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A Death in the Family Reminds of ObamaCare (plus, Time to Vote!)

By Admin Mugsy - Last updated: Monday, January 28, 2013

Lefty 9/11/06 - 1/24/13 (RIP)Last week was a tough week for me. My poor cat “Lefty” died on the operating table Thursday after suffering from the fastest occurrence of cancer I’ve ever seen in my life, going from perfectly healthy on Halloween to violent convulsions two weeks later to his death just two months after that. What made it all the more painful is that an unnecessary delay due to a nurse telling me (incorrectly) that I had to wait ten days for the next appointment, which may have been the difference between life and death for my friend. The struggle to keep him healthy for that period of time was emotionally draining as well as rough on him. But just as draining as it was emotionally for me, it was just as draining of my wallet. Thousands were spent on his care in those two months (including his initial misdiagnosis). Long gone are the days when vets were cheaper than “people-doctors”. Today, most vets charge every bit as much as any “specialist” that you or I might go to. Worse, far fewer people actually carry “pet health insurance”, so for the most part, veterinary care is a cash business, and EVERY visit to the vet was a guaranteed $150 minimum, with $400-$800 charges being the norm. It is easy to understand how many people, faced with such crushing frequent charges, are forced to make the crushing choice between treating an otherwise completely curable pet and putting them to sleep simply because they can’t afford the treatment. Fortunately, I had a bit of money set aside for emergencies that I burned through rather quickly, and my father & step-mother willingly covered the bulk of the bills. But try to imagine that instead of a sick pet, it were a sick child. Putting a child to sleep due to an inability to pay just isn’t an option (even if Rush Limbaugh once seemed to think it was.)

(And in case you are wondering – as I was – there is no NHS in England for pets. Taking your pet to see a veterinarian in the UK is the same costly insurance mess than we endure for human care in the U.S.. That’s right, the American health care system is on par with how dogs & cats are treated in the UK.)

On the first day of the new Congress three weeks ago, perennial nut-job Michele Bachmann actually made her first bill yet-another call to “repeal ObamaCare”. The country just reelected the man that gave us “ObamaCare” (by a wide margin), and the Supreme Court already declared the program “Constitutional”. Even if by some miracle the GOP-controlled House passed a repeal, it wouldn’t get past the Democratic Senate nor a presidential veto, and Bachmann knows that, so it was clearly her just tossing a bone to her insane wingnut/Teanut supporters to let them know she would continue to be every bit as BSC* in the 113th Congress as she was in the 112th. But more to my earlier point, none of these “repeal ObamaCare” zealots have ever explained what they would replace it with, nor express a word of compassion for the people faced with the devastating consequences of illness without insurance (or just-as-bad, having insurance but then being denied care.)

*Bat $#!+ Crazy)

ObamaCare won’t be fully implemented until next year, but a key stage… the “health insurance exchanges” that force insurance companies to compete with each other on the same playing-field, begin October 1st of this year. Several Republican-led states are fighting creation of these exchanges… which would be funny if it weren’t so tragic. The very centerpiece of the Republican plan to “reform” health care called for “interstate competition” to bring prices down, which is EXACTLY what these exchanges are. So any call to block them is purely partisan politics at the expense of people’s health & wallets. The great irony is that, if a state refuses to create an Exchange, the people of that state will have the option of being covered by Medicare… which is the largest, most successful, single-payer health care system in the country. By blocking the very exchanges Republican claim to want, they could very well end up pushing millions of Americans into “single-payer” health care… something that ranks somewhere between “arugula” and “The Holocaust” on the list of things Republicans believe will lead to the downfall of civilization.

Health care costs are bleeding this country dry (as I can personally attest to on a half dozen different levels), and getting those costs down will pump Billions back into the economy. And THAT is the GOP’s TRUE fear, dear readers.

But, on to less depressing fare:

All this month, I’ve been toying with the idea of giving “Mugsy’s Rap Sheet” a face-lift, testing out new looks using different themes, and then giving everyone a chance to vote for their favorite. Keep in mind “readability” and “ease of use” in your decision (click thumbnails to enlarge):


Original RapSheet
Original RapSheet
Emerald Stretch
Emerald Stretch
Easel
Easel
 
Box of Boom
Box of Boom
Ahimsa
Ahimsa

 

Vote for your favorite new theme:
Original MRS Black
Emerald Stretch
Easel
Box of Boom
Ahimsa
Results

The winning new theme will be in place when you return next week along with the results of the voting. (In the advent of a tie, I will cast the tie-breaking vote. And for those concerned voters, the “snow” effect so many of you complained about in an earlier theme, that was an add-on I have since removed and was not part of any of the themes I used. – Mugsy)
 



Writers Wanted
 
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Filed in General, Healthcare, Money January 28th, 2013 by Admin Mugsy | • 2 comments | Add/View

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“Gun-free Zones” are NOT “magnets for crime”

By Admin Mugsy - Last updated: Monday, January 21, 2013

Hunters don't need Assault WeaponsOn the January 13th edition of Fox “news” Sunday, they invited Larry Pratt, Executive Director of “Gun Owners of America”… a man that makes the NRA’s Wayne LaPierre sound reasonable… to discuss gun control. Briefly, the GOA is a group that believes there should be absolutely NO gun laws, period, and that placing ANY restrictions on gun ownership is “unconstitutional” (never-mind that whole “well regulated” bit). Pratt’s insane rantings were too numerous to go into here, but his opening remark condemning “gun-free zones” was not original. Pratt pointed out that Texas Congressman Steve Stockman from “just outside of Houston” was going to propose a bill to:

 

“remove the gun-free zones that have been so much like a magnet to invite mass murderers into zones where they know nobody else will be able to shoot back.”

The Rachel Maddow Show covered the return of gun-nut Stockman to Washington on last Tuesday’s show. I had already heard Pratt’s same idiotic claim about “gun-free zones” from several Republicans by then, and several times more since. On yesterday’s Fox “news” Sunday, regular panelist Bill Kristol repeated Pratt’s ridiculous claim:

“I know everyone ridiculed the NRA for saying this, but maybe actually having armed guards at schools and not having gun-free zones where mass murderers know they can go in and kill people and no one will shoot them…”

News Flash: Psychotic mass murderers that target a school full of six year old children don’t weigh the pros & cons first as to whether that’s really a “safe” place for them to commit mass murder. If they were worried about people “shooting back”, why do so many of them end up committing suicide in the end?

The idea that “criminals are attracted to gun-free zones” has become a popular Right-Wing talking point over the past few weeks. And (of course), like most every other “fact” Republicans cite to support their case, it’s usually pure fantasy. Another “fact” pulled directly from their hind-quarters. Someone makes up some claim because it “sounds like it’s probably true”, and then never bothers to fact check to see if it actually IS true before spreading it as “fact” (why bother? Something that sounds plausable MUST be true, no?). So I checked the Houston Police Database and… gee, wouldn’t ya know it… gosh darn it, Pratt/Stockman’s claim is total bullshit (bet’cha didn’t see that one coming.)

Full disclosure, the HPD database does not break down “shooting” crime specifically, so I relied on a crime mapping website, “SpotCrime.com” to map out all shootings in the cities of Houston, Miami and Los Angeles for all of 2012:

Houston
Houston 2012 shootings
Click to enlarge

Miami
Houston 2012 shootings
Click to enlarge

Los Angeles
Houston 2012 shootings
Click to enlarge

These are maps of just “shootings” (between January 1, 2012 and December 31, 2012) in which at least one person was actually wounded. They do NOT include “armed robbery” or other crimes where a gun was used but never fired. With that in mind, note that there were 84 separate incidents in gun-crazy Houston and 50 in Miami vs just 19 incidents in Los Angeles (including one shooting at USC last April in which two Vietnamese graduate students were shot & killed). Does this mean more of Los Angeles’ murders were “mass shootings”? No. A look at each incident shows that on average only one person was actually shot in most instances, with the largest being a family of three.

As you can see from the above maps, there are no “clusters” of shootings anywhere… let alone in “gun-free zones”. And if these maps suggest anything, gosh darn if it doesn’t look like you’re FAR safer in a city/state with strict gun laws (one incident for every 25,000 people in Houston vs one incident for every TWO-HUNDRED AND FIVE THOUSAND people in LA). “Gun-free zones” don’t see Murders any more often than any other area. In fact, reading through the results, the most common crimes in which someone was wounded with a gun are robberies, hold-ups at Convenience Stores and the like… where there is a VERY high probability the person behind the counter is armed by-the-way. And another news flash for “Bloody Bill”, both Columbine and Virginia Tech had armed guards on the premises. Hell, VT had its own freakin’ campus police force on the premises!

And now these Troglodytes are out there claiming “gun-free zones are a magnet for mass murder” (as if psychopaths worry about things like that.) It’s total nonsense of course… which I’m certain comes as no surprise to you, dear Reader.
Postscript: Something else interesting pointed out to me yesterday:
Can you spot the gun-free zone?
Homepage of Albuquerque’s News 4 in New Mexico yesterday/Sunday.

Note: This is our fifth and final test-theme in search of a new look for “Mugsy’s Rap Sheet”. Let me know what you think in the Comments. Be sure to come back next week to vote for your favorite!


Writers WantedGot something to say? Mugsy’s Rap Sheet is always looking for article submissions to focus on the stories we may miss each week. To volunteer your own Op/Ed for inclusion here, send us an email with an example of your writing skills & choice of topic, and maybe we’ll put you online!

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Filed in Crime, Guns & Violence, myth busting, Politics January 21st, 2013 by Admin Mugsy | • No comments | Add/View

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Dear Mr. Biden. Focus on the Ammunition, not the guns.

By Admin Mugsy - Last updated: Monday, January 14, 2013

Grim Reaper will need to exchange his scythe for a ThresherAll day long, from 8am to 5pm Monday thru Friday, I listen to Progressive talk radio streaming from my PC (no Liberal Talk radio stations in Houston) all day long while I work, and a caller into one show the other day asked, “At what point does your right to ‘stay safe’ trump my Second Amendment rights?” Argh! Dumb people are going to be the end of this country. “Hey Moron!”, I shouted at my radio, “Just because we have a First Amendment right to Free Speech doesn’t mean we have the right to shout ‘Fire!’ in a crowded theater!” But you can bet if I shouted “Fire!” in a crowded room with this moron in it, it would have been proceeded by the words: “Ready! Aim!” We put “public safety constraints” on Constitutional “rights” all the time. The Supreme Court ruled long ago that issues of ‘public safety’ CAN trump Constitutional rights. And in fact, the Second has one built-in with that whole “well regulated” clause that makes licenses & background checks Constitutional (so said Justice Scalia).

Fox “news” Sunday contributor Bill Kristol dismissed the need for sweeping gun control legislation yesterday based on “one incident”. One incident? ONE??? Excuse me you soulless prick. Did you forget the Arizona mass murder that wounded Congresswoman Gabby Giffords two years ago? The Aurora, Colorado Theater shooting? The shooting in a Sikh Indian Temple in Wisconsin last year? The gunman that opened fire in a Portland shopping mall four days before the murder of 20 six year olds and six teachers in a Newtown, CT public school, followed by yet another school shooting just last week WHILE the Vice President was discussing the findings of his Task Force? ONE incident? Blow me, jackass.

Tomorrow/Tuesday, Vice President Biden releases the recommendations of his “Gun Violence Task Force”, which is expected to recommend something very similar to his 1994 “Assault Weapons Ban” which Republicans are declaring was an “absolute failure” (It wasn’t. This 2004 report (pdf) found that murders committed using Assault Weapons declined by 17% in just that ten year period… a decline that was likely to have only grown as discontinued weapons and magazines/clips became more scarce.) A repeat of the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban would face an uphill battle. Anything weaker is unlikely to do much good. Anything tougher will have an exceeding difficult time getting past a GOP controlled House (because they owe their very livelihood to kowtowing to their gun-crazed constituency.) We need to think differently.

Chris Rock famously joked about making every bullet “cost $5,000″ because then there would “no longer be any innocent bystanders”. While I doubt making ammunition exorbitantly expensive would pass a Constitutional challenge, I do think Rock was absolutely on the right track: Focus on the ammunition! There are plenty of laws saying you can own just about any kind of gun you’d like, and plenty of pinhead Rednecks have threatened to go apes#!t if anyone tries to “take their gun away” (I won’t link to it, but one now-infamous numbnut said in a video last week that if the government tries to take away his guns, he’ll “start killing people.” Paranoia runs deep on the Right. You name the issue and there’s a badly misinformed Conservative nut threatening violence over it.)

Which brings up a point I’ve been making for a while now: Guns are useless without bullets. There is NO “constitutional right” to an endless supply of easily obtainable high-caliber ammunition. If we’re going to curb gun violence, I recommend we focus there (rather than the FAR more complicated balancing act of banning the guns themselves.)

My Conservative father is an avid gun collector that loves to go target shooting and has a concealed-carry permit. Dad also makes his own bullets because target shooting uses up a lot of ammo which can get real expensive real fast. So he bought a hand-powered shell packing machine, buys the brass shells and gunpowder, and makes his own bullets right there in the garage. But you know what else I noticed? He goes through his ammunition quite sparingly and wouldn’t think of using his own hand-packed ammo in a (semi) automatic weapon because he’d blow through it too fast. When it takes a minute or two to pack each shell, you’re going to be more reluctant to waste it in a machine that spits out 50 rounds/second. If you look closely, “spree” shooters don’t make their own bullets. They buy them pre-made and in bulk at Wal*Mart or some other conveniently located retailer. Presently, you can walk into Wal*Mart and fill up a shopping cart FULL of bullets without so much as a firearm’s license. And when bullets are that easy to come by, there’s no disincentive to use them in a weapon that spits out bullets like Rush Limbaugh spits out racist/misogynistic vulgarities.

Remember when you were a kid and Mom & Dad wanted to impress upon you “the value of a dollar”? Earning that dollar wasn’t easy, and because it was harder to come by, you weren’t so quick to waste it. And while you were pondering how best to spend it, you didn’t leave it lying around where someone might take it. You put it someplace safe until you were ready to use it. I think restrictions on ammunition would have the same effect. Pass laws prohibiting “bulk purchases” of bullets, require background checks for ammunition the same as we do for guns, and put limits on certain TYPES of ammunition. An “Assault Rifle” will do a lot less damage if it doesn’t have access to ammunition that looks like this:

.223 caliber ammunition used in Newtown shooting
.223 caliber ammunition used in Newtown shooting

Remember back during the Aurora, Colorado movie theater shooting how your redneck brother-in-law and his beer-swilling buddies all boasted how if THEY had just had a gun in that darkened crowded theater, with people running around screaming in a cloud of teargas, fleeing a mad-man in full body armor spiting out 30 bullets in 27 seconds, THEY “could have taken down the shooter” and saved all those people? How many times did you hear them say that the ONLY way they could have achieved this superhuman feat is if they too were armed with a semi-automatic assault rifle? I’ll bet you Mitt Romney’s $10,000 that you never ONCE heard one of these Right-Wing idiots with delusions of grandeur say they would have required matching firepower to bring down a madman with an assault rifle. No, they were ALL referring to a simple handgun. So the claim that people require assault weapons “for protection” is not only a myth, but debunked by their own words (or lack-there-of.)

You may have a right to own a gun, and the gun nuts are already apoplectic over the imaginary threat that the gub’mint is plotting to “take that right away”, but you do NOT have a Constitutional right to buy a shopping-cart full of armor-piercing M16 rounds without so much as a background check. Likewise, you don’t have a “right” against being “inconvenienced” by a clip/magazine that only holds 10 rounds before having to reload. If you can’t hit your target with ten bullets, you have no business using a firearm.

If the latest push to limit gun violence in this country is to succeed, they’ll have a FAR better chance at success if they focus more on bullets than the guns. Also worth pointing out… because THEY will… “closing the gunshow loophole” and banning the sale of certain firearms wouldn’t have prevented any of the most recent massacres. They will try to use that as an excuse not to enact most of the proposed legislation. But limits on ammunition/clips/etc WOULD of had an impact on these most recent massacres. We should channel our energies towards legislation with the greatest chance of success that would arguably of had a direct impact on recent events.

Note: Trying out a new look for the blog this week. Let me know what you think in the comments. One more theme to try out next week at which point I’ll give you the opportunity to vote for your favorite (along with screen shots.)

 


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Filed in Crime, Guns & Violence, myth busting, Politics, Rants, Seems Obvious to Me, Unconstitutional January 14th, 2013 by Admin Mugsy | • 4 comments | Add/View

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First Rice Now Hagel. Why? Because They’re Not Senators

By Admin Mugsy - Last updated: Monday, January 7, 2013

RW hypocrisy on nominationsFirst, the claws came out for Susan Rice, and by all reports, tomorrow/Tuesday President Obama will nominate Chuck Hagel to be his next Secretary of Defense, and the GOP will go after him with as much venom as they directed towards Ambassador Rice over the mere possibility she might nominated Secretary of State. I personally don’t believe Rice was ever really in contention for the job, but feigned GOP outrage, blaming the UN ambassador for (of all things) failing to provide added security (???) which is not her job… for our embassy in Benghazi prior to an attack that left four dead, virtually guaranteed any nomination would be DOA. But the alternative nominee… Senator John Kerry is receiving vociferous praise from the GOP, for whom they promise would sail through the nomination process. Next up: former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel, despite being a Republican that John McCain once called a “close and dear friend”, should the retired Republican senator be nominated, the GOP has already said they plan to oppose his nomination and do everything in their power to stop him from becoming Secretary of Defense. Why? Republicans are all over the map on this one, and I could cite several “stated” reasons, but personally, I believe it is because he’s not a currently sitting Democratic Senator. Just as with the possible nomination of Ambassador Rice, Republicans already have their knives out over the possible nomination of retired Senator Hagel. And I don’t think it is a coincidence. With Democrats clinging to only a five vote majority in the Senate, the GOP sees these cabinet appointments as a backdoor way to swing control of the Senate and nullify President Obama’s second term by opposing ANY nominee that’s not a currently serving Democratic senator.

Now, I don’t think even the GOP believes they can overturn five Democratic Senators to give them a GOP majority (and of course, the President isn’t dumb enough to pilfer enough Senators to swing control of the Senate). But the objective here is “obstruction”, not “control”, and the fewer Bluedog Conserva-Dems they have to convince into voting their way, the fewer Senators they need to swing “split-decisions”.

Another “reason” often cited for opposing Hagel as SecDef is his “(lack of) support for Israel” based on a few choice comments the Right-Wing Pro-Israel lobby has objected to. But John Kerry isn’t exactly the Pro-Isreal lobby’s dream come true either (Kerry… among other things… chose Rep. Keith Elison, a… gasp… Muslim!… to work with him on addressing criticism of Israel.) So why the opposition to Hagel but not Kerry?

Both DailyKOS and Rachel Maddow (ibid) asked the obvious question: “Why do Democratic presidents insist on nominating Republicans as Secretary of Defense, adding false credence that Republicans are better at National Security?” Bill Clinton’s second SoD was Republican William Cohen, President Obama initially retained Bush’s SoD Republican Robert Gates (a move I advocated for because Gates was an early critic of invading Iraq and turned things around as SecDef), and now Obama is considering another Republican SoD to replace retiring Democratic SoD Leon Panetta. KOS & Rachel asked the obvious question: “Why Republicans?” After all, Republican’s don’t appoint Democrats as SoD. But neither wondered why the GOP has run so hot & cold (no “medium” setting) over potential nominees, in near hysterics over the mere possibility that Rice or Hagel might be nominated, but fawning all over John Kerry… a man they “Swiftboated” into the ground in 2004, yet they now embrace as the perfect choice to represent the United States abroad? Doesn’t that strike anyone else as odd?

With Senator Kerry of Massachusetts out of the way, the GOP can throw a ton of money into getting freshly defeated Scott Brown back into the Senate following a “special election”. (Current Senate makeup: 55/45 Dem/GOP.) That’s a two-seat swing with just one nomination.

So that’s my theory. President Obama could nominate Karl Rove or Rush Limbaugh to serve in his cabinet, and the GOP would vehemently oppose them. It has nothing to do with the candidate’s competency or positions on the issues. It’s all about Power. Anyone that isn’t a currently sitting Senator has about as much chance of winning GOP support as I have of ending up on the next cover of The Weekly Standard.

(Postscript: I’m trying out different themes over the next few of weeks. You’ll be able to vote for your favorite next month. Let me know what you think in the Comments.)
 


Writers Wanted
 
Got something to say? Mugsy’s Rap Sheet is always looking for article submissions to focus on the stories we may miss each week. To volunteer your own Op/Ed for inclusion here, send us an email with an example of your writing skills & choice of topic, and maybe we’ll put you online!

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Filed in Election, fake scandals, Partisanship, Politics, Seems Obvious to Me January 7th, 2013 by Admin Mugsy | • 3 comments | Add/View