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Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

A really sad story, and really shameful of Deutsche Bank.  Really? Market value for taking away the home for almost 6 years?  So you can illegally sell someone’s property, dumping it in the market, and only owe the “market value” of the property?  It was illegal, the legal system has decided it was illegal.  This is really a poor way to treat our servicemen.

Typically, banks respond quickly to public reports of errors affecting military families. But today, more than six years after the illegal foreclosure, Deutsche Bank Trust Company and its primary co-defendant, a Morgan Stanley subsidiary called Saxon Mortgage Services, are still in court disputing whether Sergeant Hurley is owed significant damages. Exhibits show that at least 100 other military mortgages are being serviced for Deutsche Bank, but it is not clear whether other service members have been affected by the policy that resulted in the Hurley foreclosure.

A spokesman for Deutsche Bank declined to comment, noting that Saxon had handled the litigation on its behalf. A spokesman for Morgan Stanley, which bought Saxon in 2006, said that Saxon had revised its policy to ensure that it complied with the law and was willing to make “reasonable accommodations” to settle disputes, “especially for our servicemen and women.” But the Hurley litigation has continued, he said, because of a “fundamental disagreement between the parties over damages.”

In court papers, lawyers for Saxon and the bank assert the sergeant is entitled to recover no more than the fair market value of his lost home. His lawyers argue that the defendants should pay much more than that — including an award of punitive damages to deter big lenders from future violations of the law. The law is called the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, and it protects service members on active duty from many of the legal consequences of their forced absence.

via Foreclosure for Reservist on Active Duty Prompts 4-Year Legal Battle – NYTimes.com.

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“We’re on Sarah Palin’s targeted list,” Ms. Giffords said last March. “But the thing is the way that she has it depicted has the cross hairs of a gun sight over our district. When people do that, they’ve got to realize there’s consequences to that.”

via Bloodshed Puts New Focus on Vitriol in Politics – NYTimes.com.

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This just seems strategically unwise.  I assume that the Republicans think they can take the PR hit because they believe that nobody is paying attention during the holidays.   Still, it certainly is fodder for the next set of elections.

WASHINGTON — Republican senators blocked Democratic legislation on Thursday that sought to provide medical care to rescue workers and residents of New York City who became ill as a result of breathing in toxic fumes, dust and smoke from ground zero.The 9/11 health bill, a version of which was approved by the House of Representatives in September, is among a handful of initiatives that Senate Democrats had been hoping to approve this year before the close of the 111th Congress. Supporters believe this is their last real opportunity to have the bill passed.The Senate action created huge uncertainty over the future of the bill. Its proponents were working on Thursday to have the legislation inserted into a large tax-cut bill that Republicans and Democrats are trying to pass before Congress ends it current session later this month.

via 9/11 Health Bill Blocked in Senate – NYTimes.com.

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Well, unless you have been living underneath a rock, you might have noticed that Mccain has announced his running-mate, Sarah Palin.

All you need to do is hit google, or keep up with the wikipedia link above to get all that is known (or, rather, not known) about Sarah Palin.  There are a lot of faults that are being pointed out, but what I find most troubling has to do with the most important job of the vice-presidency.

I like McCain.  Not enough to vote for him necessarily, but certainly I think our country would have been better off if he was the President the last eight years rather than Bush, Gore, or Kerry.  I also think he is experienced enough and strong enough to follow what he thinks is right rather than that of his party.

I have always felt that John McCain was a principled man who did things right rather than BS around, but I seriously wonder if this presidential run as changed him.  He himself said was the most important criteria for Vice-Presidency : “”person most prepared to take my place.”  Sarah Palin may be a wonderful person (I don’t know), but by that standard she seems to be woefully lacking.  It appears that John McCain is more interested in winning the election than finding someone fit for the job.

Sarah Palin’s lack foreign policy, and Washington political experience is really concerning.  If she ends up president, it won’t be long until the Republican machine (i.e. Dick Cheney) takes over everything that happens inside the White House.

Let’s face it, John McCain’s health isn’t the best to begin with, and even if it was good, things happen to people, and people die suddenly without warning.  Is this country ready for even the possibility of “Four More Years” ?

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As China Roars, Pollution Reaches Deadly Extremes
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One of the hardest things to try to explain to people when discussing various kinds of institutional or governmental policy is the law of unintended consequences. It basically says the policy can have effects that are very different than what one expects. History is full of examples, yet people continue to believe that the idea/policy is smart enough to prevent thousands or millions of people from figuring out a way to mess it up while imaginatively trying to better their lives. It shouldn’t scare someone from trying to change things, but steps need to be taken to measure the change in order to ensure that what was intended to happen is indeed happening.

Glen Whitman, an associate professor of economics at California State University, Northridge, wrote a very nice article on this topic, linked here. It is worth a read, as it explains an idea which can be difficult to explain in a nice, accessible way.

The article is also saved after the break for archival purposes.

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Arthur L Kellermann is a role-model to many of us who have earned or aspire to MD-MPH degrees. Having met him, he speaks with uncommon insight and wisdom. He has written a valuable editorial in the New England Journal of Medicine this week regarding the rising problem of crowding in the Emergency Department, particularly regarding disaster capacity. The Journal has been good enough to offer the editorial for free on their website.

When crowding reaches dangerous levels, hospitals often divert inbound ambulances to other facilities. In 2003, diversions occurred more than half a million times — an average of once per minute.3 Diversion may provide a brief respite for a beleaguered staff, but it prolongs ambulance transport times and disrupts established patterns of care. It also creates ripple effects that can compromise access to care throughout a city. Because crowding is rarely limited to a single hospital, one facility’s decision to divert ambulances can prompt others to follow suit. When that happens, a city may experience the health care equivalent of a “rolling blackout.” Everyone’s access to care is affected — the insured and uninsured alike.4

The complete article can be found here.

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Some of you may be familiar with Tim Keller, the head pastor at Redeemer Presbytarian Church here in New York.

Linked below is the transcript of a speech made by Tim Keller in an anniversary service to the families of victims of 9/11, made on September 10th, 2006.  The transcript is originally found on the blog of his son here.

For those of you who haven’t heard Tim Keller speak, I have to also recommend listening to his words shortly after the event, available at the Redeemer Sermon Store (I get no proceeds… )  You can download many free samples there as well.

As a minister, of course, I’ve spent countless hours with people who are struggling and wrestling with the biggest question – the WHY question in the face of relentless tragedies and injustices. And like all ministers or any spiritual guides of any sort, I scramble to try to say something to respond and I always come away feeling inadequate and that’s not going to be any different today. But we can’t shrink from the task of responding to that question. Because the very best way to honor the memories of the ones we’ve lost and love is to live confident, productive lives. And the only way to do that is to actually be able to face that question. We have to have the strength to face a world filled with constant devastation and loss. So where do we get that strength? How do we deal with that question? I would like to propose that, though we won’t get all of what we need, we may get some of what we need 3 ways: by recognizing the problem for what it is, and then by grasping both an empowering hint from the past and an empowering hope from the future.

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The New York Times is reporting today about how Medicare changes that were planned are being reversed.  I guess it’s a fancy way of saying that nothing has changed.

The “scale back” (lack of change) was argued as being a good thing.  In particular, the new payment system would have made heavy cuts into the payments for cardiac coronary artery drug-eluting stents, defibrillators, and other “newest technology.”  The New York Times cites a number of analysts:

“The final rule significantly moderates proposed cuts for cardiac procedures,’’ Citigroup said in a note to investors. Lehman Brothers described the final rule as “a win for cardiac and orthopedic device companies, specialty hospitals and general acute care hospitals.’’ The Prudential Equity Group said the final rule, which takes effect on Oct. 1, was “favorable for device manufacturers’’ like Boston Scientific, Medtronic and St. Jude Medical.

The part that concerns me, however, is what follows:

“Under the final rule, hospitals will receive much smaller increases than originally proposed for treating some conditions, like pneumonia and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.”

The issue I have is with the assumption that the newest technology represent the best of medicine.  As a self-proclaimed gadget geek, this might surprise you, but it is not entirely clear that the latest findings are the best and most accurate.  In particular regarding devices, very few of these have good long term studies showing safety and efficacy.  In fact, by their very nature, because they are new technologies, nobody truly knows what is going to happen 20 years down the road.

Medical devices, unlike other technologies, don’t automatically improve.  Windows XP (no matter how bad) is better than Windows 95, is better than Windows 3.1, but it’s not clear if the new hip device is worth 50% more than the old hip device.  This goes hand-in-hand with the fact that a major reason for rising health care costs in this country for the past 20 years is due to medical technology such as these.

I’m not down on medical devices in general.  The innovation of these companies is commendable.  I just worry that the “new technology” is taking precedence over tried and true technology such as antibiotics.  I worry that innovation is being steered away from less profitable fields like pulmonology and into fields flush with money such as cardiology and orthopedics.  In my hospital, I can already see that the patients who have “high-paying” problems generally get preference, and these payment structures only exaggerate the multiple-tier system.

I suppose these payment systems are examined by people smarter and better informed than me.  I am happy that the health care field is getting money, I just wonder if it is going to the right place, and whether we are creating the proper incentives for innovators within our field.
The complete article, as usual, is below:

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(Originally made aware of article through Catchen’s Xanga Site)

Another Day, another article.

This article from the New York Times describes a pastor at a evangelical megachurch who was able to stand up and say what a lot of non-conservative, non-Republican Christians have been struggling with: The way the right-wing political movement has claimed complete ownership of the Christian vote.

The problem has less to do with Republicans versus Democrats or Liberals versus Conservatives than with whether one can be a Christian who disagrees. The Republicans may support Christians a bit more, but it is a huge stretch to say that their entire platform is even remotely Christ inspired. In the same way, there are many aspects of the Democratic party platform which are probably better supported by the Bible.

The dialogue-destroying rhetoric in politics today is only further magnified in the Christian community, where debate often degenerates into accusations of not being Christian, or loyal, or faithful.

I found this particular point especially telling, and unfortunately, accurate:

Mr. Boyd lambasted the “hypocrisy and pettiness” of Christians who focus on “sexual issues” like homosexuality, abortion or Janet Jackson’s breast-revealing performance at the Super Bowl halftime show. He said Christians these days were constantly outraged about sex and perceived violations of their rights to display their faith in public.

“Those are the two buttons to push if you want to get Christians to act,” he said. “And those are the two buttons Jesus never pushed.”

The article is reproduced below:

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