Cutting Medicare Advantage is not the change we need

I have a family member with a Medicare Advantage plan and am very well aware of how it works. Compared to what I know about basic Medicare, I think advantage is an accurate description. When I read that President Obama believes these plans are helpful only to the insurance companies, I have to disagree.

Disagreed so much I wrote an article about it which has been published several places, including here.

Mayo Clinic comes out against the House health care reform proposal

Just a brief post – The Mayo Clinic has been touted by the President but the clinic has come out against the House proposal.

I don’t deny the need for rational health insurance policy but I am very nervous that the White House is pushing the process too quickly. Doing something bad could be much worse than doing nothing.

I appreciate readers who believe we need a single payer. However, all we are really talking about is who brokers the payments. The inefficiencies in the system and the incentives which drive costs must be addressed. Whether government can do this is an open question – one I am skeptical about.

Francis Collins to head National Institutes of Health

Those who have been reading awhile know I have not been President Barack Obama’s biggest fan. However, he hit a home run with his choice of Francis Collins to head the NIH.

President Obama on Wednesday nominated Dr. Francis S. Collins, a pioneering geneticist who led the government’s successful effort to sequence the human genome, as head of the National Institutes of Health.

Dr. Francis S. Collins, leader of the federal human genome project, was selected to head the National Institutes of Health.

Dr. Collins’s selection, which had been rumored for weeks, was praised by top scientists and research advocacy organizations for whom the health institute is a crucial patron.

Based in Bethesda, Md., the N.I.H. is the most important source of research money in the world; over the next 14 months it will dole out about $37 billion in research grants and spend $4 billion on research programs at its Maryland campus.

Dr. Collins wrote to XGW’s David Roberts and me to clarify his views regarding genetics and homosexuality back in September of 2008. At the time, Collins wanted to make clear his views regarding change and cause of homosexuality which he believed had been miscast somewhat by NARTH past-president Dean Byrd.

In his reply to XGW, Collins said about the NARTH article:

It troubles me greatly to learn that anything I have written would cause anguish for you or others who are seeking answers to the basis of homosexuality. The words quoted by NARTH all come from the Appendix to my book “The Language of God” (pp. 260-263), but have been juxtaposed in a way that suggests a somewhat different conclusion that I intended. I would urge anyone who is concerned about the meaning to refer back to the original text.

The evidence we have at present strongly supports the proposition that there are hereditary factors in male homosexuality — the observation that an identical twin of a male homosexual has approximately a 20% likelihood of also being gay points to this conclusion, since that is 10 times the population incidence. But the fact that the answer is not 100% also suggests that other factors besides DNA must be involved. That certainly doesn’t imply, however, that those other undefined factors are inherently alterable.

In Byrd’s article, he followed Collins’s quote with this statement:

Dr. Collins noted that environment, particularly childhood experiences as well as the role of free will choices affect all of us in profound ways.

This could easily make it seem as though Collins believed childhood experiences and choice were involved in homosexuality and thus, perhaps “alterable.”

In response to mischaracterizations of his views, he wrote the following to Robert and me:

Hello David and Warren,

I am happy to confirm that these e-mail communications from May 2007 and yesterday are indeed authentic, and represent my best effort at summarizing what we know and what we don’t know about genetic factors in male homosexuality. I appreciate your continuing efforts to correct misstatements that seem to be circulating on the internet.

Regards, Francis Collins

I wish Dr. Collins great success at the NIH.

Vote Today Ohio leader Tate Hausman discusses voter fraud conviction

As reported here last week, Tate Hausman co-leader of Ohio Obama get out the vote organization, Vote Today Ohio, was convicted of voter fraud. Mr. Hausman violated Ohio laws requiring new residents in the state to intend to remain in Ohio past the election. He had no intention of staying in Ohio.
Mr. Hausman, a Brooklyn, New York resident, spoke to the Brooklyn Paper about the conviction in an interview published today. He says he did not understand the law.

Hausman was hit with a $1,000 fine from a court in the Buckeye State, where he had relocated in order to get out the vote from students, homeless people and other under-represented voters.
Of course, he voted there, too.
That’s where the trouble began.
Hausman cast an early ballot for Obama on Oct. 4, believing he was allowed to do so because he had been living in Columbus for more than the 30-days requirement for voter eligibility.
But Franklin County Ohio Prosecutor Ron O’Brien argued successfully that the rules stipulate that any Ohio voter must intend to remain an Ohio resident — something any self-respecting Brooklynite would never agree to.
Hausman claims he didn’t realize he had broken one of Ohio’s most-sacred tenets until he received a letter outlining the law — but he received it three days after the deadline had passed for withdrawing an illegal vote without punishment.
“When I saw that letter, my stomach fell to my knees,” Hausman said.

Watching this Palestra.net report, a skeptical person might question Mr. Hausman’s account.
As Tiffany Wilson’s report indicates, other VTO workers registered in Ohio. According to Franklin County Prosecutor, Ron O’Brien, other prosecutions are on the way.
See also:
Vote Today Ohio out-of-state leaders register in Ohio

Now Obama is a bigot?

We are most likely at an impasse of sorts in the culture. The Rick Warren prayer is the kind of event which brings into bold relief the issues which divide. We have discussed on this blog before whether or not the gay-evangelical divide is a zero-sum situation — for one side to prevail, the other side must be defeated. John Cloud at Time magazine gives me evidence to think the divide continues to be wide. About Barack Obama, he writes:

Obama has proved himself repeatedly to be a very tolerant, very rational-sounding sort of bigot. He is far too careful and measured a man to say anything about body parts fitting together or marriage being reserved for the nonpedophilic, but all the same, he opposes equality for gay people when it comes to the basic recognition of their relationships.

John Cloud here redefines bigot. Bigot means someone who is intolerant of others opinions and actions. Seemingly unaware of the contradiction, Cloud calls Obama a “very tolerant sort of bigot.”
I am thinking out loud here, but I wonder if the impasse comes down to beliefs and how these are properly lived out in a democracy. I don’t think it is about “being” gay/straight or being wired to experience opposite- or same-sex attraction. I say this because one may experience same-sex attraction and find that experience something unacceptable for reasons of morality, or for more pragmatic reasons. One may not value some impulses which rightly or wrongly are believed to lead to undesireable consequences. Thus, the divide may be more about ideology than ontology.
If I am right about the basic difference being ideological, then how do we regard people who disagree with us on matters of belief? Do we call them bigots? Do we say you disagree with me so you hate me and all that I am? Let’s leave “do” and go to “should.” Should conservatives say to liberals, you are bigots because you disagree with my beliefs? I do not think so. When John Cloud (who in my contacts with him seems quite tolerant of those who he apparently considers bigots) calls Barack Obama a bigot, does he not invite the same treatment? John you are a tolerant sort of bigot, I might say, when you come to an Exodus conference and converse cordially with the ex-gays.
In the newspeak, bigot means someone who disagrees with me. I doubt this will be good.

Was Obama candid when he said, "I had no contact" with Blago?

Blogs and news sites are giddy with the news that Obama cleared his incoming Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel, of any wrongdoing secondary to Emanuel’s contacts with Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who said he did no wrong in his contacts with Team Obama or with anyone else for that matter.
So everybody is in the clear?
On December 9, Pres-elect Obama said this about the Blagojevich matter:

“I had no contact with the governor or his office and so we were not, I was not aware of what was happening.”

Today, George Stephanopoulos reports that he has been briefed on the report and that some contacts occured, writing on his blog:

The sources add that the report will show Emanuel also had four phone calls with Blagojevich Chief of Staff John Harris. During those conversations, the Senate seat was discussed. The pros and cons of various candidates were reviewed, and the sources say that Emanuel repeatedly reminded Harris that Blagojevich should focus on the message the pick would send about the governor and his administration.
Sources also confirm that Emanuel made the case for picking Obama confidante Valerie Jarrett during at least one of the conversations. In the course of that conversation, Harris asked if in return for picking Jarrett, “all we get is appreciation, right?” “Right,” Emanuel responded.

Reader time – Was Obama being candid in the first statement?
He did have contact with Blago’s office through Rahm Emanuel and they pushed for Valerie Jarrett to become Senator. Ms. Jarrett said later she wasn’t interested. Are we to assume that she was never interested but that Obama and Emanuel were pushing for her anyway? Or did her lack of interest develop as the result of knowledge of the investigation and/or the demands for a deal from Blago?
And what does contact mean?

Friday open forum: Auto bailout, Blagojevich, Minnesota Senate race, etc.

UPDATE: Blagojevich schedules a news conference for today at 2pm (CST). Gives me time to get some popcorn.
Just saw George Bush announce the 17.4 billion dollar loan program for the auto makers. They have three months to get their sorry act together or he says bankruptcy is coming. Problem is he won’t be there…
Coleman is only +2 on Franken. Gives me the creeps just typing it.
And Blago slows his demise.
Blago’s news conference.

Questions about the Blagojevich scandal: Name that website

Don’t peek, but at the bottom I will link to the article from which the following excerpts are taken. See if you can guess where this article was printed.

Two top aides to Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich resigned this week in the wake of the launching of criminal proceedings against the governor, and there was mounting pressure from state and national Democratic Party leaders for the governor himself to step down.

Ok, nothing unusual there. But then questions begin.

The frenzy to remove Blagojevich from office as soon as possible is also remarkable. Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan filed a motion with the state Supreme Court Friday seeking to have Blagojevich declared “incapable” of performing his office and have Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn installed as acting governor.
In her motion, Madigan argued that, “The pervasive nature and severity of these pending charges disable Mr. Blagojevich from making effective decisions on critical time-sensitive issues.” She sought to invoke a provision in the state constitution allowing for the replacement of a governor on the grounds of “disability,” although the constitutional history suggests that this term was meant to apply to a physical or mental breakdown, not a prosecution.
The traditional constitutional separation of powers would seem to bar the courts from intervening in such a fashion against the executive branch. Madigan conceded that her motion has no legal precedent, remarking at a news conference, “I recognize that this is an extraordinary request, but these are extraordinary circumstances.”
Madigan’s father, Michael Madigan, the Democratic leader in the state House of Representatives, said he would move for impeachment of the governor at a special session of the legislature called for Monday in Springfield if Blagojevich did not resign or was not removed by the court. Impeachment, the traditional constitutional procedure for removal of a chief executive, would take considerably longer, since it would require a trial before the state Senate and conviction.
Neither of the Madigans, nor Lt. Gov. Quinn, nor Republican state legislative leaders who have given their enthusiastic support, explained why it was necessary to remove Blagojevich from office so precipitously, before any trial or even evidentiary hearing on the criminal charges brought against him by the US Attorney.

Hmm, what is the author suggesting? That someone has a suspicious motive for removing Blagojevich? Then the author gets right to the point:

If there is a political motivation in the charges against Blagojevich, however, this could well involve a desire to protect a more important Democrat—President-elect Barack Obama. At least one top Obama aide, Congressman Rahm Emanuel of Chicago, Obama’s choice for White House chief of staff, was in contact with Blagojevich about the selection of Obama’s successor in the Senate.
While the Obama transition office refused to release any information on such contacts for several days after the Blagojevich scandal become public, on Friday it confirmed that Emanuel had delivered a list to Blagojevich of a half-dozen prominent Democrats whom Obama could support as his replacement. Any telephone conversations on this topic between Emanuel and Blagojevich or Harris would likely have been tape-recorded by the FBI, which wiretapped the governor’s calls for nearly two months, beginning in mid-October.
The timing of Fitzgerald’s decision to bring charges against Blagojevich suggests that he may have wanted to act before anyone in the Obama camp could respond favorably to the governor’s shakedown effort. This fact is underscored by a report in the Washington Post Saturday noting that “debate raged within the legal community about whether US Attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald moved prematurely to bring bribery and conspiracy charges before the consummation of an illegal act.”
In plain language, Blagojevich was arrested before he could make any deal for the delivery of the Senate appointment in return for political and/or financial favors. While he may well be guilty of a series of other corrupt practices, among them selling state contracts for campaign contributions, extortion against the owner of the Chicago Tribune and a Chicago-area children’s hospital, on the most sensational charge, the sale of Obama’s seat in the US Senate, he seems to have engaged only in thinking and talking, with no apparent overt action.
Fitzgerald not only preempted any possible deal between Blagojevich and Obama, he included exculpatory information about Obama in the 76-page document charging Blagojevich, including several quotes of telephone conversations in which the governor cursed the president-elect for failing to offer a quid-pro-quo for the Senate selection. The US attorney—whose job depends on re-nomination by the incoming president—also went out of his way to declare that he was making no suggestion that Obama or anyone in his transition team had acted improperly.

So where was this written? WND? National Review? Maybe it is this guy, writing somewhere else?
Nope.
Here it is.
Surprised?
Additional note – I almost made a new post but thought I could just add this here. Emanuel just doesn’t want to say anything:

ABC News’ Rick Klein and Gregory Simmons Report: Incoming White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel skated past a reporter’s question — just about literally — outside his icy Chicago home Monday morning.
ABC’s Bret Hovell caught up with him long enough to ask whether he plans on meeting with the U.S. attorney about the scandal involving Gov. Rod Blagojevich, D-Ill. — but, in Emanuel’s words, the “sliding” got in the way.
Emanuel is under heightened scrutiny in the wake of published reports that indicate that he was in touch with Blagojevich’s office about possible replacements for President-elect Barack Obama in the Senate.
EMANUEL: “How are you?”
ABC NEWS: “I’m doing well, thank you.”
EMANUEL: “You guys got good holiday plans?”
ABC: “Hopefully yes. Now are you, have you…”
EMANUEL: “Can you hold on one second since I’m sliding? Thanks. Thank you.”
[Gets into the car and starts to shut the door.]
EMANUEL: “Keep yourself warm guys.”
ABC: “Sir do you have any plans to meet with the U.S. Attorney?”
[Shuts the car door.]