March 24th, 2010
07:49 AM ET

Wednesday's intriguing people

Mike Kelleher: As the director of the White House Office of Correspondence, Kelleher sifts through thousands of letters, e-mails and faxes that arrive at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue each day and selects just 10 for President Obama to read.

"We pick messages that are compelling, things people say that, when you read it, you get a chill," Kelleher told The New York Times last April. "I send him letters that are uncomfortable messages."

The president has been using some of the more dramatic messages he's received to sell his health care plan.

The New York Times: Picking letters, 10 a day, that reach Obama

Natalie Ginty: The University of Iowa sophomore and chairwoman of UI College Republicans is scheduled to speak Wednesday night at a Stand Up 4 Freedom Rally.

The campus demonstration is planned to occur the day before President Obama's trip Thursday to Iowa City, where he is expected to discuss the impact of the new health care law on small businesses and American families. The Iowa City Press-Citizen reports that demonstrators say they also will be assembling either inside or outside the event Thursday.

"I believe 73 percent of Americans disapprove, and it passed anyway. We are here to represent the 73 percent that did not want it to pass and let him know that," Ginty told the Iowa City paper. "I have a lot of college students that are angry about this legislation."

Iowa City Press-Citizen: Obama to visit UI on Thursday

Coralville Courier: Stand Up 4 Freedom Rally to be held in protest of Obama visit to Iowa City

David Cordani: The president and CEO of Cigna Corp., one of the nation's largest health insurers, says higher fees mandated by the new health care legislation will be passed on to policyholders.

National Public Radio host Robert Siegel, in an interview Tuesday, noted that Cigna's profits rose 7 percent last year, the company had more than $18 billion in revenue, Cordani's predecessor left with a $110 million retirement package and it sounded like Cigna is "a profitable enough company to absorb some of the fees that'll be added to your business by this bill."

Cordani responded, "Our health care business had a profit margin of about 2 percent. And that's been consistent over the last five years. ... So it's a thin margin business on an after-tax basis. A final way of looking at it is, you could take the profits of the entire health care industry and that will pay for health care for Americans for about two days. So, the challenge is, what do we do for the other 360-plus days of the year to be able to pay for that?"

NPR: Cigna CEO weighs in on new health law

George Noel: The Midland, Texas, Tea Party member blogged Tuesday that he had an idea for a new fantasy game called "War Room Strategy."

Noel writes, "Players would add facts proving corruption and lying like pieces of a puzzle; such as that last minute call from [Speaker Nancy] Pelosi to VA congressman [Rick] Boucher which gave him permission to vote against Obamacare to save his hide in the fall election (which it probably won't). As the puzzle unfolds and those corrupt congressmen are fired this fall, points would be awarded to those most responsible."

Noel, who hosts "Fully Loaded," an online, call-in talk show, writes that bonus points in his fantasy game would be awarded "to players who could implement strategies which would strip corrupt congressmen of their pensions (saving tax payers billions.)"

Rep. Rick Boucher, D-Virginia, told Tricities.com that he voted against the landmark health care legislation because the proposed $450 billion in Medicare cuts would have an adverse effect on senior citizens.

Resist.net: George Noel's page

"Fully Loaded" Web site

Bristol Herald Courier: Boucher says his no vote was in best interest for Southwest Virginia

Arnold Shipman: The Air Force veteran is scheduled Wednesday to address a congressional hearing on the plight of homeless veterans. Shipman, who was homeless and now lives in transitional housing, spent 20 years peddling drugs and snorting heroin on the streets of Maryland's East Baltimore.

In a dramatic profile by Amy Reinink in the Urbanite magazine, Shipman explained his military career ended with an early discharge due to drug use. He began selling heroin and cocaine.

"I didn't even need the money," Shipman told the magazine. "I just couldn't believe these guys were getting this money for doing basically nothing."

His life hit rock bottom, and he served two jail terms. Reinink writes that Shipman went before a judge in December 2008 and begged, saying he wanted to get clean for good. The judge told him to check into the Maryland Center for Veterans Education and Training, which offers homeless veterans housing and substance-abuse treatment. Shipman showed up the next day.

Urbanite: Running for their lives

soundoff (24 Responses)
  1. Travis Casey

    I don't see anything wrong with him only reading 10 letters a day - if he's paying proper attention to the letters, taking, say, three minutes to read each one, that's half an hour out of the day of one of the busiest people in the world. If he's reading and hand-writing replies, as the article says, it could easily be taking ten minutes or so a letter - call it an hour and a half a day. Most likely, he's setting aside an hour a day, and not replying to every letter. Honestly, with everything else the president has to do, I don't think an hour a day reading and replying to letters from citizens is unreasonably small.

    Heck, a thousand a day would take 50 hours a day just to read them all carefully - which is simply impossible for one person. He has to have staff to filter them. What should be happening, though, is that the letters he gets should be a more representative sample. If I were in charge of it, I'm thinking a good recipe would be to have half the letters be "hand-picked", and the other half be randomly selected after removing death threats, unreadable letters, and the like.

    Also, he should be getting summary information on the letters - e.g., X% are in favor of Y, Z% are against. The article doesn't mention if that happens or not, so it's possible that it does. It looks like the Times was more interested in this as a "human interest" story, though, than in providing real information.

    March 24, 2010 at 11:44 am | Report abuse |
  2. Caroll

    Bookworm, You are right. The majority of Americans DO want health care reforms. However, health care should remain in the free market. Tort reform is essential to bringing down costs, yet Congress refused to include that in the bill or address it separately. There are too many lawyers/congressmen for it to EVER be reformed, and most of those lawyers/ congressmen are democrats. Just look at one infamous ambulance chaser that made MILLIONS, John Edwards, and thank heaven he was not elected president. Obama has talked about fraud in Medicare and Medicaid, but he spent his entire first year putting the cart before the horse. Jobs were (and still are) of paramount importance. If employment numbers had gone down and people had insurance through their employment, do you really think the polls would have been as high for Obama's reform? Put people between a rock and hard place long enough(unemployment STILL almost 10%) and they finally throw up their hands, giving up their principles, just to get insurance for their families.

    March 24, 2010 at 11:46 am | Report abuse |
  3. Preston

    He may only see 10 letters a day, but I can guarantee that is more than Bush was reading. You have to give the guy credit that with how busy his schedule is, taking the time to read correspondence from 'ordinary' people is admirable. It may not represent the entire populous, however.

    And he also reads the newspaper!

    March 24, 2010 at 12:02 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Rick McDaniel

    This is precisely why the President of the US, has zero connection with the citizens of the US. He is surrounded with people, who only tell him what they want him to know or hear. Then he believes what he is doing, is the "right" thing, instead of a total disaster in the making.

    March 24, 2010 at 12:07 pm | Report abuse |
  5. kitkat

    # 10, and how many do you propose he reads? Not like reading letters is his full time job.

    March 24, 2010 at 12:08 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Paul

    WHo cares if Obama only reads 10 letters a day? He doesn't have to read ANY. I bet Bush didn't, unless they had illustrations to help him understand.

    March 24, 2010 at 12:08 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Jesse

    At least he is taking out time for reading these letters himself. The man has a good work ethic if nothing else.

    March 24, 2010 at 12:17 pm | Report abuse |
  8. ES

    Why companies in Europe are able to provide 2 months vacations and excellent health benefits, I am not talking about government paying for it, EU companies pay out of pocket for their eemployees. In US it's about shareholders Maybe we should require large companies to pay for some of the expenses.

    March 24, 2010 at 12:19 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Grant

    If you actually look at Cigna's financial information you'd see that they have a 7% profit margin, not 2%, which totals over $1 billion in profit each year. As someone already stated, that's AFTER paying millions in dollars in salary to EACH executive (who also receive benefits, stock options, etc., on top of that).

    There really shouldn't be for-profit health insurance companies because their profit motive is always going to come first. They don't make money by providing health care, they make money by DENYING health care.

    March 24, 2010 at 12:19 pm | Report abuse |
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