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Now that an extreme gun bill has passed the Georgia legislature, I'm going to have to strike the state off my list of vacations spots. The NRA calls it a "historic victory for the Second Amendment." Hooray for the NRA. They didn't mention that Georgia, the state, is likely to suffer for it.

I've been to Georgia, and it's a beautiful place, and the people are (generally) friendly and welcoming. But I'm not going to a state with so-called "guns everywhere" laws like these:

The bill allows people with a weapons permit to carry loaded guns into bars, as long as they do not consume alcohol — although the bill does not say how that caveat would be enforced.

It allows guns in public areas of airports and eliminates criminal charges for permit holders caught with guns at airport security. It authorizes school districts to appoint staff members to carry guns at schools, ostensibly to defend students in case of an attack.

It allows felons to claim the Stand Your Ground defense — in which someone who “reasonably believes” his life is in danger has no duty to walk away and may instead shoot to kill. And that is just the beginning.

Most Georgians polled oppose this bill. The police hate it, as do restaurant owners. But the legislature apparently has its own mind.

Georgia, if the governor signs this bill, you're off my list of places to visit. I won't be seeing you. I guess you won't miss me, though you might miss my tourist dollars. But best of luck!

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Michael Moore's column in today's New York Times, "The Obamacare We Deserve," is a clear and effective prescription for improving Obamacare as 2014 begins. We all know and understand the weaknesses, and the flawed genesis, of Obamacare; it was hatched by conservatives to benefit the insurance industry. It was also, perhaps, the only politically feasible option at the time.

Things have changed since the ACA was passed. Twenty states that resisted expanding Medicaid are discovering that they're missing out on federal funds. And a few states have begun to explore versions of public options. These are positive trends. As Michael Moore puts it, let's "build on what there is to get what we deserve: universal quality health care."

Those who live in red states need the benefit of Medicaid expansion. It may have seemed like smart politics in the short term for Republican governors to grab the opportunity offered by the Supreme Court rulings that made Medicaid expansion optional for states, but it was long-term stupid: If those 20 states hold out, they will eventually lose an estimated total of $20 billion in federal funds per year — money that would be going to hospitals and treatment.

In blue states, let’s lobby for a public option on the insurance exchange — a health plan run by the state government, rather than a private insurer. In Massachusetts, State Senator James B. Eldridge is trying to pass a law that would set one up. Some counties in California are also trying it. Montana came up with another creative solution. Gov. Brian Schweitzer, a Democrat who just completed two terms, set up several health clinics to treat state workers, with no co-pays and no deductibles. The doctors there are salaried employees of the state of Montana; their only goal is their patients’ health. (If this sounds too much like big government to you, you might like to know that Google, Cisco and Pepsi do exactly the same.)

All eyes are on Vermont’s plan for a single-payer system, starting in 2017. If it flies, it will change everything, with many states sure to follow suit by setting up their own versions. That’s why corporate money will soon flood into Vermont to crush it. The legislators who’ll go to the mat for this will need all the support they can get: If you live east of the Mississippi, look up the bus schedule to Montpelier.

There's a lot to be done on the state level. Let's get organized, and make 2014 the year to make Obamacare the healthiest possible system instead of the only alternative to the GOP "plan" ("Don't Get Sick, or if you do get sick Die Quickly.")

One place to start is the Kaiser Family Foundation's "Status of State Action Around Expanding Medicaid" site, which will come to life in the next couple of weeks as state legislatures reconvene.

Discuss

This just out courtesy of USA Today:

The 20 states choosing not to expand Medicaid will lose billions of dollars in federal funds, according to a new study released Thursday.
The study, by the Commonwealth Fund, shows that the twenty Republican governors who rejected Medicaid expansion are depriving their constituents in need of their federally-mandated rights to access affordable health insurance.
"There are no states where the taxpayers would actually gain by not expanding Medicaid," said Sherry Glied, lead author on the study. "Nobody wins.

....

All 20 of the states choosing not to expand Medicaid have Republican governors. Many have said increasing Medicaid could add to the federal deficit. Others have long opposed the law since its passage in 2010.

Medicaid, however, is a federal program, Glied said, and residents of states that have not expanded the program are still paying taxes to support it. They're just not getting the extra benefits in their states."

Governors who refuse to enact policies designed to help people are in fact guilty of hurting people. Shame on them.

(The study, "How States Stand to Gain or Lose Federal Funds by Opting In or Out of Medicaid Expansion," is due out later today--it appears that USA Today has an advance copy. It's not yet on the Commonwealth Fund site but I'll post it as soon as it appears.)

Will there be political consequences for these governors who deprive their own constituents of already paid-for benefits? Maybe. As Greg Sargent of the Washington Post put it the other day,

It’s widely accepted as an article of faith that Obamacare will be uniformly bad politics for Dems in 2014. After all, the rollout is a disaster and majorities disapprove of the law, so how could it possibly be any other way, right? Here’s something that counter-programs that narrative a bit: Democrats are currently using a major pillar of the health law — the Medicaid expansion — as a weapon against Republican Governors in multiple 2014 races. Many of these Governors opted out of the expansion or have advanced their own replacement solutions, and many are facing serious challenges.

....

The larger story is that the Medicaid expansion is emerging as an early Obamacare success — a rare area where the law may already be putting Republicans on the defensive. A new report from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services finds that over 1.4 million people in October were deemed eligible to enroll in Medicaid or CHIP. There was a far larger jump in applications where states are expanding Medicaid than where they aren’t — another sign Obamacare may benefit far more people in states where GOP governors are not trying to block the expansion.

Politico’s Edward Isaac-Dovere has a great piece reporting that multiple GOP governors initially elected in the 2010 Tea Party wave are now in contested races precisely because they continue to pursue the Romney agenda that was roundly rejected by voters two years later. The Medicaid expansion is a good example. Obamacare was heavily litigated in 2012; Dems won; and the law’s benefits are now kicking in across the country. Yet some of these GOP governors — originally buoyed by a movement organized largely around Total War opposition to Obamacare — continue to resist accommodation with its Medicaid expansion, even if so doing means denying expanded coverage to their own constituents. And they will now be pressed by Dems to answer for it.

Let's make sure they do have to answer for it. If your governor has opposed Medicaid expansion, leave a comment below telling us how to get in touch, and also give us contact information for the likely Democratic challenger. I'll compile a list as the day goes on.
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This morning, President Obama gave the speech of his lifetime, with news coverage to swoon for, all courtesy of the GOP's abortive government shutdown. Thanks to Ted Cruz, ably abetted by the Heritage Foundation and the Koch Brothers, the president had the forum to deliver the most righteous--not to mention one of the clearest and most effective--defenses of the meaning of government, to the widest possible audience, in all the years of his presidency.

Here's a section I find particularly striking. (None of it is new, of course--he's said similar things all along, beginning in the primary in 2008--but he's now speaking in the wake of hurricane Ted, after standing firm while a reckless faction of a party in disarray tried to destroy the government and the economy). These words have added power today:

[45:45] One of the things that I hope all of us have learned these past few weeks is that it turns out that smart effective government is important.  It matters. And the American people during this shutdown had a chance to get some idea of all the things, large and small, government does that makes a difference in people's lives. Now we hear all the time about how "€œgovernment is the problem." Well, it turns out that we rely on it in a whole lot of ways. Not only does it keep us strong through our military and law enforcement, it plays a vital role in caring for our seniors and our veterans, educating our kids, making sure our workers are trained for their jobs, arming our business with the best science and technology so they can compete with companies from other countries.  It plays a key role in keeping our food and our toys and our workplaces safe. It helps folks rebuild after a storm. It preserves our natural resources, it finances start-ups, it helps to sell our products overseas. It provides security to our diplomats abroad.  

So let'€™s work together to make government work better, instead of treating it like an enemy, or purposefully making it work worse. That'€™s not what the founders of this nation envisioned when they gave us the gift of self-government. If you don'€™t like a particular policy, or a particular president, then argue for your position, go out there and win an election. Push to change it. Don'€™t break it. Don'€™t break what our predecessors spent over two centuries building.

On a smaller, but equally effective, scale, he praised federal employees, including the staffers in Washington that the GOP was trying to throw under the bus in their frantic efforts to stiff somebody--anybody--before they would re-open the government or pay their bills.

[48:18] I'€™ve got a simple message for all the dedicated and patriotic federal workers who either worked without pay or were forced off the job without pay these past few weeks, including most of my own staff:

Thank you. Thanks for your service. Welcome back.

What you do is important. It matters. You defend our country overseas, you deliver benefits for our troops who'€™ve earned them when they come home, you guard our borders, you protect our civil rights, you help businesses grow and gain a foothold in overseas markets, you protect the air we breathe and the water our children drink. You push the boundaries of science and space and guide hundreds of thousands of people each day through the glories of this country.

Thank you. What you do is important. And don'€™t let anybody else tell you different.

I posted part of this as a comment in another diary, but I think this point cannot be over-stated. The Republicans tried to destroy the government. Folks generally agree that they made idiots of themselves in doing so, primarily because they caused massive damage to the country (and their party) without achieving their stated objective of stopping the ACA.

But I'd hate for us to lose sight of the fact that in the process, ironically, the TP Republicans revealed more clearly than ever before why their ideology is hollow, false and against the interests of the American people.

It may be a small consolation, in the wake of the havoc they wreaked, that they managed to put a very bright spotlight on the president, and put a very big microphone in front of him, and empowered him to champion the ideal of government as a shared trust and a precious (if imperfect) vessel of democratic values.

Thank you President Obama for holding firm against the reckless effort to destroy our shared heritage.

Discuss

Dear Republicans, I know we live in the same country, but sometimes I have to wonder if we live on the same planet. And one of the things I know on my planet is that my left-leaning political friends and I already compromised on the health law. Big time. I support Obamacare because it will help the poor and uninsured buy insurance at group rates, just like everybody else does. But it is and always has been a right-centrist piece of legislation, and it's nothing like the Single Payer or Medicare for All options I wanted to see on the table.

So I just get annoyed when one of you, like Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa) -- though he seems a little closer to my planet than the usual Tea Baggers at the megaphone -- says something like this:

I just want to say, too, some of us are working in a very bipartisan manner. I'm working very closely with a good friend, Representative Ron Kind, a Democrat from Wisconsin.

He and I and a like-minded group of Republicans and Democrats offered a suggestion today to break the logjam, at least on the government funding piece. What we said, well, why don't repeal the medical device tax, fund the government for six months at the sequestered level as requested by the Republicans, and pay for the repeal of the medical device tax, something the Democrats want, through a pension smoothing or stabilization mechanism?

I thought that was a win-win-win for everybody.

GWEN IFILL: And how was that received?

CHARLIE DENT: Well, I'll tell you, among the Republicans and the Democrats, it will not be well received on the far left, because those folks say, well, we don't want to make any changes to the health care law, and the folks on the extreme right will say, well, anything short of a defund or a delay is unacceptable.

Mr. Dent, due respect, but you have not a clue where the far left stands on this debate. The ACA has always been a right-centrist piece of legislation, and the left was completely shut out of its creation. The left held its nose when it passed. But the left in general supports Obamacare because the left in general favors a society that includes the interests of the poor and uninsured.

Republicans, the left has already compromised on health coverage.

Mr. Dent, I agree with you when you say "We have an obligation to govern," but your new proposal sounds to me like a face-saving ruse to help John Boehner keep his job. Stop thinking of clever new conditions. Give us a clean CR and raise the debt ceiling, and then we can have a real debate about affordable health insurance.

And that debate will put all options back on the table.

Discuss

Courage. It's sometimes hard to recognize it when we see it. Gabby Giffords doesn't have the swagger, and she doesn't talk tough. But when it comes to gun violence she's got it. She walks the walk. She already knows what it's like to be targeted and have your life destroyed by a zealot, and yet she somehow has the strength to stand up and say it's time to change what we're doing when it comes to guns.

We all know what courage isn't--courage isn't backing away from a tough vote because you're worried about keeping your job. Courage means standing up for your convictions. Not when it's easy to do so, but when it's hard. Courage is hard. It means taking a risk--a political risk, and maybe even a personal risk--to stand up for the people of this country who want to put a stop to gun violence.

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I hate to expose someone so ruthlessly, but somebody's got to tell the truth about this guy. Lord knows, he never will.

And it's sure not something his hunting buddies are ever going to spill. You know. What happens on the hunt, stays on the hunt.

But the sad fact is that this is a guy who couldn't hit a tame deer at a salt lick if it stood right in front of him. Not with a measly 10 bullets, anyhow. The man needs at least 30, and better still maybe 450 or 470 rounds to keep 'em coming while he staggers around trying to hold up his gun and find the target. I mean seriously, what else can it be? Why else would he want 30 bullets at a time?

Embarrassing, I know. I mean it's the whole reason he's firing up the country and talking revolution. It's all just a bluff. The NRA is like the perfect beard. He just doesn't want to tell anybody about his shaky hands and bad marksmanship. Not to mention his lousy sportsmanship. Seriously. I feel bad for the guy.

Discuss

Fri Dec 28, 2012 at 11:42 AM PST

Note to Republicans: Grow Up

by political junquie

Dear Republicans in Congress,

I see you have decided that re-election in your little ideological enclaves trumps sound economic policy for the nation. Apparently, you're more likely to be worried about a primary challenge than about the consequences of bad governing. Maybe you claim to hate government, but you sure do want to hang on to your job!

This explains a lot. Even though the president began by meeting you halfway, you won't budge, because you just can't seem to see beyond your own next campaign. You evidently have no conception of the greater good. You may be a flag-waving zealot, but that doesn't mean you'll stand up for the nation you claim to love, or say "Boo!" to the corporate and plutocrat sponsors who put you in office in the first place.

What do you care about recession--it hasn't touched your super-wealthy friends, so why should you care? Your friends own the damn sandbox, and we'd be crazy to expect them to let their little puppets (ie, you) talk about playing nice, let alone making room for a few other kids. The job of the factotum is to protect the big man. And that's what you do.

'Tis the season of selfishness, it seems. Here we are, as a nation, teetering on the brink of the fiscal cliff. You've got your orders. Money, money, money, is all that matters. Don't give back to the nation that supports and nurtures businesses. Don't pay for the infrastructure that gets products to market. Don't support higher education for a trained workforce. Don't provide for the unemployed, the elderly, the sick. Money is the god you serve.

How foolish of us to expect you, as GOP members of Congress--you who have proudly declared your opposition to the principle that those who have gained the most should give back to the country--how naive we were to hope (or even fantasize about the remote possibility) that you might stand tall, have a spine at all, think about your neighbors, let alone your nation. Obviously you bow at the altar of Money. That's all you serve.

Oh, and that little oath you recited when taking office, to "well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office" to which you were elected? To represent the people?  You've got that figured out. You've decided that you best represent the people by doing nothing! Yes, all of us pay you a nice salary, and sterling health benefits, to do nothing. To obstruct the business of government!

And, maybe, to destroy the credit of the nation you claim to serve.

ps, OK, my title might suggest a different diary. But I knew as I began typing how useless it would be to ask you to take the principled position, to stand for the country, for the ordinary people who fully expect you to do what's right. I no longer expect you to grow up. I just want you to know that I see you for who you really are.

Discuss

Last Sunday the major networks put a big megaphone in front of the NRA delusionists mouthpieces and let them broadcast their looney-tunes version of America into households across the land. Voices of gun control advocacy groups who have struggled--for years--to bring some sanity to weapons regulation in this country got much less air time.

We can do something about this. This is an action diary, and I ask you to join me in putting pressure on the so-called "Big Five" Sunday shows to widen the debate. Spend the next 5 minutes letting the major Sunday shows that you want to hear all voices in this debate, that you want to move beyond the paralysis that comes from showcasing extremists like the NRA leadership. The link for each will take you directly to a contact form or mailer. (I can't believe I'm including Fox News on this list, but given last week's developments on Morning Joe, I'm including it).

Meet the Press(NBC), David Gregory
Face the Nation (CBS), Bob Schieffer
This Week (ABC), George Stephanopoulos
Fox News Sunday (Fox), Chris Wallace
State of the Union (CNN) Cindy Crowley

Some relevant organizations and speakers are down below the orange pastry.

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Sat Dec 22, 2012 at 02:00 PM PST

The NRA's Million Dollar Men

by political junquie

After Wayne Lapierre's delusional rant on TV yesterday, I suspect that the NRA's donors are experiencing a little bit of buyer's remorse.  After all, the man is supposed to help them market the idea that turning schools into armed fortresses is a good idea, not expose the idea as a survivalist dystopian nightmare.

I guess they're paying the wrong guy.  Or someone forgot to read him the playbook where you hide your delusions behind a screen of talk about rights.

And they're paying him a lot, by the way. I wonder if rank-and-file contributors to the NRA know just how much.  In 2010, according to Forbes Magazine's Managing Editor for Business News, Dan Bigman (who I assume would not exaggerate his salary for effect), he was bringing in nearly a million dollars a year.

[I]n 2010 the NRA reported that it had 781 full time employees, 125,000 volunteers and generated revenues of $227.8 million.

Where does all that come from? In 2010, $71 million came from contributions and grants, $100 million from membership fees and $46 million from other revenue sources, like ad sales ($20 million) royalties, rents and subscriptions.

In 2010 that wasn’t enough to cover expenses. In total, they spent $243.5 million, leaving a $15 million shortfall, at least that year, which was cushioned by assets of $37.5 million.

Where did all the money go? About $33 million went to salaries and wages (not including the top brass), $28 million went to advertising and promotions. By far the biggest items were membership outreach: $57 million for membership communications, $24 million for printing and shipping, $16 million for educational programs. Just about $10 million went to the NRA’s lobbying arm, the Institute for Legislative Action.

More than $12.7 million went to Akron-Ohio based InfoCision, a huge telemarketing company that lists a broad spectrum of blue chip non-profits as clients– including Smile Train, the American Diabetes Association, Easter Seals and Unicef—as well as the College Republican National Committee and companies like Time Warner and AT&T.

As for salaries, fifty-six people in the organization earned more than $100,000 in 2010—and 10 made more than $250,000. Lapierre does not top the list. Kayne B. Robinson, the executive director of general operations does. He was paid just over $1 million. Lapierre was second, pulling in $970,000 in reportable and estimated comp.

Bigman cites the NRA's 2010 Tax Returns as his source for this information.

I suspect we're going to want to learn more about the donations and "grants," membership fees and other sources of income. And then we'll want to watch carefully to see where the money goes as the NRA goes into a tailspin. Because those donors and grantees and members are going to find another home for their money before you can say "Bon Voyage, Lapierre." And the next spokesman may be a little more successful at hiding the lunacy behind the anti-regulation, gun-up-the-schools, fervor.

Discuss

The NRA is in a corner. So be wary. They're going to break their silence in a news conference today, and we need to be ready to uncover the lies and knock down the straw men.

As a New York Times editorial today warns, they are promising "meaningful contributions" to the debate. We can't let the organization escape its past, and especially its role in drumming up guns sales over the past decade.

Myth number one is that the NRA represents a "movement" of ordinary citizens. As the Times notes, it is anything but,

The association presents itself as a grass-roots organization, but it has become increasingly clear in recent years that it represents gun makers. Its chief aim has been to help their businesses by increasing the spread of firearms throughout American society.
Debunking that myth may be the most important thing we can do today. We need to highlight the NRA's role as corporate shill for huge gun corporations that profit from honing and refining deadly machines.
In recent years, the N.R.A. has aggressively lobbied federal and state governments to dilute or eliminate numerous regulations on gun ownership. And the clearest beneficiary has been the gun industry — sales of firearms and ammunition have grown 5.7 percent a year since 2007, to nearly $12 billion this year, according to IBISWorld, a market research firm. Despite the recession, arms sales have been growing so fast that domestic manufacturers haven’t been able to keep up. Imports of arms have grown 3.6 percent a year in the last five years.

The industry has, in turn, been a big supporter of the N.R.A. It has contributed between $14.7 million and $38.9 million to an N.R.A.-corporate-giving campaign since 2005, according to a report published last year by the Violence Policy Center, a nonprofit group that advocates greater gun control. The estimate is based on a study of the N.R.A.’s “Ring of Freedom” program and very likely understates the industry’s total financial support for the association, which does not publicly disclose a comprehensive list of its donors and how much they have given.

Be ready today. They'll be trying to sell us all a bill of goods--and they'll be paying the best salesmen in the country to frame their message. Be ready.
Discuss

People are required to insure cars, boats and motorcycles for liability. Why? Because they may do harm to others.

Guns should be required to carry liability insurance as well.  I confess I had never thought of this before, until Nada Lemming suggested it in another diary. The more I think about it, the more I like the idea.

Gun owners want to make the case that guns are just another recreational item. As one puts it in today's New York Times article "Many Owners Say Semiautomatic Weapons Are Just Another Hobby,"

“Some people crochet, some people shop, some people shoot guns.”
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