Posts Tagged ‘budget



11
Apr
14

Rise and Shine

On This Day: First Lady Michelle Obama participates in an interview with Stephen Colbert during a taping of “The Colbert Report,” at the Colbert Report Studio in New York, N.Y., April 11, 2012 (Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

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Today (All Times Eastern)

11:0 President Obama announces the nomination of Sylvia Burwell to be HHS Secretary

12:15: First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden Host a Joining Forces Caregivers Event

1:55: The President and First Lady depart the White House

3:05 Arrive New York City

4:10 The President delivers remarks at the National Action Network’s 16th Annual Convention

11:30 The President and First Lady depart New York

12:40 Arrives White House

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 Caitlin Macneal: Arkansas Free Clinic Closing, Citing More Insured Through Obamacare

A medical clinic in Mena, Ark. announced that it would be closing, citing a large drop in need for the clinic as people have signed up for health insurance under Obamacare. “Because people are qualifying for insurance coverage through the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, our free medical clinic will not be needed anymore,” Stacey Bowser, the director of the 9th Street Ministries Clinic, told the Mena Star.

“We’ve gone from seeing around 300 people a month on a regular basis, but as people were enrolling in Obamacare, the numbers we were seeing have dropped. We were down to 80 people that came through the medical clinic in February, all the way down to three people at the medical clinic in March. Our services won’t be needed anymore, and this will conclude our mission,” she continued.

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LA Times: Bank Of America To Pay $772 Million For Illegal Credit Card Practices

Bank of America Corp. has agreed to refund customers $727 million and pay $45 million in fines for illegal credit card practices, according to a settlement with federal regulators announced Wednesday. The refunds will go to as many as 2.9 million people who were deceived into signing up for products such as credit monitoring and identity theft protection or were improperly charged for such services, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau said. The action was part of a crackdown by the bureau on deceptive marketing, enrollment and billing practices related to such so-called add-on products by credit card companies. Bank of America is the fifth financial services company to be hit with fines and refund orders.

“Bank of America both deceived consumers and unfairly billed consumers for services not performed,” said Richard Cordray, the bureau’s director. “We will not tolerate such practices and will continue to be vigilant in our pursuit of companies who wrong consumers in this market.” Bank of America agreed to the refunds and penalties without admitting or denying the allegations. In addition to the refunds, the bank will pay a $20-million civil penalty to the bureau and a $25-million civil penalty to the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.

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Judy Peres: How Obamacare Affects Women’s Health

Meg Finnegan thought she might never be able to afford to have a baby. Finnegan, who is self-employed and has a pre-existing medical condition, was having trouble finding health insurance at all, let alone a policy that would cover pregnancy and childbirth. So she was thrilled to discover that the plan she signed up for last fall under the Affordable Care Act includes maternity coverage. “When you don’t have insurance, you’re afraid of any life event that brings you to the hospital, for a good or a bad reason,” said Finnegan, 37, an Evanston resident. “If I didn’t have insurance, I wouldn’t have a baby. All those doctor’s appointments and tests, and possibly a high-risk delivery — how would you pay for it?” A guarantee of maternity coverage — all new insurance policies must provide it — is just one of a basket of provisions in the federal health law that specifically benefit women. Other guaranteed services include preventive care, which must be covered with no out-of-pocket cost. For most plans, preventive care includes at least one annual “well-woman” visit, breast-feeding support, contraceptives and contraceptive counseling, annual mammograms and cervical cancer screening.

Women’s health advocates also expect women to benefit more from some provisions in the law that apply to people of either sex. For example, the expansion of Medicaid, as well as financial assistance in the form of tax credits and cost sharing, is expected to disproportionately benefit women, who are more likely than men to have low incomes. Insurers also are required to cover mental health screening and treatment, and women have higher rates of depression and other types of mental illness. Kathy Waligora of EverThrive Illinois (formerly the Illinois Maternal and Child Health Coalition) said she considers the law “a huge victory for women.” Finnegan, who said she has a rare condition called Behcet’s disease, is one of 129 million Americans with pre-existing conditions, which private policies generally did not cover before the health overhaul. Now, by law, insurers may not deny coverage or charge higher premiums on the basis of health status. “I couldn’t get insurance,” said Finnegan, who owns TruFit Personal Training Studio in Evanston. “I tried five different companies. One offered me a policy for $850 a month with a huge deductible and terrible coverage — nothing related to my condition. But all my medical costs are related to that, so basically it meant no coverage.” At the same time, many insurance plans used to consider pregnancy, cesarean section, and even domestic violence and sexual abuse as pre-existing conditions.

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USA Today: Man Cleared Of NYC Murder After 25 Years In Prison

A man who spent almost a quarter-century behind bars for murder was freed Tuesday and cleared of a killing that happened when he was 1,100 miles away on a Disney World vacation. Jonathan Fleming was in tears as he hugged his lawyers and family in a Brooklyn courtroom. Relatives said, “Thank you, God!” after he was freed. “After 25 years, come hug your mother,” she said, and he did. Defense attorneys and prosecutors asked a Brooklyn judge to dismiss Fleming’s conviction in the 1989 shooting. A key eyewitness recanted, new witnesses have implicated someone else and a review by prosecutors turned up a hotel receipt putting Fleming in Florida hours before the killing, defense lawyers Anthony Mayol and Taylor Koss said.

“He is elated and stunned, while tempered by the fact that he realizes that this is just the first step in getting his life back,” Koss said before the hearing. Fleming had plane tickets, videos and postcards from his trip, his lawyers said, but authorities suggested he could have been in New York at the actual time of the shooting, and a woman testified that she had seen him shoot Rush. The exoneration, first reported by the New York Daily News, comes amid scrutiny of Brooklyn prosecutors’ process for reviewing questionable convictions — scrutiny that comes partly from the new DA Kenneth Thompson himself. He unseated longtime DA Charles “Joe” Hynes last year after a campaign that focused partly on wrongful convictions on Hynes’ watch. Hynes had created a special conviction integrity unit to review false-conviction claims, but some saw the effort as slow-moving and defensive.

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Jim Puzzanghera: Small-Business Optimism Rebounds As Winter Ends, Survey Says

Small-business owners were more optimistic about the economy last month and expected sales to increase as a winter marked by severe weather ended, according to survey results released Tuesday. The confidence index from the National Federation of Independent Business rose to 93.4 in March, from 91.4 the previous month. The measure is one of the few monthly barometers of the small-business sector, which is a key driver of the economy.

About 12% of the those surveyed said they expected higher sales volumes during the next three months, up 9 percentage points from the February survey. Hiring also improved last month. Small-business owners reported increasing their payrolls by an average of 0.18 workers in March, up from 0.11 the previous month. It was the sixth straight month the survey showed an increase in hiring.

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Igor Volsky: Kathleen Sebelius’ Biggest Achievement Is The One No One Is Talking About

Kathleen Sebelius wasn’t President Obama’s first choice to run the Department of Health and Human Services and oversee the passage and implementation of health care reform. But after Sen. Tom Daschle (D-SD) dropped out, Obama tapped the two-term Kansas governor and former state insurance commissioner. Sebelius didn’t have much D.C. experience, but had an impressive track record of working across the aisle as a Democratic governor in a red state. And while the united GOP opposition to health legislation eventually overwhelmed any goodwill Sebelius had built up within the Republican party and the rocky rollout of Obamacare has come to dominate the discussion of her tenure as secretary, that bipartisan quality proved essential to the implementation of the law. Sebelius leaves the office having enrolled some 10 million people in health care coverage. This was only possible because she convinced numerous Republican lawmakers in bright red states to extended health care coverage to the poorest Americans. No one is talking about it, but it is her biggest and most impressive achievement as secretary.

In the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s 2012 decision invalidating Obamacare’s compulsory Medicaid expansion, most Republican-controlled states refused to extend health care coverage to residents below 133 percent of the poverty line. But Sebelius traveled the country, urging Republican governors to reconsider. As of today, eight GOP-controlled states have approved expansion — in no small part because of the flexibility Sebelius and her team provided. The flexibility extended beyond Medicaid. Sebelius and her team convinced red states to form partnership health care exchanges in which the federal government and the state would share responsibilities in running the marketplaces. They routinely presented GOP governors with information on all other state models and waivers, assuring them that they could customize reform to their specific state needs. As a result, several Republican-dominated states bucked the national party and chose to run their exchanges either on their own, or in collaboration with HHS.

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Josh Israel: Jindal Demands Congressman Resign Over Extramarital Kissing, But Defended Prostitute-Hiring Senator

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) called for Rep. Vance McAllister (R-LA) to resign his House seat, after a videotape surfaced of the freshman Congressman kissing a married woman who is not his wife. But in 2007, Jindal defended Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) when he was revealed to be a client of a DC prostitution service. Jindal released a statement on Thursday, calling McAllister’s behavior “an embarrassment” and suggesting that “the best way to get privacy and work on putting his family back together is to resign from Congress.” But seven years ago, then-Congressman Jindal made no such suggestion to the state’s U.S. Senator. After Vitter’s name appeared on the phone list for “D.C. Madam” Deborah Jeane Palfrey, he apologized for the “very serious sin in my past.” Yet Jindal’s response was to stand by Vitter

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Jonathan Cohn: Sebelius Resigns

On Thursday morning, Kathleen Sebelius testified before Congress and announced that Obamacare signups had reached 7.5 million people. On Thursday evening, news broke that Sebelius was stepping down as Secretary of Health and Human Services. Implementing Obamacare was never going to be easy. The law is full of compromises that, however politically necessary, weakened regulations and depleted funding that would have made introducing the new insurance system a lot easier. And Sebelius never had the kind of control a chief executive officer would. She was always dealing with a host of other players—from superiors at the White House to underlings at the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to Democrats on Capitol Hill to lobbyists for the health care industry. And that’s to say nothing of her war with the congressional Republicans, who were trying actively to sabotage the law through repeal votes, funding cuts, and intimidation of would-be allies.

More important, the law seems to be working, despite all of those early problems. That 7.5 million figure she announced on Thursday is a genuinely big deal—particularly since, from what I hear, the final number is likely to be even higher. Sebelius can’t take all or even most of the credit for those successes, any more than she should take all or most of the blame for the law’s troubles. But her role in those achievements (and others, like improvements to Head Start and stronger regulations on child care safety) is also part of her record. To take one obvious example, Sebelius worked extensively with Republican governors who wanted to expand Medicaid in states with hostile conservative constituencies. Some of those efforts succeeded. The memories of Obamacare’s difficult start will certainly linger. But to the millions of people around the country who now have access to affordable medical care, I’m not sure that really matters.

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Fem Chat: 6 Things Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler Missed About The Gender Wage Gap

Glenn Kessler presents a very one-sided discussion of the wage gap in this April 9th “Fact Checker” post in which he increased President Obama’s rating on his use of wage gap statistics from one Pinocchio (in the 2012 campaign) to two—he should have lowered it from one to zero. President Obama has correctly used a long standing data series issued every year by the Census Bureau. The 77 percent wage ratio figure is an accurate measure of the inequality in earnings between U.S. women and men who work full-time, year-round in the labor market. Here are some other things to keep in mind about that statistic: 1) Kessler claims that President Obama uses the 77 percent wage ratio figure because it shows the biggest wage gap when other data series available from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show slightly smaller gaps.

Leaving aside how Kessler could get inside the President’s head and know why he picked a certain series, everyone who writes about this issue should know that this figure based on median annual earnings is the historical headline figure that allows the longest comparison across time. 2) Kessler claims that the other series—weekly or hourly earnings—are more accurate, but there is simply no basis for saying so. The 77 percent figure actually includes the broadest range of kinds of earnings; for example annual bonus payments are a big part of remuneration in some fields and are included in the 77 percent figure, but are excluded from the weekly or hourly earnings figures.

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Brian Beutler: The Right Searches For Obamacare Alternative, Finds Obamacare

The Affordable Care Act’s enrollment comeback has confounded conservatives in many ways. The realization that there happens to be popular demand for something as self-evidently grotesque as Obamacare has given rise to a palpable cognitive dissonance on the right. A growing recognition among Republicans that they can’t bank on organizing the midterm campaign around relentless Obamacare opposition has party elders looking at contingency plans (even if they haven’t exactly gone back to the drawing board). But most importantly, it has thrown the conservative health policy community for a loop, and completely wrong-footed Republicans in Congress who were hoping — against considerable odds and a well-worn historical pattern — to craft an Obamacare alternative that both passes the laugh test and doesn’t create a significantly lower level of welfare.

If enrollment had sputtered, that task would have been considerably easier. The fact it surged in March, and continues to grow today, measurably limits their options. If you accept (or acquiesce) to the need for a large coverage expansion and don’t want a single payer or substantial expansion of existing public systems, you need to make sure private insurers cover the sick, which means you need guaranteed issue and community rating — so that nobody is closed out of the system, and so that risk is spread across large populations, not assigned to individuals. But if you have those two things then you need a coverage requirement, so you’re not just spreading risk among old, sick people. And if you have that mandate, you need substantial subsidies — means tested or otherwise — so people aren’t required to purchase insurance they can’t afford. Of course, that’s just Obamacare.

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Bill Schneider: An Election Democrats Can Win

Obamacare versus Ryanomics. That’s the battle line for 2014. It’s also a battle Democrats can win. Why? Because most Americans are pragmatists. Pragmatists believe that whatever works is right. Ideologues believe that if something is wrong, it can’t possibly work — even if it does work. That’s the Republican view of Obamacare: It’s wrong, so it can’t possibly work. But it now looks like Obamacare may work. More than 7 million people signed up for health insurance by the March 31 deadline, meeting the Obama administration’s original goal. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said, “The Affordable Care Act, whether my Republican friends want to admit it or not, is working.” On April 1, Ryan came out with a 10-year budget plan involving massive cuts in popular federal programs like Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, education, student loans and environmental protection.

Ryan’s proposal would eventually change Medicare — the most popular of all federal programs — from an insurance policy to a “premium support” program, where seniors would be given subsidies to purchase private insurance. GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney proposed doing that in 2012. Look where it got him.  Democrats will run against Ryanomics. Republicans will run against Obamacare. Remember the rule of pragmatism: Whatever works is right. If Americans come to believe Obamacare works, they will be reluctant to throw it out. Especially the millions who will already have a stake in Obamacare. On the other hand, Ryan is threatening to do away with programs like Medicare that people know are working. Why? Because he and his fellow Republicans think those programs are wrong. Attacking programs that work is pure ideological bloodlust. And a losing battle for sure.

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Ann Sanner: About 106,000 Ohioans Enroll In Expanded Medicaid

More than 106,000 Ohioans have signed up for Medicaid under an expansion of the taxpayer funded health program, while thousands of others are waiting to hear whether they are deemed eligible. Republican Gov. John Kasich’s administration moved forward with extending Medicaid eligibility last fall under President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul. Coverage took effect Jan. 1. The safety-net program for the poor and disabled provides coverage for one of every five Ohioans. The Medicaid expansion allows those earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level to gain health care coverage. For a single adult, that’s about $16,104 a year. Ohio’s monthly report on Medicaid caseloads shows that 106,238 residents had enrolled under the extension as of March 31.

That’s about 29 percent of the roughly 366,000 newly eligible people estimated to sign up by the end of June 2015. Residents have been enrolling in Medicaid through the state’s new benefits website. Potential enrollees can use the site instead of visiting county Job and Family Services offices, where many low-income residents apply for food stamps, cash assistance and other public programs. More than 345,000 people have sought Medicaid coverage through the state’s benefit site since Oct. 1. About 65 percent of the applications have been resolved, while roughly 120,000 are still pending. Many of those cases await eligibility determinations by the state’s largest counties.

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@Politics_PR

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LOL GOP: 5 Ways Paul Ryan’s Budget Screws Seniors

Republicans often point out that Obamacare cuts Medicare Advantage and reforms the program. But they fail to mention, as Democrats often do, the benefits the president’s health law has given to current Medicare beneficiaries. The National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare reports: The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services recently reported that since the passage of the ACA, over 7.9 million Medicare beneficiaries in the Medicare Part D donut hole have saved $9.9 billion on their prescription drugs, an average of $1,265 per person. Also, 37.2 million people with Medicare took advantage of at least one preventive service with no cost sharing, including an estimated 26.5 million people with traditional Medicare, and more than 4 million who took advantage of the Annual Wellness Visit. Ryan’s budget would repeal those benefits while keeping the cuts Republicans have been campaigning against for four years now.

Obamacare reforms have also lowered the growth of Medicare’s costs to zero. If this trend continues, the program would be solvent even through the peak of Baby Boomer retirements, protecting seniors from future benefit cuts. In an effort to balance the budget in 10 years while keeping tax cuts that mostly benefit the rich, Ryan would cut a slew of programs seniors have relied on. “Funding for Older Americans Act programs like Meals on Wheels, family caregiver support, job training, senior centers, and disease prevention programs, would suffer significant cuts when the need for these services is increasing,” the National Council on Aging (NCOA) reports. “Over time, these programs—which are NOT contributing to the federal budget deficit—would be cut by 22 percent below current levels.” Another $137 billion would be cut from the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, aka food stamps. Currently, 9 million seniors and people with disabilities receive SNAP benefits.

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BBC: Hamid Aboutalebi: US Congress Passes Ban On Iran Envoy

The US Congress has sent a bill to the president that would bar Iran’s pick for ambassador to the UN from entering the country. The House of Representatives passed the measure unanimously two days after the Senate approved it. Hamid Aboutalebi was a part of the Muslim student group that seized the US embassy in Tehran in 1979. The White House has told Iran Mr Aboutalebi was “not viable” but has not taken a position on the bill. Fifty-two Americans were held for 444 days at the height of Iran’s Islamic revolution, which saw pro-American Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi sent into exile and Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini take power.

Mr Aboutalebi, who previously served as Iran’s ambassador to Belgium, the European Union, Italy and Australia, told Iranian media his participation in the hostage crisis began only after the initial seizure of the embassy, and primarily involved translation. On Thursday, White House spokesman Jay Carney said, “We’ve made clear and have communicated to the Iranians that the selection they’ve put forward is not viable.” As the host country of the United Nations, the US has previously but rarely denied entry to an envoy or head of state. Those included a previous Iranian diplomat and Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir. In those cases the applications were withdrawn after the US signalled opposition, or the state department simply declined to process the visas. Those options are available in Mr Aboutalebi’s case.

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Paul Krugman: Health Care Nightmare

When it comes to health reform, Republicans suffer from delusions of disaster. They know, just know, that the Affordable Care Act is doomed to utter failure, so failure is what they see, never mind the facts on the ground. Thus, on Tuesday, Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader, dismissed the push for pay equity as an attempt to “change the subject from the nightmare of Obamacare”; on the same day, the nonpartisan RAND Corporation released a study estimating “a net gain of 9.3 million in the number of American adults with health insurance coverage from September 2013 to mid-March 2014.” Some nightmare. And the overall gain, including children and those who signed up during the late-March enrollment surge, must be considerably larger. First, there was the amazing come-from-behind surge in enrollments.

Then there were a series of surveys — from Gallup, the Urban Institute, and RAND — all suggesting large gains in coverage. Taken individually, any one of these indicators might be dismissed as an outlier, but taken together they paint an unmistakable picture of major progress. But wait: What about all the people who lost their policies thanks to Obamacare? The answer is that this looks more than ever like a relatively small issue hyped by right-wing propaganda. RAND finds that fewer than a million people who previously had individual insurance became uninsured — and many of those transitions, one guesses, had nothing to do with Obamacare. It’s worth noting that, so far, not one of the supposed horror stories touted in Koch-backed anti-reform advertisements has stood up to scrutiny, suggesting that real horror stories are rare. Republicans clearly have no idea how to respond to these developments. They can’t offer any real alternative to Obamacare.Their political strategy has been to talk vaguely about replacing reform while waiting for its inevitable collapse. And what if reform doesn’t collapse? They have no idea what to do.

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On This Day

President Obama listens during a meeting with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel at Blair House in Washington, D.C., before a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India, April, 11, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama meets with Director of Speechwriting Jon Favreau on the Colonnade outside the Oval Office, April 11, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama returns to the Oval Office through the Rose Garden after surprising students from Altona Middle School in Longmont, Colo., during their White House tour, April 11, 2011. President Obama received a letter from the mother of an Altona student who worried that her son’s trip to Washington, D.C., would be canceled if there was a government shutdown (Photo by Pete Souza)

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Sherman and Tammie Gillums look at their pictures with First Lady Michelle Obama as Mrs. Obama continues to greets guests at the Joining Forces Community Challenge event on the South Lawn of the White House, April 11, 2012 (Photo by Sonya N. Hebert)

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President Obama holds Chaplain (Captain) Emil Kapaun’s Easter stole in the Oval Office during a greet with Kapaun’s family in the Oval Office, April 11, 2013. The President and First Lady Michelle Obama met with members of Chaplain Kapaun’s family before awarding him the Medal of Honor posthumously during a ceremony in the East Room (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama talks on the phone with Nicole Hockley and families of the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings in Newtown, Conn., in the Oval Office, April 11, 2013 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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04
Mar
14

President Obama Unveils His 2015 Budget And Speaks On Ukraine

@WhiteHouse: President Obama’s #budget invests in his vision of giving every 4-year-old in America access to quality preschool.

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President Barack Obama sits with 3- and 4-year old students in a pre-kindergarten class at Powell Elementary School in Washington. Obama chose the school as a venue Tuesday to propose an expansion of popular tax credits for middle class and working poor Americans in a fiscal 2015 budget

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President Barack Obama gets a hand standing up after sitting on the floor with 3- and 4-year old students in a pre-kindergarten class at Powell Elementary School

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President Barack Obama sits with Marcus Wesby and other preschool student during his visit to Powell Elementary School in the Petworth neighborhood of Washington

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President Barack Obama greets 3- and 4-year olds in teacher Laura Steinmetz’s pre-kindergarten class at Powell Elementary School

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Continue reading ‘President Obama Unveils His 2015 Budget And Speaks On Ukraine’

02
Mar
14

Rise and Shine

On This Day: President Obama meets with senior advisors in the Oval Office, March 2, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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The Week Ahead:

Monday: President Obama will host Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House. The Vice President will also attend.

Tuesday: The President will hold an event on the FY2015 budget and the plan to expand opportunity for all in Washington, DC. In the evening, the President will attend a DSCC event in the Washington, DC area.

First Lady Michelle Obama will join Secretary of State John Kerry to honor the recipients of the International Women of Courage Award in the Dean Acheson Auditorium of the U.S. Department of State.

Wednesday: The President will travel to the Hartford, Connecticut area for an event on the minimum wage. Following this, he will travel to Boston, Massachusetts for two DNC events.

First Lady Michelle Obama will participate in a conversation with Robin Roberts at the Leading Women Defined Summit, hosted by BET Networks. The discussion will be around the Affordable Care Act and a personal reflection on health and wellness. The First Lady will also visit a health center to highlight the work that hospitals, doctors and clinics are doing to educate their patients about the Affordable Care Act and how patients can get insurance.

Thursday: The President will hold an event on the economy and healthcare in Washington, DC.

Friday: The President and the First Lady will travel to the Miami area for an event on expanding opportunity for all.

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Timothy Snyder: Beneath The Hypocrisy, Putin Is Vulnerable. Here’s Where His Soft Spots Are

Russian intervention in Ukraine is directed against the EU, which Moscow has now decided is a threat to its interests and indeed a civilizational challenge. How can Europe respond to the immediate problem of military intervention in Ukraine and the more fundamental political challenge to European values and achievements?  Much of the Russian elite has sent its children to private schools in the European Union or Switzerland. Beyond that, since no Russian of any serious means trusts the Russian financial system, wealthy Russians park their wealth in European banks. In other words, the Russian social order depends upon the Europe that Russian propaganda mocks. And beneath hypocrisy, as usual, lies vulnerability.

Soft power can hurt. General restrictions on tourist visas, a few thousand travel bans, and a few dozen frozen accounts might make a real difference. If millions of urban Russians understood that invading Ukraine meant no summer vacation, they might have second thoughts. If the Russian elites understood that invading Ukraine meant dealing with their disaffected teenagers on an indefinite basis, they too might reconsider. If wealthy Russians understood that their accounts could be frozen, as has just happened to Ukrainian oligarchs, that might affect their calculations as well.

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Andrew Ackerman: Obama To Request 30% Bump In CFTC Funding

President Barack Obama’s 2015 budget plan, set for release Tuesday, will request a 30% funding boost for the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, according to people familiar with the matter. Mr. Obama is expected to request $280 million for the CFTC, these people said, a $65 million increase above the current-year funding levels of $215 million. The requested increase, which would be the largest in the agency’s history, would be funded through user fees to entities policed by the agency.  An administration official said the funding boost, if enacted, would allow the agency to increase its staff by more than one-third and modernize its technology systems.

“The president is committed to securing sufficient funding to enable the CFTC to effectively oversee the futures and swaps markets,” the official said. The agency, which is responsible for implementing dozens of new rules required under the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial-overhaul law, has consistently warned it is underfunded. The funding woes prompted the CFTC to furlough employees last year and delay or shelve certain enforcement matters. Under the White House plan, the user fees would ensure taxpayers don’t have to bear the agency’s funding costs and put the CFTC on equal footing with other financial regulators such as the Securities and Exchange Commission.

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TPM: Hundreds Of Gunmen Surround Military Base In Crimea

Hundreds of armed men in trucks and armored vehicles surrounded a Ukrainian military base Sunday in Crimea, blocking its soldiers from leaving. The outnumbered Ukrainians placed a tank at the base’s gate, leaving the two sides in a tense standoff. In Kiev, Ukraine’s new prime minister urged Russian President Vladimir Putin to pull back his military, warning that “we are on the brink of disaster.” Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk spoke a day after Russian forces took over the strategic Black Sea peninsula of Crimea from Ukraine without firing a shot.

“There was no reason for the Russian Federation to invade Ukraine,” Yatsenyuk said after a closed session of his new parliament in Kiev.  Ukraine’s acting president, Oleksandr Turchynov, announced late Saturday that he had ordered Ukraine’s armed forces to be at full readiness because of the threat of “potential aggression.” He also said he had ordered stepped-up security at nuclear power plants, airports and other strategic infrastructure.

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NBC News: Kerry Denounces Russian ‘Act Of Aggression,’ Warns Of Trade Freeze

Secretary of State John Kerry denounced the Russian movement of troops into Ukraine Sunday as “an act of aggression” and accused President Vladimir Putin of “possibly trying to annex Crimea.” “He’s going to lose on the international stage, Russia is going to lose, the Russian people are going to lose, and he’s going to lose all of the glow that came out of the Olympics, his $60 billion extravaganza,” Kerry said on NBC’s Meet the Press. He warned that Russia will suffer a loss of trade and investment if Putin does not reverse course.

Russia has “major investment and trade needs” which are bound to suffer if Russian troops don’t leave Ukraine, he said. “There’s a unified view by all of the foreign ministers I talked with yesterday – all of the G-8 and more — that they’re simply going to isolate Russia; that they’re not going to engage with Russia in a normal business-as-usual manner…. The ruble is already going down and feeling the impact of this,” he said.  He also warned that “there could even be ultimately asset freezes,” but did not specify how long it would take for foreign governments and banking authorities to freeze Russian assets held abroad. He also threatened bans on issuing visas to Russians seeking to travel to Europe, the United States and other countries.

More here (Video at the link)

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Hayes Brown: 5 Ways The U.S. Can Respond To Russia Invading Ukraine – Without Going To War

1. Suspend Russia’s membership in the G-8 Russia joining the Group of 7 in 1998, despite being the weakest of the group’s economies at the time, was considered a huge boost to the prestige a country still recovering after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Russia is also due to host the next meeting of the G-8 in Sochi, the site of the recently concluded Olympics, this June. Rather than the U.S. simply boycotting the meeting, the Obama administration could lead the charge along with the other members to suspend Russia’s membership in the group.

3. Enact trade sanctions against Russia As recently as December, Russia was looking to boost trade with the United States — which already stands at about $40 billion annually — though remaining just shy of a free trade deal. Both Russia and the United States are members of the World Trade Organization, which brings with it certain obligations when it comes to tarrifs and trade embargoes. But insofar as those obligations allow, the U.S. can use reduced trade with Russia to show its displeasure.

4. Suspension of NATO cooperation and participation After the collapse of the USSR, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization welcomed in several of the formerly Soviet states, including Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia. Russia has long seen this expansion as a threat, which is part of the reason Ukraine is not a NATO member state. To help assauge those fears, NATO began outreach to Russia in the late 1990s, including setting up a NATO-Russia Council to frequently meet and exchange concerns. In light of Putin’s move on Ukraine, the U.S. should move to have those meetings suspended and cooperation between NATO and Russia halted.

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RalphEllisonInvisibleMan

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Dexter Mullins: The ‘Invisible Man’ In The Age Of Trayvon And Jordan

With his widely read novel “Invisible Man,” Ralph Ellison ignited a conversation and an awareness of racial alienation in America that had the potential to help bridge the gap between the nation’s races. But as we celebrate what would have been his 100th birthday on Saturday, it is almost staggering to see how little has changed since Ellison published the book in 1952. Black people — and black men in particular — are still viewed and judged as though we are all one person, with one mind, and that we are all either criminals or about to become criminals. We are still treated as if we are less than everyone else, no matter the degrees we may possess, how impressive our job titles or our contributions to society. Indeed, as we celebrate Ellison today, it is a shame to have to say that the black man as an individual is still “invisible” and that the country has a long way to go.

There isn’t a black man or boy in this country who has not been told by someone in his family that while people may say we are equal, the reality is quite different and that — should you find yourself in a situation with any person of authority, or a rogue vigilante who thinks he’s above the law — it is better to hold your tongue and submit to the traffic ticket, search or humiliating line of questioning and get home alive than it is to try and make a stand to prove your point and come home in a pine box. At the end of Ellison’s novel, the main character learns to embrace his individuality after years of conforming to society’s perceptions and expectations of what a black man is supposed to be. Today, it is society that needs to embrace the individuality of minorities and re-examine where our nation’s race relations really are.

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David Remnick: Putin Goes To War

Vladimir Putin, the Russian President and autocrat, had a plan for the winter of 2014: to reassert his country’s power a generation after the collapse of the Soviet Union. He thought that he would achieve this by building an Olympic wonderland on the Black Sea for fifty-one billion dollars and putting on a dazzling television show. It turns out that he will finish the season in a more ruthless fashion, by invading a peninsula on the Black Sea and putting on quite a different show—a demonstration war that could splinter a sovereign country and turn very bloody, very quickly.

Sergei Parkhomenko, a journalist and pro-democracy activist who was recently detained by the police in Moscow, described the scenario taking shape as “Afghanistan 2.” He recalled, for Slon.ru, an independent Russian news site, how the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, in 1979, under the pretext of helping a “fraternal” ally in Kabul; to Parkhomenko, Putin’s decision to couch his military action as the “protection” of Russians living in Crimea is an equally transparent pretext. The same goes for the decorous way in which Putin, on Saturday, “requested” the Russian legislature’s authorization for the use of Russian troops in Ukraine until “the socio-political situation is normalized.” The legislature, which has all the independence of an organ grinder’s monkey, voted its unanimous assent.

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Paul Carr: On The Importance Of Keeping Investors Out Of The Newsroom, And Not Treating Your Readers Like Fools

Yesterday afternoon, Pando published a report by Mark Ames showing that eBay founder Pierre Omidyar invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in Ukrainian opposition groups involved in the overthrow of the country’s government. Even more interesting, given that Omidyar is now publisher ofThe Intercept, a blog which vows to expose American government wrongdoing, is the revelation that his co-investor in the groups was… the US government. This morning, Omidyar Group staffer Glenn Greenwald spent almost three thousand words meticulously not responding to the piece. Whether Greenwald likes it or not, this is an important story and one we will continue to report. There is, however, one aspect of Greenwald’s post that demands a firm rebuttal, and that’s his continuing attempt to shrug off Pierre Omidyar’s $250 million investment in First Look as if it’s business as usual for a media organization.

To suggest Omidyar is just a passive investor in Greenwald, Scahill, Wheeler et al. is as ridiculous as claiming Jesus was just a passive backer of the disciples (“Nah, you’ve got it all wrong. He just gave us the bread and wine, it’s up to us what we do with it.”) Pierre Omidyar is not the dumb money behind First Look, he is the company’s founder and publisher. It was Omidyar who called Glenn Greenwald and personally hired him to head The Intercept, just as it was Omidyar himself who takes credit for having hired Matt Taibbi away from Rolling Stone. Even after making those key hires, Omidyar did not recuse himself from the day-to-day editorial operations.

Pierre Omidyar, First Look’s sole backer, has a vision. A vision he spends his day sharing with First Look’s reporters via their internal messaging. By Scahill’s own admission, Omidyar’s voice is heard more frequently than any editorial staffer at the company. And yet, by Greenwald’s admission, he has spent precisely no time investigating the business deals or conflicts of interest which might shape that vision, or might lead Omidyar to try to influence the reporting by the staff whose paychecks he alone signs. If that’s how Omidyar believes the business of media should be transacted, that’s his choice. And if Greenwald is convinced that he remains entirely incorruptible, despite the constant muzak of his master’s voice playing in the newsroom, that’s fine too. But it’s not how most media companies do things, and it’s not how we do things at Pando. By claiming otherwise, Greenwald is treating his readers as fools.

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Washington Post: Government Expands Help For Buying Health Insurance

With just a month left for Americans to select health plans this year through new insurance marketplaces, the Obama administration is bending some rules to prevent people from being stranded without coverage because of state-run exchanges riddled with computer problems. In states with dysfunctional insurance marketplaces, the government will for the first time help pay for certain health plans that consumers buy on their own. And once people in those states are able to sign up through the exchanges, their insurance can be made retroactive. These rewritten rules, laid out in a three-page memo,

can be used by any state but are aimed primarily at helping people in Maryland and three other states whose exchanges have not been working well. The four states are among 14 that have each created an insurance marketplace under the 2010 Affordable Care Act. The rewritten federal rules would allow people to receive federal subsidies for health plans outside exchanges as long as the covered benefits are comparable to those of plans sold through the exchanges. In order to get retroactive subsidies, people will have to start to pay the full price of their health plan, then get the reduction once their state’s exchange is working well enough to determine whether their incomes make them eligible for the help.

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President Obama with Donna Brazile and Debbie Wasserman-Schultz at the DNC Winter Meeting in Washington, Friday

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On This Day:

Senator Obama holds up a baby as he greets supporters during a town hall meeting in  Westerville, Ohio, March 2, 2008

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First Lady Michelle Obama with daughters, Malia and Sasha, sled in the snow on the South Lawn of the White House, March 2, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama boards Air Force One, prior to departure from Hunter Army Airfield in Savannah, Ga., March 2, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama talks with Mona Sutphen, chief of staff for policy, Josh Earnest, assistant press secretary, and Jeffrey Lerner, of the Office of Political Affairs, aboard Marine One en route to the White House, March 2, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama signs H.R. 4691, Temporary Extension Act of 2010, in his private office in the residence of the White House, March 2, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama wait in the Blue Room of the White House before greeting recipients of the 2010 National Medal of Arts and National Humanities Medal, March 2, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)

First Lady Michelle Obama shares a laugh with National Humanities Medal honoree Wendell E. Berry, as President Obama talks with National Endowment for the Arts Chairman Rocco Landesman in the Blue Room of the White House, March 2, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama greets Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on the Colonnade prior to their meeting in the Oval Office, March 2, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)

First Lady Michelle Obama participates in a conference call about the “Let’s Move!” Healthier U.S. School Challenge in the Map Room of the White House, March 2, 2011. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack joined Mrs. Obama to speak with education stakeholders about doubling the number of schools participating in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s program (Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

President Obama is briefed by Lt. Gen. Doug Lute, Special Assistant to the President for Afghanistan and Pakistan, during a meeting in the Situation Room of the White House, March 2, 2011. Deputy National Security Advisor Denis McDonough and National Security Advisor Tom Donilon are at right (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama and Vice President Biden talk following a meeting in the Oval Office, March 2, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

First Lady Michelle Obama embraces members of the Johnson C. Smith ladies’ basketball team during a “Let’s Move!” physical fitness promotion between games at the CIAA basketball tournament in Charlotte, N.C., March 2, 2012

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