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Paul Krugman: Obama has accomplished far more than anyone gives him credit for

Healthcare for nearly every American. Ending Don't Ask, Don't Tell. The largest investment in green energy ever. Banning lobbyists from his organization. The Dodd-Frank Bill. And a thousand tiny victories. Obama’s Big Deal - NYTimes.com
In fact, I’d suggest using this phrase to describe the Obama administration as a whole. F.D.R. had his New Deal; well, Mr. Obama has his Big Deal. He hasn’t delivered everything his supporters wanted, and at times the survival of his achievements seemed very much in doubt. But if progressives look at where we are as the second term begins, they’ll find grounds for a lot of (qualified) satisfaction. Consider, in particular, three areas: health care, inequality and financial reform. Health reform is, as Mr. Biden suggested, the centerpiece of the Big Deal. Progressives have been trying to get some form of universal health insurance since the days of Harry Truman; they’ve finally succeeded. True, this wasn’t the health reform many were looking for. Rather than simply providing health insurance to everyone by extending Medicare to cover the whole population, we’ve constructed a Rube Goldberg device of regulations and subsidies that will cost more than single-payer and have many more cracks for people to fall through. But this was what was possible given the political reality — the power of the insurance industry, the general reluctance of voters with good insurance to accept change. And experience with Romneycare in Massachusetts — hey, this is a great age for irony — shows that such a system is indeed workable, and it can provide Americans with a huge improvement in medical and financial security. What about inequality? On that front, sad to say, the Big Deal falls very far short of the New Deal. Like F.D.R., Mr. Obama took office in a nation marked by huge disparities in income and wealth. But where the New Deal had a revolutionary impact, empowering workers and creating a middle-class society that lasted for 40 years, the Big Deal has been limited to equalizing policies at the margin. . . .

January 19, 2013

Why Is Obama Bashing a Whistleblower Law He Already Signed?

Why Is Obama Bashing a Whistleblower Law He Already Signed? | Mother Jones
Obama signed a new law expanding whistleblower protections for some government employees in November, and on January 2, he signed the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act, which extends similar protections to defense contractors who expose waste and corruption. But the NDAA signing came with a caveat that blindsided the bill's backers and has some in the whistleblower community up in arms: In a signing statement, Obama wrote that the bill's whistleblowing protections "could be interpreted in a manner that would interfere with my authority to manage and direct executive branch officials," and he promised to ignore them if they conflicted with his power to "supervise, control, and correct employees' communications with the Congress in cases where such communications would be unlawful or would reveal information that is properly privileged or otherwise confidential." "12 million contractors are going to be out in the cold because of this," warns Jesselyn Radack, the national security and human rights director for the Government Accountability Project and a former whistleblower. "Asking employees to go to their boss before going to Congress defeats the purpose of blowing the whistle." Radack adds that presidents "use signing statements to direct their subordinates on how to interpret and administer a law, and it can have substantial legal impact." She points to George W. Bush's signing statements on torture and the USA PATRIOT Act as examples, both of which allowed the former president to dodge parts of those laws. "The language Obama used wasn't defined, it's completely ambiguous, and it's already led to confusion," says Angela Canterbury, director of public policy at the Project on Government Oversight. "I can imagine contractors claiming that disclosures made by whistleblowers are 'confidential,' and I think it could likely have a chilling effect."

January 18, 2013

In San Francisco, carrying three condoms is probable cause to lock you up for prostitution

It's an old, stupid law that the police still use to harass people. Sorry, Everybody: Carrying Three Or More Condoms Still Makes You a Prostitute: SFist
Dudes and ladies, straight or gay — If you go out this weekend with three or more condoms in your pocket or purse, there's a chance the San Francisco Police could keep you locked up for up to three days on suspicion of prostitution. This has been the case in the city since the dawn of prophylactics, apparently, but the disappointing update to the ancient policy comes by way of an announcement that the District Attorney and the Public Defender's offices are holding up a policy change while awaiting a review of how it will affect ongoing cases. Three months ago, SFPD started testing a much more progressive condom stance when Chief Greg Suhr said his department would no longer take photographs of condoms or mention them in police reports, thus allowing the city to use them as evidence that a suspect could be a prostitute. Under the old rules, police could actually accuse anyone of being a sex worker just because they were optimistic enough to be carrying three or more condoms on their person (one for good luck, one in case of accidental breakage and a third, just in case things went well and you feel like sticking around a little longer in the morning). Of course, said person would have to be arrested for something else first, so it's a bit like getting a ticket for not using your seatbelt during a DUI stop.