"Do or Do not. There is no try."

“When A Gun Advocate Dissents”: In The Gun World, Straying From The Party Line Leads To Vilification And Condemnation

It’s not as if Dick Metcalf was some kind of gun control fanatic.

On the contrary, he’s a gun guy through and through, such an unyielding defender of the Second Amendment that last year he led the charge to push through a law giving the residents of Pike County, Ill., where he lives, the right to carry concealed guns without a permit. He called the practice “constitutional carry” rather than “concealed carry.”

In the early 1980s, he and a handful of friends started a successful gun club, called the Pike Adams Sportsmen’s Alliance, which is located on Metcalf’s farm in Barry, Ill. A few years later, he played an important role in lobbying for the federal Firearm Owners Protection Act, which loosened many of the gun restrictions that had become law after the assassination of Robert Kennedy. A friend of his told me that Metcalf had even written some of the language in the bill.

Mostly, though, Metcalf, 67, was known as a writer for magazines owned by InterMedia Outdoors, a publisher of gun periodicals that include the industry bible, Guns & Ammo. He did videos on subjects like “Guns for Family Home Defense” and wrote articles with headlines like “Smith & Wesson’s 12 Most Important Guns.”

It is perfectly understandable, then, that the gun world might be a little taken aback by Metcalf’s opinion piece in the December issue of Guns & Ammo calling for some modest gun regulation. “I firmly believe that all U.S. citizens have a right to keep and bear arms,” he wrote, “but I do not believe that they have a right to use them irresponsibly.” The article went on to call for mandatory training for gun owners. That’s all. Such limited regulation, he argued, did not constitute an infringement on anyone’s constitutional rights.

When people like me read an article like that, it seems momentarily possible that gun advocates and gun control advocates might be able to find some common ground. Much in the way that many gun control activists have come to accept the legitimacy of the Second Amendment — something that hasn’t always been the case — here was a man on the other side of the divide saying that some sensible regulation didn’t necessarily lead down a “slippery slope” to confiscation. If we are ever to have a sane gun policy, we desperately need people from both camps to meet somewhere in the middle.

But when people like me see the reaction from gun advocates to Metcalf’s tame proposal, it all seems hopeless again. Robert Farago, who maintains a blog called The Truth About Guns, started the ball rolling by linking to — and denouncing — Metcalf’s “diatribe.” He went on to describe the article as a “bone-headed, uninformed, patently obvious misinterpretation of the Second Amendment.” Other bloggers piled on. On the Guns & Ammo Facebook page, subscribers demanded Metcalf’s head, even as they canceled their subscriptions.

Finally, according to a blog post Metcalf wrote, two major gun manufacturers told InterMedia Outdoors that they would pull all their advertising if something wasn’t done. That’s all it took. Within 24 hours, Metcalf was permanently banned from the company’s publications. And the longtime editor of Guns & Ammo, Jim Bequette, who was planning to retire at the end of the year, was pushed out as well.

Before departing, however, Bequette wrote a groveling apology, which ran on the magazine’s website. He described his decision to publish Metcalf’s article as “a mistake” and took pains to remind readers that Guns & Ammo had always been the hardest of hard-liners. “It is no accident that when others in the gun culture counseled compromise in the past, hard-core thinkers…found a place and a voice in these pages,” he wrote. With that, capitulation was complete.

If you want to understand why so few gun owners are willing to stand up to the National Rifle Association, even though the majority disagree with the N.R.A.’s most extreme positions, here was a vivid example. Straying from the party line leads to vilification and condemnation that would give anybody pause.

My guess is that Dick Metcalf always knew what he was in for — all the more reason writing his article took guts. In the aftermath, he was the only one who could still hold his head up high. On a blog called The Outdoor Wire, he wrote a lengthy response to his critics. He didn’t back down one iota. Describing himself as “disappointed” at the reaction to his article, he added, “If a respected editor can be forced to resign and a controversial writer’s voice be shut down by a one-sided social-media and Internet outcry, virtually overnight, simply because they dared to open a discussion or ask questions about a politically sensitive issue…then I fear for the future of our industry, and for our Cause.”

Maybe there’s hope yet.


By: Joe Nocera, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, November 8, 2013

November 10, 2013 Posted by | Gun Control, Guns | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Market Of Systematic Discrimination”: President Obama Shouldn’t Apologize For Blowing Up The Terrible Individual Market

Last night, NBC’s Chuck Todd asked President Obama about the people losing their health insurance despite his promise that “anyone who likes their plan can keep it.” (See the video and read the transcript here.)

“I am sorry that they are finding themselves in this situation based on assurances they got from me,” Obama replied.

The answer is a bit of a dodge. People aren’t finding themselves in this situation based on the president’s promises. They’re finding themselves in this situation based on his policy. And Obama isn’t apologizing for the policy.

“Before the law was passed, a lot of these plans, people thought they had insurance coverage,” he said. “And then they’d find out that they had huge out of pocket expenses. Or women were being charged more than men. If you had preexisting conditions, you just couldn’t get it at all.”

Obama was wrong to promise that everyone who liked their insurance could keep it. For a small minority of Americans, that flatly isn’t true. But the real sin would’ve been leaving the individual insurance market alone.

The individual market — which serves five percent of the population, and which is where the disruptions are happening — is a horror show. It’s a market where healthy people benefit from systematic discrimination against the sick, where young people benefit from systematic discrimination against the old, where men benefit from systematic discrimination against women, and where insurers benefit from systematic discrimination against the uninformed.

The result, all too often, is a market where the people who need insurance most can’t get it, and the people who do get insurance find it doesn’t cover them when it’s most necessary. All that is why the individual market shows much lower levels of satisfaction than, well, every other insurance market:

(Graph by Jon Cohn)

Those numbers, of course, don’t include the people who couldn’t get insurance because they were deemed too sick. Consumer Reports put it unusually bluntly:

Individual insurance is a nightmare for consumers: more costly than the equivalent job-based coverage, and for those in less-than-perfect health, unaffordable at best and unavailable at worst. Moreover, the lack of effective consumer protections in most states allows insurers to sell plans with ‘affordable’ premiums whose skimpy coverage can leave people who get very sick with the added burden of ruinous medical debt.

Jonathan Cohn puts a human face on it:

One from my files was about a South Floridian mother of two named Jacqueline Reuss. She had what she thought was a comprehensive policy, but it didn’t cover the tests her doctors ordered when they found a growth and feared it was ovarian cancer. The reason? Her insurer decided, belatedly, that a previous episode of “dysfunctional uterine bleeding”—basically, an irregular menstrual period—was a pre-existing condition that disqualified her from coverage for future gynecological problems. She was fine medically. The growth was benign. But she had a $15,000 bill (on top of her other medical expenses) and no way to get new insurance.

This is a market that desperately needs to be fixed. And Obamacare goes a way toward fixing it. It basically makes the individual market more like the group markets. That means that the sick don’t get charged more than the well, and the old aren’t charged more than three times as much as the young, and women aren’t charged more than men, and insurance plans that don’t actually cover you when you get sick no longer exist. But the transition disrupts today’s arrangements.

(Interestingly, recent Republican plans have focused on disrupting the employer market by ending, limiting, or restructuring the tax exclusion for employer-based plans. There’s an extremely good case to be made that that needs to be done, but it means much more disruption for a much larger number of people. Obamacare’s focus on disrupting the individual market — and only the individual market — is a more modest approach to health-care reform.)

There’s been an outpouring of sympathy for the people in the individual market who will see their plans changed. As well there should be. Some of them will be better off, but some won’t be.

But, worryingly, the impassioned defense of the beneficiaries of the status quo isn’t leavened with sympathy for the people suffering now. The people who can’t buy health insurance for any price, or can’t get it at a price they can afford, or do get it only to find themselves bankrupted by medical expenses anyway have been left out of the sudden outpouring of concern.

If people have a better way to fix the individual market — one that has no losers — then it’s time for them to propose it. But it’s very strange to sympathize with the people who’ve benefited from the noxious practices of the individual market while dismissing the sick people who’ve been victimized by it.

Obama is rightly taking flack for making a promise he wasn’t going to keep, and he’s right to apologize for it. But he shouldn’t apologize for blowing up the individual market. It needed to be done.


By: Ezra Klein and Evan Soltas, WonkBook, The Washington Post, November

November 10, 2013 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Health Insurance Companies, Obamacare | , , , , | 1 Comment

“Radicalism For The Sake Of Radicalism”: Four Years Later, The Tea Party Has Learned Nothing

The Tea Party is no longer a brand-new movement in American politics. So, more than four years in, what do they appear to have learned? How about: nothing. And they seem to want it that way.

Certainly that appears to be the case with the Tea Party as an electoral force. Oh, Tea Partyers will remind you – they’ve won some. Ted Cruz in Texas, Mike Lee in Utah, Ron Johnson in Wisconsin – all True Conservatives in good standing (at least last I looked; these things can change rapidly), all solid winners in their election bids. It’s hardly the case that nominating a Tea Party candidate is guaranteed to turn a win into a loss.

But three election cycles in, it’s pretty clear that nominating a candidate favored by Tea Partyers over what they consider “establishment” candidates is a formula for risking Republican disaster. And that it’s not going to change any time soon.

So it was for Christine O’Donnell and Sharron Angle in 2010. So it was with Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock in 2012. And so it’s likely to be with the 2014 crop.

The thing is, four years is plenty of time to develop solid, seasoned candidates. Indeed, once upon a time Marco Rubio was one of those solid, seasoned candidates. Rubio was a successful Florida Republican who had risen rapidly to become speaker of the Florida House; he then adopted the emerging Tea Party and went on to easily win an open U.S. Senate seat. But Rubio’s Tea Party credentials were tarnished because he actually tried to legislate on immigration; while it’s much too early to declare his career in trouble and it wouldn’t be surprising if he still ran a solid race for the Republican presidential nomination, it’s also very easy to imagine him having to fend off a Tea Party primary of his own if he runs for reelection instead of the White House in 2016.

So what do Republicans have for 2014? Matt Bevin, taking on Mitch McConnell in Kentucky, is a first-time candidate; should he win, Republicans would probably lose that seat. In Georgia, Paul Braun in particular is thought by many to be a particularly weak candidate, capable of losing that open seat to Democrat Michelle Nunn if he emerges as the nominee. In Louisiana, Republicans had settled on a solid candidate to challenge Mary Landrieu, but Tea Partyer Rob Maness has jumped in with plenty of serious organizational support.

Granted, this early in the cycle, none of these candidates has (to my knowledge, at least) managed to embarrass himself by orating on rape. Nor have any of them yet revealed themselves as certified non-witches. Indeed, it’s so early that I don’t even know if they have a history of having said crazy things – although I suspect that Mississippi Tea Party candidate Chris McDaniel, a former talk radio host, has furnished enough for a fat opposition research file.

Still, it appears to be no more distinguished of a crop than the 2010 and 2012 versions, and I strongly suspect they will begin to generate equally baroque sound bites as soon as the public portion of the campaign season begins. After all, we just had birther Dean Young, who provided plenty of entertainment if you enjoy politicians saying crazy things, come close to knocking off mainstream conservative Bradley Byrne in the Alabama 1 special election.

There’s nothing about being conservative, even extremely conservative, that would necessarily generate bad candidates. But it’s a mistake to interpret Tea Partyism as simply about being more conservative than mainstream Republicans. Instead, in practice, it’s basically turned out to be a cross between radicalism for the sake of radicalism, along with an extreme suspicion of elites. Which in turn has made it rather easy for hucksters and scam artists to convince Tea Party voters and activists that solid conservatives are really squishes and RINOs. There are no issue positions one can cling to that will prevent those charges; accusations of being insufficiently “conservative” in this atmosphere, to these voters, are impossible to refute.

Indeed, as we’ve seen with Ted Cruz, the very reaction to crazy things that Tea Party politicians say really  is the best proof that they are actually True Conservatives.

Which doesn’t mean that Democrats are about to win a Senate seat in Mississippi (although they would be smart to at least get a plausible candidate on the ballot, just in case). But it does mean that we can expect more of the same from Tea Party candidates – perhaps even worse, since by this cycle, perhaps, raving against rape will be too old hat to get condemned by Rachel Maddow, and therefore not sufficient to establish one’s True Conservative credentials.

And therefore, expect Republicans to continue to give away elections they could have won – and to prove incapable of governing in many cases when they do win. The dysfunctional Republican Party isn’t getting better any time soon.


By: Jonathan Bernstein, The Nation, November 9, 2013

November 10, 2013 Posted by | Republicans, Tea Party | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Bringing Actual Facts To Bear”: The Truth Is, Obamacare Is Working

The Obamacare website might still not be working, but journalists are. All across the country, as Republicans try to highlight tragic tales of Americans losing their current health insurance and allegedly stuck with more expensive options, journalists are coming to the rescue. In case after case, journalists investigated these stories and called the policyholders and combed the insurance exchange websites to bring actual facts to bear in our public debate about Obamacare.

Here are just some of the mythical stories journalists have helped dispel — and the lessons we can learn from them about the reality of the Affordable Care Act:

Deborah Cavallaro was making the rounds on television complaining about how her current insurance plan was canceled under Obamacare. So Los Angeles Times columnist Michael Hiltzik talked to her. Her current plan cost $293 per month but had a deductible of $5,000 per year and out-of-pocket annual limits of $8,500. Also, the current plan covered just two doctor’s visits per year.

But in the California insurance exchange, which Hiltzik helped Cavallaro check, she could get a “silver” plan for $333 per month — $40 more than she’s currently paying. But the new plan has only a $2,000 deductible and maximum out-of-pocket expenses at $6,350. Plus all doctor visits would be covered. Hiltzik writes, “Is that better than her current plan? Yes, by a mile.”

Dianne Barrette also popped up on television on a CBS news report in which she lamented that her $54-per-month insurance plan had been canceled under Obamacare. But Nancy Metcalf at Consumer Reports investigated Barrette’s story and found that her current policy was a “textbook example of a junk plan that isn’t real health insurance at all.” According to Metcalf, if Barrette had ever tried to use her insurance for anything more than a sporadic doctor’s visit, “she would have ended up with tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars of medical debt.”

The plan, for instance, only pays for hospitalization in cases of “complications of pregnancy.” Instead, Metcalf found that Barrette could get a “silver” plan in the state insurance exchange for $165 per month that would actually cover Barrette in the case of any sort of serious or even moderate illness. Which is the very definition of insurance, isn’t it?

Edie Littlefield Sundby, a stage-four gallbladder cancer survivor, published an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal blaming the Affordable Care Act for her canceled insurance policy. In her essay, Littlefield wrote that because of Obamacare, “I have been forced to give up a world-class health plan.” But, according to Igor Volsky of Think Progress, Sundby’s insurer, United Healthcare, “dropped her coverage because they’ve struggled to compete in California’s individual health care market for years and didn’t want to pay for sicker patients like Sundby.”

Earlier this year, United, which has publicly supported the Affordable Care Act, announced that it would pull out of the individual market in California. A company representative said it withdrew because its individual plans have never had a huge presence in the state. According to United, and in compliance with state law, the company won’t be able to re-enter the California individual market until 2017.

By then though, competitors will get stuck with sicker patients like Sundby signing up in the first wave of Obamacare. This means that companies like United can cover cheaper patients if it decides to go back to the California individual insurance market.

According to a report by Dylan Scott at Talking Points Memo, a Seattle woman named Donna received a cancellation letter from her insurance company regarding her current plan. The letter steered Donna and her family into a more expensive option and said, “If you’re happy with this plan, do nothing.” The letter made no mention of the Washington State insurance exchange, where Donna could find plenty of other more affordable choices, because the company wanted a convenient excuse to jack up Donna’s rates.

Had Donna “done nothing,” she would have ended up spending about $1,000 more per month on insurance than the cost of insurance she ultimately chose through the Obamacare exchange. In fact, the practice of trying to mislead customers has become so widespread that Washington state regulators issued a consumer alert to customers.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. Republicans who have been desperate from the very beginning to destroy Obamacare at any cost, regardless of facts or the urgent health care crisis facing America, will continue to dig up stories of people supposedly harmed by the law. And journalists will hopefully continue to investigate these allegations, helping us all sort fact from fiction.

In the meantime, there’s a side benefit to all this: If you are one of the small fraction of Americans who currently relies on the individual insurance market and has seen your current policy canceled, call a journalist — like one of those in the stories above. Reporters all across the country are hungry for real-life stories about how Obamacare is working.

Plus, most reporters have access to high-speed Internet. If you can’t get through to the Obamacare exchange site, there’s a journalist standing by willing to help you navigate the exchange options and explore your pros and cons in terms of costs and benefits. The website might still be glitchy, but old-fashioned shoe-leather reporting is as reliable as ever.


By: Sally Kohn, Special To CNN, November 8, 2013

November 10, 2013 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Obamacare | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“The Kicking Mules Vs The Lying Turtle”: The GOP Civil War Is Now Basically Between Mitch McConnell And The Tea Party

There will not be another government shutdown, says Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).

“It was a strategy that I said both publicly and privately could not work, and did not work,” McConnell told The Wall Street Journal‘s Peggy Noonan.

“All it succeeded in doing was taking attention off of Obamacare for 16 days,” he added. “And scaring the public and tanking our brand—our party brand. One of my favorite old Kentucky sayings is that there’s no education in the second kick of a mule. It ain’t gonna happen again.”

This sounds as if he’s vowing to compromise when the resolution funding the government and the debt ceiling issue come up again early in 2014.

And to the Tea Party, that only means one thing: Treason!

The leader knows what the Tea Party thinks of him and he’s ready to take them on, along with his Tea Party challenger, Matt Bevin.

“They’ve been told the reason we can’t get to better outcomes than we’ve gotten is not because the Democrats control the Senate and the White House but because Republicans have been insufficiently feisty,” he told Noonan. “Well, that’s just not true, and I think that the folks that I have difficulty with are the leaders of some of these groups who basically mislead them for profit. . . . They raise money . . . take their cut and spend it.”

And in case that wasn’t clear enough, he called out the Senate Conservatives Fund, one of the key supporters behind Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) and the plot to defund Obamacare that forced the shutdown.

“That’s the one I’m prepared to be specific about,” he said, adding that the group “has elected more Democrats than the Democratic Senatorial Committee over the last three cycles.”

Tea Party hero Erick Erickson responded to McConnell’s comments on Friday with “Question for Mitch McConnell: Will Any Reporter Ask It?

The Red State editor-in-chief states that “the Senate Conservatives Fund has only helped nominate two Tea Party candidates, who went on to lose the general election.” In contrast, he points out, “On the other hand, Mitch McConnell supported Rick Berg, Denny Rehberg, Carly Fiorina, Linda McMahon, George Allen, and Tommy Thompson. All lost to Democrats.”

This leads to Erickson’s question: “So some enterprising reporter should ask Mitch McConnell this question: Given that the Senate Conservatives Fund has a better record than Mitch McConnell of getting Republicans elected to the Senate, shouldn’t he be supporting Matt Bevin?”

McConnell has successfully been able to persuade Ted Cruz to stay out of primaries. But the Tea Party, Erickson and the Senate Conservatives Fund are going all in.  We’ll see who gets shut down this time.

By: Jason Sattler, The National Memo, November 8, 2013

November 10, 2013 Posted by | Politics, Republicans, Tea Party | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

%d bloggers like this: