Saturday, July 08, 2006

Duane Tron: Time for Betty to move on

From Duane Tron
July 8, 2006
What's the issue? We all know by now that Betty "Boop" Montgomery is a gross incompetent!! We have to make a concerted effort to prevent her from being re-elected to a job she failed miserably. I am not advocating party politics here! I am advocating removing a career political hack who has demonstrated time and again that she is neither qualified, nor competent, to hold public office, and represent the interests of the people of the people of Ohio.
The message? She represents the kind of people we need to show the door in Columbus and if she's re-elected we deserve everything we get! I'm ashamed to admit I voted for this woman in the past but I sure won't make that mistake again! She's done enough damage to the good citizens of the State of Ohio. It's time for her to move on and wreck something else and leave us alone!
Duane Tron

Medicare's Costly Misunderstanding

New Drug Plan Is Costing Some Users More By Ending Free Drugs
From Suddenly Senior
July 7, 2006
(CBS) When the new Medicare drug plan rolled out in January, the intent was to subsidize medicine costs for tens of millions of older Americans and the disabled afford the prescription drugs they need. But as CBS News correspondent Wyatt Andrews reports, prescriptions that once cost nothing are now becoming a big financial burden for many.
That's not how it was supposed to work.
But when Kenneth and Barbara Cook signed up for the new Medicare drug benefit, they were cut off from some of the drugs they used to get for free -- drugs that used to be donated by the pharmaceutical companies.
One free medicine that quit coming was Paxil, the anti-depressant made by GlaxoSmithKline. The Cooks are both diabetic and live on low fixed incomes. Going off Paxil, Barbara says, deepened her depression -- to the point that she has considered suicide.
This cutoff of free drugs happened because of monumental misunderstanding. When Medicare Part D began, the government sent out notices to the drug companies warning that drug giveaways could be prosecuted -- for fraud and abuse -- if the drug companies counted the value of the donated drugs to file for reimbursement.
The result was chaos, as dozens of companies wrote letter after letter telling patients like the Cooks that the days of free drugs were over -- thanks to Medicare.
"These folks have been forgotten in the process," says Marge Rowe, the director of St. Luke's free clinic in Front Royal, Va., where the Cooks and 400 other seniors were getting their free drugs. The real problem, she adds, is that the Medicare benefit itself is expensive for low-income seniors. In addition to their monthly premium, they also pay up to $3,600 in co-payments every year -- so losing the free drugs is a big deal.
None of the 400 people served by the clinic can afford the $3,600 out-of-pocket expense, says Rowe. "It is the difference between eating and not eating for many of them."
Medicare tells CBS News that despite the fraud and abuse memo, the giveaways have always been legal. The department's Inspector General, Daniel Levinson, says the drug companies overreacted by canceling.
"That's a stretch by any definition," Levinson says of the drug companies' interpretation of the memo. "I just can't imagine why there would be a feeling of threat."
What exists not for patients is a hodgepodge of different rules for different drug companies As for the Cooks and Paxil, GlaxoSmithKline first told CBS News that it was waiting for government approval to re-start the donations. The week after we called, the Cooks were told that the free Paxil would resume.

Are drugs for bones a threat to jaws? Rare side effect linked to treatments

Philadelphia Inquirer, June 26, 2006
By Marie McCullough
Inquirer Staff Writer
Across the country, dentists have begun asking patients a pointed question before deciding on treatment:

Do you take a bone-building medication such as Fosamax?

These widely used drugs, called bisphosphonates, have recently been linked to a rare side effect that causes parts of the jawbone to deteriorate and die.

The bulk of the 3,000 published cases of jaw osteonecrosis - meaning "dead bone" - have occurred after dental procedures, mostly in cancer patients on intravenous bisphosphonates. But the problem has also developed out of the blue in otherwise healthy people taking bisphosphonate pills to boost bone density.

"If you're going to be on this drug, make sure you really need it," said Alan Meltzer, a Voorhees periodontist.

Since 2003, when the first 36 cases were described in a medical journal, the Food and Drug Administration has required all bisphosphonate labels to include a precaution, hundreds of lawsuits have been filed against drug makers, and expert dental groups have issued advice for managing the tens of millions of people now on the drugs.

Still, there are no good treatments for what specialists have begun calling "bisphossy jaw." Nor is it clear that quitting the drugs reduces the risk, because bisphosphonates can persist for years in the bone. The incidence, variation and progression of the jaw disease are also unclear.

"What we have seen and heard from health-care givers is that more and more people are showing up with milder forms, so the true incidence rate now is anybody's guess," said John R. Kalmar, an Ohio State University oral pathologist and author of a May review article in Annals of Internal Medicine. "We're telling people to be cautious."

The advent of bisphosphonates about a decade ago was a boon for people whose bones were riddled by cancer treatment, osteoporosis, or a disorder called Paget's disease. Since 1995, 191 million prescriptions have been filled for oral Fosamax, Actonel, and Boniva, plus millions more for intravenous Zometa, Aredia and generic Pamidronate.

However, the benefits and risks of the drugs differ for these patient groups, experts say.

For people with advanced cancer, bisphosphonates can reduce the painful, crippling damage to bones that can be a side effect of cancer treatment. But studies suggest that 3 percent to 10 percent of such patients will develop osteonecrosis of the jaw, both because intravenous bisphosphonates are so potent and because cancer treatment itself is a risk factor for bone death.

Novartis, maker of Zometa and Aredia, says it has so far received reports of 2,500 cases of jawbone damage.

"The seriousness... ranges from being asymptomatic to requiring sections of the jaw to be removed," Novartis said in a May 2005 informational letter to dentists.

For healthy people seeking to boost bone density, the risk of jawbone death appears to be remote; the estimate from Fosamax maker Merck & Co. is less than one out of 100,000 patients per year.

On the other hand, many postmenopausal women taking the pills may not really need them. Low bone density does not automatically progress to osteoporosis, and even when it does, a debilitating fracture is not inevitable.

Crystal Baxter, a former University of Pittsburgh professor of prosthodontics who now practices in Arizona, said she is very leery of doing elective dental implants in patients who have taken oral bisphosphonates. "The scary thing," she said, "is that these drugs are being marketed to practically every aging woman in the world."

It has become clear - through trial and terrible error - that trying to fix bisphossy jaw with invasive dental procedures only makes it worse.

Ruth Ann Dutton, 66, of Atco, for example, went to her regular dentist after a shard of bone spontaneously broke through her gum. Although she had taken Aredia and Zometa for advanced breast cancer, the splintering of her jaw was not triggered by a dental procedure.

"He did a root canal, but it never got better," she recalled.

A year ago, she was referred to Meltzer, who prescribed antibiotics and antiseptic rinses.

"Right now, it's doing pretty decent," she said. "The hole is mostly closed up."

Barry Levin, an Elkins Park periodontist, said one of his elderly patients has not been as fortunate. She quit Fosamax after tooth extractions led to a diagnosis of osteonecrosis, but bone grafted to her damaged jaw has not healed properly.

"It's been a nightmare," Levin said.

Bisphosphonates build bone by tamping down the normal turnover of bone cells. Kalmar and other experts speculate that osteonecrosis develops when the drugs are too effective at suppressing bone regeneration.

Why hasn't the problem shown up after, say, hip replacement surgery? Experts say the jaws are particularly vulnerable because cells turn over faster there than in other bones. Jaws are also constantly exposed to minor trauma from chewing, and to bacteria from the mouth.

"Unlike the hip, the mouth is not sterile," said Long Island Medical Center oral surgeon Salvatore Ruggiero, whose 2004 article on bisphossy jaw was among the first.

A similar phenomenon, dubbed "phossy jaw," was recognized in the mid-1800s among match factory workers who chronically inhaled the phosphorus on match tips.

"The onset of the disease was generally quite slow, an average of five years... The lower jaw was more commonly affected than the upper jaw, exactly as seen in the bisphosphonate-associate osteonecrosis," Heiner K. Berthold, a drug expert with the German Medical Association, wrote this month in Annals of Internal Medicine. "Many patients committed suicide because of pain and disfigurement."

Novartis - which received the first report of jaw osteonecrosis in December 2002 - says it has made public the cases it knows about. It also enlisted M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Texas to review patient records and try to gauge the incidence among the 2.8 million patients treated worldwide with Aredia or Zometa. It has sent letters and brochures to inform physicians and patients and formed an expert advisory committee on which Ruggiero sits.

But makers of oral bisphosphonates - Merck, Roche (Boniva) and Procter & Gamble (Actonel) - have done little to alert patients other than updating their labels as required by the FDA. Merck has also put information on its Web site.

These firms stress that in research studies involving tens of thousands of patients, no cases of jaw osteonecrosis were reported.

More recently, "we have received rare reports," said Merck spokesman Chris Loder.

Not so quiet are dozens of law firms now seeking injured clients through advertising online and on television and radio.

Advice for Patients

Although osteonecrosis of the jaw is not well understood, the American Dental Association and other expert groups have issued recommendations.

Before starting bisphosphonates, have a comprehensive dental exam and treat any tooth or gum problems.

While on bisphosphonates, make sure to brush and floss daily, and get regular dental care. If you need an invasive dental procedure, discuss the risks with your doctor. Seek the most conservative possible treatment. Avoid elective procedures that would require bone to heal.

If dental surgery is necessary, consider taking antibiotics and use daily oral rinses.

If osteonecrosis develops, special imaging studies, such as computed tomography scans, may help with diagnosis and treatment. Consider discontinuing bisphosphonate therapy until the jaw heals. If dead bone must be removed, it should be done with as little trauma to adjacent tissues as possible.

Macular Degeneration -- leading cause of blindness of those over 65 -- and a cure; and the cost; AND the related RIPOFF

Liquid Gold

By Peter Rost, M.D.
Posted July 7, 2006 on his blog:
Wet Macular Degeneration is the leading cause of legal blindness in people over 65. And it is a wonderful thing when a new drug gets approved, which can treat this terrible disease.

But what if it turns out that new drug isn't really so new, that it is really the equivalent of selling bottled water at $2 per bottle instead of paying perhaps 2 cents for hundreds of gallons of tap water?

Don't get me wrong, water is essential, and so is this new drug, developed by Genentech.

The drug is called Lucentis, and a doctor needs to inject it into the eye. Here's a description of the drug: Lucentis is a humanized antibody fragment designed to bind and inhibit Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A (VEGF-A), a protein that is believed to play a critical role in angiogenesis (the formation of new blood vessels). These blood vessels cause the blindness.

But here's the description of another Genentech drug, called Avastin: AVASTIN® is a recombinant humanized monoclonal IgG1 antibody that binds to and inhibits the biologic activity of human vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF).

Detect the very similar language? Yep. The reason is that these are virtually the same drugs.

So what's going on here, you may wonder?

Well, Avastin is a great cancer drug. It costs about $50,000 a year when used intravenously to treat colon cancer.

But it can also be used to treat Wet Macular Degeneration. The "problem" is that very low doses are needed, so the cost for an injection into the eye is only about $20 to $100. So annual cost is "only" about $1,000.

That's not good news for Genentech.

So they "developed" Lucentis.

And whoops, now the cost for an injection of the "new" drug Lucentis is expected to be from $1,500 to well over $2,000. And the annual cost will be over $10,000.

And the world is back to where it should be, with very expensive drugs.

And that's the way Genentech likes the world.

More debate on ORTA: Tom Cooper, Molly Janczyk, Dee Scott

From Tom Cooper
July 7, 2006
Re:[Dee Scott wrote] It's not going to happen. They are not endorsing. [Editor's note: Correction; it was actually Molly who said "It's not going to happen. They are not endorsing." KBB]
Hi Dee; I think everyone gets that. The question(s) in this "debate" is/are:
1. Is ORTA leadership ever going to do anything, besides hold meetings and lunches. They have not, in the past, done much except belittle those who spoke out and questioned what was going on with the funds they were contributing to STRS, AND...what is paying my dues to retirement organizations doing to protect my retirement funds. I think Dave Speas has answered that question as to what ORTA leadership is doing now. ORTA is lucky to have Dave Speas. The state of retirees in this nation, let alone the state of Ohio, is deplorable. Retiree Organizations, such as ORTA, need 1. people who raise insightful questions as to future plans and strategies, giving insight and direction as future needs, and 2. leaders who will stand up and make a difference in the interest of their constituents. Which are you?
2. While ORTA is not going to publicly support any particular candidate, the legitimate question was raised about why not? Are you saying the question should not have been asked? That anyone who questions any policy should sit down and shut up? The answer given (at that time) indicated ORTA leadership was caving in to political blackmail. A reasonable reply denying that was given. While I am a skeptic, I am also reasonable. So I, personally accepted the answer and moved on. But Just because an answer is reasonable, doesn't mean debate should end, especially when it is obviously a matter of policy and strategy.
Through all of this debate it has become obvious that ORTA is not going to publicly support any candidate. If they have weighed all of the consequences and trade off costs to the future, then Fine with me. The important thing is that ORTA leadership is willing to listen. Or at least Dave Speas is. I doubt very seriously (remember, I am a skeptic), if Ann Hanning could give a damn what I or anyone else who disagrees thinks, but at least someone is listening. Are you?
Have a great weekend!
Yours truly,
Tom Cooper
Molly Janczyk, 7/7/06: It's not going to happen. They are not endorsing.

From Dee Scott, July 7, 2006
I agree! ORTA needs to take a stand for public education and educators in Ohio!!! What are they afraid of? If Ken Blackwell is elected governor it will be a disaster for education, educators, and their benefits (health care & pensions). Is ORTA afraid to offend the Republicans? Most of them are not our friends anyway. In fact, they are out to destroy public education with vouchers, charter schools, underfunding schools, etc.
Dee Scott
Life member OEA,NEA

Friday, July 07, 2006

Sen. Marc Dann returns the favor to former STRS board member Betty (Montgomery) -- and then some!

From Sen. Marc Dann's blog:
Friday, July 07, 2006

Betty Montgomery Could have been the Hero; All her False Accusation Won't Change that

A couple of weeks ago, in an interview with Ohio Public Radio, Betty Montgomery invited me to “take off the gloves” in our race for Attorney General if that’s what I thought I needed to do.

Frankly, I haven’t had time to swing at Betty for her many shortcomings as AG and Auditor because I’ve been too busy attempting to force her and her Republican buddies to tell the truth about why the BWC’s chief financial officer Terry Gasper, who, at the time was taking bribes from Tom Noe and other investment managers, was appointed to the board of the newly formed Venture Capital Authority in November of 2003.

No one seems to have an answer—at least one they want to make public. Nor do they want to tell us why Gasper remained on the VCA board for nearly a year after he was forced to resign from the BWC for losing a couple of hundred million taxpayer dollars.

Undeterred by my refusal to take a swipe at her,
Betty came out swinging herself yesterday, backed up by her cornerman, perpetually truth-challenged Ohio GOP chair Bob Bennett. In a press release issued from deep within the bowels of the Party, they called me a hypocrite for criticizing Gasper’s appointment even though I voted in favor of it when it came before the Senate.

So, let me get this straight, I’m a hypocrite for voting for an appointment that was made by Governor Taft, supported by the GOP leadership, and rammed through the, yes, Republican-controlled Senate?

An appointment that was made and supported by Bennett’s Republicans because, I and the other members of the Senate were told, Gasper was doing an outstanding job investing the BWC’s money?

I don’t think so.

You see, the truth is I’m not a hypocrite—I was lied to by the Republicans, as were the other members of the legislature and the people of Ohio.

And if Betty Montgomery had done her job as auditor we all would have known about Gasper's failures and BWC corruption.

The truth is, as we’ve come to learn over the past year, things weren’t fine at the BWC as we were told repeatedly—unless you were Tom Noe or one of the other investment managers who were given tens of millions of your tax dollars to invest simply because they had made contributions to any one of a number of Republicans, including Betty Montgomery.

It’s also the truth that Bob Bennett has never let the truth stand in the way of his desperate attempts to defend what may be the most corrupt and incompetent band of officeholders and appointees in the history of the state.

Along with calling me a hypocrite because I was victimized by some of the most facile prevaricators in the land, Betty also said in the press release, as she did in the aforementioned radio interview, that I don’t quite understand the duties of her office.

It seems that Betty is upset with me for asking why she ignored a 2004 BWC audit that raised questions about investment practices at the Bureau—an audit that landed on her desk nearly one year before reports surfaced about her longtime friend and contributor Tom Noe, “Coingate” and the other investment scams. According to Betty, and this is a direct quote from her radio interview, “We don’t do the audit, we’ve never done the audit. He (that would be me) can blame me, but he should really figure out how government works.”

Yesterday, her campaign spokesman said “Betty Montgomery found out about the problems with the BWC the same time everyone else did.” He also noted that the audit was handled by an outside agency and not the state auditor’s office, then said “Mr. Dann needs a dose of reality therapy.”

Well, here’s the reality: if Betty had done her job we all would have known about Mr. Gasper long before he was appointed, the appointment never would have been made, I and the other members of the Senate who were misled about Mr. Gasper’s qualifications would not have voted for him, and millions of dollars would have been saved.

And here’s some more reality straight from the Ohio Revised Code—which Betty has either never read, doesn’t understand, or has consistently ignored.

First, here are the duties of the Auditor as defined in ORC 117.10:

The auditor of state shall audit all public offices as provided in this chapter. The auditor of state also may audit the accounts of private institutions, associations, boards, and corporations receiving public money for their use and may require of them annual reports in such form as the auditor of state prescribes.

In other words, it’s her job to look at the books of state agencies like the BWC. And although the law also gives her the authority to appoint outside firms to perform these audits when necessary, it also gives her the following responsibilities as defined in ORC 117.24, which is titled “Analysis of report”:

The auditor of state shall analyze the report of the public accountant who has audited a public office to determine whether any public money has been illegally expended, any public money collected has not been accounted for, any public money due has not been collected, or any public property has been converted or misappropriated. In addition, the auditor of state or his appointee shall determine whether there has been any malfeasance or gross neglect of duty on the part of any officer or employee of the public office.

In plain English, this means that once an outside firm completes an audit, like the one done in 2004 of BWC, she is supposed to at least open it, read the executive summary and see if something is wrong before she signs it, something she freely admits she didn’t do in this case.

Why would she admit that she failed to do her job? That’s an easy one: She figures that’s better than admitting she was asleep at the switch while her good buddy Noe was looting the state treasury.

Now, here is my final question for the day, and it’s one I’ll continue to ask for the duration of the campaign:

Do the people of Ohio really want an Attorney General who doesn’t know the law, doesn’t do her job, and then makes excuses for it rather than taking responsibility for her mistakes?

I don’t think Betty or her buddy Bennett or her campaign mouthpiece will be providing an answer any time soon, but I’m confident the voters will have a resounding response on November 7.

On Medicare D? The abyss you will encounter known as 'Customer Service'

From Frank Kaiser, July 07
Subject: [SeniorNews] Abysmal customer service provided by the Part D plans - from Suddenly Senior

Your Weekly Medicare Consumer Advocacy Update

Ring Ring!
July 6, 2006 · Volume 6, Issue 27
One of the most common complaints from people with Medicare during the chaotic first six months of the Part D drug benefit was the abysmal customer service provided by the Part D plans. People could not get through to the plans' 800 numbers. When they did get through, they were put on hold, often for more than one hour. After they were put on hold, they were disconnected.
When customer service did pick up, very often they could not provide a useful answer:
* They could not tell what drugs the plan covered;
* For covered drugs, they could not explain what restrictions were imposed;
* They could not inform callers about how to appeal for coverage;
* They could not explain when the coverage gap would be reached;
* They could not correct billing errors.
The list goes on. The Bush administration downplayed the problems because it was determined that Part D appear to be a success, whether it was or not. If people with Medicare cannot get the most basic kinds of consumer information, then a model based on competition and "choice" makes no sense. If Part D plans can't deliver, then Medicare should deliver the drug benefit. A simple, standard and comprehensive Medicare drug benefit would make most of the frantic calls to customer service unnecessary, and eliminate the nearly impossible task of overseeing the performance of more than 80 companies offering Part D plans.
The administration's PR effort largely failed, because this time, reality overwhelmed spin. But that has not stopped the spinmeisters. Last week, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released the first data comparing the Part D plans' customer service. Despite repeated requests, however, CMS did not release information showing whether the Part D plans are meeting the minimum customer service requirements established by the agency. Instead, CMS set up a new test designed so that all plans would pass, and . . . they all did.
CMS asked the plans, whether, on average, they answer their customer service lines and their direct lines for pharmacists within five minutes. Not surprisingly, except for a couple of bad actors who refused to answer, they all said "Yes."
Ring Ring!
Now, 5 minutes is a long time to wait for someone to pick up the telephone, especially if you are a pharmacist with a line of customers at the counter. An average of five minutes to answer a call tells you next to nothing about the plan. How many calls were answered promptly? How many had wait times in excess of 30 minutes? How many calls were dropped? And finally, how many calls were answered correctly?
Instead of setting up this bogus test, CMS should hold plans to account on the customer service requirements it has already laid out: Part D plans must answer 80 percent of calls within 30 seconds, not five minutes, and cannot drop more than 5 percent of all calls. Call centers are also required to provide thorough information on benefit coverage, respond to inquiries and handle customer complaints, and explain in detail how to appeal for coverage. When will consumers find out how the Part D plans measure up according to these standards? When will CMS release information on how the plans handle grievances and appeals and on how often plan members run into barriers to access, like prior authorization requirements?
We're waiting.
Write CMS Administrator Mark McClellan asking that consumer information be made available at

'Contribution' or bribe? Depends on how you look at it!

From John Curry, July 7, 2006

I would like to credit CORE member June Hughes for calling this statement to my attention- it is really appropriate! John
“If a baseball player slides into home plate and, right before the umpire rules if he is safe or out, the player says to the umpire — ‘Here is $1,000.’ What would we call that? We would call that a bribe. If a lawyer was arguing a case before a judge and said, ‘Your honor before you decide on the guilt or innocence of my client, here is $1,000.’ What would we call that? We would call that a bribe.

“But if an industry lobbyist walks into the office of a key legislator and hands her or him a check for $1,000, we call that a campaign contribution. We should call it a bribe.
~ Janice Fine, Dollars and Sense magazine

Laura Ecklar: How to access monthly Board News

From Laura Ecklar (to Molly Janczyk), July 7, 2006
Subject: Board News Distribution
Good afternoon! In reply to your e-mail to Lois Brenner regarding the monthly distribution of Board News, there are two easy ways for members to receive it without having to open an attachment. You already noted one....just go to the Web site where it is posted on the home page and access it there. The second is to register for our e-mail news service. (Easy-to-follow instructions are posted on the home page of our Web site under the listing ³Register for E-Mail Updates.²) Once registered, the individual receives the Board News and other updates from STRS Ohio as an e-mail (no attachments). I hope this information is useful to you. Thanks!

KS schools & the "double-dip" provision re retirement system law

New law has retired teachers thinking twice about returning
Associated Press
From, July 5, 2006
WICHITA, Kan. - A new law designed to get more money into the state's retirement system could have the unintended consequence of keeping highly qualified retired teachers out of the work force at a time when they're needed the most.

It is estimated that around 500 teachers who have retired and are drawing pensions from the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System currently teach part time in another district. Sen. President Steve Morris' office projects that number will climb to around 4,000 over the next several years.

But a law that went into effect Saturday, requiring public schools to pay 13.75 percent of those teachers' salaries into the retirement fund, has many retired teachers reluctant to step back into the classroom because the money is being kept out of their paychecks.

Legislators say the bill was written with the understanding that school districts would pay at least part of the 13.75 percent. But the schools say they can't afford to pay the extra cost, so the money is being withheld from the teachers' pay instead.

"If we would have known the districts were going to do that, we probably would have made adjustments and changes in the bill," said Morris, R-Hugoton.

Paul Babich, president of United Teachers of Wichita, said the country is moving toward a tremendous teacher shortage. Putting up barriers for retired teachers who want to supplement their pension income at such a time doesn't make much sense, he said.

"If the school districts and Legislature are interested in stopping the upcoming shortage, which is going to be huge, they ought to do what they can to fix this disincentive," Babich said.

Karen Davidson, 53, who taught music in the Rose Hill district for 31 years before retiring, plans to teach part time in a different district in the fall. But despite her experience, she'll be working at a lower salary because of the money that will be kept out of her checks for KPERS.

Districts that rehire their own retired teachers don't have to pay the extra amount into the pension system, but those teachers can only earn up to $20,000 before their retirement benefits stop until the next fiscal year.

"I just feel like they take advantage of the fact that we are retired," Davidson said.

Sen. Jean Schodorf, R-Wichita, said teachers who don't like the new law should either not retire or should stay out of the field after they do.

"There are too many people taking out and not enough people putting in," Schodorf said of KPERS, which has been underfunded for decades.

The new law applies to all public employees, but no other group has to pay as much into the program as retired teachers.

"We don't get people to come back when we need them by reducing their salaries and reducing their rights," said Mark Desetti, director of legislative advocacy for the Kansas National Education Association. "We need to be sure we honor these people."

Morris said the Senate probably will take another look at the issue next year.

3 YEARS AGO -- The year the Ohio Legislature didn't put their votes where their mouth was -- and still haven't!

From John Curry, July 7, 2006
(Fellow educators, please share this message with your local representative or senator. If they were representing you in the summer of 2003, maybe they can explain. If they weren't, maybe they will issue you a promise - along with a handshake.)
Dear Legislator,
Political talk is cheap- political action is much harder to come by. In July of 2003, Ohio legislators had just become aware of Dennis Leone's 13 page findings re. the mismanagement, misspending, and entitlement philosophy of those who were in control of our State Teachers Retirement System. An excellent piece of investigative journalism by Stephen Ohlemacher had just graced the front page of a June Sunday edition of the Cleveland Plain Dealer which exposed additional shameful statistics concerning the operation of the Ohio STRS that raised the hackles of even people who were far-removed from the realm of either politics or education.
What, reconvene for a legislative for an override? Why, it was the July 4 holiday and pols had to visit the local carnivals and county fairs so that they could further enhance their standings among the good people of their fair districts - they could always come back and visit this "critical" problem at a later date, couldn't they? WELL, THEY DIDN'T! Ever since that legislative intermission, our representatives who have given lip service to a serious investigation by the Ohio Inspector General have seemingly forgotten their past utterances - and - here we are after three years of time and three STRS officials being convicted of ethics violations (with many more coming down the pike) and still no IG investigation. Might the IG have discovered a little too much? Did some of these House and Senate members who received campaign donations from the STRS officials (especially their parent organizations) fear that maybe too much bad press would result should the IG findings become ugly? After all, unlike the Ohio Ethics Commission, the IG is not limited to misdemeanors. The bottom line is- we'll never know, will we? And Betty (Montgomery), a performance audit, as compared to a forensic audit(from a guy's standpoint), is a little like kissing one's sister! Thank you, Ohio Legislators -not all of you, but most of you- for forgetting! In case you might have forgotten, a Paul Kostyu article will follow which quotes some of you and your words of action that never materialized.
John Curry
One proud Concerned Ohio Retired Educators member and a not-so-proud Buckeye.
One of 130,000+ Ohio STRS retirees who are still awaiting your forgotten action but haven't forgotten how to vote.

Montgomery seeks law to review STRS practices

Canton Repository, July 8, 2003

By Paul E. Kostyu Copley Columbus Bureau chief

COLUMBUS — State Auditor Betty Montgomery now wants regular and independent performance reviews of the State Teachers Retirement System.

Montgomery is working with Ohio Sen. Kirk Schuring, R-Jackson Township, and Rep. Michelle Schneider, R-Cincinnati, to craft a law that would require reviews of the pension fund’s investments and management practices.

Montgomery said her office is equipped to handle the audit, but an outside firm should be hired so it is independent of the fund. A representative of Montgomery’s office as well as the offices of the attorney general and state superintendent of schools are voting members of the STRS board. The pension fund would be required to pay for the audit.

“Members of our public pension funds deserve to know that their dollars are being invested and managed properly,” Montgomery said.

Meanwhile, legislators from both parties want the House and Senate to return from their summer break to override a line-item veto by Gov. Bob Taft that prevents the state’s inspector general from investigating STRS and the other four state pension funds.

Rep. Tim Grendell, R-Chesterland, sent a letter last week to House Speaker Larry Householder, R-Glenford, and Senate President Doug White, R-Manchester, asking that both chambers reconvene to deal with the issue. Nearly 50 members of the General Assembly signed the letter, though Grendell said he would have had more if not for the July 4 holiday.

“The independent power of the inspector general’s office would only strengthen oversight capabilities,” he said.

Minority leaders in the Senate and the House backed the veto override. Sen. Gregory DiDonato, D-New Philadelphia, joined by eight other Senators asked White to “join our colleagues in the House in a push to provide Ohio’s pensioners greater safeguards.”

DiDonato said, “Taft has made a terrible error in vetoing this provision.”

Rep. Chris Redfern, D-Catawba Island, said, “We need to give taxpayers confidence that this sort of mismanagement can never happen again.”

Maggie Mitchell, a spokeswoman for White, said reconvening the Senate is not something that he has talked about with staff or other senators.

Dwight Crum, a spokesman for Householder, said Grendell’s request has not been reviewed, and members have not been contacted.

Because the line-item veto occurred on a House bill, overriding it would have to originate in the House.

On another front, Schuring is backing legislation by Sen. Teresa Fedor, D-Toledo, to give Inspector General Thomas P. Charles the power to investigate the pension funds.

Schuring also has introduced Senate Bill 105 with bipartisan support that would require officials and employees of the five pension funds to file financial disclosures statements with the Ohio Ethics Commission.

The flurry of legislative activity comes in the wake of a revelations that STRS spent $16.1 million in staff bonuses since August 2000, according to newly computed figures, as well as millions more on board travel and artwork at its headquarters, while the fund’s portfolio lost $12.3 billion.

Members of STRS are discussing how to prepare a class-action lawsuit. There also are plans to organize a protest march from the Statehouse to STRS headquarters at the fund’s next board meeting Aug. 15. Schuring said he will participate in the march.

You can reach Columbus Bureau Chief Paul E. Kostyu at (614) 222-8901 or e-mail:

Marvin and Lynne Bracy: Kudos to the investment staff

From Marvin and Lynne Bracy, July 7, 2006
Subject: plaudits
Hooray for the investment staff! We love you. Keep up the remarkable work you do and don't change a thing.
Many thanks,
Marvin and Lynne Bracy (retiree)

Zocor to beat generic price

Merck unveils plan for prescription drug as patent runs out
From wire reports

June 23, 2006

NEW YORK -- Merck & Co., which loses its U.S. patent protection today on the cholesterol-lowering drug Zocor, will immediately begin pricing its brand-name drug below that of one of its main competitors.

Zocor is the second-most widely prescribed statin. The patent expiration pits Merck squarely against generic drugmakers such as Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd., whose version of the drug will cost pennies per pill. Pfizer Inc., the world's largest drugmaker, makes the brand-name statin, Lipitor, which costs about $3 per pill.

Merck said yesterday that it would price its Zocor cholesterol pill below Teva's generic version, an unprecedented move by the drugmaker to salvage sales of its best-selling product. Zocor posted $4.4 billion in sales for Merck last year. Teva may begin selling its generic copy of Zocor today.

The Zocor patent loss also opens the door for an all-out battle between drug and health insurance companies over pricing for brand-name and generic versions.

WellPoint Inc. and UnitedHealth Group Inc., the two largest U.S. health insurers, received discounts on Zocor from Merck, officials at both insurers said yesterday.

Merck's discounting signals that big drugmakers are willing to use new tactics to prevent erosion of sales to generics, analysts said. Merck is attempting to fend off generic competition by initiating a price war.

"Merck has come to health plans and pharmacy benefits managers offering a significant discount on brand-name Zocor," said Robert Seidman, chief pharmacy manager at WellPoint.

Seidman declined to disclose the discounted price. "Obviously, it is lower than the price of the generic," he said.

About 70 U.S.-approved drugs, 14 of them with combined 2004 sales of $27 billion, are expected lose patent protection in the next five years. Generic versions typically sell for 80 percent less than brand-name drugs.

Some insurers, such as Aetna Inc., the third-largest U.S. insurer, have declined Merck's discount offer and will continue to promote generic drug use among its members.

Aetna said yesterday that it would buy copies of Zocor from Teva rather than accept Merck's discount.

To other insurers, Cigna Corp. and Humana Inc., will ask patients to pay higher co-payments for Merck's Zocor than generic, officials said yesterday. Neither would say if Merck had offered them price breaks on Zocor.

UnitedHealth said it would reduce the patient cost, or co-payment, for Zocor, also known as simvastatin, to $10 as part of an agreement negotiated with Merck. Patients who use Teva's version will pay five times as much out-of-pocket.

UnitedHealth will charge patients less for the brand-name drug because Merck is offering to sell Zocor for less than the price offered by Teva, said spokesman Mark Lindsay.

"As of Friday, the marketplace has changed for simvastatin, and it's our intention to be competitive in this new marketplace," said Ian Spatz, Merck's vice president for public policy.

U.S. shares of Teva, an Israeli company, fell $1.02, or 3.2 percent, to close at $31.25 on the Nasdaq stock market.

Merck's shares slipped 2 cents to $35.25, and Pfizer's shares lost 4 cents to $22.65, both on the New York Stock Exchange.

Merck's discounts on Zocor "signal a new battlefield in the price competition war that generic industry participants will have to face," wrote Robert Uhl and Alan Meyers, analysts at Friedman, Billings, Ramsey & Co., in an investment report yesterday.

The analysts reduced their estimate on generic Zocor sales this year by $62 million to $265 million and downgraded their rating on Teva shares.

Merck declined to discuss specific price arrangements. Discounts for health plans are generally offered as rebates, Spatz said.

Merck will also allow Dr. Reddy's Laboratories Ltd. of Hyderabad, India, to sell Zocor as a generic drug in return for a share of the revenue. Under such agreements, big drugmakers can protect some of their market share by allowing another company to sell its drug at generic prices without the brand name.

Beating generic competitors to market with an even cheaper version of its own drug might help Merck hang on to Zocor users for as long as a year, said Stephen W. Schondelmeyer, a health economist at the University of Minnesota at Minneapolis.

"When the first generation of generics comes on the market, the big chain pharmacies like to pick one and stick with it for six to 12 months," he said.

Eric S. Elliott, president of Aetna's pharmacy management program, said offering a brand-name drug at a generic price would confuse consumers and undercut efforts to persuade patients to use the cheaper copies.

"We have had conversations with Merck about a contract that would put Zocor in a generic tier," Elliott said then. "At this time, we have not signed that deal."

Aetna health plan members now pay $30 a month for a Zocor prescription. By comparison, patients pay $45 per month for Pfizer's Lipitor, the world's best-selling cholesterol drug. Generic drugs cost patients $15 per month.

"More brand pharmaceutical companies are either launching their own generic versions or creating alliances with other companies for authorized generics," said C. Anthony Butler, an analyst at Lehman Brothers. "The novelty is the negotiation at the managed-care level."

In response to Zocor competition, Pfizer plans to start a voucher program intended to minimize the costs of Lipitor to patients, said a spokeswoman.


From June Hughes, July 7, 2006
Subject: Zocor

I had a conversation about Zocor with a pharmacist at Costco. He said Zocor, which now is a formulary, is cheaper than the generic. We all need to put the pressure on Caremark to recognize that fact. I plan to call Caremark today to do just that!

Steve Mitchell to Dennis Leone: STRS investment earnings 1999 - 2006

July 6, 2006
Subject: RE: Investment Earnings


The equity markets ended June very strong but essentially only made up the weakness in the first part of the month, thus producing a slight position return for the month of June. The full year return for STRS Ohio is estimated at +13.6%. Official results will not be available for two weeks; however, our preliminary results are usually close to the actual return. The returns you requested are as follows:

1999 12.74%
2000 10.44%
2001 -6.33%
2002 -8.13%
2003 2.32%
2004 17.70%
2005 12.25%
2006 13.60% (estimated)


Thursday, July 06, 2006

News from STRS: STRS Ohio Returns Take Investment Assets to a Record High

July 6, 2006
Preliminary results for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2006, indicate that investment assets for the State Teachers Retirement System of Ohio
(STRS Ohio) now exceed $65.1 billion -- a record high for the pension fund that was established in 1920. This represents an increase of about $6 billion from the $59.1 billion total at June 30, 2005.
Preliminary figures indicate a total fund return of about 13.6% for the past 12 months, from July 1, 2005, through June 30, 2006, with all asset classes beating their benchmark returns. The total fund performance exceeded its passive fund benchmark by 1.2%, meaning the system's active management of its funds -- rather than relying on index funds -- added approximately $650 million in net value during the fiscal year. STRS Ohio manages about 80% of its investments in-house.
The approximate makeup of STRS Ohio's total investment fund (as of June
30, 2006) is as follows: domestic equities, 42%; international equities, 26%; real estate, 8%; fixed income, 21%; and alternative investments, 3%.
STRS Ohio serves as the pension fund for more than 439,000 public educators, providing retirement and survivor benefits and disability protection.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Cooper and Speas: The dialogue continues

July 5, 2006
David Speas wrote: I agree that in the past ORTA did not do all that should have been done which is why when I was not reelected to STRS I ran for positions that could make it possible to be heard and do good things for the very people who got hurt the worst in the stock market down turn. My hope was that my words would explain why the decision was made not to endorse but work hard to get healthcare help for the retirees and not jeopardize what has been worked on for so long by so many.
Good Morning Dave;
The above, for me, says it in a nutshell. The fact is, NOW actions ARE being taken. Retirees problems ARE being addressed.
As you may have noticed, I am not shy about speaking out. (LOL!)
You are the first ORTA person to ever, that I can recall, EVER took the time to even acknowledge my communication, much less, give me some feed back.
The fact that not only do you go out to speak to and LISTEN to retirees, says more to me than all the pretty newsletters and guest speakers I have come across since retiring. In fact, the mere fact that FINALLY someone at ORTA has shown some interest in listening and responding intelligently causes me to consider
None of this is about me, or doing anything "my way". You (ORTA leadership) are the experts. You have the wisdom and insight to make proper decisions...and you are where you should be...taking on the battle for HC equity.
I hope if you get anything out of our current dialogue, it is that I am not interested in making ORTA do what I want, (except to listen). But, at the same time, I am not interested in hearing ORTA leadership flinch in doing what they DO feel is right because a few with THEIR own agenda want to hold leadership hostage to their own personal political views.
At some point, however, ORTA must get involved actively in the politics of it all. And maybe ORTA is involved behind scenes we/I are unaware of.
The coming election for Governor is going to have a potentially huge impact on the direction of public school teachers and retirees. None of us affiliated with any pro education/teacher organization can afford to be shy. It is not about endorsing a candidate, or a party. But it IS about standing up for ourselves.
When the leadership is willing to do that, I will certainly be willing to stand up in support.
Thanks for putting up with my long winded rant!
T Cooper

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Dave to Tom: continuing a colorful conversation on the Fourth of July

Dave Speas to Tom Cooper
July 4, 2006
Hi Tom,
I did not wish to imply that you were shouting at me but just trying to make it clear that voices are being heard from all sides and taken seriously. Some are more direct and unbending while many are debating the situation. The only point that I was trying to make is that leadership is trying to do what is right for retirees. Even among ourselves I am sure there are feelings that we wish we could go farther. I agree that in the past ORTA did not do all that should have been done which is why when I was not reelected to STRS I ran for positions that could make it possible to be heard and do good things for the very people who got hurt the worst in the stock market down turn. My hope was that my words would explain why the decision was made not to endorse but work hard to get healthcare help for the retirees and not jeopardize what has been worked on for so long by so many.
I appreciate your stance and personally feel strongly about some political positions but felt you and others should understand why we are doing what we are.
Thanks for sharing your positions. It makes me and others think about our opinions and carefully debate our positions. One of the great weaknesses of written debate is that we cannot fully explain our positions if it seems personal and is not meant to do so. I hope you will take my words as they were intended as an explanation and nothing more meant. My respect for everyone who is willing to put themselves out for their beliefs is unending and enjoy the spirited thoughts that are shared.
Thank you for pointing out those things that seemed personal. I assure you they were not directed at you but were general observations. I respect the diversity in CORE and was drawn to it because thoughts and suggestions were freely given and accepted. I hope you will take my words in that spirit.

July 4 conversation: Dave Speas and Tom Cooper

July 4, 2006

David Speas wrote: It is interesting that of those who have been shouting the loudest at us are not even members of our organization and will not be because we do not do what they want. How great it would be if they would join and fight inside for leadership positions and help make the organization stronger.
Hi Dave;
As one who has, and I mean this seriously, the utmost respect for your perspective, and extreme gratitude for all that you have done, and continue to do, for all of us, I really feel I need to address your comment above.
I am certain that you would never intentionally misrepresent what someone has said, because while the tone of what you say, (and it is addressed to me), is that I am "shouting loudly at you.....because you do not do what I want".
If that comment is directed to me, then you completely overlooked what I said. (And, by the way...I don't shout unless I am shouted at....yes, I can be blunt..sorry if that is offensive, but I am not good at playing word games. I say what I feel I can read between the lines, but I don't ask others to that).
More to the point, I didn't leave ORTA because they didn't do what I wanted. I quit ORTA because because they (the leadership) did NOTHING. And not only did they do nothing, they ripped the founders of CORE as malcontents. I am sure you are familiar with the well known quote from Albert Einstein that "the world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing".
I agree that HC is ultimate. I am sure that you agonize over decisions that must be made, that do not solve the problems of those who are desperate.
Most importantly, I am not saying nothing is being done at all, nor am I saying that everything should be done the way I see it.
But please don't tell me your decision (to not support a candidate...ANY canddate...) was based on a few political hacks whining about expressing support for a political candidate who offers more hope and wiser solutions than others.
[Dave]: If we did not get legislative backing or lose by very few votes possibly because of political decisions we made, we would be wrong in every way at this juncture of the work being done that will benefit retirees the most.
This comment is way off from what I was responding to. I NEVER said that anyone in any organization should not do what was in the best interest of their members. In fact, my original response said that is exactly what should be done, rather that be held over a barrel by idle threats. So why do I feel that what I said is now being presented as something I did not say?
Your truly,
Tom Cooper

Paul Boyer to Tom Cooper: Politics in a sorry state; what could be worse than the Republicans of recent years?

July 4, 2006
Thanks for your support, Tom. I read all of your letters that come across my screen but I am not sure whether I have ever met you at any of the meetings.
Yes, it is a sorry state in politics today. I think Gov. Taft should have resigned after being found guilty and fined awhile back. He has done absolutely nothing good in recent years as governor. He has also refused to have anything to do with punishing or investigating the STRS situation.
I think our nation made a big, big mistake when they took God out of the schools and now the courts are overwhelmingly leading us down the road to a Godless nation. How sad.
As I said in my letter, we have not decided all of whom we will vote for but I doubt if there will be any Republicans on the list. In some ways I am afraid of the Democrats but what could be worse than what we have had from the Republicans in recent years?

Molly Janczyk: Freedom of thoughts and honest debate

July 4, 2006
Debate is good. The freedom of thoughts and earnest points to consider are the foundation of this country and I agree are under attack. All of us have worked hard for CORE and I wouldn't want to diminish anyone's contributions though we may not all agree. But, I want to be careful not to invite name calling and hope that good debate brings valid points without personal attack as has happened to me. This is not directed to anyone, just a reminder we have all helped and this is a passionate topic and a time I feel when it needs discussed. I am sorry if anyone is offended but the state of education is at issue and honest debate is a the heart of this country in making decisions vs. straight party or habit based. Education is a major issue this fall and health care as a result is part of that. Without education minded legislators in office, no proposal will be considered or solutions to funded education.
I only wish for us all to remember we are all in this together and influence without name calling has more chance of success.
I am writing this as I can see it could go there with many of our responses including myself. We state our opinions but it is dangerous to bring topics that are related to a personal level.

Dave Speas to Tom Cooper re: Political endorsements

July 4, 2006


ORTA does not make decisions on the idea of a few people of both political parties bolting the organization. Pointing out that Republicans are upset with us was done to show that those who back a Democratic party member that others are contacting us too. It is interesting that of those who have been shouting the loudest at us are not even members of our organization and will not be because we do not do what they want. How great it would be if they would join and fight inside for leadership positions and help make the organization stronger.

We decided not to back a candidate at this time because of the work that is being done to find a way to lessen the financial burdens of retirees. That is our focus as an organization, retirees. The healthcare initiative to change the law is ongoing and it has taken five years to get to this point. It was decided to make this our priority and anyone who knows politicians knows that they will pull support if they think they have been wronged or someone with more money or power comes along. A great deal of our efforts are now at least being recognized and some are going to look at sponsoring a bill and getting it towards a vote.

I travel around the state speaking and answering questions. The number one issue is healthcare with retirees. Some are making decisions on whether to get medicine or food. Others are using up their savings because of the cost for their spouses. We owe the retirees of this state our best efforts to lessen their burden. They have lost the most earning power because of the STRS debacle of not having an emergency plan in place to stop a financial fall of this kind for retired teachers. And, by the way, they still do not have one. Whether you think it right or wrong, we had to make a decision based on what we felt was the most important for retirees. If we did not get legislative backing or lose by very few votes possibly because of political decisions we made, we would be wrong in every way at this juncture of the work being done that will benefit retirees the most.

You have every right to discuss how you feel and I will always support that. The decisions people who have made the tough decision to step out and lead organizations are not so lucky. We have to decide what we should do by the input of our members and what their primary needs are. ORTA is an organization for retirees. We have been traveling a road working with our partners to recover needed income for our members. OEA, OFT and others need to work for actives who make up the largest membership for them. Our members deserve not to have to decide to eat or be healthy. Together the leadership have discussed, anguished over what to do, and measured the options we have in all this. It has been decided that our most needy and those who lost the most, retired teachers, deserve this chance to recover at least some of their loses.

Thank you for stirring the pot of all this debate. All those who have emailed me, others, and all have made me think deeper and deeper into all the areas, thanks, and I am even more certain that those who look into my eyes as they tell me about the terrible choices they have to make are the ones we should not abandon as an organization for retirees.









More conversation re: Political endorsements

From Molly Janczyk, July 4, 2006
Hi, OEA, OFT are endorsing Strickland and will be publishing their endorsees when all interviews are finished. They find Strickland to be as they said a 'friend to educators.'
The Ohio Retiree organizations are not to my knowledge endorsing though some have asked. They are stating that their membership doesn't pay dues for them to endorse candidates.
I do not know what CORE will do but the ones I hear are supporting Strickland except for one or two. That means nothing, just the ones I hear from on this whether Democrat or Republican as they feel a long record of improperly funded education in Ohio needs reversed.
I am not sure about OEA-R and whether they follow OEA. I assume but am not certain. I'll put this out and perhaps someone can give more info. Thanks

From Don Gatchell, July 3, 2006
Molly et al,
Gov. candidate Ted Strickland and running mate Lee Fisher are first, gracious people. They are the kind of men who might even put the needs of Ohio students above their own personal agenda. Ken Blackwell is not a bad person, but he may have an agenda not in sync with the needs of Ohio school children.
I have personal experiences with both candidates. Ken Blackwell was a grad school instructor of mine at Xavier U. while he was developing his political career in Cincy. Ted Strickland came to a school in a remote, rural area where I was in order to give a presentation to students. However, there was a conflict at the school and he was not able to give his talk. Congressman Strickland graciously said he would return at a later date or would stay if he could be of any help. Bob Taft would have raised his royal feathers and flown back to Columbus in a huff.
Is it possible to get unanimous support for Ted Strickland-Lee Fisher from retiree groups such as ORTA, local retired teacher groups, OEA Retired, CORE, PERS locals, SERS locals, etc.?
Don Gatchell, Jr.
Retired School Counselor and Member,
Ohio School Counselors Assn. Member,
Ross County Retired Teachers Assn.
From Gene Grime, July 3, 2006
From what I have read, it appears that Strickland is "the lesser of two evils". It doesn't matter whether one is Republican or Democrat. Isn't there anyone out there for the good of the people?

Tom Cooper to George Justice: No savior to education except us

July 4, 2006

Re:I haven't heard anything that shows Strickland to be the "savior" for retired teachers or the state of Ohio. I , as well as everyone else in education, want things to improve. Remember, things could be worse.

Mr. George Justice I'm confused, Mr Justice, as to what qualified educational source it is exactly you heard ANY claim that Strickland is a "savior" to education. Assigning terms like "savior" to try to denigrate a leaders qualities is exactly the kind of political twisting that deflects away from real issues.

The only "savior" to education is going to be US. The only way WE will make out lives better is to take action, and if that means openly expressing our constitutional right of free speech and expression, both as individuals, and as organizations, then that is what needs to get done.

I am sick and tired of the tone that says any word that questions in any way, any Republican candidate or office holder should sit down and shut up. Churches, newspapers, business organizations, unions, police, fire and all other public employees, can support political candidates, but teachers should just shut up?

(I'm not a Democrat, and I'm not saying Democrats don't do the same. In fact, they do, but this issue is about some narrow minded bullies threatening a groups right to speak out for a Democrat, or they will take their ball and go home)

And your answer to that is "things could be worse"? Since you make reference to what you have and haven't heard, I'm wondering if you have ever heard Ken Blackwell speak? If this man is elected, things will get worse.

The fact is, when CORE was battling tooth and nail to bring STRS back from the brink of destruction, and ORTA sat idly by, calling those that cared nothing more than malcontents, it was nearly impossible to get any politician to listen to CORE' leaders. Do you wonder why? Could it be that they have absolutely no reason to pay any attention to people who do not flex some muscle come election day?

I recently read a story about a veteran who got into a public argument with a person complaining about the war in Iraq. The Veteran screamed about how he had put is life on the line so people like this protester could have freedom of speech, and thus told the protester he should sit down and shut up.

Being a veteran myself, it was the brave people who began what is now called CORE, that caused me to get involved in their cause. CORE's leaders, and members were also told to sit down and shut up. If they had done that, like ORTA did, STRS might very well be dead by now. As you say, things could be worse. Apparently you, and many fascist minded people like you who would like to stifle voices, and salute the leadership blindly, would like to see things actually get worse.

When I retired, I gladly, eagerly, in fact, joined ORTA. I regularly attended local meetings. Through all of the uncovering of the unethical behavior of STRS officials, I remained a member of ORTA. I wrote letters imploring ORTA leader to take action. Not only was no action ever taken, none of my letters ever received a reply.

I did, however, recently receive a letter from Ann Hanning telling me that if didn't pay my dues, I would be dropped from there roll. You see, when I decided that for my dues I expected more than a ham loaf lunch once a month, I didn't threaten to quit. I just quit. I didn't threaten anyone that I would quit. My point is, these people who claim THEY will quit IF ORTA leadership takes a public stand in the interest of it's members, want to blackmail the ORTA leadership into sitting down and shutting up for their own political agenda of "my party right or wrong".

Isn't it ironic that, on Independence Day, the true independent mind, the independent thinking that gave us the Declaration of Independence, and the Bill of Rights, is dying right in front of our eyes? And that we are the ones who are killing it with our society's desire to have everyone sit down and shut up, like ORTA?

Tom Cooper


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