May 9, 2008

I've Been Stimulated!

Thanks El Presidente for that cool $600 you put in my bank account today. I sat down to plan out how to pay you the favor back and stimulate you to get your economy up. Instead I bought 2 plane tickets to Cancun, I'll try to only buy American goods while I'm there. Hasta pronto!
Chee (that's Tye in Spanish)

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May 8, 2008

Dean is MIA!!!

So I haven't talked to Dean in a week and he won't return my calls or txts. If anyone out there sees him make sure he's ok.

BTW, i just got GTA4 so that's why I haven't been posting as much, the girl already hates it.

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May 7, 2008

Obama Gets the Full Hour of "Meet the Press"

On Sunday morning I was really looking forward to seeing a full hour of Barack Obama on "Meet the Press". Of course I knew I wasn't going to make the 9am start time so before I went out on Saturday I made sure to set the DVR to record it, and I am so glad I did.

I don't know that I could've sat through an hour of live dribble about the Reverend Wright issue again. I thought all of this crap was over with? Didn't Obama say he denounced the guy's statements and was cutting ties with him? Anyway, Tim Russert had a real chance to sit down and talk actual politics and policies with someone who may represent just under 300 million world citizens in less than a year, but instead chose to hammer home the vitriol of Wright's comments, which Obama clearly stated he didn't agree with over 5 times in the interview (full transcript).

Towards the end of the show there was some good discussion on Iran, nuclear power, and exactly how Obama sees the primary race ending up (he is pretty sure he'll win without a large upheaval by the superdelegates). Overall I thought Obama came off as concise and informed on the discussed issues. He explained very precisely why he is against the "gas tax holiday" proposed by John McCain and quickly taken up by Hillary Clinton. He wasn't afraid to expose just how much of a political gimmick (I'll cover this later today in another post) the "gas tax holiday" is, and clearly outlined his position on the matter.

Overall I think there was probably 10-15 minutes worth of a 45 minute interview that was worth watching. The rest was really media dribble and divisive reporting, the same that I've come to expect of ALL news agencies, regardless of political leaning.

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How Close Is The Democratic Primary?

I sat around and watched a little about the Democratic Primaries in North Carolina and Indiana last night. Obama took a pretty sound victory in North Carolina and Clinton managed to just squeak out a win in Indiana. So I started thinking about how close this primary was and what it would take for each candidate to win the primary. It turns out that this race isn't as close as the media would have you believe.

One of the major issues muddying up the Democratic landscape is the large body of "superdelegates" who have yet to throw their hat in the ring for one candidate or another. Currently Clinton leads in pledged superdelegates, but by a slight margin. To make my analysis easier I assumed that Obama and Clinton would split the remaining 277 superdelegate votes (139C, 138O). If this turns out to be the case the race for the nomination is not nearly as close as I had previously thought.

Taking the assumption that the candidates will split the remaining supers leaves 5 states (WV, OR, SD, KY, MT) and Puerto Rico to contribute their votes. For Obama to win the nomination he needs just 24% of the votes from each state. That means Hillary will have to muster more than 76% in every single contest left to be able to keep Obama from reaching that 2,025 threshold and securing the nomination. Interestingly enough, even if Clinton does receive that large of a turnout, she will not have clinched the nomination as she will have only 1,986 delegates.

So to me the race seems far out of hand for Clinton. That is, unless she knows something I don't, like how many unpledged superdelegates are going to vote for her. Even then she would need a massive amount of the remaining superdelegate votes to make this race go her way. Can someone please sit down with both the candidates, run over the numbers and then make an informed decision as to whether this process should continue, or would the voters be better served with a candidate to support against the GOP nomination.

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May 6, 2008

Senate Passes Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act

This last week has seen a small victory in healthcare coverage for consumers. The Senate, on a 95-0 vote, passed the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (GINA, H.R. 493). The bill's goal is to "prohibit discrimination on the basis of genetic information with respect to health insurance and employment," filling what was considered a large gap in coverage protection of employees' and patients' rights.

This vote has been a long time in the making, with multiple votes coming up on it, but never in the same congressional session. This year, Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev) determined that the bill needed to be on the front burner and its about time. Francis S. Collins, director of the National Human Genome Research Institute and leader of the Human Genome Project said, "this is a day for celebration...I think the American public can breathe a sigh of relief that the fear of genetic discrimination, which has basically been a cloud over our future, has been dealt with." (Washington Post, April 24)

This doesn't seem like a big deal now but a big reason of that is due to the doubt citizens had about their coverage if genetic tests were performed. A January survey conducted by the Genetics and Public Policy Center found that 93 percent of respondents would not participate in genetic research projects unless it were illegal for employers and insurers to use the results against them.

And for those of us like myself who work with DNA research and clinical samples, a long standing problem has been solved. During my research many times it is necessary to confirm that my own DNA has not contaminated the samples that I have been working with. The only way to do this is to perform a genetic fingerprint on my own sample and compare it to the working samples. Although I am the only one who uses the information it is written down to document the full procedure. If my employer or insurer happened to find an underlying genetic problem, such as a risk of cancer, heart disease, or diabetes, previously they would have had the right to terminate my employment or coverage in order to save themselves the problem in the future.

There are still some questions that were not answered in the bill including life insurance, but a gaping hole in employee and patients rights has been closed.

The bigger debate surrounding this issue should be under what circumstances should it be right for health insurers to decline coverage? Under a more sophisticated and consumer friendly system, such protection would be completely irrelevant, as nobody could arbitrarily be declined care. The Congress has put a band-aid on a system that needs a complete reconstructive operation, but until there is an administration in the White House who cares to acknowledge the damage a market-driven system has inflicted on America's health and pocketbooks, this looks to be all Congress can do.

I'll take a quote from Barack Obama's new book, The Audacity of Hope, to explain a pragmatic way to look at the healthcare problem for those that really think accessible, affordable healthcare should be spurned in favor of a pay-or-die attitude.
"Given the amount of money we spend on health care (more per capita than any other nation), we should be able to provide basic coverage to every single American. But we can't sustain current rates of health-care inflation every year; we have to contain costs for the entire system, including Medicare and Medicaid. With Americans changing jobs more frequently, more likely to go through spells of unemployment, and more likely to work part-time or to be self-employed, health insurance can't just run through employers anymore. It needs to be portable." (The Audacity of Hope, p. 184)

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