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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Options for older students at GCC-Payson

It’s time for older students to register for Fall Semester classes at the Payson Campus of Gila Community College.

Below is a partial list of courses that begin August 20.  You may view the entire schedule and register online at www.gilaccc.org.

ART
Acyrlic, oil, and watercolor painting
Ceramics and crafts
Fundamentals of Design
Digital Photography
Jewelry

P.E.
Bowling
Aerobics and flexibility
T’ai chi, pilates
Yoga, physioball.

Additional fun stuff
Real Estate Fundamentals (condensed to 9 weeks to take State test)
Quickbooks (5 week class)
CMP99/101 complete both in one semester
Basic EMT (full course in one semester)
English Literature
Quilted Clothing
Physical Geology
Nutrition
U.S. History or Western Civilization
Intro to Psychology and/or Sociology

For more information, stop by the Payson Campus or call 928-468-8039.

NRA proposes sweeping ban on movies

ticket-popcorn.jpg
(SATIRE ALERT)

By Andy Borowitz
 
FAIRFAX, Va. (The Borowitz Report)—Saying it was “high time to take action against the number one cause of violence in America,” the National Rifle Association issued a statement today urging a sweeping ban on movies.

Tracy Klugian, an official spokesperson for the gun-lobbying organization, said that the N.R.A. had taken this extraordinary step because it “could not stand idly by and watch movies tear apart the fabric of our civil society.”

To that end, Mr. Klugian said, the N.R.A. would use money from its PAC, the N.R.A. Political Victory Fund, to support politicians who favored a ban on filmed entertainment.

In the hours after the N.R.A.’s announcement, politicians on both sides of the aisle were quick to applaud the group for identifying what it called “a long overdue need for movie control.”

“It is time for us to stop the madness,” said Speaker of the House John Boehner. “As a first step, I am proposing legislation that would impose a two-year waiting period and background check before one is allowed to see a Hollywood release.”

Minutes later, the White House said that the Speaker’s proposal was “a good first step, but does not go far enough,” arguing that Congress had to “take a hard look at whether superhero costumes and masks should continue to be legal.”

All in all, the N.R.A.’s Klugian said he was “cautiously optimistic” that the organization’s call for new legislation would be heeded “because our message finally seems to be getting through: Guns don’t kill people. Movies kill people.”
 
Photograph: George Diebold/The Image Bank/Getty

97% of AZ seniors on Medicare



(Peoria, AZ)  -- It was 47 years ago this month, July 30, 1965 that the Medicare program was signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson.  Today, nearly 50 million Americans rely on the program for their basic health care coverage. 

As of 2011, over 791,000 Arizona seniors depend on Medicare, which means that 97% of all older people in the state are enrolled in the program. 

Medicare, however, is facing challenges, even as more seniors enroll and rely on it for their health care needs.  It’s projected that the Medicare trust fund will be depleted by 2024, at which time the program will no longer be able to pay all promised benefits. 

“Americans have been paying into Medicare all their working lives with the promise of guaranteed health coverage when they retire,” said David Mitchell, AARP Arizona State Director.   “For nearly 50 years, AARP has been committed to ensuring that Medicare continues to provide beneficiaries with access to affordable, high-quality health care while improving the program’s efficiency.” 

Over the last several months, AARP has been taking the debate about the future of Medicare and Social Security out from behind closed doors in Washington by hosting a national conversation about strengthening the programs.  The AARP effort is called You’ve Earned a Say.

“There’s no doubt that Medicare is the foundation of health security in retirement for most older Arizonans and Americans nationwide,” added Mitchell.  “As it celebrates its 47th year, we need to make sure people are engaged in this national discussion to keep it strong for future generations.”

For more information about AARP’s You’ve Earned a Say go to www.earnedasay.org

AARP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization with a membership that helps people 50+ have independence, choice and control in ways that are beneficial and affordable to them and society as a whole. AARP does not endorse candidates for public office or make contributions to either political campaigns or candidates. We produce AARP The Magazine, the definitive voice for 50+ Americans and the world's largest-circulation magazine with nearly 35 million readers; AARP Bulletin, the go-to news source for AARP's millions of members and Americans 50+; AARP VIVA, the only bilingual U.S. publication dedicated exclusively to the 50+ Hispanic community; and our website, AARP.org. AARP Foundation is an affiliated charity that provides security, protection, and empowerment to older persons in need with support from thousands of volunteers, donors, and sponsors. We have staffed offices in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Obamacare saves AZ people $70 million

As a result of the Affordable Care Act, people with Medicare in Arizona have saved $69,371,290 on prescription drugs since the law was enacted.  The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) also released data today showing that in the first half of 2012, 19,212 with Medicare in Arizona saved a total of $12,489,194 on prescription drugs in “donut hole” coverage gap for an average of $650 in savings this year.

Nationwide, over 5.2 million seniors and people with disabilities have saved over $3.9 billion on prescription drugs since the law was enacted.

“Millions of people with Medicare have been paying less for prescription drugs thanks to the health reform law,” said CMS Acting Administrator Marilyn Tavenner.  “Seniors and people with disabilities have already saved close to $4 billion nationwide. In 2020, the donut hole will be closed thanks to the Affordable Care Act.”

These savings are automatically applied to prescription drugs that people with Medicare purchase, after they hit the Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage gap or “donut hole.”  Since the law was enacted, seniors and people with disabilities have had several opportunities to save on prescription drugs:

·         In 2010, people with Medicare who hit the donut hole received a one-time $250 rebate.  These rebates in Arizona totaled $17,761,000;

·         In 2011, people with Medicare began receiving a 50 percent discount on covered brand name drugs and 7 percent coverage of generic drugs in the donut hole.  Last year, 69,372 Medicare beneficiaries in Arizona received a total of $39,121,096 in discounts, an average savings of $564 for 2011;

·         This year, Medicare coverage for generic drugs in the coverage gap has risen to 14 percent.  For the first six months of the year, people with Medicare in Arizona have saved $12,489,194.

Coverage for both brand name and generic drugs in the gap will continue to increase over time until 2020, when the coverage gap will be closed. 

For more information on how the Affordable Care Act closes the Medicare drug benefit coverage gap “donut hole,” please visit: http://www.healthcare.gov/law/features/65-older/drug-discounts/index.html

For State-by-State information on the amount of savings people with Medicare have received in the donut hole, please visit: https://www.cms.gov/Plan-Payment

Time to register for fall classes at GCC

Your future begins at the Payson Campus of Gila Community College where registration for the fall semester is now underway.  
 
The fall semester begins Aug. 20, so don't wait.  Register now before the classes you want are full.
 
Check the entire fall schedule of classes online at www.gilaccc.org, visit the Payson Campus, or call 928-468-8039 for more information.

Your future can begin now.

Top 10 GMO foods to avoid

By Elizabeth Renter
Natural Society
29 July 12

enetically modified foods have been shown to cause harm to humans, animals, and the environmental, and despite growing opposition, more and more foods continue to be genetically altered.

It's important to note that steering clear from these foods completely may be difficult, and you should merely try finding other sources than your big chain grocer. If produce is certified USDA-organic, it's non-GMO (or supposed to be!) Also, seek out local farmers and booths at farmer's markets where you can be ensured the crops aren't GMO. 

Even better, if you are so inclined: Start organic gardening and grow them yourself. Until then, here are the top 10 worst GMO foods for your "do not eat" GMO foods list.
Top 10 Worst GMO Foods for Your GMO Foods List
1. Corn: This is a no-brainer. If you've watched any food documentary, you know corn is highly modified. "As many as half of all U.S. farms growing corn for Monsanto are using genetically modified corn," and much of it is intended for human consumption. Monsanto's GMO corn has been tied to numerous health issues, including weight gain and organ disruption.

2. Soy: Found in tofu, vegetarian products, soybean oil, soy flour, and numerous other products, soy is also modified to resist herbicides. As of now, biotech giant Monsanto still has a tight grasp on the soybean market, with approximately 90 percent of soy being genetically engineered to resist Monsanto's herbicide Roundup. In one single year, 2006, 96.7 million pounds of glyphosate was sprayed on soybeans alone

3. Sugar: According to NaturalNews, genetically-modified sugar beets were introduced to the U.S. market in 2009. Like others, they've been modified by Monsanto to resist herbicides. Monsanto has even had USDA and court-related issues with the planting of it's sugarbeets, being ordered to remove seeds from the soil due to illegal approval.

4. Aspartame: Aspartame is a toxic additive used in numerous food products, and should be avoided for numerous reasons, including the fact that it is created with genetically modified bacteria.

5. Papayas: This one may come as a surprise to all of you tropical-fruit lovers. GMO papayas have been grown in Hawaii for consumption since 1999. Though they can't be sold to countries in the European Union, they are welcome with open arms in the U.S. and Canada.

6. Canola: One of the most chemically altered foods in the U.S. diet, canola oil is obtained from rapeseed through a series of chemical actions.

7. Cotton: Found in cotton oil, cotton originating in India and China in particular has serious risks.

8. Dairy: Your dairy products contain growth hormones, with as many as one-fifth of all dairy cows in America are pumped with these hormones. In fact, Monasnto's health-hazardous rBGH has been banned in 27 countries, but is still in most US cows. If you must drink milk, buy organic.

9. and 10. Zucchini and Yellow Squash: Closely related, these two squash varieties are modified to resist viruses.

The dangers of some of these foods are well-known. The Bt toxin being used in GMO corn, for example, was recently detected in the blood of pregnant women and their babies. But perhaps more frightening are the risks that are still unknown.

With little regulation and safety tests performed by the companies doing the genetic modifications themselves, we have no way of knowing for certain what risks these lab-created foods pose to us outside of what we already know.

The best advice: steer clear of them altogether.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Nuns weigh response to Vatican rebuke

Sister Claudia Bronsing takes part in a vigil at St. Colman Church in Cleveland, Ohio, in support of Catholic nuns who were criticized by the Vatican. (photo: Michael McElroy/NYT)


By Laurie Goodstein
The New York Times
29 July 12

merican nuns are preparing to assemble in St. Louis next week for a pivotal meeting at which they will try to decide how to respond to a scathing critique of their doctrinal loyalty issued this spring by the Vatican - a report that has prompted Roman Catholics across the country to rally to the nuns' defense.

The nuns will be weighing whether to cooperate with the three bishops appointed by the Vatican to supervise the overhaul of their organization, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, which represents about 80 percent of women's Catholic religious orders in the United States.

The Leadership Conference says it is considering at least six options that range from submitting graciously to the takeover to forming a new organization independent of Vatican control, as well other possible courses of action that lie between those poles.

What is in essence a power struggle between the nuns and the church's hierarchy had been building for decades, church scholars say. At issue are questions of obedience and autonomy, what it means to be a faithful Catholic and different understandings of the Second Vatican Council.

Sister Pat Farrell, the president of the Leadership Conference, said in an interview that the Vatican seems to regard questioning as defiance, while the sisters see it as a form of faithfulness.

"We have a differing perspective on obedience," Sister Farrell said. "Our understanding is that we need to continue to respond to the signs of the times, and the new questions and issues that arise in the complexities of modern life are not something we see as a threat."

These same conflicts are gripping the Catholic Church at large. Nearly 50 years after the start of Vatican II, which was intended to open the church to the modern world and respond to the "signs of the times," the church is gravely polarized between a progressive wing still eager for change and reform and a traditionalist flank focused on returning to what it sees as doctrinal fundamentals.

The sisters have been caught in the riptide. Most of them have spent their lives serving the sick, the poor, children and immigrants - and not engaged in battles over theology. But when some sisters after Vatican II began to question church prohibitions on women serving as priests, artificial birth control or the acceptance of same-sex relationships, their religious orders did not shut down such discussion or treat it as apostasy. In fact, they have continued to insist on their right to debate and challenge church teaching, which has resulted in the Vatican's reproof.

The former head of the church's doctrinal office, Cardinal William J. Levada, said after his last meeting with the nuns' leaders in June, just before he retired, that they should regard his office's harsh assessment as "an invitation to obedience."

"I admire religious men and women," Cardinal Levada said in an interview with The National Catholic Reporter. "But if they aren't people who believe and express the faith of the church, the doctrines of the church, then I think they're misrepresenting who they are and who they ought to be."

The sisters say they see no contradiction in embracing the Catholic faith while also being open to questioning certain church teachings based on new information or new experiences. The Leadership Conference has not taken a stand in favor of the ordination of women or the acceptance of gay relationships, but it has discussed such topics at its meetings. Members insist that open discussion of church doctrine is not only their right but is also healthy for the church.

They say their approach is no different from that of many Catholic priests and laypeople, not just those in the United States. As evidence, they cite messages of support they have received from Catholic religious orders of men and women all over Europe, Asia and Latin America - as well as in the United States.

"We make our vows, but our obedience isn't blind," said one mother superior, who, like others, did not want to be identified while the future of the Leadership Conference is in limbo. "Obedience comes from listening."

Vatican II led to dramatic changes now taken for granted by many Catholics: allowing worship in local languages instead of only Latin, encouraging the participation of laypeople, and cooperating with other churches and faiths.

The council also approved a document, "Perfectae Caritatis" ("Perfect Love"), that instructed men and women in religious orders to study their orders' founders and original sources, and use that inspiration to re-evaluate and renew their mission. The sisters say they took the instruction to heart.

"We were the ones who probably took Vatican II and ran the fastest and the farthest with it," said Sister Janice Farnham, a retired professor of church history at the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry. "Sometimes our church leaders forget, we were tasked to do these things by the church. The church said jump, and we said, how high?

"The church said update, renew, go back to your sources, and we did it as best we could. We did it with a passion, and we paid dearly."

The sisters after Vatican II had access as never before to higher education, and they went on to become scholars and theologians, chief executives of hospitals, legal aid lawyers, social workers and martyrs in countries like El Salvador. They took on issues including economic injustice, racism, women's rights, immigration, interfaith relations and environmentalism - which for many years put them in collegial working relationships with bishops who were also engaged in those causes.

But the two popes who reigned for the last 34 years - first John Paul II and now Benedict XVI - appointed bishops who are far more theologically and politically conservative than their predecessors. Drawing on these popes' teachings, this new generation of American bishops has steered the church's social priorities toward opposition to abortion, gay marriage and secularism.

The Leadership Conference was a thorn in the Vatican's side even before 1979, the year its president at the time, Sister Theresa Kane, welcomed John Paul to Washington with a public plea to ordain women in the priesthood. The group has remained unified despite pressure from the Vatican by making decisions only after consulting its membership. It is hardly the small splinter group that some conservative critics have recently tried to portray.

The disciplinary action against the nuns comes just as American bishops are struggling to reassert their authority with a wayward flock. The bishops are in the midst of a campaign to defend against what they see as serious threats to religious liberty - especially a government mandate to provide employees of Catholic institutions with health insurance that covers contraception. But the prelates are well aware of polls showing that about 95 percent of Catholic women have used birth control at some point in their lives, and 52 percent support same-sex marriage - little different from the public at large.

The dissonance is of great concern to American bishops and the Vatican.

"The church must speak with one voice," Archbishop Carlo Maria ViganĂ², the papal nuncio to the United States, said in an address in June to American bishops at their meeting in Atlanta. "We all know that the fundamental tactic of the enemy is to show a church divided."

He added pointedly that at this "difficult time," there is a special need for women and men in religious orders, and for Catholic universities, to "take on an attitude of deep communion" with the bishops.

Mitt's Olympic trouble continues

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By Andy Borowitz
borowitzreport.com
 
LONDON (The Borowitz Report)—Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s gaffe marathon at the 2012 Olympics in London continued unabated today.


Mr. Romney’s day got off to a bad start when he told a reporter for the Sunday Times, “I don’t mind that the British keep calling me a banker, but why do they pronounce it with a ‘W’?”


Any hope that the former Massachusetts governor would recover from such missteps was shattered after the Olympics’ Opening Ceremony, when he blasted former Beatle Paul McCartney for not being prepared to sing “Hey Jude.”


“He did not seem ready to sing that song, which was certainly disconcerting,” Romney said. “Maybe he should have gone with a song that he had done before.”

The Republican candidate’s visit did little to win over the British people, as a poll showed that a majority of Britons wanted the Opening Ceremony to conclude with the Olympic torch lighting Mr. Romney’s head ablaze.


Alfie Langlan, owner of the popular Earl’s Boot pub, in Central London, summed up Mr. Romney’s performance this way: “Mitt Romney is coming across as an out-of-touch rich person in a country that still has a Queen.”



Illustration: Steve Brodner

Saturday, July 28, 2012

The nakedness of their greed


Campaign for America's Future / Op-Ed
By Richard (RJ) Eskow
Published: Saturday 28 July 2012
 
It's truly unbelievable: At no time in modern memory has the privileged class been richer, the middle class more endangered, or the number of people in poverty been so high. And yet the Republican Party, whose leaders are overwhelmingly wealthy themselves, is openly and shamelessly proposing to give more tax cuts to millionaires and billionaires - including heirs and heiresses who have done nothing to earn their riches - while actually raising taxes on millions of poor and middle class people.

There will be a time to engage in argument. But first let's take a moment to gaze in wonder at the nakedness of their greed.

Okay, moment's up. Now it's time for the argument.

In Plain Sight
Yesterday the Senate voted on a Democratic proposal to extend the Bush-era tax breaks for all income below $250,000 per year. Everybody would get that tax break, even billionaires. Taxes would go up for anything earned above that amount, and for some kinds of investment income. The bill would also preserve a number of tax breaks for middle class and lower-income working people.

Forty-eight Senators voted against the Democratic bill. Forty-four of them then promptly voted for the Republican proposal, which would keep the Bush tax cut for earnings above $250,000 - a cut which provides greater and greater tax breaks as you climb the earnings scale toward "millionaire" status and eventually ascend to the rarefied atmosphere of the billionaires' club.

They didn't even try to hide what they were doing. They didn't bury it in loopholes, or under pages of indecipherable legal language. They just ... put it all out there.

This is a stick-up.

The GOP bill would actually increase the average tax bill for 25 million households who earn less than $250,000. The Republican proposal would also end the Tuition Tax Credit, raise the "marriage penalty" (hey, welcome to our world, gay newlyweds!), and increase the tax burden for working families with kids.

Put up your hands, Mr. and Ms. America. This is a stick-up.

Bill Scher notes that the Senators who voted to raise taxes on the poor and the middle class while cutting them for the wealthy, then rejected the bill that extends tax cuts for the middle class alone, were now on record as believing that "the rich pay too much and the poor pay too little in taxes."

For his part, Senator Joe Lieberman voted neither nor against the Democratic bill, officially placing himself on record as believing that "nonpartisanship" consists of standing for absolutely nothing.

Class Warfare Against Our Children
The Republicans want to impose these new tax burdens on the struggling middle class while giving an average cut of $160,000 in income and estate tax cuts for households that earn a million dollars or more. And if those households earn a billion or more, the breaks could run into tens of millions annually.

But tax deductions so a working family can send their kids to college, which is already all but impossible? No can do. Perhaps they feel that parents who want a better life for their kids should "know their place" instead.

The Republican proposal for taxable estates doesn't change life for ordinary households but, as the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities documents, rich kids inheriting their parents' money would receive an average $1.1 million in tax breaks - while parents working to support their children or put them through college would pay more.

The GOP proposal is nothing less than an all-out assault on any but the wealthiest children, closing the door to every struggling generation's dream of a better life. It's enough to leave a guy speechless.

Embarrassment of Riches
Sure, they try to justify their actions, but it can't be done. It's actually embarrassing to watch them struggle to cover the nakedness of their greed with rhetorical fig leaves. "Only [our plan] is aimed at helping the economy," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said. "Only ours is meant to help struggling Americans in the midst of an historic jobs crisis."

Dear Sen. McConnell:
As the young people reportedly say nowadays: Please, girlfriend.
Sincerely yours,
A Concerned Citizen

But the truly cynical hack du jour is Sen. Orrin Hatch. His ploy is a bill called the "Tax Hike Prevention Act of 2013," which (get this) doesn't prevent tax hikes - unless you're rich, that is. Instead it ends the payroll tax "holiday" which (although it was a bad way to get tax relief for non-millionaires) is a "tax hike" according to every other Republican use of the term.

Ezra Klein points us to this language:

"The increased spending through the tax code from the partisan 2009 stimulus law (ARRA) is not included in the amendment."

What that means in plain English is that the Hatch "Tax Hike Prevention Act" takes away the Tuition Tax Credit, marriage-penalty relief, and other badly needed breaks for working families and individuals.

War is Peace. Love is Hate. Spending is ... oh, forget it.

That language in Hatch's bill employs some Orwellian phraseology you'll be hearing a lot in the next few months - mostly from the GOP, but also from right-leaning Democrats. In their Craven New World, tax deductions selectively become "increased spending" - or even more scabrously, "increased stimulus spending."

Hatch's spokesperson compacted all of this doublespeak into a single phrase, saying that the middle-class and lower-income deductions they tried to kill today were really "expanded stimulus spending through the tax code." That's supposed to sound really, really bad.

What about their reasoning? What logic could Hatch, McConnell, and the rest of the GOP possibly be using to justify this expansion of the historically low levels of taxes paid by the wealthy - now that they're collectively wealthier than they've been in many generations and while the nation's struggling through such hard times?
Article image
In the interests of fairness, let's hear 'em out: Hatch objects to tax hikes on the wealthy because, he says, "you hit about 800,000 small businesses where the jobs are created" while only collecting an additional $36 billion in revenue. McConnell said that "raising taxes (on the wealthy) would stall the rebound we all claim to want." 

So they're defending their tax cuts for the wealthy by saying they will a) create jobs, and b) foster economic recovery. You know what that makes them? Right: By their own definition, what the Republicans are proposing is "expanded stimulus spending through the tax code."

Despite their rhetoric, Republicans aren't always against a stimulus. It all depends on who you're, ahem, "stimulating."

Case Closed
Okay. So we know that the entire "stimulus spending through the tax code" argument is a phony, a fake, a rhetorical dodge that's an insult to voters' intelligence. We also know that justification for it has repeatedly been disproven, in the most ruthless and accurate court of economic judgment known to humanity: reality.

You don't need a lot of econometric modeling to prove it, either All it takes is one simple question: We've had these cuts for ten years, so where are the jobs?

Joshua Picker notes that "during the economic cycle that began in March 2001 and ended in December of 2007 --which almost exactly coincides with the Bush presidency and the implementation of the Bush tax cuts ... registered the weakest jobs and income growth in the post-war period."

Tax cuts on the wealthy didn't create any jobs - not before the financial crisis brought on by deregulation, and certainly not since. The Republicans, like the Democrats, are proposing "stimulus spending through the tax code." They're just proposing the kind that doesn't work.

A Novel Way to Give People Jobs
That leads us to what would be the next logical question - that is, if we really were engaged in logical debate rather than shameless pandering: Accepting Hatch's figure of $36 billion in revenue, how might we spend that money in a way that would create jobs? There's one approach that's worked every time: We could use it to create jobs.

That's right: One sure way to increase employment is by hiring people. And in a happy coincidence, the kinds of jobs which government can provide are exactly the kinds of jobs we need right now: Teachers. Cops. Firefighters. Construction workers to rebuild our crumbling public infrastructure.

For all the needless misery we're experiencing, the solution is beautiful in its simplicity. And that solution isn't just obvious - it's proven. It worked after the Great Depression, it worked after World War II - in fact, it's always worked.

We Are the 0.99 Percent
Instead, the GOP's proposing a plan that would benefit our 2,100,000 highest earning households, while shafting about 25 million others. The American Prospect tells us who loses under their proposal, and it isn't pretty.

On the flip side, the GOP deal gets better and better as you look at households that are higher and higher up the income ladder. A family earning $251,000 in taxable income probably wouldn't even break even, while one earning $350,000 might save a few hundred dollars.

But a household earning a billion dollars a year could save tens of millions under the GOP plan.

Which gets us to another under recognized fact: Even the 1 percent suffer from income inequality. As the CBPP also notes, the GOP's estate tax breaks are targeted to the top 0.3 percent of inheritances - while many working or poor families leave no estate at all. The Republicans know who really greases their wheels, and it ain't the local neurosurgeon pulling down a few hundred thousand.

When you're talking about pay-to-play politics, the real money is with ... the real money.

F For Effort
Everybody, including billionaires, gets a tax break under the Democratic proposal. Maybe the Republicans don't like the fact that that a billionaire's break isn't any larger than that of someone who makes $250,000. Maybe the fairness irritates them. Or maybe they don't want the hoi polloi to get uppity. Nah, that's not it: You'll find the explanation for their behavior under "real money," above.

As we were saying: They're not even trying to hide it anymore.

I miss the old days, when hack politicians at least felt the need to give voters a decent cover story for their chicanery. After all, if they're going to stick it to us, the least they can do is put a little effort into misleading us. C'mon, guys, show a little more courtesy! You're not even trying to fake it.

There used to be a saying: "If you can't dazzle 'em with brilliance, baffle 'em with bullish*t." But apparently even that's too much effort nowadays. In this post-Citizens United world you can just have Sheldon Adelson write another check instead.

For Whom the Bell Tolls
What do you call a political party that doesn't hide its own corruption - the "Marie Antoinette Party," for "let them eat cake"? Apparently Marie Antoinette never said those words, so that's out. The "Butlers and Valets Party," since they're acting as foot servants and toadies to the ultra-wealthy? Do you reassign the "GOP" acronym so that it stands for "Greed On Parade"?

I admit it: I'm almost at a loss for words. And since words are a big part of how I make my living, that would be an occupational disability. Oh, and that reminds me: They want to cut disability payments too. It's part of their plan to cut Social Security, whose benefits go to children and the disabled as well as seniors. And while we're at it, let's not forget that they want to slash away at Medicare with a flim-flam voucher plan.

Sorry, Gramps, say the Republicans, but we've gotta find the money for the rich kids's tax break somewhere. Try not to cough on the carpet as you find your way out. I'd see you to the door myself, but Master's in the study ringing his bell.

GOP to America: Suck it up, small fry, while we serve our lords and lieges their afternoon tea and biscuits tax cuts.

Minority Leader McConnell refrained from his typical obstructionist filibustering this week and allowed a floor vote on the Democratic tax proposal. "The American people should know where we stand," said McConnell. "Today they will."

Congratulations, Senator: Mission accomplished. Now it's the House's turn.

Do you hear that sound, Mr. Boehner? Somewhere deep within in a stately mansion, a person of great wealth and privilege is ringing a bell. Don't even bother asking that ancient question, because in this case we already know the answer:
It tolls for thee.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Can't we all just get along?

It's a crime to mess with political signs

(GLOBE, AZ)— It’s election season and the Gila County Department of Elections is once again hearing about political sign tampering.

Linda Eastlick, Gila County’s Election Director, would like to remind citizens that it is a Class 2 Misdemeanor for any person to remove, alter, deface, or cover any political sign of any candidate for public office or knowingly remove, alter or deface any political mailers, handouts, flyers, or other printed materials that are delivered to a resident.

This statute applies during the entire period from forty-five (45) days before the Primary Election until seven (7) days after the General Election.

Legalized pot coming to a state near you

A marijuana bud for medical use displayed in a California dispensary, 10/20/09. (photo: Genaro Molina/LA Times)

By Julian Brookes, Rolling Stone
27 July 12

t least some able-bodied Americans may soon be able to score a bag of weed legally without having to fake a knee injury. In November, voters in three states could approve ballot measures to legalize marijuana, and not just for medical purposes – for getting-high purposes. Then again, they might chicken out, like California voters did in 2010. But sooner or later, and probably sooner, a state will go green.

About half of America will be fine with that. Support for legalization is (no other way to put it) higher than ever, and rising. That's partly demographics – the young are more into pot than their elders, who aren't sticking around. But it's something else, too: The status quo, people are starting to notice, is a total disaster.

The prohibition on marijuana – a relatively benign drug when used responsibly by adults, and a teddy bear compared to alcohol and tobacco – has done an impressive job of racking up racially-biased arrests; throwing people in jail; burning up police time and money; propping up a $30 billion illegal market; and enriching psychotic Mexican drug lords.

But it hasn't stopped Americans from smoking a ton of weed. We're up to 20-30 million users, 6 billion joints a year – and rising. And teenagers, who ideally shouldn't be toking up on a regular basis, say pot is easier to get than beer. "There's that Talmudic principle that a law that's not obeyed is a bad law," says Mark Kleiman, a drug policy expert at UCLA and co-author of the new book Marijuana Legalization: What Everyone Needs to Know. "And I think we're pretty much at that point."

So, let's try another approach, right? Legalization could come in many forms, but all would involve tradeoffs. And no doubt there are all sorts of ways to screw it up. But more power to the first state to give it a shot.

When that happens, expect one of two things – either: the federal government, in deference to democratic principles, will decline to enforce its ban on marijuana, creating space for the state to be a "laboratory of democracy," working out its new policy by trial and error, learning as it goes, creating a trove of hard-earned lessons to guide the states that (inevitably) will follow; or: the federal government will bide its time and then come down hard, busting growers and retailers, seizing land and property (or, just as effective, threatening to), going after banks that serve pot business, and doing whatever else it takes to shut down the state's legalization push.

True, the feds would be within their rights to crack down. A state can legalize all it wants, but – incredibly – happy-go-lucky marijuana will still be a Schedule I drug, right up there on the federal shit list with certified brain melters and organ fryers like Heroin, Ecstacy, and PCP. And, no, this isn't some quaint, disregarded artifact from olden times: A personal stash can get you a year in federal prison, a single plant up to five.
And don't be surprised if Washington does crack down. As a candidate, "Choom Gang" alumnus Barack Obama talked a good game about bringing some sanity and proportion to drug enforcement. But during his term, federal prosecutors (who, in another complication, have wide discretion to pursue their own agendas) have cracked down hard on medical pot providers in states like California where it’s legal.

 The administration says it's surgically targeting front operations supplying recreational use, but it sure doesn't look like that on the ground. "Obama has been a terrible disappointment," says Keith Stroup, founder of the drug law reform group NORML.

But maybe the federal government will do the right thing and lay off. "There's a strong argument for trying it at the state level and for the feds getting out of the way," says Kleiman. "That seems unlikely, but I'd love to be proven wrong." (If the president in January 2013 is zero-tolerance drug warrior Mitt Romney, run for the hills.)

We might not have long to wait to find out. Of the three states where legalization is up for a vote in November – Colorado, Washington, and Oregon – Colorado "is definitely the best shot so far," says Steve Fox of the Marijuana Policy Project, a national lobby group that's kicking in about $1 million to support the measure. Under Amendment 64, the state would treat pot like alcohol – licenses for producers and sellers, 21-plus age restriction for buyers, and tax revenue government. Should it pass – and one poll has support up by 61-27 – "We're hoping the federal government will not impose its will," says Fox, "and that there'll be an adult conversation about what Colorado has decided to do."

A lot depends on how things play out on the ground, which is hard to predict. A few things we can assume: the price of pot will plummet, since marijuana is incredibly inexpensive to produce if you don’t have to dodge the cops or schlep it up from Mexico. Consumption will surge, though by how much is hard to say (the consensus guesstimate predicts a doubling or tripling). Beyond that, nothing is clear.

Amendment 64 leaves a lot of the policy details to the state legislature, and one of its first tasks will be to figure out how big of a tax to slap on. It has to be large enough to generate revenue – Amendment 64 wisely stipulates that the first $40 million generated will go to public school construction! – but not so large that buyers prefer to take their chances on the (untaxed) black market. Another challenge: How do you do a better job than current policy of reducing teen use? Or combating abuse and dependency – a problem for only 2-3 percent of users, but not something you can ignore. And how do you prevent neighboring states, if not the entire country, from getting buried under mountains of cheap Colorado weed? If the state looks like becoming the nation's grow house, the feds will probably land hard.

Looking beyond this year, bear in mind that there’s more than one way to "legalize" pot. Colorado is going with the alcohol model, but there are other approaches, some more plausible than others. At one end of the spectrum there's full commercial legalization, where anyone can freely produce, distribute, market, sell, or buy pot, just like any other commodity (think: tomatoes) subject to certain regulations. Hard to see that flying politically. At the other end, there's "decriminalization," where you eliminate or reduce penalties for possession (say, to the level of a minor traffic violation), especially for first-time offenders, but retain the ban on production, distribution, and sale; fourteen states, including California and Massachusetts, have already gone this route, and some major politicians, like Mayor Rahm Emanuel in Chicago and Gov. Andrew Cuomo in New York, have lately come around to the idea. Other options include, on the production side, restricting the industry to nonprofits, or membership-based "clubs," or allowing profit-making but limiting or banning marketing and advertising.

There are tradeoffs: Legalize commercially, whether fully or on the alcohol model, and you add to the sum of freedom and pleasure in the world, wrestle an industry away from violent criminals, generate useful tax revenue, and spare a lot of people jail time and criminal records. But brace yourself for a huge upsurge in use and, possibly, a marketing blitz aimed at teens (see tobacco) and the "heavy" users who consume most of the product and therefore supply most of the profits (see alcohol); and say hello to a well-funded pot lobby bent on blocking regulations it doesn't like (see tobacco and alcohol). Decriminalize, and you save a lot of cop time and money and, again, human misery. But you’re leaving a lot of tax revenue on the table and, incoherently, nudging people to buy what's illegal to produce and sell.

Voters will have to weigh these and other factors and decide whether the (not-fully-knowable) benefits of legalization outstrip the (hard-to-anticipate) costs. No plausible scenario is all upside; but it's hard to see how we could make things worse. "We don't say there are no negative consequences to marijuana use, but there are much more effective ways of dealing with those," says Jill Harris of the Drug Policy Alliance, a group that advocates for more liberal drug laws. "It's just that the consequences of marijuana prohibition are just so much more severe that we feel it's worth the tradeoff."

Beau Kilmer, a researcher at RAND and co-author of Marijuana Legalization, says whatever a given state decides to do, lawmakers should make sure to give themselves an "escape clause," like a sunset provision that makes the laws go back to what they were after a certain number of years unless the voters or legislature decide to extend them. "There's no reason to believe they'll get it right on the first or even second try," he told me. But once the pot industry develops some lobbying muscle, the policy will be much harder to tweak. With an escape clause, he says, legislatures will be able to overcome the lobby "just by sitting still."

Of course, the federal government might decide not to tolerate legal marijuana under any circumstances, and all this will be moot. The only way to take the feds out of the mix is to change federal law, and only congress can do that.

But don't expect too much there. Last year, Reps. Barney Frank and Ron Paul introduced the first-ever federal legalization bill. It’s not going anywhere anytime soon; another Frank bill, the Medical Marijuana Patient Protection Act, which would leave enforcement of medical pot to the states, has been kicking around the Hill since 1997, but has never made it to a vote. "Congress is several years behind the general public on this," says Rep. Jared Polis, a Colorado Democrat and a co-sponsor of both bills.  But even congress is starting to come around. When he first came to Washington, in 2009, there were only "a handful" of lawmakers prepared to stand up for more liberal drug laws, says Polis. Today, most Democrats are on board.

The GOP, not so much. "I've been very disappointed with my fellow Republicans on this issue," says Rep. Dana Rohrabacher of California, a co-author of the Frank-Paul bill and a rare pro-pot conservative. "I know that if this was a secret ballot, a majority of them would be voting on my side." Rohrabacher says a lot of his states-rights-and-small-government-minded colleagues agree that marijuana enforcement is a huge waste of tax dollars, but they're not willing to go there. "They’re are just terrified that in an election next time around there’ll be ads run against them about how they’re doing the bidding of the drug dealers."

So don’t look to Washington D.C. for action on this any time soon. Legalization, when it comes, will come at the state level. There's no guarantee it will happen this year, but there’ll be more initiatives on state ballots in 2014, and 2016, and beyond. Most pot activists and policy analysts I spoke to put the timeframe for legalization at 5-7 years, tops. "We’re guaranteed to win in the end because we’re winning the hearts and minds of the American public," says NORML’s Keith Stroup.

And then? "If we get state-level legalization and it doesn't turn into a total clusterfuck, we'll see more acceptance," Kleiman told me. In any event, he says, something's got to give. "Prohibition is falling apart, about the way alcohol prohibition fell apart. Legalization is eventually going to be a recognition of the facts on the ground."

Time to register for fall classes at GCC

Your future begins at the Payson Campus of Gila Community College where registration for the fall semester is now underway.  
 
The fall semester begins Aug. 20, so don't wait.  Register now before the classes you want are full.
 
Check the entire fall schedule of classes online at www.gilaccc.org, visit the Payson Campus, or call 928-468-8039 for more information.

Your future can begin now.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

We are a nation of laws, not religion

LETTERLETTERLETTER
Editor,  
Regarding the recent mass-murder in Aurora, Colorado, Former Mayor Bob Edwards opines that America should be “looking to define the decay of our culture that allows this type of action to take place on an all too frequent basis.” His solution?—a return to Judeo-Christian values. “America was created as a Christian nation based on a Judeo-Christian foundation,writes Edwards. Our American Biblical foundation is “under attack” from church/state separatists who misinterpret the Constitution.
While I’m certain the former Mayor is well meaning; this is claptrap—and offensive. There are plenty of non-Christians in this country and they do not constitute what is wrong with it—any more or less than Christians do.
This is what the Constitution actually says: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” The words “God,” “Jesus,” “Judeo-Christian” or even “Bible” aren’t found anywhere in the U.S. Constitution. Religion is only mentioned twice in the entire document and both are exclusionary in nature (i.e. what you can’t do with regard to religion). The first was mentioned above (from the First Amendment) and the second from article VI: “No religious test shall be required as a qualification to any office or public trust.” Does this sound like something written by the founders of a Christian nation?  
I do agree with Mr. Edwards that our forefathers designed an exceptional nation but it is very clear that they—quite deliberately in fact—did not design a Christian one.
In 2009, President Obama said, “One of the great strengths of the United States is (we have a very large Christian population) we do not consider ourselves a Christian nation or a Jewish nation or a Muslim nation. We consider ourselves a nation of citizens who are bound by ideals and a set of values.”  Another president, Thomas Jefferson wrote, in a letter to Thomas Cooper, “Christianity neither is, nor ever was a part of the common law.” More noteworthy perhaps were Jefferson’s words to the Danbury Baptists:
“Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his god, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship , that the legislative powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘Make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof ,’ thus building a wall of separation between church and state.”
To his credit, Mr. Edwards did hedge a bit with this: “However, before Christian churches look for others to blame for the America’s moral decay they need to look inward and ask if they are leading or following.” This would prevent us from pointing out how “Judeo-Christian values” served a few Catholic priests during the last few decades.
According to Mr. Edwards, our collective moral lapse is responsible for all this horrific violence and is due to the supplanting of Christian values by “Situation ethics.” There is some irony here. Situational ethics is actually a Christian ethical theory that came on the scene in the 1960s. It was developed by an Episcopal priest; Joseph Fletcher. At its very core, this ethical theory holds that above all, one must base actions on a universal, unchanging and unconditional love for all people. So what Mr. Edwards is saying is that our societal problems are due to the replacement of Judeo-Christian principles with a universal, unchanging and unconditional love for all people. Well, Mr. Mayor, I will actually have some of that!     
So, in defense of Situational Ethics, consider the following:
A man stands at the front of a crowded movie theater with several loaded weapons, a gas mask and wearing a Batman costume. What does Situational Ethics tell him to do? I will hazard a guess: “Go home.”
What does the Judeo-Christian Bible tell him to do?  Well, lots of things but one could quote 1st Samuel 15:3, where the Judeo-Christian God says, “Now go and strike Amalek and devote to destruction all that they have. Do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey. "
We have some serious social problems in this country, but we are a nation of laws, not of men, and certainly not religion. There is nothing more American than the Constitution and now that we are clear on what it actually says, blaming our societal ills on non-Christians is simply un-American. Perhaps there are some laws that we can enact to spare lives by preventing a sociopath like James Holmes from gaining access to that many rounds in those types of weapons.     
Alan R. Hudson

Please explain your gun paranoia

   LETTERLETTERLETTER   

Please understand, nobody wants to take your guns away.  Why would we?

But we would like to know why you need all that firepower?  And why you're so opposed to regulations that keep the guns out of the hands of the idiots and the deranged?

Can one of you gun people please answer those questions.  Because to those of us who don't feel the need to own guns, it seems really, really stupid -- a big waste of money and innocent lives.
 
A Payson Liberal

GOP fights measure to fund AZ schools

If you support more state funding for Arizona's schools, and according to polls most of us do, you'll want to read E.J. Montini's column in today's (July 26) Arizona Republic.  

It's about attempts by state Republicans to keep a measure off the ballot that will extend the 1-cent-per-dollar sales tax and limit the revenue it would raise to education, health care and construction projects.

Montini writes: 

"The whole point of the initiative is to dedicate tax funds to education in such a way that lawmakers can't get their hands on them.  Lawmakers hate that.  It offends them.  They don't believe you have any right to tell them how they should spend your money."

To read the column click on news.azcentral.com.  To subscribe to the Republic, the newspaper for thinking people in the Rim Country, call 1-800-332-6733.

Regulate guns like cars

(illustration: ENDO)
(illustration: ENDO)

By Carl Gibson
Reader Supported News
25 July 12

Reader Supported News | Perspective

like driving cars. And as a driver, I have no problem registering my car in each new state I move to, keeping my insurance up-to-date, having regular required inspections and submitting to a driver's test to get my driver's license. Driving a big piece of metal and glass at high speeds should rightly be a big responsibility that folks should take seriously, that should be regulated to ensure appropriate safety for everyone on the road. Owning a gun should require a similar level of responsibility.

As a native Southerner, I like shooting guns. I shot my first gun at Camp McKee, a Boy Scout camp, when I was 12. One of my favorite places to go while living in Houston was the Top Gun shooting range, where it was easy to spend a lot of money on renting out a shooting gallery, buying several boxes of ammunition, and shooting the day away with friends. Both cars and guns are responsible for the deaths of thousands of Americans every year. Owning and using either one should require strict regulations.

I once had a Smith & Wesson .40 caliber pistol that I named Joe, after a friend of mine who served in Korea. I bought Joe at a gun show in Mississippi, along with several boxes of ammunition, for approximately $300, which I paid in cash. The gun merchant asked for my driver's license, made a phone call, and I walked out with a weapon less than 15 minutes after walking in. I could have just as easily dreamed up a plan to murder a large group of people that morning, bought a gun that afternoon, and massacred dozens by nightfall.

Like any driver, before even getting my driver's license, I had to take a written test to get a learner's permit. This meant I could drive a car, but only with a licensed driver in the car with me. Then, after 6 months of waiting, I could take an actual driver's test with a police officer in my passenger seat, and only become a licensed driver if I drove, parallel parked, and did a turnabout absolutely flawlessly. And if I ever moved to a new state, I would have to get a new driver's license within 30 days of relocating, keep my license and registration up-to-date, get yearly inspections, and have liability insurance for my car. The same should be done with guns.

Anyone who wants to own a gun should likewise take a written test on gun safety, proper means of carrying, loading and unloading, and turning the safety on and off to get a gun owner's permit, though actually shooting it must be done with a licensed gun owner. After an appropriate waiting period, gun owners should take an actual test involving everything from loading and unloading to proper storage, even shooting proficiency. And each gun should be registered in each state it travels to, each gun owner should submit to an annual inspection for their weapon, and each gun purchase should come with mandatory liability insurance. Also, the assault weapons ban should be reinstated, because nobody who isn't in the military or on the police force should ever need an AK-47 or an AR-15, not to hunt deer or protect their families.

Of course, gun lobbyists would likely argue that such regulation is an infringement on our 2nd Amendment rights. I would ask gun lobbyists if their inability to buy an M1A1 Abrams tank is an infringement on their 2nd Amendment rights. Car crashes and guns are responsible for the deaths of thousands of Americans every year, and both should be regulated appropriately.

I'm not arguing that nobody should be able to own a gun. I'm simply arguing that if you want to operate a device that can take lives with the movement of an index finger, you should be willing to submit to the same regulations as you would by operating a device that can take lives with the turn of a steering wheel.

Carl Gibson, 25, is co-founder of US Uncut, a nationwide creative direct-action movement that mobilized tens of thousands of activists against corporate tax avoidance and budget cuts in the months leading up to the Occupy Wall Street movement. Carl and other US Uncut activists are featured in the documentary "We're Not Broke," which premiered at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival. He currently lives in Old Lyme, Connecticut. You can contact Carl at carl@rsnorg.org, and listen to his online radio talk show, Swag The Dog, at blogtalkradio.com/swag-the-dog.