberties anyway!

Okay, can people stop telling me “Obama is going to be a real progressive in his second term” now?

If President Obama asked you to renovate your house to include a new, tiny room where a government agent could sleep and listen to all of your family’s conversations—and could do so in secret, without you ever knowing whether the agent was there or not—how would you feel? Would you protest? Or would you build the room … and simply stop having candid discussions with your own family?

Luckily, President Obama wants to do no such thing. Unluckily, he wants to do something very similar.

He wants your favorite websites—Facebook and Google, and more —to revamp their systems so that government agents can easily plug into them via a backdoor and monitor your IMs, your DMs, your emails, and all the other communication you use on the Internet.

Basically: He wants the Internet rebuilt, piece by piece, so the government can more easily spy on you.

Charlie Savage outlines the proposal in today’s New York Times:

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The law of intended consequences

One of the things you may have noticed is that, as a result of Republican policies in the past 30 years, our urban centers have been deprived of state and federal revenue-sharing to the point where their best institutions are now barely functional.

Remember that, the next time a politician starts talking about tax cuts, which invariably favor the wealthier among us. They’re really talking about starving the things that once made cities great.

The STEM cover story

Anyone who’s paid any attention to reality in the past 30 years has heard this same old fairy tale, and sees it for what it is: A tool to bring in low-paid immigrants and drive U.S. wages down. That’s what all these politicians and education “reformers” are up to, and I feel bad for the kids who take the bait, go deeply into debt to get a STEM degree and find out… there’s no shortage of engineers!

If there’s one thing that everyone can agree on in Washington, it’s that the country has a woeful shortage of workers trained in science, technology, engineering and math — what’s referred to as STEM.

President Obama has said that improving STEM education is one of his top priorities. Chief executives regularly come through Washington complaining that they can’t find qualified American workers for openings at their firms that require a science background. And armed with this argument in the debate over immigration policy, lobbyists are pushing hard for more temporary work visas, known as H-1Bs, which they say are needed to make up for the lack of Americans with STEM skills.

But not everyone agrees. A study released Wednesday by the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute reinforces what a number of researchers have come to believe: that the STEM worker shortage is a myth.

The EPI study found that the United States has “more than a sufficient supply of workers available to work in STEM occupations.” Basic dynamics of supply and demand would dictate that if there were a domestic labor shortage, wages should have risen. Instead, researchers found, they’ve been flat, with many Americans holding STEM degrees unable to enter the field and a sharply higher share of foreign workers taking jobs in the information technology industry. (IT jobs make up 59 percent of the STEM workforce, according to the study.)
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They’re just terrible and have been, pretty much from the beginning. Rachel Maddow really lets them have it:

Rachel Maddow has grown infuriated with Politifact multiple times in the past, but the rage she displayed towards her arch-nemesis on her MondayMSNBC show was truly unparalleled.

Even though the fact-checking site confirmed Martina Navratilova’s claim that an employer could fire a person in 29 U.S. states for being gay, the site rated the tennis star’s comment as only “half true.”

“This is why the very important concept of fact-checking has become pointless at a time in our country when we really need it to mean something,” Maddow said. “Because Politifact exists and has branded themselves as the generic arbiter of fact, and the paragon of fact-checking, and they are terrible at it! They are terrible!”

She added:

They fact-checked a statement about state law, found it to be true, decided it didn’t seem seemly or whatever to actually call it true, so then they researched other unrelated information about how there are other kinds of things besides states like, ‘Some companies decide they don’t want to discriminate and doesn’t that count for something?’ NO! Because that is not the statement you are fact-checking. The statement you were supposed to be fact-checking is true and until someone figures out how to sue you to retrieve the meaning of the word ‘fact’ from the dark and and airless hole you have stuffed it into, Politifact, than no, it is not okay for you to just make this stuff up. You are truly terrible.

Plan B ruling

Imagine, Obama’s convoluted rationale for not allowing the sale of Plan B over the counter to minors was too much, even for a Reagan-appointed judge.

This morning, Korman repeatedly slammed his hand down on the table for emphasis, interrupting the government counsel’s every other sentence with assertions like, “You’re just playing games here,” “You’re making an intellectually dishonest argument,” “You’re basically lying,” “This whole thing is a charade,” “I’m entitled to say this is a lot of nonsense, am I not?” and “Contrary to the baloney you were giving me …” He also accused the administration of hypocrisy for opposing voter ID laws but being engaged in the “suppression of the rights of women” with the ID requirement for the drug.

Frank Amanat, arguing on behalf of the administration, said that the court had overreached by ordering a particular policy rather than remanding to the agency for further review. But he could not say, in response to repeated demands from Korman, that the result would be any different if it were returned to the agency. Nor did he specify any harm that would come from making the drug more available.
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