Joe Miller’s Security Guards? They’re Unlicensed Survivalists

Jodi Jacobson

According to reports this evening, Joe Miller's private security firm--the one whose guards "arrested" a reporter--is a Survivalist/Security/Tactical Assault/Tea Party/Military Surplus type store in Anchorage.

More on Tea Party candidate Joe Miller, whose private security team handcuffed and “arrested” a reporter who dared to try to get the candidate for Senate to answer a question about his positions at a public campaign event at a public school.

The security firm?  According to Bonsai66 at Daily Kos:

It turns out [the security guards are employed by] Drop Zone, [which] is a Survivalist/Security/Tactical Assault/Tea Party/Military Surplus type store in Anchorage.

The “security guards” also apparently double as bounty hunters.

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Check out the photos at Bonsai66’s diary.

This is a man who wants to be a U.S. Senator.  Beyond disturbing

Analysis Politics

Paul Ryan’s Health-Care Pitch Would Put ‘Greater Burden’ on Sick Americans

Ally Boguhn

Rep. Paul Ryan’s plan to address those with pre-existing conditions may sound familiar to many following the election closely—and that’s because Carly Fiorina made an almost identical pitch in November during a Republican debate.

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) told students at Georgetown University on Wednesday that the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) protections for the sick should be replaced with high-risk pools, a conservative plan previously pitched by Carly Fiorina and one that advocates say would put “a greater burden” on sick Americans.

Speaking at a “millennial town hall” event, Ryan, who has spent the last several months attempting to rebrand himself as a more compassionate alternative to Trump, said that the ACA’s cost protections for sick individuals-a core component of Obamacare-should be replaced with state risk pools. “Less than 10 percent of the people under 65 are in what we call ‘people with pre-existing conditions,’ who are really kind of uninsurable,” said Ryan to a room of 500 students.

“Let’s fund risk pools at the state level to subsidize their coverage, so that they can get affordable coverage,” he continued. “You dramatically lower the price for everybody else. You make health insurance so much more affordable, so much more competitive, and open up the competition.”

The ACA’s provision protecting individuals with pre-existing conditions ensures, according to the Department of Health and Human Services, “health insurance companies can’t refuse to cover you or charge you more just because you have a ‘pre-existing condition’-that is, a health problem you had before the date that new health coverage starts.”

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Though Ryan justified moving those with pre-existing conditions to high-risk pools by claiming that a relatively small percentage of those in the United States fall into this category, a 2012 analysis by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that, for adults under 65, “between 36 million and 122 million … reported medical conditions that could result in a health insurer restricting coverage” for a pre-existing condition. “This represents between 20 and 66 percent of the adult population, with a midpoint estimate of about 32 percent.”

Furthermore, Ryan’s plan to address those with pre-existing conditions may sound familiar to many following the election closely-and that’s because Fiorina made an almost identical pitch in November during a Republican debate. But as Rewire noted when Fiorina, who is now Sen. Ted Cruz’s running mate, floated the idea, moving sick Americans into state-sponsored “high-risk” pools would create substantial burdens on those with pre-existing conditions:

The high-risk pools Fiorina outlined as part of an ACA replacement strategy refer to state-sponsored health plans for those unable to obtain insurance in the private market due to pre-existing conditions. According to an analysis by the Center for American Progress, these plans do not provide a good alternative for those with pre-existing conditions, as research based on the 35 states in which such programs previously existed found that the coverage they provided was expensive and created “a greater burden on individuals with expensive medical conditions who have already spent large amounts of their income on health care.”

According to the Commonwealth Fund, a nonprofit health-care policy organization, in the past high-risk pools have resulted in higher costs for consumers, administrators, and both state and federal governments-all while offering people who rely on them for care with “much less than optimal coverage, often with annual and lifetime limits, coverage gaps, and very high premiums and deductibles.”

Conservatives pushing for high-risk pools also ignore that some of the ACA’s costs were a calculated “trade-off” meant to provide better care. As MSNBC’s Steve Benen explained in a post for the outlet’s Maddow Blog, “Obamacare is predicated on the assumption that dumping millions of Americans with pre-existing conditions-folks who couldn’t afford coverage before the ACA passed-into high-risk pools is the wrong thing to do. The Affordable Care Act guarantees protections, which ends up costing more, but which provides greater and more stable health security for more people. It’s a trade-off based on a moral calculus.”

When former Louisiana governor and failed Republican presidential candidate Bobby Jindal pushed for high-risk pools as part of his own health-care platform, Talking Points Memo‘s Sahil Kapur similarly took down the proposal as “fatally flawed,” noting that Republicans have previously failed to get behind what experts predict would be a very expensive policy:

Jindal’s proposal would be lucky to get much Republican-let alone Democratic-support. First, as conservative health policy experts James Capretta and Tom Miller estimate, high-risk pools aimed at covering up to 4 million people would cost between $150 to $200 billion over 10 years. … Second, the Republican-led House hasn’t shown any willingness to fund high-risk pools. In fact, last year GOP lawmakers scuttled a bill pushed by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) to spend just $3.6 billion on high risk pools for under a year, fully paid for with cuts to Obamacare.

“Subsidizing health care is not what Republicans should be about,” Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID) told reporters at the time.

High-risk pools were, however, pushed by the House Republican Study Committee last week “as part of the House policy agenda, saying premiums should be capped at 200 percent of a state’s average,” reports Reuters.

Republicans in the House of Representatives have voted more than 50 times to repeal the ACA, but have yet to vote on a measure to replace it, according to the Hill. Though congressional Republicans have spent years attempting to formulate a replacement plan, Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI), a member of a group of House Republicans tasked with coming up with such a replacement, said last week that they need “a little time, another month or so.”

Commentary Abortion

Letters to Justice Blackmun Offer Glimpse of Public’s Post-‘Roe’ Reactions

Cynthia Greenlee

By 1994, when Roe v. Wade's majority opinion author Justice Harry Blackmun retired from the Supreme Court, more than 70,000 Americans had poured out their approval, outrage, and ambivalence in letters to him, a sample of which are stored at the Library of Congress.

This piece is published in collaboration with Echoing Ida, a Forward Together project.

Read more stories commemorating the 42nd anniversary of Roe v. Wade here.

Nine months after the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion nationwide, a woman named Katherine T. wrote Supreme Court Associate Justice Harry Blackmun, the author of the case’s majority opinion, a rambling letter detailing her illegal abortion and expressing her gratitude.

“I, Katherine the ‘pure,’ who had studied catechism at the age of six, who had felt so guilty at the age of seven upon stealing a paper card from my best girl friend that I never again committed (to my knowledge) an illegal act (save a few parking violations here and there), had suddenly become one of the ‘bad girls,’ which centuries of our ‘Christian’ traditions have condemned as the worst of the worst,” Katherine wrote about finding herself pregnant and unmarried in 1967. She’d arranged an abortion, she told Blackmun, getting in the car of an unknown “racketeer,” not sure “where he was taking me or knowing what would happen to me.” At the time of her letter, in October 1973, Katherine was married with “a wanted son and a wanted daughter who with all their insatiable demands continue to be the jewels of our lives!!!” In hindsight, she mused that “it is more than the right to choose legal abortion that you have secured for us. Somehow, with that ruling, I felt you were also recognising me as a more fully human being.”

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Katherine was not the only one who felt compelled to write to Blackmun in the aftermath of Roe. By the time of Blackmun’s 1994 retirement from the Court, more than 70,000 Americans had poured out their Roe-related approval, outrage, and ambivalence in letters to him, a sample of which are stored at the Library of Congress. The writers included women who’d had abortions, housewives, doctors, mothers happy that their daughters would have options in the event of an unintended pregnancy, Catholics, anti-choice individuals, and people who had never before contacted a public figure. Together, these letters form a remarkable and multivocal archive. But they, and Blackmun’s archived responses to them, also demonstrate what is sometimes lost in contemporary debates about reproductive rights: that being against abortion for oneself doesn’t always mean being against it for others.

Blackmun had not relished the task of churning out the majority opinion. Though the decision was written after multiple drafts and the usual conferences with his fellow justices, it was Blackmun whom the general public considered the sole author. And so it was Blackmun who received mounds of mail that excoriated him, commiserated with the task of articulating a new legal position on a fraught topic, celebrated his judicial leadership, or scorned him as a reprehensible activist judge.

As Blackmun wrote, it was “an unusual experience to be so constantly in the vortex of violent controversy.” Still, he maintained that he and the rest of the justices in the majority had made the right choice, even if it made people angry or conflicted with his own beliefs. In a widely circulated January 1983 Associated Press interview, he clarified his position: “I’d be less than candid if I said [the hate mail] does not hurt, but not as much anymore. People misunderstand. I am not for abortion. I hope my family never has to make such a decision. … I still think it was a correct decision. We are deciding a constitutional issue, not a moral one.”

In his ability to separate the tangle of issues in this way, Blackmun did what so many of today’s politicians can’t: maintained reservations about a practice, but still defended it as a legality for all and a possibility for some.

And Blackmun had not made his decision lightly. With his attention to history and medical background as legal counsel to the legendary Mayo Clinic, Blackmun had extensive questions about when abortion should be permitted. In memos to his fellow justices, including one found in Thurgood Marshall’s papers, he asked whether abortion should be restricted only to the first trimester or according to then-prevailing notions of fetal viability. This was a question that Blackmun’s doctor and legal correspondents also mulled in their letters back to him. “You’ll never get out of purgatory for this one,” wrote a chatty OB-GYN friend, whose tone quickly turned serious: “It occurred to me that one of the vexing gray zones will be the matter of timing. This matter troubled the ancient authorities, both legal and medical as well.”

Many supporters praised Blackmun’s measured approach, and it appears that he only answered sympathetic notes. Even so, there were plenty of letters and protests from people who called him a butcher of millions. Or, in a preview of current abortion-Holocaust comparisons, a Nazi.

Over time, Blackmun must have grown used to the attacks. But he often seemed wounded when criticism came from his peers, such as some former physician colleagues at the Mayo Clinic, or other unexpected sources. In one missive to Blackmun, an Owatonna, Minnesota, newspaper editor remarked on how conservative teachers had “enlisted school children in the fight, along with pickled fetuses, political pressures, and outright deceit of the public. It will all continue, I’m sure.” To which the justice replied: “I have been surprised, as you apparently are, by the enlistment of school children in the writing campaign. So many of the letters for children are almost hateful in their character that one begins to wonder what kind of teaching is going on in the schools.” Picketers showed up at Blackmun’s speeches at college campuses nationwide, and a gunshot was once fired in his window. The justice, who had been a reluctant advocate, traveled with bodyguards.

Blackmun also had a reputation for being a devout Methodist; to that end, he heard from citizens who tried to counter the annual deluge of hate mail that arrived with each Roe anniversary. Many of these letter-writers shared his reservations about abortion, yet still abhorred what they called the anti-Christian behavior of the name-callers and extremists who criticized Blackmun’s role as Roe’s architect. A Kansas woman who identified herself as middle-class and Catholic recalled her 18-year-old friend dying of an illegal, $150 abortion performed by a doctor who was, years later, a voice in the anti-abortion movement. “Please believe me when I say,” she wrote in 1981, “that these strident cruel political preachers do not represent us.”

These words, like Blackmun’s own, reflect a complexity of abortion attitudes beyond the dichotomy of “pro-choice” and “anti-choice.” In January 1983, an Allentown, Pennsylvania, woman wrote, “I am anti-abortion, as you are. But I find myself defending women and their rights as more important than the ‘rights’ of the fetus.” The same week, an Alexandria, Virginia, woman wrote to thank Blackmun for making her abortion possible. She believed “abortion is an obvious violence to nature that no one would want to commit. … However, it seemed to me that it was a higher moral choice to try to care properly for the three children I already had than to bring another into the world at a time when I could not see how I was going to support any of them. So I had my abortion, got an education, got divorced, supported my children and raised them to splendid adulthood. I feel satisfied about my decisions in life.”

While these letters don’t represent all opinions expressed in the Blackmun correspondence, they do underscore what’s frequently drowned out in the hyper-political morass of today’s abortion debates. Yes, the assault on reproductive rights has reached fever pitch in Congress and state legislatures, and the loudest voices are, predictably, the most extreme. But when it comes to Americans’ abortion attitudes, much has stayed the same. Then and now, people have had complicated attitudes about abortion that defy simple categorization, and many are willing to defend choices they might not like or make themselves—even risking, as Blackmun did, decades of criticism as a result.