13 September 2016

Why Trump and other anti-immigration supporters are completely wrong

Michael Clemens describes the opportunity that immigration presents for the U.S. and why it is an effective anti-poverty tool. Yes, it requires some upfront costs that come in the form of social programs, but the long term benefits are too big to ignore.

27 April 2016

Friedman goes to Africa, does his thing, and the results are as bad as expected

This is seriously how an OpEd columnist for the New York Times started his latest piece:
You can learn everything you need to know about the main challenges facing Africa today by talking to just two people in Senegal: the rapper and the weatherman. They’ve never met, but I could imagine them doing an amazing duet one day — words and weather predictions — on the future of Africa.

And the rest of Tom Friedman's column writes itself.  It is as if he dug deep into the deepest tropes about his own writing for this piece. Or maybe he is trolling all of us by using the Friedman OpEd Generator to produce this piece. It does kind of get better, but then Friedman writes this:
Matador is torn between understanding his generation’s need to find work and money to send home and his gut instinct that it is better to be poor in one’s home than a stranger in a strange land — so stay and build Senegal.
Worse yet, this is the third piece in a series titled "Out of Africa." Yes, the same title as the colonialist book made famous by the movie adaptation featuring Robert Redford and Meryl Streep. Go here if you want to read the other pieces, but I think it would be best to save the time.

Better yet, cleanse yourself of Friedman and enjoy this song by South African singer Nakhane Touré.

HT Rachel Strohm for the song

26 April 2016

Mom complains she can't shield her son from slave-owning past of U.S. founders

In a recent story for the American Conservative, Suzanne Sherman describes her recent cross-country trip to visit historic sites related to the founding fathers. She hoped for a trip steeped in political theory and history about the philosophies that shaped the founding of the U.S. What she got was tours of the homes and lessons on the importance of slaves to the lives of these great white men.

She didn't like it.

The docent leading the tour of [Monticello] never missed an opportunity: as we moved from one floor to another, we were instructed to imagine how difficult it was for the “enslaved servants to carry meal trays up and down this narrow stairway.” At every hearth: “imagine enslaved servants having to carry wood up to these fireplaces…” It just went on and on. 
Jefferson’s philosophical and political viewpoints were omitted to leave time for an explanation of how difficult life was for his servants. Not once did the guide omit the adjective “enslaved”—his demeanor was patronizing and condescending to those who made the journey to see Monticello, for anyone vaguely familiar with Thomas Jefferson would know that he owned slaves. 
The point is not that the issue of slavery is unworthy of recognition; it is that slavery is dominating the theme of these places to the detriment of the discussion and sharing of the ideals, philosophies and political goals upon which the American republic was founded. The Montpelier Foundation and The Thomas Jefferson Foundation have lost sight of the ideals these men stood for. Both Jefferson and Madison are buried on their respective properties, and if you go to their places of rest and sit quietly, you can hear them rolling over in their graves.
V.R. Bradley at the Negro Subversive blog has a nice response to all the "issues" raised by Sherman and concludes saying:
This is the history of the American South, which you, not being from this region, might find it convenient to avoid, but which you have no right to expect the nation as a whole to avoid so that you might miss it while starting it square in the face. Moreover, as it is the history of the material foundations of the United States of America, it is the only history you have this side of the Atlantic.

03 February 2016

Comparing the politics of the leading U.S. presidential candidates

That is according to politicalcompus.org. The scale is global, for those who think it looks too extreme. What is interesting is the fact that Clinton's position in 2016 is about the same as where Bush is located in the 2004 electoral chart.

12 January 2016

American healthcare so expensive, Biden had to consider selling house to cover costs

Vice President Joe Biden and President Barack Obama
Vice President Joe Biden and President Barack Obama look at an app on an iPhone in the Outer Oval Office, Saturday, July 16, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
The New York Times reports the touching story of President Obama offering financial help for Vice President Biden when his son Beau fell ill. Concerned about the financial burden on his son's family, Biden told Obama he and his wife would sell their house, if necessary, to help out.
“He got up, and he said: ‘Don’t sell that house. Promise me you won’t sell the house,’” Mr. Biden remembered. “He said: ‘I’ll give you the money. Whatever you need, I’ll give you the money. Don’t, Joe. Promise me. Promise me.’ I said, ‘I don’t think we’re going to have to anyway.’ He said, ‘Promise me.’”
The story is a neat look into the relationship between Obama and Biden. But that is not the real story.

Biden's experience is U.S. healthcare in a nutshell. Costs are so high that even the most powerful people have to consider extraordinary steps to get by. That ain't right.

HT Melody

11 January 2016

India may have a malaria problem on its hands

It is no secret that global health data has its problems. They matter particularly when trying to understand disease burden trends and how to respond. As Ankita Rao & Vivekananda Nemana find in India, the issue may lead to some major problems. Take malaria in India for example:
The Indian government has spent billions of dollars — about $500 million from 2000 to 2013 — in its fight against malaria, a mosquito-borne disease. International agencies such as the World Bank and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, a big funder of global public health efforts, have provided major support. The country’s revamped national malaria program is on par with the standard of global care. But its recordkeeping has few admirers. Last year the government recorded only 561 deaths due to malaria, while an independent estimate earlier in the decade shows that the real toll could be as high as 200,000 each year. The disease is especially prevalent among the poor and in India’s vast rural areas, where about two-thirds of the population lives but is served by just 20 percent of the country’s health care infrastructure.

The staggering gap between official data and reality means that thousands of people die without an accurate diagnosis, according to a study by the British medical journal The Lancet. And the government is able to tout the malaria program’s success without a clear picture of how many people are dying. Malaria costs the country nearly $2 billion each year, and the impact of lost earnings and treatment bills falls disproportionately on rural, poor families. An extensive investigation by Al Jazeera America unearthed routine manipulation of malaria data, crippling shortages of essential supplies, chronic understaffing of hospitals and enduring dysfunction in World Bank–funded projects, which led to the Indian government’s returning millions of dollars in aid.
I wonder how many fill-in-the-blank combinations there are for disease/health issue (TB, dengue, maternal morality, stunting) and country (Kenya, Vietnam, Brazil) that can fit into the above paragraphs. Recent reports from major health bodies now include a section talking about the importance of data. Is this an issue that deserves more attention?

I am starting to think the answer is "yes."