Alibi V.18 No.21 • May 21-27, 2009 


Grin and Bear It

Dear Alibi,

First off, great job on last week's cover image [Re: "Tamallywoodland," May 14-20]. I loved your decision to include the original "land" at the end of the Tamallywood sign, as that's what the original "Hollywood" sign that stands today used to say long ago.

Also, to address A. Pat's letter Re: the radiation at a dentist's office [ "How Much Radiation Is a Good Thing," May 14-20]:

1) You are going to die eventually.

2) We are all going to die eventually.

3) Chances are, the amount of exposure to the radiation in a dentist's office is so minimal, it's ridiculous to get worked up over, unless you visit your dentist several times a month.

Maybe you could be a bit more concerned about the fact that millions of Americans have absolutely no dental coverage as you're bemoaning your luck in being able to visit one on what sounds like at least a fairly regular basis.

Nefairia Mincho

UNM's $144 Million Cadillac

Dear Alibi,

On Tuesday, May 12, the UNM Board of Regents approved the siting of a proposed $48 million new, state-of-the-art student recreation center at the northeast corner of Central and Stanford. At that meeting, the outgoing graduate student body president touted the center as being the “Cadillac” of recreation centers.

According to UNM President David Schmidly, this high-dollar recreation center is supposed to “benefit student recruitment.” In fact, he brags that he built similar recreational facilities at his last two schools. Facilities with all the bells and whistles may be just right for attracting students to Texas A&M and Oklahoma State, but not to the University of New Mexico where our primary mission is to educate all New Mexicans.

Proponents of this lavish facility tout an Internet survey that polled 3,263 students (out of approximately 21,000). It doesn’t take a statistics prodigy to understand that a self-selecting survey skews results in favor of those who have the most interest in the subject. In addition, students who took the survey were not told the facility would cost $234 per student, that the Lottery Scholarship won’t cover these fees or that the fees, whatever they turn out to be, will be paying off a 30-year bond for a total of $144 million in student fees. That’s right, the children of today’s freshmen will still be paying for an obsolete building when they attend UNM 30 years from now!

“The children of today’s freshmen will still be paying for an obsolete building when they attend UNM 30 years from now.”

As a state with a high poverty rate, New Mexico has a large, underserved potential pool of students who, Lottery Scholarship and all, can’t afford to attend UNM. Increasing student fees only serves to increase the size of that pool.

New Mexico is a poor state, so perhaps a “Cadillac”-level recreational facility should be forgone until UNM can afford basics like better support for first-generation students, better preparation of incoming students and acceptable five-year graduation rates. Taken to its logical conclusion, the Cadillac analogy really fits because this top-notch recreation center could bankrupt UNM’s mission of educating all New Mexicans much like large, obsolete cars are bankrupting General Motors.

The Daily Lobo recently conducted its own, non-random poll on the matter. The results were that 70 percent of its readership opposed the building of the recreation center. In my mind, the main difference between the Daily Lobo poll and the one commissioned by UNM is that the Daily Lobo has the integrity to publish the following disclaimer underneath its results: “This Daily Lobo poll is not scientific and reflects the opinions of only those Internet users who have chosen to participate. The results cannot be assumed to represent the opinions of Internet users in general, nor the public as a whole.”

I think UNM needs to commission a whole new, legitimate survey that will accurately represent students’ views. In addition, it needs to seriously consider if its priority is to serve as the educator of all New Mexicans or only those who can afford the higher fees.

Danny Hernandez, Council Chair

UNM Graduate and Professional Student Association

Where's the Senate?

Dear Alibi,

[Re: Gene Grant, "Screen Time," May 14-20] Not only is the "new" channel 26 on Comcast in Albuquerque not quality television, Comcast has removed C-Span II from that channel, requiring subscribers to add the "digital premium" package at extra cost (after an initial promotional discount), and we must have a device installed in order to receive it. C-Span II covers the U.S. Senate. Last I heard, that is half of Congress. I already pay $55.95 per month, plus tax, for cable service. Couldn't Comcast move one of several redundant, inferior, entertainment channels to the premium service? Or, heaven forbid, add the original community channel to the standard lineup at no extra cost or hassle? Gene Grant, of all people, should have at least mentioned that the U.S. Senate has been usurped by unwatchable TV. Please call Comcast at 344-0690 to demand C-Span II on channel 26.

Nancy Woodard


Dear Alibi,

During his first 100 days in office, President Obama set the nation in a new direction when it comes to protecting our environment, transitioning to a clean energy economy and stopping global warming. But there is absolutely more work to do!

It’s time to unleash the power of clean energy to rebuild and refuel our economy and also to protect our environment. Transforming America to clean energy will put millions of Americans to work in clean energy jobs that cannot be shipped overseas—installing solar panels, building wind turbines, making hybrid cars and plug-in hybrids, and helping develop energy-efficient homes.

Passing strong energy legislation through the U.S. Congress is critical to our economy, security and the environment.

Zoe Lees

Assistant Campaign Director

Focus on Chronic

Dear Alibi,

President Obama recently said that health care reform is a key component of jump-starting the economy.

"Health care reform cannot be achieved through ideas from Washington alone," the president concluded. "You know what works and what doesn't. I look forward to hearing your ideas."

Since you're asking, Mr. President, here's one suggestion for improving American health care: Focus on chronic diseases.

The seven most common chronic illnesses—including diabetes, heart disease and cancer—are responsible for $1.3 trillion in treatment costs and lost productivity each year, according to researchers at the Milken Institute, an economic think tank. Obesity alone costs the health care system more than $117 billion annually.

Keeping a chronic disease in check with appropriate medical oversight and early intervention with prescription drugs can drastically reduce costs. In fact, every dollar spent on appropriate diabetes medications saves the health care system more than $7, and every dollar spent on cholesterol drugs saves more than $5.

Policy-makers should work to educate the public about the importance of prevention. Antismoking advertising campaigns, for instance, have been shown to reduce teen smoking 22 percent.

To accomplish at least some of these goals, lawmakers should grant tax incentives to businesses that offer wellness programs to their employees. These programs often pay for themselves by increasing workplace productivity and reducing the number of sick days taken by employees. One survey found that 95 percent of businesses have experienced a positive or break-even return from their investments in these programs.

The president should make preventing chronic diseases a priority. Otherwise, we risk dooming the next generation to a host of economic burdens.

Bryan A. Liang

Executive Director, Institute of Health Law Studies, California Western School of Law; Co-Director, San Diego Center for Patient Safety, University of California, San Diego School of Medicine

Guerrilla Warfare

Dear Alibi,

We cannot defeat Al Qaeda or the Taliban in the conventional military sense because they have no central command. We can never make peace with them for the same reason.

We need to contain them in the regions they primarily occupy. Pakistan had the right idea in ceding the Swat Valley to the Taliban but then failed to contain them there.

We must seal off their lines of supply. If the rugged terrain they hold makes it hard for us to go in after them, it should make it hard for them to get out and their supplies to get in.

We can use ground troops to sever their land routes. Radar, satellite surveillance and flyovers can reveal and curtail traffic. Allow civilian refugees to relocate.

Train Afghani and Pakistani forces to assume the blockade activities. Let the militant fanatics sit in their mountain hideaways and remote villages until they wither and die.

Stop offensive operations. Stop killing civilians and incurring the wrath of Afghanis and Pakistanis. Stop spending the lives of American forces.

No blockade will be complete. But it will be a better way to neutralize al Qaeda and the Taliban than the "Whack-a-Mole" game we’ve been playing.

Adele E. Zimmermann


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