President Barack Obama addresses the National Clean Energy Summit at the Mandalay Bay Resort Convention Center in Las Vegas, Nevada. The White House expanded its push for greater renewable energy adoption, announcing fresh financial incentives for solar panels, smart grid technology and other alternative energies for homeowners and builders
Rolling Stone: The Obama Hope And Change Index: 6 Years Of Progress, By The Numbers
Peak unemployment, October 2009: 10 percent
Unemployment rate now: 5.9 percent
Consecutive private sector job growth: 55 months
Private sector jobs created: 10.3 million
Federal deficit, 2009: 9.8 percent of GDP
Deficit in 2013: 4.1 percent of GDP
Average tax rate for highest earners 2008: 28.1 percent
Average tax rate for highest earners 2013: 33.6 percent
Banks regulated as too big to fail, 2009: 0
Banks regulated as “systemically important financial institutions” — a.k.a. too big to fail — 2014: 29
Billions returned to consumers by Consumer Financial Protection Bureau enforcement: $4.6 billion
Americans compensated for being swindled by banks, lenders and credit card companies: 15 million
Dow Jones close, inauguration day 2009: 7,949
Dow Jones yesterday: 16,719
Required MPG (miles per gallon) for cars when Obama took office: 27.5
Required MPG for light trucks/SUVs when Obama took office: 23
MPG requirement by 2016 for cars, light trucks/SUVs: 35.5
MPG required by 2025: 54.5
Gigawatts of wind power installed when Obama took office: 25
Gigawatts of wind power installed through end of 2013: 61
Peak summertime solar power generation June 2008: 128 gigawatt hours
Peak summertime solar power generation June 2014: 2,061 gigawatt hours
Coal burned in electrical generation 2008: 1 billion short tons
Coal burned in electrical generation 2013: 858 million short tons
Reduction: 14.2 percent
EPA-proposed CO2 reductions for power sector by 2030: 30 percent
Pell grant funding 2008-2009: $18 billion
Pell grant funding 2013-2014: $33 billion
Adults gaining insurance under first year of Obamacare: 10.3 million
As a percentage of the uninsured: 26
Annual cost for birth control prior to Obamacare: Up to $600
Annual cost for birth control under Obamacare-compliant policies: $0
Prescriptions now required to obtain emergency contraception: 0
2009 projection for Medicare going broke: 2017
2014 projection for Medicare going broke: 2030
Troops in Iraq, inauguration day 2009: 144,000
Troops in Iraq today: 1,600
Osama bin Ladens alive 2009: 1
Osama bin Ladens alive 2014: 0
Troops in Afghanistan, day, 2009: 34,400
Troops pledged in Afghanistan by end of 2014: 9,800
Guantánamo detainees inauguration day 2009: 242
Gitmo detainees today: 149
Crack vs. Powder cocaine-crime sentencing disparity when Obama took office: 100:1
Crack vs. Powder disparity today: 18:1
Drug offenders eligible to seek early release under new sentencing guidelines: 46,000
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)
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
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.
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)
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.
The so-called "job killing" Affordable Care Act has added nearly 1 million jobs to the economy. onforb.es/UoW0uM
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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]
Has there ever been a war John McCain is willing to see end? @hardball
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.
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)
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)
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
On This Day: President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama talk in the Green Room of the White House before being introduced at a Joining Forces initiative employment announcement for veterans and military spouses, April 30, 2013 (Photo by Pete Souza)
Today (All Times Eastern)
1:0 Jay Carney briefs the press
3:10: President Obama delivers remarks on the minimum wage
Clyde Davis holds a sign before the NBA playoff game 5 between Golden State Warriors and Los Angeles Clippers at Staples Center in Los Angeles, April 29
NPR: Obamacare Enrollees Emboldened To Leave Jobs, Start Businesses
Until recently, Mike Smith, 64, of Long Beach, Calif., worked 11 hours a day, Monday through Friday and then half a day on Saturday. He was a district manager for a national auto parts chain. He dreamed of retiring early, but it wasn’t an option for him because he and his wife relied on his the health insurance tied to his job. “At our age, with some pre-existing medical conditions, it would have been very costly to buy insurance on the open market — about $3,000 a month,” he says. But the Affordable Care Act changed that. Smith retired in January. So did his wife, Laura, also 64.
The couple now has a private health insurance policy that they bought through Covered California, the state’s insurance marketplace. It costs them $200 a month. The coverage helped the Smiths make a major lifestyle change. A recent study by Georgetown University and the Urban Institute predicts the ACA will enable up to 1.5 million Americans to leave their jobs and become self-employed, start new businesses or retire early. It’s a finding that runs counter to forecasts by critics of the federal health law, who contend it will cost the nation jobs and cripple America’s small-business economy.
Washington Post: Obamacare beneficiary: ‘You Wouldn’t Have Caught Me Dead Watching MSNBC’
The story of Dean Angstadt’s sudden embrace of Obamacare made MSNBC last night. Host Chris Hayes picked up on a heartwarming story in the Philadelphia Inquirer about a 57-year-old logger of Boyertown, Pa., who’d resisted signing up for Obamacare coverage but finally relented under the urging of a friend. what accounts for Angstadt’s resistance to Obamacare in the first place? He says that he “leans” Republican and essentially listened to what the GOP had to say about Obamacare, and not so much to what the Democrats had to say.
As for his media diet, Anstadt says he goes online for some of his news, but when it comes to television, “Fox News, of course, and that’s basically what I watch on TV” Asked if Fox News had molded his view of Obamacare, Angstadt responded, “Yeah, yeah — they get people fired up. You know what, I really do have a different outlook on it. It’s really wrong that people are making it into a political thing. To me, it is a life-and-death thing.” Of Obamacare’s namesake, Angstadt says, “I didn’t care for Obama. I can’t say nothing bad about him now because it was his plan that probably saved my life.”
ThinkProgress: GOP Lawmakers Confronted By Constituents Demanding To Know Why They Won’t Expand Medicaid
Americans for Prosperity (AFP), a right-wing group funded by the billionaire Koch Brothers, has been aggressively pressuring states to reject Obamacare’s optional Medicaid expansion. Last fall, the organization launched a massive campaign that has focused mainly on Virginia. But the latest town hall meetings hosted by AFP in the state aren’t exactly going well. Over the past week, at several town halls intended to emphasize why Virginia shouldn’t expand Medicaid, GOP lawmakers have been confronted by constituents who are demanding to know why they’re denying health care from an estimated 400,000 low-income residents.
Last week, at an AFP-sponsored forum in Charlottesville featuring two GOP lawmakers who oppose the expansion, the event was packed with more than a hundred Medicaid supporters. Protesters gathered outside the building with signs encouraging passing cars to honk for Medicaid expansion, and a local outlet noted that the politicians faced a “hostile audience” inside, too. Then, on Monday, three Republicans were “deluged with questions” about their refusal to expand Medicaid at an AFP event in Ashburn
Ari Berman: Federal Court Strikes Down Discriminatory Wisconsin Voter ID Law
At 2:17 pm EST today, ESPN announced that LA Clippers owner Donald Sterling had been banned from the NBA for life for his racist remarks. Seven minutes later, at 2:24 pm, the ACLU tweeted that a Wisconsin judge had struck down the state’s voter ID law because it disproportionately burdened black and Hispanic voters. Both decisions were striking affirmations of Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s dissent last week, in a Michigan affirmative action case, that “race matters.” Sotomayor pointed to contemporary voter suppression efforts as an illustration of her defense. Wisconsin federal district court Judge Lynn Adelman ruled today that the state’s voter ID law, which was temporarily enjoined in 2012, violated the Fourteenth Amendment and Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.
On same day NBA bans Sterling, federal court rules that Wisconsin voter ID law disproportionately burdens black and Hispanic voters
The voter ID law had a clear discriminatory impact, the judge found. “The evidence adduced at trial demonstrates that this unique burden disproportionately impacts Black and Latino voters,” Adelman wrote. Data from the 2012 election “showed that African American voters in Wisconsin were 1.7 times as likely as white voters to lack a matching driver’s license or state ID and that Latino voters in Wisconsin were 2.6 times as likely as white voters to lack these forms of identification.” The judge found that Wisconsin’s ID law overwhelmingly impacted lower-income voters and that “Blacks and Latinos in Wisconsin are disproportionately likely to live in poverty…. The reason Blacks and Latinos are disproportionately likely to live in poverty, and therefore to lack a qualifying ID, is because they have suffered from, and continue to suffer from, the effects of discrimination.”
Steve Benen: House GOP leaders Scramble After Accidentally Telling The Truth
With a tip of the hat to Michael Kinsley, it appears half the House Republican leadership committed gaffes in recent days by accidentally telling the truth. They’re now scrambling to reverse course.
Late last week, for example, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), the chair of the House Republican Conference, conceded to her local newspaper that the Affordable Care Act is unlikely to be repealed. Though she wants to “look at reforming the exchanges,” the local report added that McMorris Rodgers “said the framework established by the law likely will persist and reforms should take place within its structure.”
This was a perfectly sensible position for a House GOP leader to take. Yesterday, the congresswoman’s office assured the right she has no use for such reasonableness.
Washington Post: White House Opens Door To Tolls On Interstate Highways, Removing Long-Standing Prohibition
With pressure mounting to avert a transportation funding crisis this summer, the Obama administration Tuesday opened the door for states to collect tolls on interstate highways to raise revenue for roadway repairs. The proposal, contained in a four-year, $302 billion White House transportation bill, would reverse a long-standing federal prohibition on most interstate tolling. Though some older segments of the network — notably the Pennsylvania and New Jersey turnpikes and Interstate 95 in Maryland and Virginia — are toll roads, most of the 46,876-mile system has been toll-free. “We believe that this is an area where the states have to make their own decisions,” said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “We want to open the aperture, if you will, to allow more states to choose to make broader use of tolling, to have that option available.”
The question of how to pay to repair roadways and transit systems built in the heady era of post-World War II expansion is demanding center stage this spring, with projections that traditional funding can no longer meet the need. That source, the Highway Trust Fund, relies on the 18.4-cent federal gas tax, which has eroded steadily as vehicles have become more energy efficient. “The proposal comes at the crucial moment for transportation in the last several years,” Foxx said. “As soon as August, the Highway Trust Fund could run dry. States are already canceling or delaying projects because of the uncertainty.” While providing tolling as an option to states, the White House proposal relies on funding from a series of corporate tax reforms, most of them one-time revenue streams that would provide a four-year bridge to close the trust-fund deficit and permit $150 billion more in spending than the gas tax will bring in.
Lindsey Bever: Botched Oklahoma Execution Reignites Death Penalty Debate
Tuesday night’s botched execution in Oklahoma, which resulted in an inmate’s writhing death from a heart attack 43 minutes after he received what was supposed to be a lethal injection, was just one in a series of bungled execution attempts the past few years. It’s prompting calls for a moratorium on capital punishment from death penalty opponents. The inmate, Clayton Lockett, was confirmed unconscious 10 minutes after the first dose in the state’s new three-drug protocol was administered. The first drug, midazolam, is intended to render a person unconscious. But three minutes later, he began breathing heavily, thrashing and straining to lift his head, media witnesses said. Reporters for Tulsa World and KFOR-TV in Oklahoma City said Lockett called out from the gurney, “man.”
The blinds were then lowered to prevent people in the viewing gallery from seeing inside the death chamber. Oklahoma Department of Corrections Director Robert Patton answered a ringing phone and left the room with a few officials. Patton told reporters Lockett’s vein line had “blown.” When asked what he meant, Patton said the vein had “exploded.” Executions have become increasingly difficult for states to carry out over the past two years because of similar incidents. Licensed physicians are now unwilling to have anything to do with them on ethical grounds. Pharmaceutical companies that market the most tested drugs have cut off supplies, forcing states to obtain compounds they refuse to describe from suppliers they refuse to identify. Now the battle concerns not who dies, but how they die, and the competence of states to carry out executions humanely.
There is so little good news on the voter-suppression front these days that, when some actually rears its head, it catches you somewhat by surprise, even more so when it cites what everybody knows about these laws, but what many people have to pretend they can’t figure out.
…. There will be appeals. There also may be an attempt to push another, similar bill through the legislature by Scott Walker, the goggle-eyed homunculus hired by Koch Industries to manage their midwest subsidiary formerly known as the state of Wisconsin. But, for now, something resembling the state’s proud progressive history has prevailed.
Mike Florio: Sterling’s Lifetime Ban Sends Clear Message To All Owners
By banning L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling for life, Adam Silver has made the jobs a little easier for his colleagues in the Commissioners’ Club. Every owner of every major-league franchise, in the NBA or elsewhere, now knows that views like those espoused by Sterling will result in swift and decisive action.
How could Commissioner Roger Goodell do anything less with an NFL owner, now that Silver has set the precedent in a different sport? With Goodell developing in his seven-plus years on the job a reputation for aggressively enforcing all rules and policies against the league’s players, it would be virtually impossible for Goodell to not drop the hammer on an NFL owner who engages in similar conduct.
Forbes: Here’s How Obama’s Russia Sanctions Will Destroy Vladimir Putin
The US Treasury Department announced further sanctions today on seven Russian officials and 17 Russian companies, including Igor Sechin, the head of Rosneft, Russia’s largest oil company, several financial institutions and a number of firms connected to the energy sector. These will include visa bans, asset freezes and further restrictions on trade.
When the first round of sanctions were imposed, the Russians largely laughed them off and critics of the administration pounced. How could visa bans and asset freezes affect the calculus of Putin’s most ardent supporters? What effect will it have on the ones don’t travel extensively the West or keep assets in foreign banks?
Yet this line of reasoning betrays a deep misunderstanding about the purpose and effects of the sanctions. They are, in fact, a new breed of financial warfare that the Treasury department has been honing since 9/11, which rely on new legislation such as Section 311 of the Patriot Act and “know your customer” banking rules.
Anthony Man: Looking For Complaints, Rick Scott Instead Finds Praise For Obamacare
Gov. Rick Scott visited a senior center Tuesday to warn about cuts he said Obamacare is forcing in a popular version of the Medicare health program and to collect their horror stories. What he found was a satisfied group with few complaints. The 20 seniors assembled for a roundtable with Scott at the Volen Center were largely content with their Medicare coverage and didn’t have negative stories to recount. And some praised Obamacare – a program that Scott frequently criticizes. “I’m completely satisfied,” Harvey Eisen, 92, a West Boca resident, told Scott. Eisen told the governor he wasn’t sure “if, as you say,” there are Obamacare-inspired cuts to Medicare. But even if there are, that would be OK. “I can’t expect that me as a senior citizen are going to get preferential treatment when other programs are also being cut.”
Ruthlyn Rubin, 66, of Boca Raton, told the governor that people who are too young for Medicare need the health coverage they get from Obamacare. If young people don’t have insurance, she said, everyone else ends up paying for their care when they get sick or injured and end up in the hospital. Eventually, Rubin said, Obamacare will become more popular. “People were appalled at Social Security. They were appalled at Medicare when it came out. I think these major changes take some people aback. But I think we have to be careful not to just rely on the fact that we’re seniors and have an entitlement to certain things,” she said. “We’re all just sitting here taking it for granted that because we have Medicare we don’t want to lose one part of it. That’s wrong to me. I think we have to spread it around. This is the United States of America. It’s not the United States of senior citizens,” Rubin said from her spot two seats away from the governor.
Washington Post: Virginia Attorney General Declares ‘Dreamers ‘ Eligible For In-State Tuition
Virginia Attorney General Mark R. Herring thrust himself and his state back into the national spotlight Tuesday by announcing that some illegal immigrants who were brought to this country as children can qualify for in-state college tuition under existing law. Herring made the announcement at Northern Virginia Community College’s Alexandria campus just a few months after the legislature declined to enact the idea and on the heels of another brazen legal move in January, when he declared that the state’s ban on gay marriage was unconstitutional. “We should welcome these smart, talented, hard-working young people into our economy and society rather than putting a stop sign at the end of 12th grade,” Herring (D) said Tuesday to sustained applause and cheers from a room full of Latino students, immigration activists and education officials.
Announced in Spanish, Hindi, Vietnamese and Korean in addition to English, Herring’s move built upon President Obama’s decision to allow thousands of young illegal immigrants to remain in the country. Virginia students who are lawfully present in the United States as a result of Obama’s effort, which is known as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, qualify for in-state tuition as long as they meet the state’s residency requirements, Herring said. Herring’s decision was far more than symbolic, instantly making college more affordable for more than 8,000 young illegal immigrants. The attorney general said state universities will immediately implement the policy, which comes just in time for high school seniors trying to make college plans for the fall.
Suzanne Gamboa: Can You Trust Obama To Police Immigration? Report: Yes You Can
House Speaker John Boehner said Tuesday that moving ahead on immigration reform depends on the President showing he’s enforcing the law, which authors of an enforcement analysis said he has done. In his first news conference since Congress returned from a two-week break, Boehner said the biggest impediment on immigration reform is that Obama has “got to show the American people and the Congress he can implement the law the way it may be passed.” As Boehner made the statement, the Migration Policy Institute unveiled an analysis concluding Obama has built on enforcement policies of previous administrations and accelerated them, while trying to focus on border security and deportations of criminals.
In addition, some 250 evangelical pastors from 25 states also seemed reluctant to wait for more evidence on Obama’s trustworthiness. On Tuesday they were in Washington, D.C. visiting more than 100 members of Congress, mostly Republicans, and pushing for movement on immigration reform. Immigration hawks have criticized Obama’s record because of a drop in the number of immigrants apprehended in the interior of the U.S. Some have also opposed Obama’s decision to extend relief from deportation to young immigrants who are in the country illegally.“ If you are looking to critique the administration, you can find certain people are not crossing ICE’s radar and not being deported and that’s because the administration is focusing efforts mostly at the border,” said Rosenbaum, who served on Obama’s transition team on immigration.
In a major victory for the Obama administration, the Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld the authority of the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate the smog from coal plants that drifts across state lines from 28 Midwestern and Appalachian states to the East Coast. The 6-to-2 ruling bolsters the centerpiece of President Obama’s environmental agenda: a series of new regulations aimed at cutting pollution from coal-fired power plants. Republicans and the coal industry have criticized the regulations, which use the Clean Air Act as their legal authority, as a “war on coal.” The industry has waged an aggressive legal battle to undo the rules.
Legal experts said the decision, written by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, signals that the Obama administration’s efforts to use the Clean Air Act to fight global warming could withstand legal challenges. In June, the E.P.A. is expected to propose a sweeping new Clean Air Act regulation to cut emissions of carbon dioxide, the heat-trapping greenhouse gas that scientists say is the chief cause of climate change. Coal plants are the biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States.
Reuters: U.S. Consumer Confidence Rebounds To Pre-Crisis Levels In First Quarter
U.S. consumer sentiment rose sharply in the first quarter as optimism about the economic outlook improved, according to a global survey which also showed rising confidence in debt-laden euro zone countries. Globally, consumer confidence returned to pre-financial crisis levels in the first three months of this year, at its highest since the first quarter of 2007, the survey by global information and insights company Nielsen showed on Wednesday.
The Nielsen Global Consumer Confidence Index rose 2 points in the first quarter to 96, according to the survey, conducted between February 17 and March 7. A reading below 100, however, signals still relatively low consumer morale. Consumer confidence in the United States hit the 100 mark, rising 6 points from the previous quarter, and 44 percent of respondents said they were putting spare cash into savings accounts, up from 39 percent in the previous quarter. “Recovery gained forward momentum in the U.S. as the world’s largest economy reported improving unemployment numbers and rising equity and home prices,” said Venkatesh Bala, chief economist at The Cambridge Group, a part of Nielsen.
First Lady Michelle Obama poses for a selfie with a member of the audience after participating in a Joining Forces initiative event with service members, military spouses, and employers at the Fort Campbell Veterans Jobs Summit and Career Forum at Fort Campbell, Ky., April 23, 2014 (Photo by Amanda Lucidon)
President Obama gets a hug from Angelica Guarino, whose fiance was one of the participants in the “White House to Light House” Wounded Warrior Soldier Ride that took place moments before on the South Lawn of the White House, April 30, 2009
President Obama shakes hands with Marines attending the “White House to Light House” Wounded Warrior Soldier Ride, April 30, 2009
President Obama, surrounded by members of Congress and Jeanne White-Ginder, mother of Ryan White (2nd R), signs the Ryan White HIV/AIDS treatment extension act of 2009 in the Diplomatic Room of the White House in Washington on October 30, 2009. The act is the largest federally funded program for people living with HIV/AIDS in the U.S. It was named in honor of Ryan White, a teenager who contracted AIDS through a tainted hemophilia treatment in 1984 and became a well-known advocate for AIDS research and awareness, until his death on April 8, 1990
First Lady Michelle Obama meets hostesses at the annual Congressional Club Luncheon at the Washington Hilton Hotel in Washington, D.C., April 30, 2009 (Photo by Samantha Appleton)
President Obama talks with Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, following a health care meeting in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, April 30, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama leans against the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office, April, 30, 2010.(Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama looks through binoculars as he tours the Secret Service’s James J. Rowley Training Center in Beltsville, Md., April 30, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama disembarks Marine One after he arrived on the South Lawn of the White House, April 30, 2010
President Obama meets with Bono to discuss development policy in the Oval Office, April 30, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama laughs with, from left, Senior Advisor David Axelrod, Associate Director of Speechwriting Jonathan Lovett, and Director of Speechwriting Jon Favreau, while reading a draft of his remarks for the White House Correspondents Association dinner, in the Outer Oval Office, April 30, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama wait backstage before being introduced at the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner in Washington, D.C., April 30, 2011. Press Lead Advance Brandon Lepow and Trip Director Marvin Nicholson, right, stand with the President and First Lady (Photo by Chuck Kennedy)
First Lady Michelle Obama chats with Seth Meyers at the White House Correspondents Association Gala, April 30, 2011
President Obama and Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda of Japan wait in the Green Room of the White House before the start of their press conference in the East Room, April 30, 2012 ( Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama in the Green Room of the White House at a Joining Forces initiative employment announcement for veterans and military spouses, April 30, 2013
President Obama during a press conference in the Brady Press Room at the White House, April 30, 2013
President Obama and Vice President Biden talk with advisors following a National Security Staff meeting in the Situation Room of the White House, May 1, 2013. Clockwise from the President are: Mike Froman, Deputy National Security Advisor for International Economics; National Security Advisor Tom Donilon; and Tony Blinken, Deputy National Security Advisor (Photo by Pete Souza)
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
President Barack Obama: Making America the leader in clean energy, with the world's largest solar plant. pe.com/local-news/top…
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.