Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The NRA: A Cheap Super PAC?

Wikipedia defines the NRA (National Rifle Association) as an "American non-profit 501(c)(4) lobbying group[1][2] that advocates for the protection of the Second Amendment of the United States Bill of Rights, and the promotion of firearm ownership rights as well as marksmanship, firearm safety, and the protection of hunting and self-defense in the United States." But in my opinion its oh so much more than that. The group has effectively become almost a "Super PAC" of sorts, mobilizing voters, funding endorsed candidates and playing a pivotal role in many elections across the country. To be an outsider looking into a private group or organization reminds me of the adage "those in glass houses shouldn't throw stones". So I took that into consideration when writing my thoughts on the NRA.

What better person to analyze the actions of the NRA, then a member himself! I have been a registered NRA member since July 25 2011. I joined the group because I thought the group's purpose and drive was to protect second amendment rights, crucial in the formation and continuity of this country, and ensure citizens always had the ability to rise up against oppression. What the group really consists of is far from that and a detriment to its members. The group routinely sends out spam and otherwise unnecessary emails peddling gun insurance, general insurance and other non-essential services. Some of the emails are written to be intentionally deceiving telling a member that the group "hasn't heard back from them on their insurance" and that they "are at risk without action". Other tactics of the group involve sending unsolicited promotional material to members and then demanding payment for it. Don't take my word for it, see for yourself!

But perhaps the NRA is preserving second amendment rights; spam advertisement and cheap marketing tactics aside.  Perhaps by removing elected officials who stand in the way of second amendment rights the NRA can best utilize its massive funding capacity  In a recent senate primary race between incumbent Dick Lugar and a relatively unknown Tea Party darling Richard Murdock, the NRA was largely influential in the incumbent's defeat.  In an official NRA statement from Chris W. Cox the NRA was "was fully vested in this race with a comprehensive campaign that encompassed thousands of radio and television ads in the months before the today's primary election.  This effort also included 600,000 web ads."  Murdock, an unrelenting partisan, virtually opposed to any form of bipartisanship, is certain to make zero impact in a governing body requiring work across the aisle, outside the box thinking and commitment to country and NOT party.

Gee, what a great way to spend our membership fees, on radio and television ads for a political candidate who might make 1-5 critical votes in their senate membership lifetime.  Let's not spend it on firearm education (to prevent firearm accidents and educate the public why firearms are important to our freedom), actual membership benefits leveraged by over 4 million members (no, spam emails and incessant requests to join insurance programs don't count!), or interesting and relevant publications.  Here's my tip: Take the money you would have spent the NRA and donate to your favorite politician, because that's just what's going to happen to it.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Health Care Reform: What's at Stake?

There are many misconceptions regarding the health care reform legislation that is being argued before the Supreme Court of the United States. Many people wonder why there is a mandate that every individual be insured. While there are many nuances involved in the legislation it basically boils down to a need for the coverage pool to be as large as possible. Because the legislation mandates that no insurer can refuse coverage or drop a person because of pre-existing or developed medical conditions, it needs a bunch of healthy people paying into the system to balance it out and keep the overall pool solvent.

This "individual mandate" is where people find the most amount of differences with the legislation. Some argue that they, as healthy people" should not be subsidizing the health care of sickly people who could theoretically raise prices for the rest of the healthier members of the overall pool. Some find fault with the mandate itself and think Government should not be allowed to force citizens to purchase a product from a private entity. Lastly, some believe that Government run-insurance will bring many of the inefficiencies associated with Government/public-sector involvement in a matter.

I'm interested to see how the Supreme Court Rules and what case-law is cited. Some argue that President Obama and the White House will win either way. If the legislation is upheld, Obama gets the validation his law is not only here to stay but constitutional. If the law is overturned, Obama can rally his supporters to the polls in November. What's your take?

Friday, March 9, 2012

Kony 2012

Kony 2012 is a great independently produced film that highlights the plight of children captured by Ugandan war criminal Joseph Kony. The video is about 27 minutes long and does a great job of bringing people up to speed on where the struggle stands today. Prior to the video, I had never heard of the LRA, Joseph Kony or the Invisible Children organization, but I definitely am aware of them today. The video introduces us to the director, Jason Russell and how meeting Jacob, a boy whose brother was killed by Kony, changed his life.

Critics argue the film oversimplifies things; they argue that the video is too little too late and that it won't bring about real change. I disagree and cite myself as the primary example. Prior to watching this video I knew there was conflict in Africa and children were involved but I had no idea of any details or stories based on a personal level. I was ignorant to the existence of Joseph Kony and the kidnapping, manipulation and mutilation of children that has occurred under his orders. I challenge you to watch the video for yourself and make up your own mind.