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LAGC

Profile Information

Gender: Male
Hometown: Missoula, MT
Home country: USA
Current location: Deep in Red State Hell!
Member since: 2001
Number of posts: 4,985

About Me

Godless democratic socialist, look towards northern Europe for inspiration on what role-models our economy should aspire towards. Love the ACLU and donate heavily to them each year, wish they'd get with the program and defend the Second Amendment with as much fervor as they do the rest of the Bill of Rights. Proud member of the 99%.

Journal Archives

ObamaCare is Really Pissing Me Off Right Now

Okay, I just have to vent...

As some of you may recall, I was an early "volunteer" for the Affordable Care Act, signing up during that tumultuous month of October 2013 back when the Healthcare.gov web-site was experiencing so many problems, before things got mostly fixed come December. I had originally signed up for a Platinum plan through SelectHealth, the monthly premium being $85 after the advanced premium tax credit was applied, which didn't seem too bad at the time. Well, come mid-January I found out that there was an error in my October application, and cost-sharing benefits were never factored in, due to my limited income, making several of the Silver plans even better deals with lower deductibles and max out-of-pockets than that Platinum plan through SelectHealth.

So back in late January I called SelectHealth up and told them that I wanted to cancel my policy effective January 31, so I could go with a Silver plan from a different insurer, since we all had until the end of March to enroll -- this year only. They told me they'd need a formal letter request, which I promptly e-mailed right over. I then logged back into Healthcare.gov, clicked "Terminate all Coverage", then deleted my erroneous initial application, going through the whole application process all over again, this time with all the correct discounts applied. It was a success (no error notifications this time!) but since it was past the 15th, my new coverage wouldn't start until March -- no big deal, just the month of February without coverage, hopefully nothing happens, and indeed nothing did.

All was well and good until come May I notice a refund on my credit card for that first month's $85 premium from SelectHealth. "That's odd" I thought to myself, so I called them up and asked what was going on. They said that they got notice from the Federal Health Insurance Marketplace that my policy was to be retro-actively cancelled effective January 1, as if I never had a policy with them at all! I explained to them that I had sent them my cancellation letter specifically indicating that it was supposed to be effective January 31. They claimed their hands were tied, and I'd have to take it up with the Healthcare.gov folks. So I called them up, explained my situation, got "escalated" a couple levels before someone seemed to truly understand the situation, and they said they'd look into it and hopefully rectify the situation and square things away with SelectHealth, at which point I assumed that SelectHealth would just re-bill me for that $85 premium. Nothing to worry about.

So I never heard anything further on the matter until just a few days ago, when I got notice in the mail from SelectHealth that two claims made during the month of January (just an annual "wellness" check and blood-work the next day) would no longer be paid by them, and were now MY responsibility to pay! As if I never had a policy with them at all! So now it looks like I'm on the hook for over $500, all for just a simple "wellness" check and blood-work -- both of which are supposed to be covered for free under the ACA's preventative care mandate!

I don't know who I hold more in contempt right now. The clinic charging so much for just a simple "wellness" check, SelectHealth for retro-actively dropping my coverage, or the Healthcare.gov folks for not being able to find any record of first application now, and telling me to just file a complaint with the state insurance board instead.

I mean, don't get me wrong -- I really like my current plan and truly believe the ACA has been a godsend overall, but the bureaucracy (at both the corporate and government levels) is beyond frustrating right now, as I imagine it is for many others who made the "silly mistake" of trying to be early adopters back when the web-site was still having all its glitches back in October.

I just want to strangle someone right now.

S.E. Cupp Says We are BAD Atheists...

"It seems like there's this idea perpetuated by atheists that atheists are somehow disenfranchised or left out of the political process. And I just don't find that to be the case.

I think in fact that atheists have grown more vocal over the past decade or two than ever before. In fact, in many ways atheists act as a religious body unto themselves.

There's another myth that conservatism is somehow hostile to atheism, I also don't find that to be the case..."


http://www.cnn.com/video/data/2.0/video/politics/2014/07/29/crossfire-reloaded-athiests.cnn.html

Wow, the mental contortions this woman must go through to sleep at night with all her fundie bedfellows...

Now, quit being BAD atheists and just throw yourself into Rick Santorum's welcoming arms already!

Rolling Stone: Confessions of a Liberal Gun Lover

It's not just libertarians and conservatives who are ready to defend the Second Amendment with a finger on the trigger

Gun nuts aren't always creatures of the political right. Consider your heavily-armed author's position: I say gun ownership is a necessary line of defense against investment bankers, Wall Street lawyers, big business, the corporatized wing of the Democratic Party, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Business Roundtable, ALEC, Nazis, gangbangers, meth fiends, cops and politicos who cut welfare and education programs while refusing to downsize the military or raise taxes on the rich. When I was living in New York City, I voted for Bill de Blasio. I was briefly a believer in Obama's hope-change lines. I want single-payer healthcare and free public higher education and a carbon tax and the end of the warfare-surveillance-killer drone state – and I want the Second Amendment protected.

I like my guns. I like the Colt Trooper .357 Magnum, and the FN .40, and the Lee-Enfield .303, and the Remington 12 gauge, and the Ruger Mini-14 with 30-shot clip and the Smith & Wesson Model 39 – this last a gift from my father, a New Yorker and, like me, a liberal who is several planets to the left of President Obama. My dad is a member of the NRA, god help him. He shrugs and by way of excuse says he enjoys the group's monthly magazine, American Rifleman.

The tribe of liberal gun nuts I've gotten to know over the years includes writers, activists, musicians, schoolteachers, professors, rock-climbers, wilderness guides, environmentalist lawyers and at least one shaman. If I'd venture to pin down the unifying ideological bent of these folks, I'd say it's anti-statist socialism – communitarian, decentralist, anarchist. Kiley Miller, a pal who lives in Moab, Utah, and who runs an eco-friendly house cleaning service, keeps guns because "the thought of only the government, police, sheriffs, and military having guns gives me the chills." This is a woman who describes herself as "a radical environmentalist about as far left as one can be" and who busts my balls whenever I miss the daily dose of Democracy Now. Another armed liberal living in Moab, Matt Gross, a friend of mine and of Kiley's, was the man behind Howard Dean's web campaign – as director of online communications he web-fundraised what was then the unprecedented sum of $25 million – and went on to work as chief online strategist for Democrats in two major senatorial campaigns and as John Edwards' senior web adviser during his 2008 run for the White House. "The right doesn't own the flag, guns or the Constitution," Gross writes me in an email. "You can be a progressive champion and still know how to handle a Glock. I support the HRC" – that's the Human Rights Campaign, which lobbies for LGBT equal rights – "but it doesn't mean I'm unarmed."
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Read more: http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/confessions-of-a-liberal-gun-lover-20140714
Follow us: @rollingstone on Twitter | RollingStone on Facebook

Surprised no one else posted this yet, apparently... interesting piece.

Americans' Dissatisfaction With Gun Laws Highest Since 2001

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Americans' dissatisfaction with U.S. gun laws and policies has increased to 55%, nearly matching the high of 57% in 2001. Forty percent are satisfied, down from the historical average of 47% since Gallup began asking this question in this way in 2001.

Overall, Americans' satisfaction with gun laws ranks near the middle of a list of 19 issues measured in Gallup's 2014 update of its annual Mood of the Nation survey. The highest levels of satisfaction were with the nation's military strength and ability to deal with terrorism; the lowest were with poverty and homelessness and the state of the nation's economy.

Americans may be dissatisfied with gun laws because they believe they should be stricter, or because they believe the laws are too strict as they are. Therefore, Gallup asks those who are dissatisfied with gun laws to choose among explanations for their dissatisfaction. Those who are dissatisfied have historically leaned heavily in the direction of wanting stricter rather than less strict laws.

But this year, the gap between those wanting stricter gun laws and those wanting less strict laws narrowed as a result of a sharp increase in the percentage of Americans who want less strict laws, now at 16% up from 5% a year ago. Support for making gun laws stricter fell to 31% from 38% last January. The January 2013 poll was conducted shortly after the December 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting tragedy, which sparked some state governments to consider new gun laws and a robust national discussion about the issue.




http://www.gallup.com/poll/167135/americans-dissatisfaction-gun-laws-highest-2001.aspx?utm_source=alert&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=syndication&utm_content=morelink&utm_term=All%20Gallup%20Headlines

That's odd. I wonder what caused the dramatic uptick this year? Backlash against states cracking down?

On "Gun Nuttery" and SYG

First let me preface this by saying that I'm a pretty strong Second Amendment supporter, and think most gun control laws do more harm than good. Criminals by nature don't obey the law, so most of the time you're only restricting law-abiding citizens and giving the NRA reasons to rile gun owners up and GOTV, as with the recent recalls in Colorado.

But it's hard not to notice the marked increase in news stories of minor altercations escalating into shots fired lately, more often than not without any good justification. But the burning question is: what can be done about it? Most of these incidents appear to involve folks with no prior criminal records, so universal background checks won't solve anything. All of these incidents seem to involve either handguns or old-fashioned bolt-action rifles, so an Assault Weapon Ban won't help, even if it really did ban more than just cosmetic features. As the economy continues to flounder and things get more stressful for more people, I don't see such random acts of violence getting any rarer either.

So what can we do? The "toothpaste is already out of the tube" so to speak, no way to "put the genie back in the bottle," -- guns are here to stay. Expanding access to mental health services might help, but only if the aggressive behavior is detected in time.

I know the statistics show that crimes of violence (including gun violence) are on a 20-year decline, but it sure doesn't feel that way with all these news stories lately. Are we really to the point where such random acts of violence are just the price we have to pay to live in a free society? I mean, I'm not even sure repealing SYG would be effective in those states, unless their self-defense laws were all changed to mandate fleeing from all conflict if at all possible. Just seems like these nutcases don't give a damn about the law anyway, they just shoot first and answer questions later.

Is this really the new "normal?"

Bill Moyers: Can a Left-Right Coalition Bring About Real Prison Reform?

Editor’s note: On Friday, the “Smart Sentencing Act,” which the ACLU calls “the most significant piece of criminal justice reform to make it to the Senate floor in several years,” passed the Senate Judiciary Committee with bipartisan support. You can read the ACLU’s press release here.

There’s not much that Tea Party Republicans and liberal Democrats agree on these days. Surprisingly, one of them happens to be scaling back mass incarceration, the subject of a live-streamed meeting today of the Senate Judiciary Committee. The motives vary among and between key legislative leaders as ideologically disparate as Republican Sens. Mike Lee (UT) and Rand Paul (KY) and Democrats Patrick Leahy (VT) and Dick Durbin (IL). But whether motivated by concern for civil liberties, unsustainable state and federal budgets or a New Testament-inclination for giving second chances, one fact trumps all differences: The US houses by far the largest incarcerated population in the world at 2.2 million people as of year-end 2011. That smudge, as well as unsubtle championing of sentencing reform by attorney general Eric Holder, has galvanized a relatively quiet bipartisan effort over the past five years. Advocates say Congress is taking on mass incarceration one reform at a time. The latest are tucked into the 1,582-page FY2014 omnibus spending bill, and other reforms are coming down the pike. Below, a guide to these new developments.
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http://billmoyers.com/2014/01/31/can-a-left-right-coalition-bring-about-real-prison-reform/

It's not just the Tea Party either, even some "Establishment" neo-cons like Newt Gingrich have been making some gestures lately indicating that America's out-of-control prison growth needs to be reigned in.

(Of course, their motivation is probably freeing up more money from wasteful domestic spending to wage some more wars abroad... but finding some common ground over prison reform would be nice.)

Dang, This Obamacare News Keeps Getting Better and Better!

Some of you may recall my OP back in early October, I was one of the lucky few who was able to successfully enroll (or so I thought) through the Healthcare.gov web-site that second week after its rocky debut:

http://www.democraticunderground.com/10023819690

Well, I just found out a couple days ago that not only do low-income folks qualify for the premium tax credits that lower the monthly premiums you have to pay, but for folks under 250% of poverty-level income, you also qualify for cost-sharing which lowers the deductibles and max out-of-pocket costs on some Silver plans. (Indeed, there were error messages when I enrolled back in October, and the cost-sharing was never taken into account.)

So I ended up going with a Platinum plan back in October which I thought was a good deal with its only $85/mo. premium and $1500 max out-of-pocket (covers 90% of costs) -- but after plugging my info back into the "Browse Plans Before You Buy" calculator that they just recently added to the Healthcare.gov web-site, I discovered that several of the Silver plans are actually much better deals than even the Platinum plans, covering 94%(!) of costs, with only a fraction of the monthly premium:



I ended up going with the plan on the far right, which has a MUCH bigger provider network (PPO) than my Platinum plan did, only $1000 max out-of-pocket, and only a third of the monthly cost!

So if you are low income and signed up back in October, take a second look at those Silver plans! Despite what the Healthcare.gov online chat support reps tell you about how you can't change plans after you've paid your first month's premiums, THIS IS NOT NECESSARILY THE CASE. In my case, I paid my first month's premium on my Platinum plan, but was able just yesterday to get on there, TERMINATE ALL COVERAGE, delete my erroneous application, and go through the whole application and enrollment process (successfully this time, without error) and see those true lower rates I was eligible for, on those much better Silver plans with cost-sharing kicked in!

Even on my low-income, $26/mo. is very affordable, and more than makes up for my Republican-controlled state not expanding Medicaid eligibility, as many more providers recognize this PPO insurance I will now have, whereas not as many accept Medicaid.

Just thought I'd let you all know.

Kalashnikov 'feared he was to blame' for AK-47 rifle deaths

The inventor of the Kalashnikov assault rifle apparently wrote to the head of the Russian Orthodox Church before he died expressing fears he was morally responsible for the people it killed.

Mikhail Kalashnikov, who died last month aged 94, wrote a long emotional letter to Patriarch Kirill in May 2012, church officials say.

He said he was suffering "spiritual pain" over the many deaths it caused.

Kalashnikov had previously refused to accept responsibility for those killed.


http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-25709371

Interesting article... the AK-47 (and its variants) definitely changed the landscape of modern warfare.

Curious that the proliferation of his 65-year-old invention caused him such mental anguish in his final days...

But how much can the inventor truly be blamed? If not the Kalashnikov, surely some other automatic rifle would have filled the void... maybe not as simple and elegant of a design, maybe not as rugged and inexpensive, but equally efficient killing machines none-the-less.

Doesn't it all still boil down to human nature and malicious intent? Or is the tool truly to blame in this case?

It is thought that more than 100 million Kalashnikov rifles have been sold worldwide.

It definitely had an impact, that's for sure...

Grandmother says her heart goes out to his family, she never intended to kill the young man.

Police say the teen barged into her home carrying a shotgun and demanding money out of the safe."And as I was unlocking the safe and I prayed to God to give me strength, to get through this, it'll be me or him," said the woman.

"And that's when I fired my gun and hit him with the first round," said the victim of a home invasion in the 3000 block of Morningside Drive in Shreveport.

She says when she realized she only had coins in the safe she began fearing for her own life , the life of her granddaughter, and great grandson.

The terrified 63 year-old grandmother and great grandmother doesn't want to be identified. She tells KSLA News 12 she got the drop on the alleged robber when she distracted him by handing him the bag of money with one hand. With the other hand, she says she shot the sixteen year- old in the chest.


http://www.ksla.com/story/24378134/grandmother-who-shot-alleged-robber-speaks-out

"55 dollars in coins, and he lost his life."

SMH.

My Parents Are 57 and 61, Both Smokers, Finally Got Through on Healthcare.gov

They were originally going to go with the cheapest Silver plan, but it had a $2500 deductible and $11,600 max out-of-pocket. So I suggested they check out the Gold and Platinum plans, just for comparison. They are both in pretty good health (besides their smoking habit) but my dad had to undergo an angioplasty a few years back, clogged arteries. My dad got laid off his long-term job as an HVAC salesman a couple years ago, had been drawing unemployment and paying into a COBRA plan that cost over $500/month just for himself. My mom has been uninsured for years since arthritis stopped her from working. (She never applied for disability.)

They both have a modest 401K which my dad has been drawing on these last couple years which about to run out, but Social Security kicks in for him next year so that should help somewhat. Then my mom can start drawing on her 401K until she makes it to 62 herself. They were surprised to find out they qualified for a $611 monthly tax credit. They ended up going with a Platinum plan, the premium which costs just over $647/month for the both of them. $0 deductible, and only a $3000 max out-of-pocket. Not too bad considering their age and the fact that they admitted to being smokers on the application.

I'm trying to get them to quit smoking, try e-cigarettes or something, so they can save an additional $100/month on their insurance, then they would only be paying around $550/month for a Platinum plan. This will be much better coverage than they ever had their whole working lives, which is especially important now that they are at that critical age where they are at most risk: over 55, yet not quite old enough to qualify for Medicare. I'm just glad they will both be covered again. I was worried about my mom going so long without insurance.

The ACA really is making a difference in many people's lives. I hope they are able to get the kinks worked out and make this thing work. At least until we finally get around to expanding Medicare for all. One step at at a time...
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