Posts Tagged ‘solar

13
Jun
14

Rise and Shine

On This Day: President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama present a birthday cake to Assistant Usher Reggie Dickson outside the Usher’s Office of the White House, following a Presidential Medal of Freedom ceremony and dinner honoring President Shimon Peres of Israel, June 13, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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Today

11:25 ET: The President and First Lady depart the White House

1:45 CT: Arrive Bismarck, North Dakota

2:40 CT: The President and First Lady participate in a roundtable discussion with Native American Youth, Cannon Ball Elementary School

3:45 CT: Attend the Cannon Ball Flag Day Celebration and delivers remarks, Cannon Ball Powwow Grounds

5:20 CT: Depart Bismarck

6:20 PT: Arrive Palm Springs, California

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Saturday

The President will deliver the commencement address at University of California, Irvine on the 50th anniversary of the dedication of the UC Irvine campus by President Lyndon B. Johnson. The President and the First Lady will return to Washington, D.C on Monday.

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President Obama adjusts the tie of Coast Guard Military Aide Cdr. Scott S. Phy’s son outside the Oval Office, June 12, 2014. Cdr. Phy and his family were in the Oval Office for an award citation and departure photos with the President (Photo by Pete Souza)

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Amy Lynn Smith: Cancer Patient: ‘If It Wasn’t For Obamacare, I’d Be Dead In 12 Months’

A cancer diagnosis is terrifying enough. The only thing that’s worse? Knowing you don’t have insurance and can’t possibly afford to pay for treatment. Marion N. Seidel has been uninsured since she changed jobs seven years ago. She’s worked the same job ever since, but could never afford her share of the coverage her employer offered: $600/month for herself and her daughter. On the rare occasions they got sick, the 52-year-old single mother would just pay cash for doctor’s appointments. But over the last year, Seidel started having some health issues that kept sending her to the doctor. Every time she missed a day of work, she lost a day’s pay. In April 2014, Seidel was diagnosed with a cancerous tumor on her tonsils that was already affecting her lymph glands. She needed to start treatment right away. Without it, the doctors told her, she had only 12 months to live.

I went everywhere to try to find help, but I kept being told, ‘If you can’t pay we can’t help you.’ But then she learned she could enroll for coverage through Healthcare.gov outside the open enrollment period, because her income had changed and she’d had problems signing up before. Seidel now has comprehensive coverage with low deductibles and co-payments. With the help of tax subsidies, she’s paying just $95/month for her insurance. The specialist told me I have a very high chance of being cured. They told me I’ll go through hell in the next few months but I will come back. That gave me more positivity and I feel I can beat this cancer. Without my insurance, I would not have been able to even see the specialist. If it wasn’t for Obamacare, I’d be dead in 12 months.

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Sahil Kapur: Barbara Boxer: ‘GOP Cheerleaders’ Of Iraq Invasion Are Now Joining ‘Blame-America-First Crowd’

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, torched Republican “cheerleaders” who started the Iraq war and are now criticizing President Barack Obama over the escalating violent insurgency in the country. “Some of the biggest GOP cheerleaders for the disastrous war in Iraq are now joining the blame-America-first crowd rather than working with our Commander-in-Chief to confront this crisis,” Boxer said in a statement Thursday.

She said the current crisis in Iraq “has its roots in an ill-conceived war,” arguing that while the U.S. should “go after” the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, the Sunni jihadi organization taking over parts of the country, “any U.S. action must be well-considered and well-executed in coordination with our allies and the Iraqi government and military, which we helped train and arm.”

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Nicole Flatow: CNN Decides Not To Count 80 Percent Of School Shootings

When students are killed, injured, or put in harm’s way on school grounds, when does it “count” as a school shooting? Not all of the time, according to a number of right-wing commentators — and CNN. In a news report published Thursday, CNN amends its prior reporting that there were 74 school shootings since the Newtown Massacre — a number calculated by gun violence prevention group Everytown for Gun Safety — and concludes that there have instead been just 15. “CNN determined that 15 of the incidents Everytown included were situations similar to the violence in Oregon — a minor or adult actively shooting inside or near a school,” the article explains. Except for the times when those criteria don’t apply

Among those incidents not included was a brawl that escalated outside a college basketball game at Chicago State University, a shooting at a Mississippi town’s football game that left a 15-year-old dead, and a Georgia college that saw two shootings in two days. As Everytown points out in response to CNN, these discounted shootings led to 25 deaths and 45 injuries. They included familiar scenes of students hiding under desks and running for cover. And many of them were characterized by CNN as “school shootings” at the time of the incidents. CNN’s coverage does not mention it, but its change of heart followed a series of criticisms from right-wing commentators and outlets.

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First Lady Michelle Obama and West Virginia Department of Education Office of Child Nutrition Executive Director Richard Goff help students from five District of Columbia schools make a meal using the summer crop from the White House Kitchen Garden in the State Dining Room at the White House June 12. The students, who helped plant the garden earlier in the year, were joined by visiting school nutrition directors from Orlando, Dallas and West Virginia, where they have seen success in their new school lunch programs thanks to the standards put in place by the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act.

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Marlow Stern: Spike Lee’s Tribute to Ruby Dee: ‘A Living Example That One Could Be An Artist And Activist’

Ruby Dee, the legendary actress, poet, and Civil Rights activist, passed away on Wednesday in New York. She was 91. Born Ruby Ann Wallace, the Harlem native was a dynamo on stage and screen, starring in the 1961 film A Raisin in the Sun, winning Obie and Drama Desk Awards for the play Boesman and Lena, and earned a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination for her turn as the feisty mother to Harlem drug lord Frank Lucas, played by Denzel Washington, in the 2007 film American Gangster. She was also a trailblazer who paved the way for young African-American actors and filmmakers to break through during the height of segregation. Dee was married to Ossie Davis, the actor, activist, and WWII veteran, from 1948 until his death in 2005.

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The pair appeared in 11 stage productions and five films together, including Davis’s first feature film, 1959’s No Way Out, which also starred Sidney Poitier, and later, in the Spike Lee films Do the Right Thing and Jungle Fever. In 2004, Dee and Davis were recipients of the Kennedy Center Honors, who described the duo as “one of the most revered couples of the American stage, two of the most prolific and fearless artists in American culture. As individuals and as a team they have created profound and lasting work that has touched us all. With courage and tenacity they have thrown open many a door previously shut tight to African American artists and planted the seed for the flowering of America’s multicultural humanity.” Indeed, both Dee and Davis were prominent activists in the Civil Rights movement, protesting the trial and execution of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, and later participating in Martin Luther King Jr.’s March on Washington in 1963.

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Jonathan Capehart: Cantor Loss A Wake-Up Call For Democrats

Tuesday evening, I observed that the Republican Party now in thrall to the extreme far right of its base stands pinched in its own vise. About an hour later, the nation watched that vise pinch the life out of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s political career. But Democrats celebrating the Cantor calamity better check their schadenfreude. There will be more Brats in Congress if they don’t show up at the polls in November, especially in key races that will determine the balance of power in the Senate. Democrats love the president (75 percent), but barely half of them (51 percent) said they were “absolutely certain” to vote in November. Meanwhile, only seven percent of Republicans polled approve of the president’s job performance. But 68 percent of them said they were “absolutely certain” to cast a ballot. It’s data like this that have Obama warning the Democratic base over and over and over again against complacency.

“A lot of the reasons that the president has not been able to move some of the things as fast and big as he’s wanted to move them is ’cause we slept,” a Democratic friend told me recently. “We won big in 2008. And we slept in 2010. And we got what we got. And we are still paying [the] price.” Sure, it’s fun for Democrats to watch Republicans fight amongst themselves and hand their nominations to the fringe of their base. But if Democrats don’t vote in the numbers they need to in November, those folks who are more conservative than the ultra-conservative members already gumming up the works will come to Washington. If the threat of that is not enough of a wake-up call for Democratic voters, I don’t know what is.

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BBC: Sgt Bowe Bergdahl Arrives Back In US

The US soldier held by the Taliban has arrived at a Texas military base after flying in from Germany. Sgt Bowe Bergdahl, 28, is being taken to a military medical centre for the next part of what the military calls a “reintegration mission”. Officials previously said he would be reunited with his family there. Sgt Bergdahl was freed on 31 May in exchange for five Taliban commanders held at Guantanamo bay, a deal criticised by the Republicans.

The US soldier left Ramstein Air Base earlier on Thursday aboard a US military aircraft and arrived in San Antonio early on Friday morning. “Our first priority is making sure that Sgt Bergdahl continues to get the care and support he needs,” Pentagon press secretary Rear Adm John Kirby said in an earlier statement. He had been recuperating at a military hospital in Germany since his release.

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Ryan Cooper: The Case For Optimism On Climate Change

First, I think climate change is the exception to how international relations normally go down. Yes, it’s quite easy to draw an international relations case, based on sound realist reasoning, that developing nations will never cut their emissions in time. This argument largely boils down to China and India since they are so huge; China alone now accounts for twice the total emissions of the United States. By this logic, no nation will harm its short-term interests by slashing emissions unilaterally when the gains are dispersed worldwide. But I think what the pessimists haven’t quite internalized is that China is going to be absolutely hammered by climate change.

Think of it this way: they’ve got an area roughly the size of the United States, with more desert, less farmland, less water, and less raw materials. In that area they’ve got the population of the entire Western Hemisphere, plus Nigeria and Japan. China could easily blow through the world’s carbon budget by itself; to say the Chinese government will choose growth over emissions is to say they will choose national self-immolation for a few measly decades of economic growth. India has it even worse, and similar things hold for most developing nations. I think people underestimate how panicked these nations are going to be, and how serious the international pressure will be for a climate treaty in five to 10 years.

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Yahoo: U.N. Human Rights Spokesman Says Hundreds Killed In Iraq

The number of people killed after Sunni Islamist militants overran the Iraqi city of Mosul earlier this week may run into the hundreds, U.N. human rights spokesman Rupert Colville said on Friday. He said his office had reports the killings included the execution of 17 civilians working for the police and a court employee in central Mosul. Four women had killed themselves after being raped, 16 Georgians had been kidnapped, and prisoners released by the militants had been looking to exact revenge on those responsible for their incarceration, he said.

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NBC News: Ukrainian Forces Surround Separatist-Held Mariupol

Ukrainian forces surrounded the strategic rebel-held port city of Mariupol on Friday in a dawn attack launched as part of a broader military operation to reclaim control of eastern Ukraine. The rebel forces, who oppose the pro-European leadership in the capital Kiev and want to be part of Russia, said five of their fighters had been killed in the battle for Mariupol, Ukraine’s largest Azov Sea port. Mariupol, which has changed hands several times in weeks of conflict, is strategically important because steel is exported through the port and the city lies on

major roads from the southeastern border with Russia into the rest of Ukraine. President Petro Poroshenko intensified the military operation against the separatists after he was elected on May 25. The rebels took several cities and towns in east and southeast Ukraine after Russia annexed Crimea in March following the overthrow of Poroshenko’s Moscow-leaning predecessor.

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Washington Post: McCarthy Consolidating Support For House Majority Leader As Race For Whip Intensifies

The defeat of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (Va.) in a Republican primary was an astounding triumph for the tea party movement, but there was little evidence Thursday that the insurgency could take advantage of it by getting one of their own elected to the suddenly vacant leadership position. In the race to replace Cantor, who will step down from his leadership post at the end of July, House Republicans began coalescing around Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (Calif.), who is more aligned with the establishment wing of the party.

The leadership battle began to crystallize Thursday morning as a popular conservative, Rep. Jeb Hensarling (Tex.), who chairs the House Financial Services Committee, announced that he wouldn’t run for majority leader and Pete Sessions (R-Tex.) entered the race and then withdrew within hours.

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Ann Sanner: Judge Orders 3 Early Voting Days Restored In Ohio

A federal judge ordered Ohio’s elections chief Wednesday to restore the final three days of in-person, early voting in the swing state in a ruling that gives Democrats a victory going into the fall election. The order from U.S. District Judge Peter Economus comes in a long-running dispute that began before the last presidential election. The fight was especially intense because of Ohio’s role as a swing state rich with electoral votes. President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign and Democrats filed a lawsuit in July 2012 against the state’selections chief over an Ohio law that cuts off in-person, early voting for most residents three days before Election Day.

The state law, passed in 2011, ends in-person voting on the Friday evening before a Tuesday election. But it allows an exception for military and overseas voters to cast a ballot in person until Monday. Democrats claimed that amounted to unequal treatment of voters and said everyone should have the chance to vote on the three days before Election Day. Ohio voters may cast an absentee ballot by mail or in person before Election Day without giving any reason.

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Steve Benen: McCain Left Classified Briefing ‘After Only A Matter Of Minutes’

With security conditions deteriorating quickly in Iraq, Sen. John McCain is in high dudgeon. Despite having been wrong about nearly every national security crisis in recent years, the Arizona Republican is doing what one might expect him to do: he’s blaming President Obama, condemning the White House, and urging everyone to pretend he still has credibility. Members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, of which McCain is the ranking member, were given a classified briefing this afternoon from military and intelligence officials, keeping lawmakers apprised of the latest developments in the Iraqi crisis. McCain left the closed-door briefing after only a matter of minutes, telling reporters the security situation in Iraq “is the greatest threat since the Cold War.” [emphasis added]

If it’s the great threat to security in a generation, then maybe McCain should have stuck around for the rest of the classified briefing, instead of bolting and heading for the cameras? Except McCain left “after only a matter of minutes” so he could go complain about the president in front of the cameras. If this sounds vaguely familiar, it’s because just last week, McCain attended another closed-door, classified briefing on the prisoner swap that freed an American POW. McCain “walked out shortly after shouting at an official,” roughly half-way through the briefing. He then – you guessed it – headed for the cameras to complain about the president and the lack of compelling information he’d received in the briefing he left in the middle of.

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On This Day

President Obama tours Cree, Inc., a manufacturer of LED lighting, in Durham, N.C., June 13, 2011. Taking part in the tour are Chuck Swoboda, CEO and Chairman of Cree, Inc., left, and Jeff Immelt, CEO, General Electric and Jobs Council Chairman, center (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama wave goodbye to President Shimon Peres of Israel on the North Portico of the White House following the Presidential Medal of Freedom ceremony and dinner in his honor, June 13, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama and Vice President Biden listen as 9 year-old twins Zea and Luna Weiss-Wynne introduce the President at the LGBT Pride Month celebration in the East Room of the White House, June 13, 2013 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama talks with Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., along with members of his family, in the Oval Office, June 13, 2013. Rep. Dingell is the longest-serving Member in the history of the United States Congress (Photo by Pete Souza)

First Lady Michelle Obama and Air Force Pilot Captain Kelly Smith discuss Joining Forces with Hollywood Trade Representatives at the Writers Guild Theatre on June 13, 2011 in Beverly Hills

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09
May
14

President Obama ‘Acts On Climate’

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President Barack Obama speaks about energy during a visit to a Wal-Mart store in Mountain View, California. Walmart will double by 2020 the number of on-site solar energy projects at its U.S. outlets and distribution centers, the company announced

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Mercury News: Obama Praises Energy Efficiency At Local Walmart

Standing beneath the glare of fluorescent lights inside a Walmart store, President Obama on Friday rolled out his plan for sweeping energy reform, an ambitious effort to convert more businesses, homes and government building to solar power. Obama’s energy initiative — an executive action that calls for investments in more solar energy jobs, upgrading homes and buildings to be more efficient, and partnerships with the housing and tech industries — and aims to move the country away from foreign oil dependency while creating more jobs in the renewable energy sector. Despite a spotty record on labor issues, Walmart has been what many experts consider a pioneer in energy efficiency and renewable energy. It’s one of at least 10 private companies that, as part of Obama’s plan, have agreed to double-down on their efforts to convert more of their energy to renewable sources. Dozens of affordable housing organizations, retailers, home builders and tech companies have also signed on to the presidents plan with their own plans to invest in solar, helping the environment and lowering their electricity bills.

Arkansas-based Walmart, an early investor in the solar industry, pledged on Friday it will double the number of solar energy projects at its stores and distribution centers by 2020. By the end of last year, the retail giant had 335 renewable energy projects, with solar making up about 6 percent of those. The company expects the additional solar projects will save $1 billion per year in energy costs. “It’s the right thing to do because when you save that money you can pass that money back to consumers in the form of lower prices, or you can create more jobs,” Obama said. The executive order, an 11-page document released Friday morning, involves more than 300 private and public sector commitments to cut carbon emissions, an additional $2 billion in energy efficiency investments in federal buildings over three years, new efficiency standards for appliances and training programs at community colleges across the country that will assist 50,000 workers to enter the solar industry by 2020.

The announcement was applauded by several environmental groups, including Greenpeace and the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy. The Mountain View store in which Obama spoke now gets 14.5 percent of its energy from solar systems built and installed by SolarCity, based in San Mateo and one of Walmart’s biggest solar vendors. SolarCity says its projects with Walmart alone have created an estimated 9,000 construction jobs in the United States, and SolarCity itself has created an additional 5,000 permanent American jobs since it did its first project with Walmart in 2010. A few Silicon Valley tech leaders have also signed onto Obama’s energy plan. Apple is building a 2.8 million square-foot headquarters that will also run entirely on renewables, including a rooftop solar system, and has committed to powering all its facilities with green; Yahoo announced it will add a solar installation to their Sunnyvale headquarters by early 2015; and Google announced on Friday a $1 million prize to develop the next generation of power inverters, or cooler-size boxes that help homes run on solar panels.

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President Barack Obama walks down a shopping aisle after speaking about energy during his visit to a Wal-Mart store in Mountain View, California

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26
Apr
14

President Obama’s America

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Bloomberg: Consumer Sentiment In U.S. Rose In April To Nine-Month High

Consumer confidence rose in April to a nine-month high, showing Americans are growing more upbeat about the economy as the labor market gains traction. The Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan final index of sentiment increased to 84.1 from a four-month low of 80 in March. The median projection in a Bloomberg survey of economists called for 83 after a preliminary April reading of 82.6. Consumers were more optimistic about current conditions than at any time since July 2007 as smaller ranks of the unemployed, near-record stock prices and higher property values help bolster household finances. Further strides in the labor market that generate bigger wage gains would provide additional impetus for the consumer spending that makes up almost 70 percent of the economy. “Consumer sentiment continues to chug higher,” said Brett Ryan, an economist at Deutsche Bank Securities Inc. in New York. “It means people are getting jobs or incomes are increasing or they feel a little bit more stable about their situation.”

Gains in sentiment are translating into stronger sales. Cars and light trucks sold in March at a 16.3 million annualized rate, the fastest since May 2007, following a 15.3 million pace the prior month. Purchases at General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co., Toyota Motor Corp., Nissan Motor Co. and Chrysler Group LLC all topped analysts’ estimates. “The economy is entering the second quarter on an improved trend,” Ellen Hughes-Cromwick, chief economist at Ford, said on an April 1 conference call. There are “some signs of improving wage and income gains. Very steady consumer confidence is also helping to be a support.” More job opportunities are helping underpin sentiment. Payrolls climbed by 192,000 workers in March after a 197,000 increase the previous month that was larger than first estimated, the Labor Department said earlier this month. Private payrolls, which exclude those at government agencies, exceeded the pre-recession peak for the first time.

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EIA: Solar-Electric Generating Capacity Increases Drastically In The Last Four Years

U.S. solar capacity increased significantly in the last 4 years. In 2010, the total solar capacity was 2,326 MW which accounted for a comparatively small fraction (0.22%) of the total U.S. electric generating. capacity. By February 2014, this capacity increased 418% to 12,057 MW, a 9,731 MW gain, and now accounts for almost 1.13% of total U.S. capacity. Net metered applications, which are generally intended to displace retail purchased power to lower the overall energy bill for a host site, have increased each year since 2010 at an annual rate of about 1,100 MW and now total 5,251 MW. Although sunny California has the largest net metered solar capacity (38% of the total), abundant sunshine is not the only growth factor for this sector. Net metered applications are typically incentivized through various state level programs. New Jersey and Massachusetts together represent an additional 21% of the total net metered solar capacity. Overall, nationally the growth in net metered photovoltaic capacity is fairly evenly split between residential and commercial applications.

Utility scale PV applications, which are 1 MW or greater, have also expanded significantly and currently account for 5,564 MW. In 2013 utility scale solar exceeded the capacity of net metered applications. Sunny states like California (2,702 MW, 49% of the total utility scale PV) and Arizona (960 MW, 17%) enjoy favorable siting conditions. However, North Carolina accounts for 340 MW or 6% of the total utility level solar capacity, and is the third leading state in this sector largely due to state incentives. In summary, the U.S. solar capacity has moved quickly from a relatively small contributor to the nation’s total electric capacity into a one of comparative significance. Much like the wind sector growth, which grew tremendously from 6,456 MW in January 2005 to 60,661 MW to January 2014, solar capacity is quite clearly up and coming.

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Steve Benen: CFPB, Hard At Work

It doesn’t get enough attention, but I still consider the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) one of the more important breakthroughs for progressive governance in the Obama era. That its work on our behalf tends to happen far from the spotlight somehow makes it more impressive – the agency’s work isn’t showy, it’s just effective. It was the CFPB that recently announced multi-million dollar fines for four mortgage insurers for “doling out illegal kickbacks to mortgage lenders in exchange for business.” It was the CFPB that cracked down on a lender for allegedly “paying illegal bonuses to employees who steered home buyers toward higher-interest loans.” It was the CFPB that ended 2013 with “a string of enforcement cases … on lending discrimination, mortgage servicing, online lending and credit card products.”

And it’s the CFPB that keeps adding to its to-do list. Federal regulators are investigating reports that lenders are pressuring thousands of college graduates to immediately repay their full student loan debt when a relative who co-signed the loans dies or files for bankruptcy. So, the CFPB is intervening on consumers’ behalf. The young people are feeling pushed around by lenders, so now they’ll have a government agency doing what they can’t: push back. Remember, congressional Republicans fought tooth and nail to destroy the CFPB, even using unprecedented, legally dubious schemes to prevent the agency from even getting to work. Fortunately for consumers, Republicans failed.

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20
Apr
14

Rise and Shine

On This Day: President Obama prepares to board Air Force One before his departure from Andrews Air Force Base, April 20, 2011

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The President has no public events scheduled today

See here for ‘The Week Ahead’

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Zachary Roth: Obamacare Helping Millions Register To Vote

It’s the right’s worst nightmare: Obamacare working to boost not just the number of Americans who have affordable health insurance — but also the number who are registered to vote. And it could be coming true. Under the terms of an agreement between California and an alliance of good government groups, the state will mail voter registration forms to 4 million people who applied for Obamacare via California’s online exchange. The deal could end up creating 400,000 new registered Golden State voters — the actual numbers will be available later this year.

Nationwide, Obamacare could ultimately be responsible for registering anywhere from 3 to 7 million voters — potentially over 10% of the total number of eligible voters who aren’t registered today — over the next eight years. Here’s why: Under the 1993 National Voter Registration Act (NVRA), which aimed to boost voter registration, people applying for public assistance—as well as DMV customers—must be offered the chance to register to vote. That means every state insurance exchange like California’s, as well as the federal exchange, will need to ask people whether they want to register. Even those people who end up getting covered via Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion or through other parts of the law, rather than through the private market, will still be offered the chance to register to vote.

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Washington Post: White House Announces Itinerary For Obama’s Asia Trip

President Obama will meet with the leaders of four Asian nations, answer questions at a town hall-style event at a university in Malaysia and address U.S. service members in South Korea during a week-long trip that begins Tuesday, the White House announced. Administration officials hailed the president’s visit to Japan, South Korea, Malaysia and the Philippines as a chance to underscore the United States’s commitment to the Asia-Pacific, with an emphasis on regional allies.

“Unlike many of the president’s overseas trips, particularly to Asia, there are no large summits involved,” National Security Adviser Susan Rice said while briefing reporters on Obama’s itinerary Friday. “So the agenda in each country can focus intensively on energizing our bilateral relationships and advancing the different elements of our Asia strategy.” The town-hall event at Malaya University will be with young leaders from 10 Southeast Asian nations, and Obama also will meet with civil-rights leaders in Malaysia, as the United States attempts to promote democratic values.

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Wendy George: After 17 Years, I’m Bringing My Little Sister Home From Prison

When we were little, we used to tell our mama she had good ears. My little sister and I would whisper under the covers in our bed after lights out, and somehow mom could always hear us. She’d tell us to quit talking and go to sleep. Tomorrow I’m going to pick up my sister from prison. She’s been away for 17 years, and until last December I thought she would never come home. I can’t wait to drive back to my house, get in bed, and tell each other everything like we used to. You’d think I had a twin. As kids, my sister and I looked a lot alike. Our mom used to dress us the same. Even as we got older, we wore the same kinds of clothes. We raised our small kids together. We both wanted to style hair for a living. Since she’s been gone, a part of me has been missing. A part of me has been locked up for years.

Stephanie was 26 with four small kids when she was sentenced. Even though the judge objected, a mandatory minimum law meant that she got life without the possibility of parole for being “a girlfriend and bag holder and money holder” in a drug conspiracy. When Stephanie was sentenced, I took her kids into my home and raised them. I am grateful I had the strength to keep pushing on to make sure that her kids got to the prison to visit their mom. She told me horror stories of some of the women in there who didn’t have a family outside to help with the kids. It was a rough role, but I thank God for giving me the strength to raise them all. I talked to my sister on the phone last week and joked that once she gets home, I am going to take a month vacation. She said I deserve it. Even when they said she had a life sentence, I never accepted that. I’ve been praying and fighting for this day since day one. And the fighting has paid off. Finally, my sister’s sentence has been commuted by President Obama.

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NYT: Republicans See Political Wedge In Common Core

The health care law may be Republicans’ favorite weapon against Democrats this year, but there is another issue roiling their party and shaping the establishment-versus-grass-roots divide ahead of the 2016 presidential primaries: the Common Core. A once little-known set of national educational standards introduced in 44 states and the District of Columbia with the overwhelming support of Republican governors, the Common Core has incited intense resistance on the right and prompted some in the party to reverse field and join colleagues who believe it will lead to a federal takeover of schools. Conservatives denounce it as “Obamacore,” in what has become a surefire applause line for potential presidential hopefuls. Other Republicans are facing opprobrium from their own party for not doing more to stop it.

The learning benchmarks, intended to raise students’ proficiency in math and English, were adopted as part of a 2010 effort by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers to bolster the country’s competitiveness. Unlike the health care law, the Common Core retains bipartisan support and has the backing of powerful elements of the business community. The Republican revolt against the Common Core can be traced to President Obama’s embrace of it, particularly his linking the adoption of similar standards to states’ eligibility for federal education grants and to waivers from No Child Left Behind, the national education law enacted by President George W. Bush. “There is a great deal of paranoia in the country today,” said Sonny Perdue, a former governor of Georgia, who was also instrumental in creating the program. “It’s the two P’s, polarization and paranoia.”

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Kathy Lally: Ukraine, Short On Military Budget, Starts Fundraising Drive

Ukraine’s new government inherited an army so bereft of modern equipment and training that when Russian troops entered Crimea and agitators stormed government offices in eastern Ukraine, the country proved helpless to protect its borders and citizens. The corruption that had darkened all the nation’s institutions had provoked demonstrators to stand their ground in Kiev until the old leaders fled. But the depth of the damage took the country by surprise when the Crimean Peninsula was easily lost to Russian annexation last month, revealing a military profoundly weakened by theft and neglect. “Our army has been systematically destroyed and disarmed,” Deputy Defense Minister Petro Mehed said at a briefing this past week, “and its best personnel dismissed.” In the east, militants have occupied buildings in more than a dozen cities and on Saturday showed no signs of giving up their positions.

The army was sent in and looked more anemic than ever when small knots of civilians managed to block armored personnel carriers simply by standing in front of them. Ukraine’s position is dire. The new government found the treasury empty when it took over Feb. 27. The Ministry of Defense was so desperate for money that it went to the public for help. People across the country have responded by pulling together for the Support the Ukrainian army fundraising drive, trying to repair the damage done by years of thieving governments. Children have held fairs and bake sales to raise money. Adults have delivered food and water to tent encampments. Community groups have collected shoes, clothes and canned goods. Ukrainian businesses and individuals had raised more than $9 million for the military as of Friday, the Defense Ministry reported. Of that, $2 million came from cellphone users who made 50-cent donations from their accounts by calling a designated number.

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Michael Laris: Voting-Rights Quest In Va. Will Soon Become Easier For Ex-Prisoners Held On Serious Drugs Charges

Those convicted in Virginia of manufacturing drugs, distributing drugs, having the intent to distribute drugs or “accommodating” the sale of drugs will now be put in the same category as those who were found guilty of mail fraud, check kiting, embezzlement or simple drug possession when it comes to processing requests to have their voting rights restored. The drug-dealing and other major drug charges had been on the state’s “violent/more serious” list of offenses. Bumping them to the list of nonviolent crimes will have far-reaching implications. Since McDonnell’s reforms, those types of lesser offenses are processed in a faster, more streamlined fashion, taking weeks or months rather than years. Unlike most states, Virginia requires ex-felons to proactively pursue their voting rights — they are not automatically restored.

Virginia law, the American Civil Liberties Union says, has prevented hundreds of thousands of people — many convicted of drug crimes — from voting, and advocates point to racial disparities. About 45 percent of those arrested for drug offenses are black, said Edward Hailes, general counsel for the Advancement Project, a civil rights group active on the issue. “We should see a large number of African Americans in Virginia getting their rights restored more automatically,” he said, adding that one in five can’t vote because of felony convictions. “Virginia is making progress but is still far behind most of the states in the union.” Attorney General Eric Holder, speaking at the Georgetown University Law Center this year, called for further changes in Virginia and elsewhere. “Eleven states continue to restrict voting rights to varying degrees even after a person has served his or her prison sentence and is no longer on probation or parole,” Holder said. “It is time to fundamentally reconsider laws that permanently disenfranchise people who are no longer under federal or state supervision.”

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Lucia Graves: Good News For Obamacare Is Bad News For Conservative Pundits

Conservatives were sure at every turn that Obamacare would fail, but as the numbers roll in, those convictions are looking increasingly ideological. First they said nobody would enroll. Then they said first-year premiums would be through the roof. And later, they warned of a “death spiral,” wherein premiums would go up uncontrollably. My colleague Sam Baker has written an excellent analysis of the situation, the upshot of which is that Obamacare is on a winning streak. The next great frontier of conservative hyperbole concerns premiums for 2015, with critics warning that costs will double or even triple next year. As of this week, we have good evidence to the contrary.

Health insurance premium rates are expected go up just 7 percent—a rate of increase much lower than what critics were predicting. And the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office is predicting that premium hikes will be relatively modest. “The double-rate increases we’ve been hearing are probably exaggerated,” Dave Axene, a fellow with the Society of Actuaries, told USA Today. “That’s not what we’re seeing from the actuarial organizations—I guess we’re being a little bit more optimistic.” “A little bit more optimistic” is something of an understatement. For weeks, pundits have been spouting apocalyptic notions about the costs of insurance premiums, warning Americans that “the worst is yet to come.”

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Derek Thompson: Get Rich, Live Longer: The Ultimate Consequence Of Income Inequality

Brookings economist Barry Bosworth crunches the data on income and lifespans for the Wall Street Journal, and the numbers tell three clear stories. 1. Rich people live longer. 2. Richer people’s lifespans are growing at a faster rate. 3. The problem is worse for women than for men. First, let’s look at the guys. A rich man (top decile) born in 1940 can expect to live 10 years longer after he turns 55 than a poor man (bottom decile). That longevity gap grew by four years in one generation. Women live longer than men, overall. But their inequality gap getting worse. A rich woman at 55 can expect to live a decade longer than a poor woman, too. But this gap grew even more between the Silent and early Boomer generations, by six years.

The typical guy in McDowell County, West Virginia, makes less than $30,000 a year and doesn’t live to 65. Five hours north on the highway, a typical man living in Fairfax County, Virginia, makes more than $100,000 and lives more than 80 years. The two Virginian counties are two different countries. When somebody in Washington proposes raising the retirement age for Social Security or Medicare, he typically says something like: “We can afford it, because we are living longer.” Yes, We can afford it, when the We in that sentence applies to an audience of white rich old men and women who really are seeing their lifespans grow by leaps and bounds. But We doesn’t apply to the millions of poor women whose lifespans are actually declining. Raising the Social Security retirement age disproportionately reduces lifetime benefits for the very people Social Security was invented to protect.

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USA Today: New Data Signal Smaller Jump In Health Care Costs

Several new reports also hint at a bend in the health cost curve — even as health spending picks up with the improving economy. The change after years of large increases in how much health care costs seems to be coming for several reasons, the reports find: Americans are using their prescribed medications more often, which may be keeping them out of the hospital; payment systems have begun to reward quality over quantity, which has encouraged a team-based, data-driven approach; and record numbers of medications have been developed to address chronic disease, while older medications have come off their expensive patents. The week’s findings include a report from the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics that found that even as health care spending has rebounded with the economy, the growth rate remains lower than usual. In addition, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projected lower health insurance premiums than originally expected.

Aitkin says people spent more on drugs and less on follow-up visits and hospitalizations, which could be key to keeping the growth rate low. Health experts have long held that if people can afford — and take — prescribed medications, it may keep them safe from heart attacks or low blood sugar levels, and ultimately keep their overall health costs lower. Aitkin says 23% of prescription drugs had no co-pays in 2013, mostly because of provisions within the Affordable Care Act, including the one for coverage of contraceptives as preventive medications. Women saved $483 million in out-of-pocket costs in 2013 for contraceptives alone. And hospitalizations from emergency room visits decreased 14.6%, possibly because consumers were encouraged to try other options first. This week, the CBO downgraded its original premium projections by about 15% lower than projected in the fall of 2009, in part due to “lower projected health care costs for the federal government and the private health sector.”

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Frank Newport: Newly Insured In 2014 Represent About 4% of U.S. Adults

Four percent of Americans are newly insured this year, reporting that they have health insurance now but did not last year. A little more than half of that group, or 2.1% of the U.S. population, got their new insurance through health exchanges. The rest got it using some other mechanism. Overall, 11.8% of U.S. adults say they got a new health insurance policy in 2014. One-third of this group, or 4% nationally, say they did not have insurance in 2013. Another 7.5% got a new policy this year that replaced a previous policy. The ACA envisioned that the new healthcare exchanges would be the main place where uninsured Americans would get their insurance this year, but it appears that a sizable segment of the newly insured Americans used another mechanism.

These sources presumably include employee policies, Medicaid, and other private policies not arranged through exchanges. The newly insured are, on average, much younger than the overall population, with most younger than age 65. Within the 18 to 64 age range, the newly insured are slightly more overrepresented in the 18 to 29 age category than in the 30 to 49 and 50 to 64 age categories. These data suggest that the ACA’s efforts to add previously uninsured young people to the ranks of the insured have been modestly successful. The newly insured who signed up outside of the exchanges are substantially younger than those who signed up through the exchanges.

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Energy.Gov: Energy Department Announces $15 Million To Help Communities Boost Solar Deployment

In support of the Administration’s goal of doubling renewable energy generation for a second time by 2020, the Energy Department today announced $15 million to help communities develop multi-year solar plans to install affordable solar electricity for homes and businesses. The United States continues to be a global leader in solar, with total U.S. solar energy installations reaching 13 gigawatts last year. As the cost of solar energy continues to decline, more states and local communities are deploying solar energy projects to meet their electricity needs.

“As part of the President’s all-of-the-above energy strategy, solar energy is helping families and businesses throughout the U.S. access affordable, clean renewable power,” said Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz. “The Energy Department is committed to further driving down the cost of solar energy and supporting innovative community-based programs – creating more jobs, reducing carbon pollution and boosting economic growth.”

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Maggie Fox: Obamacare Helped Up To 10 Million Get Insurance, Gallup Finds

Obamacare has helped as many as 9.9 million people to get new health insurance, and more than 4 percent of all Americans have gotten health insurance for the first time, according to a new Gallup poll. It’s the largest poll yet to assess the effects of the 2010 Affordable Care Act, and the findings add to what’s been reported in earlier surveys and the government tally of how many people signed up through the new online exchanges. The percentage of the U.S. population that has no health insurance has plummeted from an all-time high of 18 percent during the last quarter of 2013 to just 15 percent this past March, says Dan Witters, lead researcher for the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index.

About half got insurance on the new state and federal online health exchanges, the survey found, and half got it through Medicaid, an employer or bought it directly from an insurance company. “We feel pretty comfortable attributing much of this change to the Affordable Care Act,” Witters told NBC News. The survey confirms that people started getting insurance in the last months of 2013 and really started signing up in the first three months of 2014. “There is no evidence that the exchanges only signed up extremely sick people,” said Frank Newport, Gallup’s editor in chief. Gallup found younger people aged 18-29 tended to gravitate to buying health insurance directly, not on the exchanges, while those signing up on the new exchanges tended to be in the 50-64 age group. Overall, 30 percent of those getting insurance for 2014 were 18 to 29; 24 percent bought insurance on the exchanges and 37 percent got it elsewhere.

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Christopher Ingraham: Your Taxes Are Really, Low, In One Chart

Taxed enough already? Hardly. According to the Congressional Budget Office, your effective federal tax rates are near historic lows.
One of the great ironies of the rise of the tea party movement was that it coincided with the lowest total tax burdens seen in at least 30 years. The chart below plots effective federal tax rates since 1979 by income group. The key word here is “effective” — these are the tax rates people actually pay after factoring in things like the mortgage interest deduction, the child tax credit and the myriad other deductions and credits written into the U.S. tax code. Values for 2011 and 2012 aren’t yet available, but the CBO does provide projections for 2013 tax filings, which I’ve plotted, as well.

Overall the trend is downward. The average filer saw her effective tax rate drop from 22 percent in 1979 to 18.1 percent in 2010. Rates on the bottom 20 percent of tax filers went from 7.5 percent to 1.5 percent, while the top 20 percent of earners saw a more modest decrease, from 27.1 to 24.0 percent over the same period. The effect of crisis-era policy is clearly visible in the sharp drop in rates from 2007 to 2008, mostly from tax provisions in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Tax rates hit rock bottom in 2009, right as the tea party movement was gaining steam.

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National Journal: Obamacare Is On A Winning Streak

The headlines about the Affordable Care Act have turned positive lately, and they’re starting to pile up. The most dire predictions from the law’s critics simply haven’t panned out, and now Democrats are headed into another big health care fight—the confirmation of a new Health and Human Services secretary—with stronger real-world evidence than they’ve had before. Narratives feed on themselves, and there was a time when Obamacare just kept losing. But over the past few weeks, the news has started to roll in the other direction. Enrollment has surged beyond expectations. Costs are coming in lower than predicted. Various reports say the number of uninsured Americans is falling. Now it’s good news snowballing, and it’s critics who increasingly seem to have missed the mark with their warnings of inevitable collapse.

Critics still promise that the law cannot work as intended, but the evidence keeps piling up in the other direction. The opportunities for failure keep falling away, and worst-case predictions keep going bust. There was no death spiral, nor will there be one. And there was never going to be a “death panel.” The next big warning is about premiums for 2015. Critics say premiums will skyrocket because not enough healthy people signed up this year. some insurers are looking to expand their presence in the exchanges next year, and others have indicated they might jump in for the first time, after taking a wait-and-see approach this year. So far, no large plans have said they intend to leave the exchange marketplace. All of that indicates that insurers see the market as stable. And more plans competing for more new customers will likely keep premium increases in check. According to Gallup, the percentage of Americans without health insurance has fallen from 18 percent in to 15 percent.

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The Obamas leaving the White House today for Easter Services at the Nineteenth Street Baptist Church

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Malia Obama follows her father President Barack Obama, her mother First Lady Michelle Obama and her sister Sasha as they depart for Easter Services at the Nineteenth Street Baptist Church.

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WH.gov: The 10 most eggcellent moments from past Easter Egg Rolls

1. That time Bo wore bunny ears


2. Playing H-O-R-S-E with the P-O-T-U-S


3. 30-Love


4. YOU get an egg, and YOU get an egg, and YOU get an egg!


5. That time 30,000 people were on the South Lawn like “NBD”


6. When everyone did the “Wild Rumpus”


7. When we had a Kid POTUS


8. When Bo did an Easter egg hunt and was all like “Found it!”


9. Float like a butterfly, hop like a bunny.

10. And we went “Hip hop hooray!”

See the full Easter Egg Roll program here

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On This Day

Sen. Barack Obama with Caroline Kennedy before addressing supporters at a rally in Scranton, Pa., April 20, 2008

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President Obama with Tiger Woods in the Oval Office April 20, 2009

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On This Day: First Lady Michelle Obama greets students after talking to them about the importance of exercise as part of the “Let’s Move!” initiative at River Terrace Elementary School in Washington on April 20, 2010

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President Obama speaks at a “town hall” at Facebook headquarters, with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg in Palo Alto, California on April 20, 2011

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President Obama signs a proclamation to designate federal lands within the former Fort Ord as a national monument under the Antiquities Act in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC, April 20, 2012. Fort Ord is a former military base located on California’s central coast and is a world-class destination for hikers, mountain bikers, and outdoor enthusiasts

President Obama greets members of the military and their families during the kick off event for the Wounded Warrior Project’s Soldier Ride on the South Lawn of the White House April 20, 2012

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Rise and Shine

On This Day: President Obama walks along along the Colonnade toward the Oval Office, Feb. 26, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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Today:

11:15 EST: President Obama departs the White House

12:50 CT: Arrives Minnesota

1:15: Tours the Metro Transit Light Rail Operations and Maintenance Facility; St. Paul, Minnesota

2:05 CT: Delivers remarks; Union Depot, St. Paul

3:05 CT: Departs Minnesota

6:25 EST: Arrives White House

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Tami Luhby: I’m Quitting My Job. Thanks Obamacare!

Now that Karen Willmus can get health insurance through Obamacare, she plans to quit teaching 9th grade English at the end of the school year. The 51-year-old found policies on the Colorado state exchange for about $300 a month. That’s less than what she’s paying now for employer-sponsored coverage and less than half what she paid on the individual market in 2007.  Obamacare is allowing them to become entrepreneurs or retire a few years early since they’ll be able to find affordable individual coverage for the first time. Instead of eating bonbons on her couch, Willmus plans to start her own business with her teen daughter publishing materials for non-native English speakers and others looking to improve their literacy. She expects to work even more than she does now and hire two or three people. “I can’t afford to go out and buy insurance while trying to start a business,” said Willmus, of Colorado Springs, Colo. “Obamacare will allow me to be more comfortable at risking what I own.”

For others, Obamacare frees them to leave a job before they qualify for Medicare. Edward Perri’s job as a grocery clerk has caused him constant back and knee pain in recent years, but he continued to work because he needed insurance. Obamacare allowed him to retire in December after 39 years, 4 months and 23 days on the job. His retiring at 57 allowed a more junior employee to move up on the job, said Perri, who is single and lives in Muskegon, Mich. Had Obamacare not existed, he’d either have to try to tough it out until he qualified for Medicare at 65 or pay $500 a month for COBRA coverage.  Instead, he’s paying $50 a month for a policy. And, as he sees it, the $450 that he would have sent to an insurance company is going to buy groceries, fix his car and take a vacation with his girlfriend. “That is money I spend in the local economy, creating and saving jobs,” he said.

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Ta-Nehisi Coates: ‘I Am Still Called By The God I Serve To Walk This Out’ 

I told her that I was stunned by her grace after the verdict. I told her the verdict greatly angered me. I told her that the idea that someone on that jury thought it plausible there was a gun in the car baffled me. I told her it was appalling to consider the upshot of the verdict—had Michael Dunn simply stopped shooting and only fired the shots that killed Jordan Davis, he might be free today. She said, “It baffles our mind too. Don’t think that we aren’t angry. Don’t think that I am not angry. Forgiving Michael Dunn doesn’t negate what I’m feeling and my anger. And I am allowed to feel that way. But more than that I have a responsibility to God to walk the path He’s laid. In spite of my anger, and my fear that we won’t get the verdict that we want, I am still called by the God I serve to walk this out.”

I asked McBath how she felt about her country. She paused, then gave an answer that perfectly summed up the spirit of African-American patriotism. “I still love my country. It’s the only country we have. This is the best that I’ve got,” she said. “And I still believe that there are people here who believe in justness and fairness. And I still believe there are people here who don’t make judgments about people based on the color of the skin. I am a product of that. But I am disheartened that as far as we’ve come it doesn’t matter that we have a black president. It doesn’t matter how educated we’ve become. It doesn’t matter because there still is an issue of race in this country. No, we have not really arrived. If something like this can happen, we have not arrived. And I ask myself, ‘At what point are we going to get there?’ And I have no answer. And I want to be able to answer.”

She wanted you to know that Jordan Davis was an individual black person. That he was an upper-middle-class kid. That his ancestry was diverse. That he had blacks in his family. Mexicans in his family. Panamanians in his family. That his great-grandfather was white. That some of his ancestors had passed.  Now she addressed him, “You exist,” she told him. “You matter. You have value. You have every right to wear your hoodie, to play your music as loud as you want. You have every right to be you. And no one should deter you from being you. You have to be you. And you can never be afraid of being you.” She gave my son a hug and then went upstairs to pack.

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Gene Lyons: Why Republicans Will Never Stop Lying About Obamacare

Politically speaking, here’s the thing about those melodramatic ads attacking the Affordable Care Act currently running on TV: In terms of actual policy, they’re as futile as the 40-odd votes to repeal the law that House Republicans have already cast. GOP hardliners are like a drunk in a bar fight threatening to whip somebody twice his size if only his friends would let go of his arms. It’s all over but the shouting. Like it or not, the ACA is here to stay. Indeed, governors and legislatures in previously recalcitrant states including New Hampshire, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Utah and Virginia are considering Medicaid expansion they’d previously shunned.

Despite early signup problems with the federal HealthCare.gov exchange, signups for individual private policies have increased to where it now appears the ACA will come close to meeting its projected goal of 7 million enrollees by the March 31 deadline. In Arkansas, virtually every news program features a pretty, AFP-sponsored actress plaintively begging viewers to remind Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor that health care is about “people,” and that “the law just doesn’t work.” More in sorrow than anger, it seems, because Pryor remains personally popular. 

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Natelege Whaley: Rally To Remember Trayvon Martin And Jordan Davis To Be Held In NY

A day of outrage and remembrance for Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis will be held in Times Square in New York City on Wednesday, Feb. 26. Several other locations around the country will be holding marches including Los Angeles, Atlanta and Greensboro, North Carolina.

The rally is being organized by the Stop Mass Incarceration Network. The organization is calling for demonstrators to meet at the red bleachers on 47th street between Broadway and 7th Avenue at 6:30 p.m.

Participants are asked to wear a hoodie and to stand in silence holding up signs with targets stating “No More.” The signs can be printed here. The aim of the event is to refuse acceptance of Black and Latino youth as targets of violence in America.

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NYT: Solar Industry Jump-Starts A Revival In California

Back in 2009, when Danny Kennedy was looking for office space for the fast-growing solar services company he had co-founded, his venture capital investors recommended setting up shop in one of the “Twitterville kinds of areas” south of Market Street in San Francisco. There, social media and peer-to-peer pioneers like Foursquare, Yelp, Airbnb and, indeed, Twitter had created a technology zone where innovative ideas could fly free and cross-pollinate among young workers meeting casually over food and drink.

Instead — after looking at buildings he deemed “foggy and frumpy and cold and wet,” not to mention expensive — Mr. Kennedy ended up in an airy loft across the bay here at Jack London Square. In just four years, the company, Sungevity, has grown to 300 employees from 55 in its 11,000-square-foot space overlooking the Oakland Estuary, helping jump-start the area’s stalled revitalization. Taking things a step further, Mr. Kennedy, a former environmental advocate, has developed an incubator-accelerator program, the SfunCube, to attract and nurture other solar start-ups.

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Zero Hedge: Ukraine Calls Russia’s Bluff, Slashes  Nat Gas Imports By 80%

Twice in recent years, Russia has suspended gas supplies, or notably raised prices, as the somewhatwell-known “trump card” of Russia’s oil and gas supply to Ukraine (and Europe for that matter) remains Putin’s easiest option for clenching his iron-first against the divided nation. Following a pre-emptive move in November by Ukraine to diversify its energy supply,  Russia had reduced the price of gas for the highly indebted Ukraine in December (to entice Ukraine under Russia’s wing); but, after recent events, Dmitry Medvedev signaled on Monday that the price could be raised again. However, today we find that Ukraine’s state oil and gas company, Naftogaz, has slashed gas imports from Russia’s Gazprom by  stunning 80% in February as Ukraine tries to show Russia it can’t be pushed around… of course, with limited (and more expensive) alternative supplies, we fear this could well shoot them in the foot.

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NY Mag: Is It Mean To Debunk Lies About Obamacare?

Some eight months before the midterm elections, the airwaves are being flooded with the sad tales of Obamacare victims. The tales all fall into the same predictable rut. First, the poor victim steps forward to share his (or, more frequently, her) tale of deprivation. Then reporters discover the putative victim is either a non-victim, or possibly a beneficiary, of Obamacare. Then conservatives get angry. Finding a person made worse off by a huge, complex social-policy reform still in its first months in a gigantic country ought to be simple, yet the Republican Party has continuously failed to achieve even in the modest task which was its charge.

In her reply to President Obama’s State of the Union address, Cathy McMorris-Rogers held out the plight of “Bette from Spokane,” who is facing an astronomical price increase, which turned out to be highly inaccurate. The victim, Bette Grenier, could have secured a better plan if she had checked on the exchange, but told a reporter following up, “I wouldn’t go on that Obama website at all.” And yes, if the criteria for Obamacare victimhood includes forcing somebody to participate in a law designed by Barack Obama in order to save money, then any Obama-created health-care law is going to produce a lot of victims.

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John Prendergast and George Clooney

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USA Today: Clooney: New Lost Boys Of South Sudan

The only activity in the hospital compound in Bor, South Sudan, these days is the dozens of vultures circling overhead. In mid-January, rebel forces swept into the Bor hospital, killing everyone that could not escape. Underscoring its crime, the group collected and burned the bodies of its victims. All that remains are bloodstained shoes, charred medicine vials, and overturned wheelchairs. Scorched patches of earth show where people were set on fire. When local residents are asked who was responsible, the answer is always the same: child soldiers of a militia called the White Army.

In the 1980s and 1990s, tens of thousands of boys from the southern part of Sudan were driven from their homes and forced to trek hundreds of miles in search of sanctuary. Many were press-ganged into military service. They crossed two international borders, faced surreal life-threatening challenges, and eventually given asylum by the U.S. government, landing them in places like Phoenix, Atlanta, and D.C. They came to be known as the Lost Boys. Today, renewed warfare in South Sudan is creating a new generation of Lost Boys.

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Jonathan Cohn: CBO On House Obamacare Bill: More Uninsured, Higher Deficits

The Congressional Budget Office just taught the Republican Party a lesson. Governing is hard. The CBO on Tuesday issued a formal cost estimate of House Resolution 2575, a bill from Republican Todd Young of Indiana. The bill’s formal title is the “Save American Workers Act.” Its goal is to change Obamacare’s employer mandate—the requirement that medium-sized and large businesses pay a penalty if they do not offer affordable health insurance to all full-time employees. The definition of “full-time” is anybody who works at least 30 hours a week. And, for some time, the media has been full of stories of employers—particularly low-wage employers, governments, and universities—reducing or limiting worker hours, in order to avoid the costs of coverage.

CBO takes a different view. Virtually every respectable economist who has looked at the numbers has determined that there’s been no large-scale shift in hours. It’s not that the anecdotes are fake. As Jed Graham of Investor’s Business Daily has shown, some businesses are clearly limiting the hours of employees. It’s that, ultimately, they don’t add up to that much. The CBO reached the same conclusion—suggesting, in effect, that Young’s bill is solving a problem that may not need solving. But that doesn’t mean Young’s bill would have no effect. On the contrary, CBO found, about one million fewer people would end up with employer health insurance. And while some of them would find other forms of coverage, like Medicaid and insurance from the new exchanges, overall the net bill’s net effect would be to increase the number of people without any insurance by about half a million. And it turns out that moving the full-time threshold from 30 to 40 hours has a substantial effect on revenue, according to CBO: Over the next ten year period, from 2015 to 2024, the federal government would take in $73 billion less. That’s real money.

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On This Day:

Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Hillary Clinton speaks as Sen. Barack Obama looks on in a debate at Cleveland State University’s Wolstein Center February 26, 2008

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President Obama arrives to discuss his proposed 2010 budget in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building adjacent to the White House in Washington on February 26, 2009

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President Obama signs a wall during a tour of the International Brotherhood of Electricians (IBEW) Local 26 headquarters in Lanham, Md., Feb. 16, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama signs an executive order in the East Room of the White House February 26, 2010 in Washington, DC. Obama delivered remarks and signed an executive order for the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities during the event.

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President Obama greets Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan and Attorney General Eric Holder after speaking about the details of a $26 billion housing settlement between federal and state officials and mortgage lenders, in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington, DC on February 6, 2012

First Lady Michelle Obama listens to President Obama speak in the State Dining Room of the White House, February 26, 2012, during the Governors Dinner.

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President Obama waves to employees during a visit to Newport News Shipbuilding February 26, 2013 in Newport News, Virginia. Obama spoke on the impact from the sequester would be for the defense industry and its workers

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17
Feb
14

Happy 5th Birthday, Stimulus!

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Jason Sattler: 5 Ways The Stimulus Saved And Remade America

It Reversed America’s Layoff Crisis. What happened in mid-2009 that suddenly boosted America out of recession and reversed the escalating trend of layoffs, which is measured here with the four-week moving average of initial unemployment claims that simply averages the number of Americans applying for jobless benefits? Was it the uptick of people buying tricorn hats or purchasing signs to call Obama a socialist/fascist/corporate cronyist?

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Or maybe it was the result of markets calmed by government intervention infused with the sudden burst of spending via the only place from which it could come in such a crisis, the federal government? It Led To The Creation Or Saving Of 9 Million Jobs. The most untold part of the untold story of the stimulus is the dramatic way it nearly conjured a vibrant green energy industry that barely existed five years ago.

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Pete Danko: More Wind Power Equals Lower Electricity Prices

The price of electricity has dropped in states that have developed extensive wind power over the past five years. It’s just a slight drop, but here’s the kicker: the other states have seen a hefty rise.  The AWEA pointed to 11 states that had produce more than 7 percent of their electricity from wind power – Texas, Wyoming, Oregon, Oklahoma, Idaho, Colorado, Kansas, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Iowa. In those states, the price of electricity fell 0.37 percent in the past five years. Meanwhile, in the rest of the states, electricity went up by 7.79 percent.

More here

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Igor Volsky: Republicans Slam Stimulus On Fifth Anniversary – But Most Took Credit For It Back Home

Monday marks the five-year anniversary of the passage of the American Recovery Act, President Obama’s $800 billion stimulus stimulus package that invested in everything from infrastructure projects to electronic medical health care records and alternative energy sources. Every single Republican in the House and almost every Republican in the Senate — with the exception of Former Sens. Olympia Snowe (R-ME), Arlen Specter (R-PA), and Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) — voted against the measure and today the GOP continues to deride the law as wasteful an ineffective.

But as ThinkProgress reported throughout 2009, over half of the GOP caucus praised the effects of the stimulus or took credit for the federal dollars in their home districts and states — despite repeatedly voting against it in Washington D.C. The Wall Street Journal reported “Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican who called the stimulus a ‘wasteful spending spree’ that ‘misses the mark on all counts,’ wrote to Labor Secretary Hilda Solis in October in support of a grant application from a group in his district which, he said, ‘intends to place 1,000 workers in green jobs.’” Ryan also wrote letters to the Secretary of Energy requesting stimulus funds for a local energy company in 2009. Ryan repeatedly voted against the stimulus.

More here

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2.17.14

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Steve Benen: The Recovery Act, Five Years Later

It seems like ages ago, but in late 2008 and early 2009, the global economic crisis had reached terrifying levels, and U.S. policymakers had to choose a direction for the nation’s future. Democrats rallied behind a stimulus package called the Recovery Act, while Republicans called for a five-year federal spending freeze. First, if the nation had followed the GOP’s preferred course at the height of the crisis – David Brooks described the Republican prescription at the time as “insane” – the Great Recession would have been far worse, making their complaints now rather laughable. Second, if GOP lawmakers are convinced the stimulus failed, why’d they take credit for its investments back home? And third, public relations notwithstanding, the Recovery Act was a great success.

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Michael Grunwald: Five Years After Stimulus, Obama Says It Worked

Five years ago Monday, President Barack Obama visited the Denver Museum of Nature and Science to sign the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, his $800 billion stimulus bill. At the time, the U.S. economy was losing 800,000 jobs a month. In the fourth quarter of 2008, it had contracted at an 8% annual rate, a Depression-level free fall. “Today does not mark the end of our economic problems,” Obama said on Feb. 17, 2009. “But it does mark the beginning of the end.” And so it did. the Recovery Act increased U.S. GDP by roughly 2 to 2.5 percentage points from late 2009 through mid-2011, keeping us out of a double-dip recession. It added about 6 million “job years” (a full-time job for a full year) through the end of 2012. If you combine the Recovery Act with a series of follow-up measures, including unemployment-insurance extensions, small-business tax cuts and payroll tax cuts, the Administration’s fiscal stimulus produced a 2% to 3% increase in GDP in every quarter from late 2009 through 2012, and 9 million extra job years, according to the report.

 The report also estimates that the Recovery Act’s aid to victims of the Great Recession — in the form of expanded food stamps, earned-income tax credits, unemployment benefits and much more — directly prevented 5.3 million people from slipping below the poverty line. It also improved nearly 42,000 miles of roads, repaired over 2,700 bridges, funded 12,220 transit vehicles, improved more than 3,000 water projects and provided tax cuts to 160 million American workers. The Recovery Act jump-started clean energy in America, financing unprecedented investments in wind, solar, geothermal and other renewable sources of electricity. It advanced biofuels, electric vehicles and energy efficiency in every imaginable form. It helped fund the factories to build all that green stuff in the U.S., and research into the green technologies of tomorrow. It’s the reason U.S. wind production has increased 145% since 2008 and solar installations have increased more than 1,200%. The stimulus is also the reason the use of electronic medical records has more than doubled in doctors’ offices and almost quintupled in hospitals. It improved more than 110,000 miles of broadband infrastructure. It launched Race to the Top, the most ambitious national education reform in decades.

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David Danelski: MOJAVE DESERT: High-Profile Solar Plant Dedicated With Fanfare

Amid the glow of 173,000 mirrors capturing the sun’s power, more than 100 government officials and energy executives Thursday celebrated the opening of the Ivanpah solar plant in northeast San Bernardino County and declared their intention to build more of them to combat global warming. “We will continue to work across the board to advance these projects. So bring them on,” U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said in his keynote. His address, given in a large tent next to the mirror fields, came during a luncheon that offered squash ravioli and a salad of baby greens. Moniz said Ivanpah is the world’s largest thermal solar project and part of a strategy to expand carbon-free sources of energy.

The Obama administration is looking to provide as much as $40 billion in additional loan guarantees for energy projects, Moniz said. The plant is expected to provide enough electricity for as many as 140,000 homes through contracts with Southern California Edison and Pacific Gas and Electric. It has been hailed by President Barack Obama, who said in his State of the Union address that America is a global leader in solar development. The government has backed such projects with investment tax credits that run through 2016, though it is not clear how much the Ivanpah investors have benefited. The tax breaks were part of Obama’s first-term economic stimulus package. Ivanpah is one of the first commercial-scale solar developments initiated during Obama’s recession-fighting stimulus effort. It is the first large-scale plant to use power-tower technology — at Ivanpah, the mirrors focus solar energy onto boilers mounted on three, 460-foot towers. Heat in the boilers creates steam, which powers turbines that generate electricity.

More here

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