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“Terrorism By Any Other Name”:The Armed Domestic Terrorists In Oregon Should Be Treated Just As ISIS Terrorists Would Be

The big story of the day is the armed seizure of an empty federal building in rural Oregon by a group of domestic terrorists, some of whom are the sons of federal tax cheat and freeloader Cliven Bundy.

They’re apparently upset at the conviction and upcoming jail sentences of a couple of fellow domestic terrorists for arson. They believe that the federal government has no constitutional authority to own land, that national parks are essentially illegal, and that men like them have a God-given right to mine, log and otherwise destroy whatever forest land they want. (It remains unclear whether they would condone Native Americans for “standing their ground” and responding with force to their trespass on the same lands that God clearly gave to them first.)

I don’t want to dwell too much on the rationales and motivations for these domestic terrorists any more than I would for the people who fight for ISIS or Al Qaeda. It’s always the same thing: a group of armed, angry men believe that the Big Bad Western Government is infringing on their right to do whatever it is they very well please–whether it’s to the environment, or to minorities, women, people of different religious groups, etc. Undereducated, armed angry men are often upset at Western governments for upsetting their private power apple carts because in their small, solipsistic worlds they’re very used to being lords of their manors and local enforcers of bigoted frontier justice. That’s as true of Afghan militants in the Taliban as it is of rural Montana militiamen. The only difference is in the trappings, the external presence of the rule of law and the degree of violence involved.

What’s more interesting to focus on is the response to the incident so far. As with ISIS, the Bundy clowns are actively seeking a confrontation with the big bad wolf of Big Western Government. They believe that an active confrontation will spark a movement that will lead to the overthrow of Big Brother. So far, especially after the incidents at Ruby Ridge and Waco, American leaders have been disinclined to give those opportunities to the domestic militiaman terrorists. Cliven Bundy and his miscreants got away with a wide range of crimes due to the forbearance of federal officials.

But the problem with taking that hands-off approach is that the treatment of left-leaning protesters is far different. Occupiers and Black Lives Matter protesters aren’t met with hand wringing and gentle admonishments. They’re met with batons and tear gas. If Black Lives Matter or Occupy protesters started arming themselves and taking over federal buildings, you can guarantee that police would start using live ammunition and people would die.

So on the one hand it’s understandable that federal officials would not want to make martyrs of the right-wing domestic terrorists who are actively seeking to engage in a confrontation and make themselves appear to be downtrodden victims of the federal beast. But on the other hand, it’s infuriating that they receive special kid glove treatment that would not be afforded to minority and liberal activists.

Personally, I feel that if ISIS fighters want a grand confrontation with the West on an open battlefield, it wouldn’t be such a bad idea to give them one. The outcome of that battle would not be in doubt. Similarly, I feel that if Bundy’s little crew wants to occupy a federal building and assert that they’ll use deadly violence against any police who try to extract them, then they should get what they’re asking for just as surely Islamist terrorists would if they did likewise.

As much as restraint is the better part of valor when dealing with entitled conservative crazies, principles of basic justice and fair play also need to apply. What’s good for one type of terrorist must also be good for another.


By: David Atkins, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthy, January 3, 2016

January 4, 2016 Posted by | Cliven Bundy, Domestic Terrorism, Montana Militia | , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“It’s Not The Motive, It’s The Gun”: Those With Political Axes To Grind Want To Shoehorn The Killer’s Motive Into Their Own Political Agenda

Every time there’s another mass or campus shooting people always want to know why the killer did it. What was the motive? What could lead to such evil? More often than not, those with political axes to grind want to shoehorn the killer’s motive into their own political agenda.

After an Islamist extremist went on a murderous rampage at Fort Hood, the Right used it for weeks as a club against Islam itself–just as they did with the DC sniper years earlier. After a angry misogynist opened fire in Santa Barbara, the shooting immediately became a touchstone for women’s groups to discuss sexual entitlement. When a conspiracy theorist couple killed a police officer recently in Nevada, the left had a field day over their recent stay at the Bundy Ranch, while many on the right attempted to call the shooters leftists.

Yesterday brought news of yet another new motive–this time in a school shooting in Oregon earlier this week:

The 15-year-old freshman who opened fire on his Oregon high school Tuesday wanted to kill “sinners,” the teen wrote in his diary.

Jared Padgett, an active member of an Gresham, Ore., Mormon church, shot and killed a student and injured a teacher during the attack on Reynolds High School before turning the gun on himself, police said.

It would be easy to turn this into an attack on conservative values. Certainly, it makes a mockery of claims by some on the far right that mass shooters aren’t conservatives–this kid certainly was.

But as I have noted before, the common denominator is always the gun. The Oregon shooter was even more obsessed with firearms than with religion. There will always be crazy, unbalanced people in this world with strange obsessions. The difference between the ones in other countries and the ones in America is simply the gun. We all play the same video games, we watch the same movies, we have the same neurology, we suffer from the same pathologies, and we worship (or don’t) similar gods.

Without a mass killing device, a pathetic misogynist is just a pathetic misogynist. Without a mass killing device, an angry theocrat is just an angry theocrat, be it Christian or Muslim. Without a mass killing device, paranoid conspiracy theorists and trenchcoat-wearning kids are just disaffected outsiders.

It’s not the motive. It’s never about the motive. It’s always about the gun.


By: David Atkins, Washington Monthly Political Animal, June 15, 2014

June 16, 2014 Posted by | Gun Violence, Guns, Mass Shootings | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Universal Voting”: The “No Lines” Solution To Long Election Lines

As we wonder whether the sensible bipartisan recommendations of the president’s “Lines Commission” will gain any real traction, WaMo Contributing Editor (and former Oregen Secretary of State) Phil Keisling reminds us once again in a piece at Governing that there’s one election reform available that makes the whole issue moot:

During the 2012 election, an estimated 10 million voters spent at least 30 minutes — and some of them many hours — waiting in line. Amidst contentious partisan accusations about “voter fraud” and “voter suppression,” perhaps we can’t expect more than a catalog of small to mid-sized fixes to build a better polling place.

However, the core problem with America’s election system – or, more accurately, with its 8,000 separately administered election systems – isn’t too-long lines or poorly run polling stations. The real problem is our insistence on polling stations, period, and the small-ball assumption that voting lines can only be shortened — rather than abolished entirely.

The way to abolish them entirely, of course, is to adopt a universal vote-by-mail system like those already utilized by Oregon, Washington, and–beginning this year–Colorado.

Universal ballot delivery fundamentally upends the election-administration universe. In 47 states, governments require registered voters to seek out their ballots, either by going to a polling place (refurbished or not) or by applying for an absentee ballot. Meanwhile, America’s three “voter-centric” states require the government to mail ballots to all registered voters.

By eliminating polling places and the need for so many election-day workers, Oregon taxpayers save millions of dollars each election cycle. Ballot processing and verification procedures — checking all signatures against voter registration records, which also renders moot the whole photo-ID debate — can be more uniformly applied than at the precinct-by-precinct level. Recounts… are based on individual paper ballots, not software code.

Creating such a voter-centric election system also significantly increases voter turnout, especially in elections where the absence of lines is the real problem. In the 2010 mid-term elections, Oregon and Washington ranked first and second in percentage of registered voters casting ballots. (Across all 50 states, the same turnout rates would have meant about 25 million more votes cast.) More dramatic still, party-primary turnout rates of 40 percent or higher in states with universal ballot delivery are double, even quadruple, the rates in most states.

I’d note that California utilizes a limited version of this system, allowing one to register as a “by mail” voter who will automatically receive ballots (and background materials on issues and candidates) by mail that can be cast by mail or in person, so long as the voter keeps voting. The percentage of California ballots cast by mail rose to 65% for primaries and 51% for the general election in 2012.

Voting by mail is obviously more convenient for most voters–particularly those who work on Election Day–but as Keisling points out, it also eliminates much of the chicanery attempted by local election officials with respect to in-person balloting, whether it’s done before or on Election Day.

And there are no lines between your kitchen table and the mailbox.


By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, February 13, 2014

February 14, 2014 Posted by | Elections, Voting Rights | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Obamacare And Emergency Rooms, A Bit Of Perspective Needed”: Oregon Study Doesn’t Undermine Affordable Care Act Claims

Headlines based on a study of emergency room visits by a few thousand Oregon Medicaid beneficiaries undoubtedly gave the Obama administration heartburn last week. Although the study predated the Medicaid expansion authorized by the Affordable Care Act — which began in some states on January 1 — many who wrote about the Oregon study jumped to the conclusion that the millions of newly enrolled Medicaid beneficiaries would make greater — not less — use of the ER for routine care.

I may be going out on a limb, but I for one don’t buy the idea that the Oregon study means emergency rooms are going to get even more crowded. And that’s because more Americans will finally have insurance.

Reform advocates have long suggested that getting folks out of the ranks of the uninsured should cut down on visits to the ER for noncritical medical care. Many people who lack coverage don’t have a primary care physician and all too often make trips to the ER when their illness or injury could have been treated more appropriately and inexpensively in a clinic or doctor’s office.

The Oregon study, which was published in the journal Science, would seem to disprove that theory.

In 2008, two years before the ACA was enacted, Oregon increased the number of Medicare beneficiaries in a novel way: by lottery. Many Oregonians who had been on a waiting list for the state’s Medicaid program got lucky when their names were drawn and they were added to the rolls.

The researchers who wrote the Science article studied the emergency room use of about 25,000 of the successful and unsuccessful lottery participants and found that those who won coverage actually made more trips to the ER over 18 months than those whose names were not drawn.

Headline writers were quick to draw their conclusions: Obamacare would not reduce unnecessary ER visits.

“Emergency Visits Seen Increasing with Health Law,” read the headline above the New York Times story last Thursday.

“Obamacare Medicaid Expansion to Worsen Hospital ER Burden,” said Bloomberg.

And Forbes gave us this: “New Oregon Data: Expanding Medicaid Increases Usage of Emergency Rooms, Undermining Central Rational for Obamacare.”

“For years,” wrote Forbes columnist Avik Roy, “it has been the number one talking point of Obamacare supporters. People who are uninsured end up getting costly care from hospitals’ emergency rooms. ‘Those of us with health insurance are also paying a hidden and growing tax for those without it — about $1,000 per year that pays for [the uninsureds’] emergency room and charitable care,’ said President Obama in 2009. Obamacare, the President told us, would solve that problem by covering the uninsured, thereby driving premiums down. A new study, published in the journal Science, definitively reaches the opposite conclusion.”

There is more than a bit of twisted logic in that paragraph. It is true that those of us with insurance pay considerably more for it because those who don’t have it often can’t pay for their ER care. That’s because the hospital shifts the cost of that “uncompensated care” to its insured customers. Researchers have estimated that people with insurance pay $1,000 more a year for it than they would if this cost shifting didn’t have to occur.

Bringing uninsured people into coverage eliminates much of that cost shifting. And that’s a good thing, considering that the vast majority of Americans with health coverage — even after the Medicaid expansion — get it through private insurance companies, either at work or on their own.

The actual increase in the number of visits per person among the newly insured in Oregon via the Medicaid lottery was 0.41. In other words, each new enrollee made 0.41 visits more on average during the 18 months than the 1.02 ER visits made by those who remained uninsured.

When you look at it from the perspective of those numbers, and the actual amount Oregon spent per person, as University of Chicago health policy expert Harold Pollack did in a post, this is far from a “sky is falling” disaster in the making. And it is actually reducing the cost shifting.

Also, as Pollack pointed out, “the emergency departments will be reliably paid for care they provide … (With coverage expansion) providers don’t have to fear the burdens or uncompensated care, and…they don’t need to cruelly pursue low-income patients over bad debts.

It’s also important to keep in mind that private insurers now manage most of the states’ Medicaid populations, and they will be vigilant in their efforts to steer their new Medicaid enrollees away from the ERs and to more appropriate and cost-effective settings. WellPoint subsidiary Amerigroup described in a recent policy brief, for example, how its efforts to reduce primary care-treatable ER visits among Medicaid beneficiaries resulted in a savings of more than 50 percent.

Rather than rushing to conclusions, let’s see how the Medicaid expansion under Obamacare actually plays out in the years ahead.


By: Wendell Potter, The Center for Public Integrity, January 6, 2014

January 8, 2014 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Health Care Costs, Medicaid Expansion | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Purposeful Republican Misrepresentation”: Read This Before You Believe The Obamacare Premium Spike Hysteria

While some states are reporting lower than expected health care premiums in the exchanges established by the Affordable Care Act, a growing number of Republican-controlled states — like South Carolina, Ohio, Indiana, Florida and Georgia — are garnering screaming headlines about huge premium spikes under the law.

Calculating premium rates is a complicated and tedious task that will vary greatly among states and is open to interpretation and manipulation by both supporters and opponents of President Obama’s health care law. Generalities are particularly hard to draw, as the law will impact Americans differently: the new regulations will lead some younger people to may pay more than they’re contributing now, but will save older and sicker people hundreds, if not thousands of dollars a month.

Still, since Republicans are politically motivated to portray the proposed premium increases in a negative light and the media is far more interested in sensational claims about Obamacare failing, coverage of the new rates often leads readers with the mistaken perception that the law is coming off the tracks. Below is a short guide that will help you identify if someone is misrepresenting how much premiums will increase under Obamacare:

1. Do the premiums account for subsidies?

Most articles about premiums for health insurance in the exchanges relegate information about the Affordable Care Act’s tax credit subsidies to the lower two thirds of the piece, thus presenting the top rates as the actual amount families and individuals will be required to pay.

In reality, the number of applicants who are eligible for sliding-scale tax credits will vary — the credits are available to people making less than four times the poverty line — but the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that out of the 7 million Americans expected to enroll in coverage in 2014, 6 million will be eligible for subsidies. Those with incomes up to 400 percent of the Federal Poverty Line (FPL) will also see reduced the out-of-pocket limits.

Maryland officials, for instance, project that three-fourths of enrollees will receive assistance. In 2014, the average subsidy will be $5,510 and will increase in the years ahead.

2. What is the state comparing the new premiums to and does it break down the increases by the available levels of coverage?

While states like New York or California have already enacted strict regulations that mirror many of the new rules in the Affordable Care Act, others (like Indiana or South Carolina) allow insurers to sell skimpy bare-bones high deductible plans that provide little actual coverage.

Comparing the comprehensive plans that will be available in the exchanges (and the individual market) to the existing coverage is like likening a Lexus to a bicycle — yes, the car is more expensive, but it is in a whole different category of transportation. Under the law, all new insurance plans have to offer essential health benefits like prescription drug and mental health services.

3. Are cheaper coverage options mentioned?

Last month, state officials in Indiana announced that premiums for individual policies would be 72 percent higher than the premiums people currently play. But a closer look at the data revealed that the state wasn’t issuing actual premiums, but calculations for “allowed cost” or “the cost of insurance before calculating how much individuals would pay out-of-pocket, because of co-payments and deductibles.” The actual premiums turned out to be much lower.

What’s more, the numbers were averages of all plans in the exchange — from bronze plans that cover 60 percent of health care costs to platinum plans, which pay for 90 percent — and were not representations of the prices actual families will pay. Past experience in Massachusetts shows that consumers are very price conscious and will gravitate towards the cheaper bronze or silver plans. (In Massachusetts, 84 percent enrolled in bronze or silver policies.)

A catastrophic plan will also be available to those up to age 30 in the individual market. In Nevada, this coverage will be available for less than $100.

4. Has the state done all it could to reduce premiums?

Approximately two dozen states allow the state insurance department or commission “the legal power of prior approval, or disapproval, of certain types of rate changes” and under the Affordable Care Act, the federal government has offered grant funding “to help with rate review activities.” States like Maryland — which has some of the strongest rate-setting laws in the country — claims to have used its authority to deny rate increases to reduce the proposed premiums by “more than 50 percent.” Oregon regulators also slashed carriers’ rate requests by as much as 35 percent.


By: Igor Volsky, Think Progress, August 5, 2013

August 8, 2013 Posted by | Affordable Care Act | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


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