LIVE: Biden With The Ukraine Update

Today on WonkTV!

Lots going on with Russia's stupid and vicious war against Ukraine. What will President Joe Biden say about it when he speaks this morning?

We don't know, but here are a few Russia/Ukraine links for you to gander at in the meantime:

  • Axios is reporting that the White House will sell assets of Russian oligarch garbage to fund aid for Ukraine.
  • Biden is demanding a whole bunch more Ukraine aid from Congress, but it's going to get weird when it gets to Capitol Hill because some lawmakers want to package it with COVID aid.
  • Oh yeah, you hear Russia cut off natural gas exports to Bulgaria and Poland because they refused to pay in rubles and those countries are pretty much like PFFFFFFFFT? "We will not succumb to such a racket," said the prime minister of Bulgaria. Rachel Maddow said last night she thinks that, with this development, the jig pretty much is up on Russian energy going into the future, and Europe will look elsewhere.

Biden might talk about all those things and more!

Watch live:

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Nice Time

Nice Time! Computer Nerds Take On Government-Benefit 'Time Tax'

Heart-hug emoji!

If you want a brief vision of bureaucratic hell, it's hard to top the opening paragraph of this Atlantic article by Annie Lowrey. We've actually edited it down a bit for space, even:

A mother in Louisiana is struggling to pay her bills and decides to apply for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, better known as food stamps. She starts to fill out the state’s 26-page, 8,350-word application. Page one instructs her to distinguish between SNAP and two other programs. [...] Page three lets her know that she needs to collect paperwork or data in up to 13 different categories—pharmacy printouts from the past three months, four pay stubs, baptismal certificates, proof of who lives in the home. [...] Page 15 asks her to detail her income from 24 different sources; page 16 asks about 14 different housing expenses; page 19 asks about 10 types of assets members of her family might own. The process is invasive, time-consuming, and confusing. She might never finish the application. If she does, she could be rejected for doing the paperwork wrong.

Here's another one, courtesy of your editrix: When her good son was a small buttercup of a baby, the state of California rejected his Medi-Cal (California Medicaid) application, similar to the above, because his birth mother hadn't signed it. His birth mother was deceased.

This is no way to provide service to people who are in need of government assistance, and in some states the paperwork hurdles seem consciously designed to prevent people from getting the help they qualify for, and as Lowrey notes, Florida's unemployment insurance program was literally built with the goal of making benefits difficult to collect, which created chaos during the pandemic.

Happily, there's a hero in this story, or rather, an entire organization of them: Code for America (CFA), a nonprofit based in San Francisco, has been working to make the process of interacting with government, including applying for benefits, easier and more accessible to people. Previous CFA initiatives have helped people clear their criminal records, created tools to apply for tax credits more easily, and referred folks to volunteer tax preparers, because you can't claim the Earned Income Tax Credit if you don't file.

And now, with $100 million in new funding, the group is embarking on a major expansion in which it plans to partner "with 15 states to reach 13 million people and unlock $30 billion in benefits in the areas of food assistance, health care, and other basic needs." It's a huge step that's going to make people's lives better, so hooray for the geeks and the people they're going to help.

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Hack Trump Judge Cancel-Cultures Federal Public Transit Mask Mandate

This is the kind of judge Republicans confirm.

A federal judge from Florida just ended tyranny and preserved our cherished freedoms. At least that’s what US District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle probably tells herself, we guess. Monday, Judge Mizelle struck down the Biden administration’s mask mandate for airplanes and public transportation. According to CNN, Mizelle claims the mandate is "unlawful because it exceeded the statutory authority of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and because its implementation violated administrative law.”

The CDC had extended the mask mandate through May 3 as it monitored a recent spike in COVID-19 cases. Shortly after the ruling, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the Department of Homeland Security and the CDC are "reviewing the decision ... and of course the Department of Justice would make any determinations about litigation.”

There’s a lot of scheduled assessments, updates, and next steps. She added:

Certainly no one here is trying to provoke uncertainty with passengers. We also think the mask mandate should be in place and that it's safer for individuals who are flying to continue to wear masks. We would say to anyone sitting out there, we'd recommend you wear masks on the airplane.

Meanwhile, the Transportation Security Administration announced Monday that it’ll stop enforcing the mandate, so good luck with that.

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Nice Time

Air Force To Help Families With Gay And Trans Kids Fly Away From States Run By A-Holes

We'll just assume the GOP Asshole Caucus will ground the entire Air Force.

The US Air Force (and also the Space Force, too) announced last month, to little notice, that it will be offering help to servicemembers and their families if they're affected by the various anti-LGBTQ laws being passed by Republican-led states. Mind you, the Air Force hasn't mentioned anything openly partisan, because that's just not done. But the service did let its members know that the USAF is there to help with medical or legal assistance if they or their kids need it because of the new laws.

The press release puts it as apolitically as humanly possible, which may be why the offer of assistance hasn't gotten much press:

Various laws and legislation are being proposed and passed in states across America that may affect LGBTQ Airmen, Guardians, and/or their LGBTQ dependents in different ways.

The Department of the Air Force has assignment, medical, legal and other resources available to support Airmen, Guardians and their families.

Probably a good idea to not name any states or specific laws, or even to say the laws are discriminatory; there's little chance, though, that servicemembers worried about the laws' effects on their families aren't plenty aware of what's going on in states where they're stationed.

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