Desierto norte de Chile

Friday, August 21, 2009

Oh so that's what I said ...

Here's a collection of the most common words in my phd dissertation... sort-of a "keyword" melange. If you want to make your own, go to Wordle and copy/paste any text into their java creator. Takes about 5 seconds to generate the figure.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Swine flu and Duke football

Today's headline on the online News and Observer (Raleigh, NC) website: Swine Flu Hits Duke Football. The article went on to say that about 1/2 of Duke's 99 team members have been treated for swine flu symptoms. While mildly amusing, given my bred animosity for anything Duke, I am curious how other teams might deal with a similar outbreak, particularly leading up to a big game. I guess it's just one of those things everyone will have to deal with - although I hope the pressure to play and win will not supercede the need to take it easy with rest & fluids. As for myself, I am pretty confident I will get the swine flu, and what's more, I think I'm viewing it like the chicken pox: just get it so I can get over it. With our 4,400 students at USNA living in such tight quarters, and with various reports of mini-outbreaks, like the Duke football team, the plebes at the Air Force Academy, and hundreds of summer camp disruptions, it's almost certain that the H1N1 virus will visit our campus this fall.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Health care, debates, racism ... and dinner with the Guatemalan and the Mexican

There was an interesting opinion piece in today's New York Times that pulled quotes from various recent news blogs discussing the debate over President Obama's health care plan. Recently many senators and representatives have held "town hall" style meetings with constituents, presumably to at least give the impression that constituent interests and desires were going to shape the upcoming health care bill. Of course these meetings could also serve to just give the impression that the congressperson was "in touch" with their constituents, as many people probably won't actually pay attention to how their representative votes anyway.

I haven't followed the nuts & bolts of the debate, but I think overall I am in favor of government-managed heathcare: get control of costs on both ends of the economic spectrum, the supply-side and demand-side (I started making a list of which types of procedures/etc fit into which side, but gave up in confusion!) Regardless, I think that our country can do a lot better than the system as it is now. I have an example that I hope will help elucidate where I'm coming from. One of the great successes of government control over an industry - that sets the USA apart from many other countries in the world - is the government's running of primary & secondary education. Everyone is given the same basic service, and if the elites want to pay for a (supposedly!?) better-quality service, they can. But by-and-large, public schools in the USA are an excellent use of taxpayer money, and particularly serve the poor very well. I compare this to my experience in Chile, where nearly all elementary and high-school students go to private schools. There is tremendous stratification of quality, and the poor are basically out of luck. Stratification occurs in teacher quality (more expensive schools pay better, so they tend to attract better-quality teachers), school infrastructure quality (more expensive schools have better facilities), and of course class/race (the indigenous peoples are typically the poorest and thus attend the worst-quality schools). This system basically mirrors the current US health care system: poor people get shafted all around, with inability to access (pay for) quality health care. Unfortunately the analogy breaks down because there is no "second tier" hospitals or cheaper (lower-quality) doctors... it's either pay up or don't get care at all.

As a Christian, I think it's a royal cop-out to say "well I'm all for poor people getting health insurance (i.e., access to health care), but the government shouldn't be the one to do it." Look at what "capitalism" has produced: tens of millions of uninsured, who when sick or injured basically have to go to the emergency room (crowding it for those who are truly in emergency) and hope for "free" (medicaid-paid) services. And of course they are charged outrageous prices - set by the supposedly-best free market.

Getting back to the opinion piece in the Times, the article pulled quotes from various blogs comparing the hysteria (I'm not sure that's the right word ... does what is going on now amount to hysteria? Almost certainly not...) to the public reaction to changes brought on during the civil rights movement. Basically saying that white people are leading the charge against the change, afraid of somehow losing their status quo. I'm not sure how accurate this charge is, but it is curious that nearly every one of the people who are strongly opposed to health care reform is white. Coincidence?

Finally, tonight I had a thoroughly enjoyable time with my friends Oscar and Isabel, and their 3-mo old daughter Iris. They came over about 7 pm and we enjoyed chicken and mushroom dish with mashed potatoes, steamed broccoli, corn on the cob, and brownies for dessert. Mmmm! They were patient with me in my limited spanish and humored me by answering all my myriad of questions about their lives - both now and back in Guatemala (where Oscar is from) and Mexico (where Isabel is from). It was an excellent evening indeed!

Sunday, August 09, 2009

I love the fact that...

... President Obama has been to Mexico not once, but twice, in his first 7 months in office. I think it says a lot about how important he views the interconnectedness between our two countries - a position I wholeheartedly agree with him on. Both countries stand to benefit tremendously from a stronger relationship: the reasons range widely, from economic (trade- both agricultural and manufactured goods) to crime (having Mexico adopt our aims at stemming illegal drug trade trafficing down in their borders), to general goodwill (Mexico is the 11th most populous country in the world). Here's to increased bilateral cooperation in the future!

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

If Argentina has 700,000 ...

... cases of swine flu toward the end of their Southern Hemisphere winter, then the USA could have 5.5 million cases this year. Kinda frightening!

    Newer›  ‹Older