President Barack Obama speaks at Union Depot in St. Paul, Minn., about a $300 billion transportation infrastructure plan. Obama spoke at Union Depot rail and bus station with a proposal asking Congress for $300 billion to update the nation’s roads and railways, and about a competition to encourage investments to create jobs and restore infrastructure as part of the President’s Year of Action.
President Barack Obama and Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, listen as Mark Fuhrmann, New Start Program Director of Metro Transit, shows them a ticket vending machine during a tour of the Metro Transit Light Rail Operations and Maintenance Facility
As an avid PBS watcher growing up, it seemed that Paco de Lucia was always on some program or another. The renowned guitarist died at the age of 66. (I could go into the fact that there are a legion of others who deserve death far more than Señor de Lucia, but I’ll refrain.) In his honor some of his amazing musicianship.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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
On This Day: President Barack Obama kisses First Lady Michelle Obama in the Blue Room prior to meeting with the Congressional Black Caucus in the State Dining Room of the White House, Feb. 26, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)
MoooOOOooorning Early Birds (and 99ts and Amk) – Happy Wednesday!