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Saturday, March 31, 2012

Roundup slips into lamb costume

Whatever are we to make of the Roundup's page full of letters defending the Democratic Party - this in the paper that only recently denied a Democrat's letter because it was "too long" while publishing a Republican's that was even longer.

Lord knows what goes on in the button-down minds of John Naughton and Pistol Pete, but here is a little fuel for the fire:

1. If it was "retired" editor Tom Brossart who kept the Dems out of the Roundup, it would belie Pistol Pete's recent praise of Brossart as a fairminded and great guy.  But it would certainly be more in keeping with our firsthand impression of Brossart - as a meanspirited bully.

2. We firmly believe, however, that Naughton told Brossart and also tells Pistol Pete what to print, so here's a better theory - perhaps Kansas (home of parent WorldWest) told the Roundup to broaden its base to bolster its badly sagging readership.  (If 45 percent of your potential readers feel unrepresented, chances are they're not buying your paper, especially now that the price has been inflated to 75 cents.  And that trickles down to advertising revenue.  Etc, etc., etc.)

It will be interesting to see how the Roundup responds when its right wing base goes ballistic over the paper's newfound sense of fairness.

All we can do is set back and chuckle - while advising our Democratic friends to be wary - a wolf in sheep's clothing is much more dangerous than a barenaked wolf.  And we also remind them that the number of Rim Country residents that bothers to buy the Roundup anymore isn't that great anyway.

As an old mentor of mine used to say - "Sigh!"

Surprise! Republican attack ad distorts truth

By Julie Hirschfeld Davis and Greg Stohr
Bloomberg News

31 March 12 - A Republican Party Internet advertisement altered the audio of U.S. Supreme Court (1000L) oral arguments in an attack on President Barack Obama's health-care law.

In a web ad circulated this week, the Republican National Committee excerpts the opening seconds of the March 27 presentation by Obama's top Supreme Court lawyer, Solicitor General Donald Verrilli. In the ad, he is heard struggling for words and twice stopping to drink water.

"Obamacare," the ad concludes, in words shown against a photograph of the high court. "It's a tough sell."

A review of a transcript and recordings of those moments shows that Verrilli took a sip of water just once, paused for a much briefer period and completed his thought - rather than stuttering and trailing off as heard in the edited version.

The ad marks a blurring of the line between the law and politics, in which the nation's highest court - and the justices and lawyers who decide and argue cases - are becoming fodder for Republicans' and Democrats' arguments over the validity of the president's signature domestic legislative achievement.

RNC Communications Director Sean Spicer said the video was a "mash-up," condensing and splicing together several separate pauses and stutters by Verrilli during the first two minutes of his argument, produced to illustrate how much difficulty he had defending the health-care law.

Multiple Clips
"Are there multiple clips in that video? Yes," Spicer said. "The point was that he continually had to stop because he was having trouble making the case for why Obamacare was valid."

The Democratic National Committee declined to comment. Obama's re-election campaign also said it wouldn't respond to a query dealing with a matter currently before the Supreme Court. White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters yesterday that Obama was "pleased" with the presentation Verrilli made, which was criticized by Supreme Court watchers and some media outlets.

Tracy Schmaler, a spokeswoman for the Justice Department, which includes the solicitor general's office, declined to comment.

The RNC said Verrilli's halting performance is evidence that the 2010 law he is arguing to uphold is invalid.

Less Water, Shorter Pauses
"It seems that Obama's lawyer hit a bit of a snag trying to defend the constitutionality of Obama's health-care takeover," the RNC said in a statement accompanying the ad. "Maybe he's beginning to realize something the American people already know: It's hard to defend a law that is indefensible."

Recordings of the court proceedings reviewed by Bloomberg News reveal that the audio has been edited. While Verrilli paused once to drink water during the opening moments of his presentation, he stopped talking for only a few seconds before continuing with his argument. In the RNC ad, he pauses for about 20 seconds, coughs, sips water and stutters.

In the RNC's transcript of its ad, it quotes Verrilli as follows: "For more than 80 percent of Americans, the ah insurance system does provide effective access [pause]. Excuse me. Ah [cough] it ah be-be because the ah the ah the [pause]. Excuse me."

Finishing His Thought
In the actual proceedings, Verrilli finished his thought. "For more than 80 percent of Americans, the, ah, insurance system does provide effective access," Verrilli says, pausing briefly and saying, "Excuse me. But for more than 40 million who do not have access to health insurance, either through their employer or through government programs such as Medicare or Medicaid, the system does not work."

While such unflattering editing isn't unusual for a political campaign advertisement, it is atypical in the legal world.

"Unbelievable," said Walter Dellinger, who served as solicitor general under Democratic President Bill Clinton. "It's a dramatic instance of the politicization that has surrounded this challenge, and totally unfair to one of the most widely admired lawyers in public service."

Peter Keisler, a former Republican federal judicial nominee, said the ad could set back efforts to open the court - which does not allow its proceedings to be televised, videotaped, or recorded by the media or spectators - to camera coverage.

'Selective and Misleading'
"The selective and misleading editing of a Supreme Court argument to make a political point is going to confirm the worst fears of those who oppose cameras in the court," said Keisler, a partner at Sidley Austin LLP in Washington, who served as acting attorney general and was nominated to the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington by former President George W. Bush.

The RNC ad wouldn't have been possible a dozen years ago - at least not this quickly. Before 2000, the court didn't make its audio recordings available until the beginning of its next term; in this case that would have been in October.

Starting with the 2000 Bush v. Gore ruling, which halted the Florida presidential voting recount and made Republican George W. Bush the winner, the court began releasing its recordings in select cases at the end of the day.

Timothy R. Johnson, a University of Minnesota political science professor who researches and writes about Supreme Court arguments and decision-making, said the ad is the first to use the Supreme Court's audio recordings.

'Worst Nightmare'
"This ad is the justices' worst nightmare," he said. "It's the reason why they don't want cameras in the court."

Spicer said the RNC is proud of the video and the attention it has generated.

"Is it novel? Are we ahead of the curve at the RNC? I hope so," Spicer said.

He said the Republican Party would continue to mine the Supreme Court case for material that can be used in its political attacks on the Obama health-care measure.

"The issue of Obamacare will unequivocally be a major issue for this campaign," Spicer said. "If there are great pieces of the written opinion that talk about what an unbelievable takeover of our health-care system and our economy this has been, I strongly suspect we will use it."

Legal specialists across the ideological spectrum said they expect the health-care case and others dealing with such issues as immigration to figure in the presidential campaign.

"We can be pretty confident no one is going to vote for or against Obama based on how good or bad his solicitor general is at arguing, but the bigger question of Obamacare's constitutionality certainly will play out in the campaign," said Curt Levey, executive director of the Republican-aligned Committee for Justice.

"The attention to this argument and this case around the Affordable Care Act is emblematic of the fact that courts matter," said Marge Baker, executive vice president for Policy and Program at the Democratic-aligned People for the American Way in Washington. "No matter how this particular case comes out, it's very clear that voters understand that."

Friday, March 30, 2012

Medicare for all is health care solution

(Gazette Blog Editor's note: With emotions running high over the Supreme Court's outrageous politicization of Obama/Romney Care, we found the following take by a third party candidate and medical doctor very interesting:)

Dr. Jill Stein, the front running Green Party presidential candidate, said today that whatever the U.S. Supreme Court decides on the constitutionality of the insurance mandate of "Obama / Romney care," Americans will still be stuck with an expensive, ineffective health care system that fails to provide quality health care to all Americans.

Medicare for All
“As a medical doctor trying to care for people in an increasingly broken system over 25 years, I know that a single payer Medicare for All program is the real solution to the American health care crisis,” stated Stein, a graduate of Harvard Medical School. “President Obama repeatedly admitted this during the health care debate while insisting that single payer was off the table."

Stein added that it is a well-established fact that our complicated health insurance system increases health expenditures by $400 billion annually, saying that, "The mandate that every American buy expensive, inadequate health insurance is a scheme developed by Republicans and foisted on the nation by Democrats. The winners are the health insurance companies. A Stein administration will make health care a right while eliminating the enormous waste, bureaucracy and negative health impacts of the current health insurance mess."

Dr. Stein campaigned for single payer health care when she ran against Mitt Romney for governor of Massachusetts in 2002.

The federal health insurance law under challenge in the courts will leave more than 26 million uninsured when fully implemented. It will force millions of Americans to buy expensive health insurance that will fail to provide them with the health care they need. Many Americans will still go bankrupt due to high medical bills. The law will do nothing to change the fact that more than 3/4 of Americans who go bankrupt due to health care costs have medical insurance.

Despite spending more than twice as much as the rest of the industrialized nations ($8,160 per capita), the United States performs poorly in comparison on major health indicators such as life expectancy, infant mortality and immunization rates. Moreover, the other advanced nations provide comprehensive coverage to their entire populations, while the U.S. leaves 51 million completely uninsured and millions more inadequately covered.

"Americans spend far more money on health care than other industrial democracies but have a poorly performing health care system, ranked only 37th in the world, due to the cancerous burden of private health insurance. Obama and the Democrats turned their backs on Medicare - a proven solution. Instead they enacted a health insurance mandate whose prime goal will be to increase insurance company profits," noted Stein.

Despite its inadequacies, Stein sees some positive components in the Obama reforms, but she notes that these elements do not actually go into effect until 2014 and is concerned that, “This delay will cost lives.” It is estimated that 45,000 Americans die annually due to lack of health care coverage.

Massachusetts' experiment with insurance mandates, Romney Care, did reduce but did not eliminate the uninsured population in the state. “That so-called ‘reform’ significantly increased under-insurance, increased health care premiums, and created a financial crisis among the state’s safety-net hospitals and community health centers,” Stein said. “Many low-income residents had less access to health care. And the financial burden of the reform has fallen disproportionately on lower-middle-class. This is not the reform we need. A system based on mandates is basically a regressive tax imposed on the middle class in order to support profiteering in the health industry. No other country in the world would tolerate such an abuse of consumers and neither should we.”

Under Obama's health insurance mandate, a family of four with income of $80,000 a year will be forced to purchase health insurance policies that will eat up 9.8 percent of their income -- yet the policy would cover only 70 percent of medical expenses. “This will not only compete with other household necessities but would do virtually nothing to protect people from the financial ruin in the event of serious illness,” Stein explained.

Stein characterized a single payer system by saying “that means that all medical bills get paid under a single streamlined system, similar to Medicare. Everyone would be covered, regardless of employment or medical care status, for all medically necessary services, including: doctor, hospital, preventive, long-term care, mental health, reproductive health care, dental, vision, prescription drug and medical supply costs. Patients would regain free choice of doctor and hospital, and doctors would regain autonomy over patient care. All those complicated forms that have to be filled out for the current multitude of private health insurers would no longer be necessary, and that would save billions in paperwork costs.”

The Green Party has long supported a single payer system, explaining that eliminating private insurers and recapturing their administrative waste would easily fund health care for the uninsured. Modest new taxes would replace premiums and out-of-pocket payments currently paid by individuals and business. Costs would be controlled through negotiated fees, global budgeting and bulk purchasing and all necessary care would be provided with no out of pocket costs to patients.

Greece buys Mega Millions ticket


By Andy Borowitz
The Borowitz Report
borowitzreport.com

ZIONSVILLE, INDIANA – In a move that raised many eyebrows among financial ministers across the Eurozone, the nation of Greece today purchased a Mega Millions lottery ticket in the hopes of winning a jackpot topping $540 million.

Prime Minister Lucas Papademos made the extraordinary purchase himself, traveling to a convenience story in Zionsville, Indiana where he briefly chatted with the Hoosier Lottery’s Mega Millions mascot.

While the odds of winning the jackpot currently stand at 1 in 176 million, experts say that the odds of Greece solving its financial problems on its own are approximately 1 in 975 zillion.

The Greek Prime Minister acknowledged that buying a Mega Millions ticket might appear to be a desperate move to the outside world, but added, “At this point it was either that or sell the Parthenon to Mark Zuckerberg.”

Asked why he purchased only one lottery ticket, Mr. Papademos said, “That’s all we had money for, and even that we had to borrow from Germany.”

Thursday, March 29, 2012

LFOP features fitness, religious tomes in April

The Library Friends of Payson Bookstore’s theme for April is “Spring Into Fitness.” Spring is a great time to start correcting winter’s indulgences. Therefore, the Library Bookstore is featuring two for one specials on health and fitness materials.

The categories included in this promotion are health, diet, and self-help. We have just what you need to start a new fitness regimen or to breathe new life into your current routine.

The Bookstore’s religion section is bulging with recent donations. In recognition of Easter and spring time renewal, all religious books and Bibles will be included in April’s two for the price of one specials. Since the Bookstore normally prices hardback books at $3, $2, or $1, this is a golden opportunity to load up on extremely reasonably priced inspirational material.

Stop by and browse the Bookstore’s ever-changing stock. You never know what treasures might be discovered on our shelves. The LFOP Bookstore is located to the right of the circulation desk just inside the Payson Public Library, 328 N. McLane Road.

For more information visit the Library Friends of Payson website at www.libraryfriendsofpayson.org

Walmart's role in Trayvon Martin shooting



By Bill Moyers
BillMoyers.com
readersupportednews.org

29 March 12 - What does Walmart have to do with the tragic death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin? The answer starts with Florida’s 2005 Stand Your Ground law, promoted across the country as "model legislation" by the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC — "a corporate-backed organization that has managed to keep a low profile even as it exerts vast influence," as Paul Krugman of The New York Times explains:

Despite claims that it’s nonpartisan, it’s very much a movement-conservative organization, funded by the usual suspects: the Kochs, Exxon Mobil, and so on. Unlike other such groups, however, it doesn’t just influence laws, it literally writes them, supplying fully drafted bills to state legislators.

The citizen’s advocacy group Common Cause has an explanation as to why it believes ALEC, which mostly promotes corporate interests, has campaigned for Stand Your Ground laws nationwide. The National Rifle Association is a longtime funder of ALEC. The NRA pushed for the Florida bill’s passage and one of its lobbyists then asked a closed-door meeting of ALEC’s Criminal Justice Task Force to use the law as a template for other state legislatures. At the time, that task force was co-chaired by Walmart, America’s largest seller of guns and ammunition. In September 2005, the bill was adopted by ALEC’s board of directors.

Since then, more than two dozen states have passed laws based on Stand Your Ground (also known as the Castle Doctrine). In Wisconsin, The Nation reports, an unarmed 20 year old named Bo Morrison was shot and killed while hiding on a neighbor’s porch after fleeing an underage drinking party broken up by the police. Last week, the district attorney announced that the shooter was protected from prosecution by the state’s new Castle Doctrine law.

Bo Morrison and Trayvon Martin aren’t the only victims — according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the number of "justifiable homicides" has nearly tripled since the Stand Your Ground law went into effect.

An online petition posted by Martin’s parents demanding further investigation and prosecution of his murder has gathered more than 2 million signatures. Color of Change, a group working to make government more responsive to the concerns of Black Americans, has a related petition protesting another ALEC campaign, this one for what critics say are discriminatory voter ID laws.

Krugman writes, "If there is any silver lining to Trayvon Martin’s killing, it is that it might finally place a spotlight on what ALEC is doing to our society — and our democracy."

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Obamacare Supreme Court case a bad joke

By John Cassidy

March 27, 2012 - Forgive me if a wry tone eludes me when it comes to today’s proceedings in the Supreme Court. As far as I am concerned the whole thing is absurd—yet another example of how America’s antiquated system of government, and its determined refusal to accept the economic realities of the modern world, is undermining its future.

Early on in this morning’s session, Justice Anthony Kennedy, the swing vote on the court, said that the U.S. government had a “very heavy burden of justification” to show that an individual mandate to purchase health-care insurance was constitutional. Really? Only if Kennedy and his Republican-appointed colleagues are willing to throw out economic logic as well as seventy years of legal precedent, which, judging by their harsh questioning of Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, Jr., they may well be.

The economics isn’t very complicated. The health-care industry, which makes up about a sixth of the economy, is rife with inefficiency, waste, and coverage gaps. In seeking to remedy some of these problems, the Obama Administration made a deal with the private-insurance industry—the same deal Mitt Romney made when he was governor of Massachusetts. On the one hand, the federal government barred the insurers from discriminating against the sick and the elderly, thereby raising the industry’s costs. On the other hand, the feds obliged uninsured individuals to purchase coverage, thereby expanding the insurers’ revenues. We can argue whether this was the best way to proceed. (At the time the bill was passed, I raised some doubts about how much it would cost.) But it was a straightforward instance of the central government seeking to redress the failures of the private market—something akin to imposing fuel standards on auto manufacturers, providing state pensions, and forcing banks to hold adequate capital reserves.

In a modern, interconnected economy, activist government policies to remedy market failures are essential. Rather than confronting this argument head-on, which would involve publicly defending the actions of the banks, the insurers, and the industrial polluters, the right has settled on a strategy of trying to undermine the government through the courts, where its pro-corporate agenda can be repackaged as a defense of ancient freedoms.

Thus the bogus constitutional challenge to Obamacare, and, in particular, the individual mandate. As my colleague Jeffrey Toobin pointed out in an excellent post this morning, the issue resolves around the Commerce Clause of the Constitution, which gives the federal government the power to “regulate Commerce … among the several States.” Where does this power begin and end? In the famous 1942 case of Wickard v. Filburn, the Court said that the federal government’s authority extends to any activity that “exerts a substantial economic effect” on commerce crossing state lines.

The case involved Roscoe Filburn, an Ohio farmer who wanted to grow more wheat than he had been allotted under quotas introduced during the Great Depression to drive up prices. In deciding against Filburn and in favor of the Department of Agriculture, the justices pointed out that the actions of individual wheat farmers, taken together, affect the price of wheat across many states. That is what gives the federal government the power to limit their actions.

Under the Wickard v. Filburn standard, the individual mandate is clearly constitutional. If ever there was an industry that crosses state lines, it is health care. As the Solicitor General’s office noted in its brief to the Court on the merits of the case, health-care spending “accounts for 17.6 percent of the nation’s economy.” From a legal perspective, that is where the matter should rest.

But, of course, this case isn’t ultimately about the law—it is about politics. The four ultra-conservative justices on the court—Alito, Roberts, Scalia, and Thomas—are in the vanguard of a movement to roll back the federal government and undermine its authority to tackle market failures. The movement began in the nineteen-eighties, when the Federalist Society got its start and Ronald Reagan appointed one of its members, Scalia, to the court—and for thirty years it has been gathering strength.

Thus the creation of a new legal theory to sink Obamacare: the idea that while the federal government might well have the authority to regulate economic activity, it doesn’t have the right to regulate inactivity—such as sitting around and refusing to buy health insurance. Now, it is as plain as the spectacles on Antonin Scalia’s nose that opting out of the health-care market is about as realistic as opting out of dying. But necessity is the mother of invention. And, judging by his questions this morning, it is this invention that Kennedy has fastened on.

As I said at the beginning, it’s a bad joke—upon us all.

Obamacare haters angered by facts

By Jonathan Chait

If you want to know why the health-care debate has been so pathological, take a moment to read William Kristol’s editorial in the Weekly Standard. The theme of the editorial is that Mitt Romney is undesirable because he is a technocrat. “What Republican primary voters sense,” Kristol editorializes, “is that a technocratic and managerial mindset could prove an obstacle to coming to grips with the situation we face.” Romney seeks — or once sought — through data and detailed analysis. This, according to esteemed conservative intellectual William Kristol, is bad.

This hostility to empiricism has defined the conservative approach to health care. How else could a concept developed by a conservative think tank, implemented by a Republican governor, and largely uncontroversial within the conservative world suddenly become the death of freedom? Because the conservative movement’s understanding of concepts like “freedom” is a hazy ideological abstraction, unmoored from factual grounding, that can attach itself to nearly any partisan position. If you’re uninterested in the details (or even, like Kristol, actively hostile to the very idea of being interested in the details) then your disposition toward one idea can easily lurch from mildly supportive to hysterically in opposition.

A telling case in point came last week. The Congressional Budget Office issued an update on the costs of the Affordable Care Act. Congress (stupidly, I think) designed the law to phase in slowly, so that its provisions took several years to take effect. When CBO first scored the budgetary effects of the law in 2010, it included the first few years in which not much was happening. Its revised ten-year score two years later now loses two years of nothing on the front end, and includes two more years on the back end in which the law is in full effect.

The CBO update prompted a new round of conservative frenzy. “The CBO foresees 87 percent overrun, not even 24 months into this boondoggle,” cries National Review’s Deroy Murdock. “The Congressional Budget Office has extended its cost estimates for President Obama's health-care law out to 2022, taking in more years of full implementation, and showing that the bill is substantially more expensive — twice as much as the original $900 billion price tag,” reports Fox News. Nearly every corner of the conservative media world repeated the story.

The outcry was so widespread that the CBO took the unusual step of releasing a second update to explain to outraged conservatives that they were completely misreading the whole thing:

Some of the commentary on those reports has suggested that CBO and JCT have changed their estimates of the effects of the ACA to a significant degree. That’s not our perspective. …

Although the latest projections extend the original ones by three years (corresponding to the shift in the regular ten-year projection period since the ACA was first being developed), the projections for each given year have changed little, on net, since March 2010.

That is CBO-speak for: “Go home. You people are all crazy.”

The CBO even included a helpful chart showing how its latest cost estimate had barely changed — indeed, it was now projected that the law would reduce the deficit by slightly more than it had originally forecast:

This is hardly a unique episode. The health-care debate has been driven by flamboyant cries over death panels, or more wonky claims that the cost estimates had been “cooked” by using mythical savings from reducing physician pay. (Another totally bogus, endlessly recycled right-wing talking point, which you can read up in if you’re interested.) The conservative media have created an echo chamber in which nonsensical claims reverberate endlessly, and those few conservative intellectuals who know better refrain from correcting their teammates. If you want to know how a moderate Republican health-care plan can become, in the right-wing mind, a devious socialist plot, this is how the process happens.

Community invited to hear PUSD Supt. finalists

Below is a schedule for the superintendent finalists on Friday, March 30. Staff and community members are invited and encouraged to attend the public forum on Friday night from 5:30-7 p.m.

PUSD Interview/Community Day Schedule

March 30, 2012 - Friday

10:30 AM Finalists meet at District office (transported to lunch at Hospital)

11 AM – 1 PM Finalists meet community members for Lunch

1:00 PM – 3:30 PM Finalists picked up from lunch

Tour of Schools

District Operations Overview –Superintendent, Business Manager

3:30 PM Finalists returned to District office

Friday March 30, 2012, 5:30-7:00 p.m

District Office Board Room
902 W. Main

Staff and Community – Public Forums with Finalists

*Facilitated by ASBA Consultant - Questions submitted by members of the audience (submitted questions, finalists rotate in – each answers the same set of questions)

Monday, March 26, 2012

Trayvon Martin and the end of excuses

By Charles P. Pierce
Esquire Magazine

24 March 12 - We have become a nation in which children have become expendable. Trayvon Martin is just the most recent example.

We executed children in this country until long after the rest of the world - except Iran - thought that was a good idea. Almost six million children live in poverty in this country. Almost six million of them are without health insurance of any kind, and that's reckoned to be an improvement. None of this is accidental. These children are expendable because the people we elect make policy decisions of which we approve - or, at least, of which we do not disapprove. The Republicans in Congress - behind the "leadership" of zombie-eyed granny-starver Paul Ryan - would like to zero out the SCHIP children's health-care program. If they do that, it will not be done by accident. The Florida legislature, behind the leadership of the National Rifle Association, passed the "stand your ground" law, despite the fact that even police and prosecutors were warning that it amounted to a hunting license for anyone who had both a gun, and the ability to concoct a good story. Trayvon Martin is not dead by accident.

But, already, even in the face of widespread outrage, the notion is continuing to circulate through the country, like topical anesthetic working on an open wound, that what happened to Trayvon Martin was, if not entirely accidental, then merely a combination of unfortunate circumstances culminating in an entirely regrettable event. (That's not even to mention the wilder precincts of mouth-breathing public commentary. If you ever needed proof that whatever consulting genius came up with the idea of having a Comments section follow every newspaper story deserves to die a slow and painful death by honey and fire ants, this story is pretty much what you're looking for.) Conservatives caution the president not to "inject race" into the incident any further, because, as we know, we can't tell how much of a factor "race" was, because George Zimmerman was half-Hispanic and because of the backward masking on the Sergeant Pepper album. (I am not kidding.) Geraldo Rivera, looking for relevance in all the wrong places, blames hoodies:

But I am urging the parents of black and Latino youngsters particularly to not let their children go out wearing hoodies. I think the hoodie is as much responsible for Trayvon Martin's death as George Zimmerman was.... Every time you see someone sticking up a 7-11, the kid is wearing a hoodie.... When you see a black or Latino youngster, particularly on the street, you walk to the other side of the street. You try to avoid that confrontation.

(And every time I see someone convicted of ripping off pension funds, he's wearing a $500 suit. Don't wear $500 suits!)

For his part, the president was calm and measured, because that's the way the president is, and because he is rather circumscribed in what he can say publicly on topics like this because of factors that should be obvious from the Comments section above. Nevertheless, he neatly put Florida's deeply unpopular Republican governor, Rick Scott, on the spot:

"I am glad that not only is the Justice Department looking into this, but the governor of the state of Florida has put together a task force."

Translation: Make it a good one, Rick, because your ass is in this jackpot, too.

Well I certainly don't feel calm and measured, and it's not because my kids "could have been Trayvon." No, they could not have. My kids are white. They lived in the suburbs. They could wear their pants anyway they liked. They could have worn hoodies to Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve, and nobody would have looked askance at them, let alone blown them away with a handgun. (As I recall, I once wore a black hoodie to Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve.) The worst threat to my children's lives in the big wide world was that some suburban matron who couldn't see over the steering wheel would run them down in the family SUV. They didn't have to worry about running into some trigger-happy, half-mad wannabe on the way home from the convenience store. And that's what keeps me from being calm and measured.

I am sick to death of people who celebrate "the family" making excuses about why other people's children are expendable. I am sick to death of politicians who are more concerned about protecting zygotes than about the teenagers on whom they seek to balance their budgets and advance their careers. (Barney Frank's line about conservatives's believing that life "begins at conception and ends at birth" was not entirely a joke, although it's always been treated as one.) I am sick to death of opportunistic yahoos who can look at this country's unhealthy attachment to firearms and declare that the actions of George Zimmerman, while unfortunate, were pretty much what the Founders had in mind. I am sick to death of the steady drip-drip-drip of all the topical anesthetics we mix up whenever something like this happens. Had Emmett Till been killed in 2012, there'd be at least three people sitting in the CNN Green Room right now - and probably 15 of them sitting offstage at Fox - waiting to explain how unfortunate it was that the lad so transgressed against local custom that circumstances dictated that he be beaten to a pulp and tossed into the river tied to a cotton-gin fan. I am sick to death about how we can argue about anything simply to argue about it, and then move along to the next argument, as though anything at all has been settled.

I think this controversy has some legs to it. What alarms me is not that Zimmerman hasn't yet been arrested, but the awful feeling that the Florida legislature, with the approval of the people of Florida, may have passed a law so idiotic that it prevents local law-enforcement from arresting him at all. (I can't imagine what the good cops in Sanford must be feeling today. The dispatcher told this clown not to pursue Martin, and he did it anyway. They must simply be angry at the world at this point.) And what makes me angry down to my soul is not that my children could have been Trayvon, but that, because of the way we have ordered our politics and our society, only someone like Trayvon could have been Trayvon.

(EDITOR'S NOTE: IN RESPONSE TO A READER'S COMMENT THAT THIS ARTICLE RECEIVED NO COMMENTS, BELOW ARE JUST A FEW - INCLUDING ONE FROM FORMER PAYSON MAYOR BOB EDWARDS:)

Charles P. Pierce of Esquire Magazine should be a bit cautious before making a declarative definition of true justice in the Trayvon Martin tragedy; but, from the tone of his article I suspect caution is not in his DNA.

While we have all heard a lot of views on this issue, facts are being closely held by the investigators as they should; yet, the New Black Panthers have put a price on the head of the shooter and Al Sharpton and others who live off the continuation of racial divide are doing what they can to make this into a simple lynching.

When a person, who presents himself as a true journalist, plays into this same hysteria we should be concerned. America needs a quieter more mature and measured approach to volatile issues. The President, presidential candidates, self-proclaimed moral conscious sages and others should let the issue be sorted out by the justice system and then if that determination indicates needed changes in our society then start the discussion. 
 
Bob Edwards
Payson

# Dick Huopana 2012-03-25 05:05
Unfortunately, it seems destined that "this tragedy will be shamelessly repeated." Why? Because our gun-saturated America has become the "land of the free...to kill."

+30 # Obwon 2012-03-25 05:14
Well, as far as "neighborhood watch" goes, the 911 dispatcher took that away when told Zimmerman not to follow. After all, those are the rules right? Neighborhood watchers agree not to be vigilantees and the way that they do this is by avering that they will obey the rules.

Zimmerman violated the rules, everything that springs from that violation is his own responsibility. If he was in trouble, he was responsible for that trouble! Since he had violated Treyvon's rights, not the other way around. He had absolutely no right to approach, talk to or otherwise get involved with Martin. So, as a criminal who has invaded someones right to privacy, he can't claim self defense. Anymore than a thief can come into your home, shoot you, and then claim self defense because you tried to shoot him.

Zimmerman was ordered to stand down and he disobeyed that order, that made him into a vigilante unlawful! Against whom Martin had every right to defend himself!

+16 # Capn Canard 2012-03-25 08:21
Obwon, agreed... Zimmerman was judge jury and executioner when there was no crime. Treyvon did nothing and yet died WWB. I am gobsmacked when there are those who try to defend actions of a killer like George Zimmerman. I presume that fearful people, like George Zimmerman, will step into a steaming pile of stupidity when they allow their fear to overpower their good sense.

+15 # NanFan 2012-03-25 09:51
That is the best argument for arresting and prosecuting Zimmerman I've ever heard: he ignored the order from the police to do nothing, and he committed murder.

If he was bruised and cut by Trayvon...and I stress the "if" since we don't know for sure (no arrest or pictures taken of him)...then, it was Trayvon who was acting in self-defense. This guy had a gun! Would you not try to run or fight back when someone had a gun in your face?

But in reality, we don't KNOW anything but the fact that Zimmerman admitted shooting Trayvon, who according to authorities, had nothing but skittles and an iced tea in his hands, and a hoodie on his head.

This Florida law reeks of America's greatest woe: we've been taught that it's okay to kill and believe that that is the ONLY way to protect ourselves.

Thanks, Obwon, for your insights into this situation.

N.

+34 # Kasandra 2012-03-24 13:10
It's obvious that this problem came up not so much because of certain individuals, but because of the System. This is really the core problem. Football and all those "spectator sports" are really quite barbaric throwbacks of the Roman Days, when competition, killing, torture and maiming were supposed to be something we cheer about! Excuse me? When is humanity going to grow up and BE WELL!? Guess we'll have to consume this planet like we did the other empty ones in the sky that are mirroring our gross dysfunction as a species!
Festive "New Orleans" Music

Dr Jass & the Heartbeats

Sunday April 1st, 2 pm
Community Presbyterian Church
800 W Main Street, Payson

"Dr Jass" brings a wide variety of musical influences into its basic groove of funky, contemporary New Orleans street music, including rhythm and blues, swing, and Dixie. Besides the 6-piece instrumentation, four members sing as well. The group's leader, Dr. Claudio Zamorano, has extensive playing experience as a trumpeter leading a New Orleans-style jazz group for many years at the Hot Jazz Club of Santiago, Chile. Obviously, American jazz has had a major impact upon the choice of music being performed around the world.

"Dr Jass" features Dale Knighton on banjo and vocals, Suzanne Knighton * on guitar, washboard, various other noisy devices and vocals, Mike Buskirk on trombone and vocals, Robert Tarallo on clarinet, Larry Brasen on upright bass and vocals, Gerry Reynolds on the the drums,and, of course, Dr. Claudio Zamorano on trumpet, piano and vocals.

* Suzanne joined the group after the photo was taken.

This will be quite a show !!

RSVP advised to gerry-reynolds@hotmail.com or 602-619-3355.

Animal Welfare Thrift Store now on Beeline


Photo by Jim Keyworth
Rim Country Friends of Ferals is one of the non-profits supported by the Animal Welfare Thrift Shop, now located at 434 S. Beeline Highway.

LETTERLETTERLETTER
LETTERLETTERLETTER

Hello Gazette Blog readers and fellow animal lovers!

We have successfully relocated our new Animal Welfare Thrift Shop to 434 S. Beeline Hwy. (behind the Time Out Thrift Shop), and we're having our grand re-opening celebration next Saturday, March 31, from 9-5.

We'll have sales, gift certificate giveaways, live music from 10 am - ?, refreshments, and all of the local animal rescue groups we support will have tables set up out front to let people know what we're all about.

Please stop by and join in the fun. If you would like to bring any refreshments to share with our customers, please let Penny know at 951-2587 (shop number).

Penny Mckinlock
Manager

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Noble responds to Roundup letter writer

(Blog Editor's note: The following letter appeared in the March 23 edition of your local newspaper.  Since said newspaper does not often present both sides of an issue, we will.  Here is Gazette Columnist Noble Collins' response.)

THE OFFENDING LETTER
Editor:
Do you know what the Democratic Party believes? Over the last few months, I have observed in the newspapers, radio and television what the Democratic Party stands for and I will list them here:

1. They believe in open borders. They want amnesty for all illegal aliens in our country.

2. They believe in income redistribution. They want to take money from hard-working citizens and give it to non-working citizens.

3. They believe in de-emphasizing Christianity. They want to deny citizens the right to worship as they see fit.

4. They believe in reducing our ability to defend our country. They loathe the military.

5. They are pro-union and anti-business.

6. They believe in big government. They want to hire more government employees and create more agencies.

7. They believe that the Second Amendment does not guarantee citizens the right to abort any pregnancy.

8. They are against making our country energy independent. They want to stop all drilling and refining in our country.

There are more issues that we could discuss, but these are enough to reveal the agenda of the Democratic Party.

Is this what we want to happen to our country? I don’t think so.

If the Democratic Party prevails in November, we will lose our Constitutional republic and will be a socialist republic, or worse.

Don Castleman

NOBLE'S RESPONSE

Editor The Payson Roundup:

You recently published a letter to the editor supposedly written by a person claiming to know what the Democratic Party stands for. How this individual would presume to know is evidence enough of his limited sources of information and his ability to distort, misstate, invent, etc. what little he apparently does rely upon.

He is, quite obviously, not a Democrat, and I believe the Party wouldn't cry over that. We are a tolerant organization, so we acknowledge anyone's freedom to cling to their opinions. We understand how much more emotionally satisfying it must be to daydream negative assaults than to spend any effort at education or fact finding.

We are concerned, however, that innocent children can have their lives minimized by propaganda. It's been attempted many times, of course, but our experience is that most people, children included, are completely capable of understanding truth when it is presented fairly and rationally without blind bias. Sadly we do realize, though, that some individuals are simply incapable of complex thought or attempting to balance tainted information with refreshing truth.

Democrats are dedicated to root out lies and misinformation as part of an agenda to help make the world a better place to live in and raise rational,enlightened, children. This is an especially difficult task recently. We welcome the opportunity to discuss or even fairly debate our real views with anyone who actually believes in looking for facts and ascertaining truth.

Noble Collins

Friday, March 23, 2012

What it looks like when government works for us


By Sandra Fluke
Reader Supported News

23 March 12 - Over the past few weeks, I have had the opportunity to meet and speak with several media outlets in an effort to tell the stories of women who would be helped by comprehensive reproductive healthcare, particularly affordable access to contraception through insurance. While this experience has been emotionally and physically exhausting, I have been repeatedly moved by the hundreds of women and men who have contacted me to show support.

Lest we forget where this conversation started, I would like to take this opportunity to take a step back to exactly two years ago and acknowledge the tremendous difference that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is making and will continue to make in women's lives everywhere.

This law, also known as health reform, will benefit over 45 million women in our country through increased access to preventive care services without copays and deductibles. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act's new requirements that private insurance and Medicare cover these services without cost-sharing, by the time the law is fully implemented in 2014, women will benefit from, among other services: mammograms, cervical cancer screenings, pre and post natal care, flu shots, regular well-baby, well-child and well-woman visits, domestic violence screening, and the full range of Food and Drug Administration-approved contraceptives.

If this seems too good to be true, think again. This is the product of women in action - this is what happens when women stand up for what they and their families need to be healthy and are finally heard by people at the highest ranks of our government. This is what it looks like when government works for us and prioritizes our health.

And just as we will not be silenced when we are verbally attacked for speaking out, we will not go back to a society without this care. My colleagues and friends at my university who struggle with polycystic ovarian syndrome, endometriosis, unintended pregnancy, and even the terrible consequences of sexual assault understand what it's like for someone else to make their health care decisions for them. New moms who need to space their children, young women who are starting their careers, and low income women who struggle to afford basic necessities understand the need to control their reproduction. I have tried to represent them by talking about their experiences - but any influence I might have is only due to their courage in coming forward.

Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, that courage is reaping as yet untold benefits. I look forward to the day when students at my university finally have the comprehensive reproductive health coverage they need to stay healthy. I look forward to never again hearing about a friend who lost her ovary to a tennis ball-sized cyst because she couldn't afford to keep paying for contraception out of pocket. I look forward to the unintended pregnancy rate in our country, which is stuck at half of all pregnancies, finally declining. I look forward to more women surviving breast and cervical cancer because they were diagnosed early. I look forward to the end of gender rating in insurance, which can inflate premiums for young women by 150% compared to their male counterparts, and which costs women of all ages an extra $1 billion per year. And I look forward to knowing that when my friends choose to start their families, they will not be faced with the 87% of individual insurance plans that do not currently cover maternity care, and they will not be labeled as having a "preexisting condition" if it turns out they need a C-section.

I know that when women have the opportunity, they will take care of their health, which in the end benefits both our families and our country. On this second anniversary of the passage of the Affordable Care Act, I express my gratitude and celebrate the new opportunity for healthy lives, before, during and after our reproductive years.

Sandra Fluke is a third-year law student at Georgetown University Law Center and has served as President of Georgetown Law Students for Reproductive Justice. She is the lady talk radio host Rush Limbaugh recently called a slut.

Flu widespread in AZ after quiet winter

The flu has arrived yet again in Arizona, and the epidemic is statewide. After a quiet winter, the beginning of spring finds influenza in 14 of the 15 counties. Fortunately, an annual flu shot is a good match for the virus. That means if you haven’t been vaccinated and haven’t yet been sick, the flu shot can still offer you protection.

“This late in the season, it’s important to stick to good public health advice – stay home if you’re sick, keep your kids home when they’re sick, cover your cough and WASH YOUR HANDS,” said Will Humble, ADHS Director. “It’s amazing how these simple actions work to fight off all kinds of germs and disease.”

Influenza is unpredictable. Arizona typically sees most of its flu cases in February or March, but it has been known to rear its ugly head either earlier or later in the season. This year flu reports started late, but have been steadily increasing over the past few weeks. Approximately 30% (338) of all the cases (1,159) we’ve had this season were reported last week. However, because many people do not go to the doctor when they have the flu, those figures are likely just a fraction of the true number of cases.

Arizona is not alone in the late uptick of influenza this year. Fifteen other states reported widespread activity last week. The official Centers for Disease Control and Prevention influenza season begins in October and carries through the following September.

A list of flu shot providers is available at www.azdhs.gov/flu or by calling Community Information and Referral at (602) 236-8856 or (800) 352-3792. For more information about influenza, go to www.azdhs.gov/flu or contact your health care provider or local health department.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Two years in, Affordable Care Act protecting you

For too long, too many hardworking Americans paid the price for policies that handed free rein to insurance companies and put barriers between patients and their doctors. The Affordable Care Act gives hardworking families in Arizona the security they deserve. The new health care law forces insurance companies to play by the rules, prohibiting them from dropping your coverage if you get sick, billing you into bankruptcy because of an annual or lifetime limit, or, soon, discriminating against anyone with a pre-existing condition.

All Americans will have the security of knowing that they don’t have to worry about losing coverage if they’re laid off or change jobs. And insurance companies now have to cover your preventive care like mammograms and other cancer screenings. The new law also makes a significant investment in State and community-based efforts that promote public health, prevent disease and protect against public health emergencies.

Health reform is already making a difference for the people of Arizona by:

Providing new coverage options for young adults
Health plans are now required to allow parents to keep their children under age 26 without job-based coverage on their family’s coverage, and, thanks to this provision, 2.5 million young people have gained coverage nationwide. As of June 2011, 59,563 young adults in Arizona gained insurance coverage as a result of the new health care law.

Making prescription drugs affordable for seniors
Thanks to the new health care law, 70,045 people with Medicare in Arizona received a $250 rebate to help cover the cost of their prescription drugs when they hit the donut hole in 2010. In 2011, 65,729 people with Medicare received a 50 percent discount on their covered brand-name prescription drugs when they hit the donut hole. This discount resulted in an average savings of $563 per person, and a total savings of $36,977,657 in Arizona. By 2020, the law will close the donut hole.

Covering preventive services with no deductible or co-pay
In 2011, 637,233 people with Medicare in Arizona received free preventive services – such as mammograms and colonoscopies – or a free annual wellness visit with their doctor. And 54 million Americans with private health insurance gained preventive service coverage with no cost-sharing, including 1,056,000 in Arizona.

Providing better value for your premium dollar through the 80/20 Rule
Under the new health care law, insurance companies must provide consumers greater value by spending generally at least 80 percent of premium dollars on health care and quality improvements instead of overhead, executive salaries or marketing. If they don’t, they must provide consumers a rebate or reduce premiums. This means that 1,457,000 Arizona residents with private insurance coverage will receive greater value for their premium dollars.

Scrutinizing unreasonable premium increases
In every State and for the first time under Federal law, insurance companies are required to publicly justify their actions if they want to raise rates by 10 percent or more. Arizona has received $1 million under the new law to help fight unreasonable premium increases.

Removing lifetime limits on health benefits
The law bans insurance companies from imposing lifetime dollar limits on health benefits – freeing cancer patients and individuals suffering from other chronic diseases from having to worry about going without treatment because of their lifetime limits. Already, 2,091,000 residents, including 769,000 women and 570,000 children, are free from worrying about lifetime limits on coverage. The law also restricts the use of annual limits and bans them completely in 2014.

Creating new coverage options for individuals with pre-existing conditions
As of the end of 2011, 1,783 previously uninsured residents of Arizona who were locked out of the coverage system because of a pre-existing condition are now insured through a new Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan that was created under the new health reform law. To learn more about the plan available in Arizona, check here.

Supporting Arizona’s work on Affordable Insurance Exchanges
Arizona has received $30.8 million in grants for research, planning, information technology development, and implementation of Affordable Insurance Exchanges.

· $1 million in Planning Grants: This grant provides Arizona the resources needed to conduct the research and planning necessary to build a better health insurance marketplace and determine how its exchange will be operated and governed. Learn how the funds are being used in Arizona here.

· $29.8 million in Exchange Establishment Grants: These grants are helping States continue their work to implement key provisions of the Affordable Care Act. Learn how the funds are being used in Arizona here.

Preventing illness and promoting health
Since 2010, Arizona has received $9.4 million in grants from the Prevention and Public Health Fund created by the Affordable Care Act. This new fund was created to support effective policies in Arizona, its communities, and nationwide so that all Americans can lead longer, more productive lives.

Increasing support for community health centers
The Affordable Care Act increases the funding available to community health centers in all 50 states, including the 138 existing community health centers in Arizona. Health centers in Arizona have received $41.9 million to create new health center sites in medically underserved areas, enable health centers to increase the number of patients served, expand preventive and primary health care services, and support major construction and renovation projects.

Strengthening partnerships with Arizona
The law gives states support for their work to build the health care workforce, crack down on fraud, and support public health. So far, Arizona has received more than $110.9 million from the Affordable Care Act. Examples of Affordable Care Act grants not outlined above to Arizona include:

· $100,000 to support the National Health Service Corps, by assisting Arizona in repaying educational loans of health care professionals in return for their practice in health professional shortage areas.

· $6 million for health professions workforce demonstration projects, which will help low income individuals receive training and enter health care professions that face shortages.

· $2 million for school-based health centers, to help clinics expand and provide more health care services such as screenings to students.

· $530,000 to support outreach to eligible Medicare beneficiaries about their benefits.

· $500,000 to support Aging and Disability Resource Centers (ADRCs). ADRCs help seniors, people with disabilities, and their families understand and evaluate their long-term care options, including those available in their community.

· $95,000 for Family-to-Family Health Information Centers, organizations run by and for families with children with special health care needs.

· $1.3 million to support the Personal Responsibility Education Program, to educate youth on both abstinence and contraception for the prevention of pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, including HIV/AIDS.

· $14.7 million for Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Programs. These programs bring health professionals to meet with at-risk families in their homes and connect families to the kinds of help that can make a real difference in a child’s health, development, and ability to learn - such as health care, early education, parenting skills, child abuse prevention, and nutrition.