Link Roundup, 12/27/2016

From Scientific American: Exploring potential technologies for removing carbon from the atmosphere.

From the Washington Post: Why the US health care system is the most expensive in the world.

From Roads and Kingdoms: Rural decline is not just an American phenomenon. A look at the collapse of the countryside in Russia.

From the Orange County Register: Mapping religion in American life.

From Quartz: A look at the company that stands to profit most from the rise of AI.


  1. The map of religious faith was interesting. I knew Florida has plenty of Baptist but did not know how prevalent Catholic was despite being raised Roman Catholic. I also knew we had a strong Islamic present in Central Florida and know a few Hindus too. Some of my friends are also Latter Day Saints. All these people are good people. Talked once to one of my doctors who is I think a Muslim about how to treat people. He was a proponent of the ACA. All the major faiths meet agreement on this. The ignorance and fear of some of my country men is appalling. And yes I saw the pattern of the old confederacy reflected in the religious map. But thankful Florida is in the middle of a change and will eventual I think be like California mostly Catholic which is a pretty tolerant branch of Christianity.

    1. I read yesterday that the US leads the world in arms export sales. LEADS the world!

      When you think about it, though, a party that is built upon total control would also ignore changes that could make the gun issue more reasonable.

      Ain’t gonna happen with this group. Gotta have their assault weapons because …
      it makes them feel powerful…..

  2. Regarding the religious mapping article, I’ll use that to help me decide where to relocate (-;

    Looking at current affairs, the Trump administration and GOP are going to be dealing with religion a lot….”No matter what happens, it seems clear that the conflict over religious liberty and discrimination will be the basis of some of the biggest fights and policy shifts over the next two years.”

  3. Florida legislature will consider constitutional amendment to allow Florida legislature to continue with laws struck down by Florida state courts:

    Basically, conservatives are getting tired of those pesky courts always striking down their antidemocratic laws, so they’re chiselling away at the next line of resistance. CF North Carolina, special legislative session to effectively make new Dem. Governor a sitting duck.

    1. The 60% voter approval requirement will be an interesting display of democracy. I would expect a SCOTUS appeal….

      NC Republican legislative arrogance knows no limits except voter delivered. With gerrymandering, even that tool is limited. The people there have to rise up against this blatant abuse of power. Like KS, if the people of NC cannot find it within their hearts and minds to oppose political tyranny, there are not many other recourses available. After all, Trump gets to make over 100 lifetime judicial appointments, and that will bookend whatever nefarious actions a majority GOP legislature can get away with.

    2. I’ve read they want to bring back gerrymandering. i expect the NC gerrymandering to hit the Supremes at some point. since NC’s gerrymandering was done to virtually eliminate the ability for Dems to ever gain control and to suppress black vote, even the conservatives on the Supreme court may find it hard to not vote against it.

      But, of course, with the right wing controling everything, they may just do what is best for Republicans and say “Screw you!” to the rest of the country. That does seem to be their plan!

      1. A NC judge just temporarily blocked the NC Legislature from laws passed that will restrict incoming Dem Governor Cooper’s legal governing rights. The judge will review the details of the laws next Thursday and render a final opinion then.

        Amazing – An UK newspaper beat the US newspapers once again on a story of great import!

  4. One of the reasons I have not posted here lately is that the run up to, and the results of the election exposed an ugliness in me that I didn’t want to inflict on all of you (my long-suffering husband had to endure my rants however).

    I have reconciled myself to the results by taking comfort in the fact that I live in a fairly progressive blue state-no matter what happens in the rest of the country, MA will probably be ok since we aren’t under the thumb of regressive religionists, and we actually value science, education, health care etc. If federal taxes are cut, we may be able to keep more of our lovely blue state money at home. The red states can live with the consequences of their choices.

    Let it begin with the repeal of the ACA.

    1. Yes, as has been pointed out before on this blog (EJ), red states receive the most federal tax aid….ironic, isn’t it until you think about the duplicity of how the GOP continually “games” the system….criticizing on one hand, taking with the other.

      There are many advantages to living in a blue state but I suspect Mass will suffer as well. Elections have consequences for all of us, MassDem.

      November is a month that will live in my memory with sadness and anger, so I know what you mean….We’ve talked here (as I am sure you’ve noted) about resistance. Each of us has to do what we can to make a difference.

    2. MassDem,

      Such thinking is why Dems keep losing. ‘Eh, I’ll be fine and they’ll get theirs, so I will let them learn their own lessons.’ Meanwhile the white nationalists are activists and Republican legislatures methodically strip away Democrats’ access to polls and legislative powers. See: North Carolina, Florida, and the GOP’s successful bid to hold the federal government hostage for eight straight years.

      This is a democracy; we are ALL responsible for how it turns out, even when it doesn’t go the way we like.

      These red state citizens you write off as getting theirs are still your fellow citizens. Their well-being affects yours and their decisions influence your future.

      It’s time to stop believing in legislative karma and get to work out maneuvering, out voting, and out arguing the white nationalist neighbors that are working at this very moment to strip away the protections your blue state give you. Take it seriously.

      1. Aaron, I think we all take this seriously. What I struggle with is how to outmaneuver Republicans without becoming Republican, that is, how to defeat them without destroying the institutions we believe in. They have no problem destroying institutions to get what they want; what we want is the institutions. It’s a dilemma.

      2. My fellow citizens? You mean the ones that didn’t even accept that Obama was a US citizen? Or the ones that call themselves “real Americans” and despise what blue states stand for? Or perhaps you mean the ones arming themselves to the teeth planning for armed insurrection?

        We may share the same national border, but they stopped thinking of me as a fellow citizen, living in a common country, about 20 years ago. After this election, I’m returning the gesture.

        My political goals for the next 4 years is firewalling the people, communities, and regions that I care about (which happen to coincide with the places that didn’t vote for Trump), from the deluge that the rest of the country voted for. They’ve expressed their desire to bring on the flood; so be it. While I’d prefer that none of our country gets flooded, if I only have one pail, I’m going to use it to bail water from my ship. Not the one filled with people praying for more rain.

      3. I don’t believe all of those who voted for Trump are unsalvageable, but I have been trying for years to understand what motivates ordinary people to vote for a party that has such a narrow agenda. I have arrived at the point where I don’t try to understand them. There are 42 million “other” Americans who didn’t vote in the election. It is this group that I want to tackle. No amount of reason, decency, or pain is going to move die-hard Republicans. I’m ready to try to sell equality to the rest of America….

        When the proverbial s**T starts to hit the fan come Jan, ’17, I will take no pleasure in the pain and despair that will ensue, but at least I can console myself with the fact that I did everything within my power to avert this disaster.

        WX Wall, we may have to invest in a second bucket…

      4. Creigh-

        You need to take the long view. LBJ arguably disrespected the institution of Congress by strongarming his civil rights bills through the opposition. Yet by doing so, he restored the faith of many African Americans in the institution of government that had failed them for a hundred years. Similarly, the only way America survived the battle over slavery was through bloody civil war.

        Faith in the govt is already at an all time low. The only way to restore it is to make it effective again. And if that requires brass knuckle tactics like LBJ used, then perhaps that’s what we should do.

        But here is how we could be different though: once the tea party craziness is overcome, and we’re at the apex of our political power, we could rebuild the institutions and voluntarily relinquish that power back to them.

        Take for example gerrymandering: to overcome it, we need to gain control of statehouses by any means possible. But once we gain them, rather than carry out our own gerrymandering, we could appoint nonpartisan civilian commissions to draw the maps.

        That’s a tall order, and many a dictator was born who started with the taking power part and never got around to the voluntarily relinquishing it part. But look at Cincinnatus in ancient Rome, or George Washington in our early days. It can be done.

      5. I so agree. There are a couple of cases heading to SCOTUS that deal with gerrymandering, HOWEVER, assuming Repubs ram a Scalia judge through before the case is heard by the current 8 member court, the solution will be at the state level. This means people have to get so fed up that those who haven’t voted will start doing so, and that’s when things will change.

        HEre’s the problem: the damage that an organized, focused hard right conservative majority can do in 4 years is going to blow people away who don’t follow politics…there is going to have to be pain to motivate the masses but boy there will be a lot of damage in the meantime. Dems need to buck up, and fight back. Being nice hasn’t worked, has it?

      6. Yes! They are my fellow citizens. And down here, alot of them fly the confederate flag, use the N word, and hate northerners while they take tax dollars paid by said northerners. They do not want to pay for health care because they can go to the emergency room and get it free!
        My “fellow citizens” voted with glee for a bigot and anti semite who paid no federal income taxes for decades, who ran a charity for his own benefit and abused women, an adulterer and pathological liar! A man who for years claimed Obama was not a citizen and these fools, my fellow citizens, believed him because they wanted to.
        Somehow i find it difficult to identify with these fools!
        Do you remember during the 2004 debates i think it was when Ron Paul was asked about people who get sick without health insurance, what will happen to them. His response was something like “Well, i guess they will die” and the audience applauded!
        Those were my fellow citizens, my neighbors!
        This country has sadly turned a corner. Maybe I am a pessimist but i do not see how it will turn back unless a lot more people who are being hurt will start voting! And that doesn’t seem to be in the near future!
        Happy New Year everybody! It is going to be one hell of a ride!

    3. MassDem, I can relate. I’ve had a bit of news/blogging time out for the sake of sanity. But with the new year it will be time for action in addition to venting. I’ve decided that the best use of my time (as $ is limited) will be causes like fighting voter suppression and gerrymandering. Those appeal to my sense of fairness. In the long term such reforms will inhibit shenanigans by both parties.

      As for the Trump voters, there’s not one basket to put them in. For those whose motivation was stigginit (and I’m including the alt-right here), I absolutely want the karmic payback to hit them hard. That’s the only thing that will get through those thick skulls. I have more sympathy for those who weren’t necessarily hateful, but economically desperate, but I can’t see any other way to make them see the error of their reasoning- this billionaire with a history of bullying and cheating the little guy is now going to be the champion of the little guys (???)- without some ecomonic pain. The coming screwover ought to be obvious when you look at the proposed cabinet picks, and Ryan’s proposals to give tax cuts to the rich and slash the safety net, and to deregulate banks, and an infrastructure plan that is so far mostly tax breaks. If they can’t read those tea leaves, pain is the only that gets through to them. Horse, water, drink, etc. It is encouraging that some of the worst of the RWNJ Kansas state legislators got primaried from the center, so it is possible that people will wake up.

      1. The New Republic is publicly urging Pres. Obama to lead the effort to confront Trump and the GOP agenda. Being “nice” or trying to cooperate hasn’t worked. Period. Might it be time to play hard ball? I’m not sure Obama has the temperament for this type of conflict but the Dem Party has to utilize the leaders that it has to mobilize their base. The silence is deafening.

        “Ever the institutionalist, Obama undoubtedly worries about the downsides of staying in the fight. Won’t it set a bad precedent? Won’t it further polarize America? Won’t it further degrade political norms?

        Yes, yes, and yes. But these are questions that Republican leaders haven’t asked themselves for years, and they have a unified government to show for it. To fight back with any effectiveness, Democrats have got to be tougher. That means breaking a few norms themselves, if only to save others.

        And this needs to start today, with the current leader of the Democratic Party. Obama can’t wait “a year from now or a year and a half from now or two years from now.”

  5. Avik Roy is full of it.

    And I guess most conservatives are also.

    I like that as a blog title and subtitle.

    He says here –

    ****As Princeton health-reform historian Paul Starr has noted, Germany has used a limited open-enrollment period quite successfully. “The law could give people a right to opt out of the mandate,” proposes Starr, “if they signed a form agreeing that they could not opt in for the following five years…For five years they would become ineligible for federal subsidies for health insurance and, if they did buy coverage, no insurer would have to cover a pre-existing condition of theirs.”

    This is a far superior approach to the problem of adverse selection than the individual mandate, one that is more in keeping with American ideals of choice and voluntarism.****

    If we adopted this approach in the US, would not the Obamacare haters choose this approach, to spite their goshdarn face. Wouldn’t Roy be recommending and advising signing this form? After all we have universal heathcare, just show up at the emergency room with your accidental gunshot wound or opioid overdose and you will be helped, insurance or no.

    For this plan to work we need a form that the opter outer can sign that goes further. It will state “if you don’t have insurance, And you cannot provide bonded assurances of cash payment, healthcare workers can ignore your pleas for help with no judgment applied by you or society. This applies to the all injuries and illnesses, even those that will be fatal.”

    Now that is a health Insurance scheme that will work.

    1. Oh, and, “go outside if you’re bleeding (-;

      Five years!!! If you checked out the comments section of Roy’s posts, you’ll see I do what I can to raise questions….In Roy’s treatise on health care, he cites Singapore and Switzerland as examples of countries with good health care programs…Let’s see – Singapore has about 5.5 million residents (of which only 3.9 M are locals – rest are x-pats) and Switzerland has 8.2 M residents….hardly equivalent comparisons to a country with 323 Million residents. Roy, like Ryan, is designing a system that offers access but not universal coverage, and lots of stipulations. I’ve been following his pieces ever since Chris posted a reference to Roy’s treatise “Transcending Obamacare”. (102 pg). He is knowledgeable but for all his talk about making health care more accessible and affordable, he falls back on the same concepts that most conservatives employ….Still, I learn something with every new post and that’s valuable because health care in our family situation is something I have to pay attention to.

    2. Oh, and another thing regarding mandates – that was part of the original health care proposal developed for the Republican Party by the Heritage Foundation and is the cornerstone of the plan implemented under then Gov. Mitt Romney in Mass. ..yet you don’t ever hear any conservatives talking about how that plan is failing (it was the model for the ACA).

      1. Yes, I’m old enough to remember that, and informed enough to know that hospitals have found ways to pass along the cost of caring for the uninsured by increasing rates for those with insurance and passing disguised taxes at the county level.

        In TX, these taxes are found on the tax document entitled “Hospital District”. The hypocrisy of those who criticize the ACA coverage mandate pales in comparison to most people’s willful (or otherwise) ignorance of the cost of the EMTALA provision. There is no doubt in my mind that this provision would not have passed in today’s selfish climate.

        Thanks for the article. I plan to link it to my comments every time someone comments about the ACA mandate. I wish I could find an article that actually broke down the pass along cost increase via premiums by private health insurance providers and add those to the local county tax to get a real cost of taxpayer subsidized health care….And, of course, these would be only two areas of subsidy, the others being lost work time through illness, loss of productivity, cost across a myriad of agencies from mental health to criminal justice, etc.

        Healthcare access is critical to a nation’s well being. What is about to happen courtesy of the GOP is a statement about how America values its people.

      2. My stream of conscious commenting is in high gear this morning….

        Another irony is that when Republicans passed the Medicare Part D (RX plan), it has a mandatory provision and imposes a monthly financial penalty on premiums for late sign up!

        Guess the GOP thought mandated sign up and financial penalties were fine in order to make this plan work….all the while giving big pharma a pass on price negotiation and, of course, not funding government’s cost of the program…Can’t have those pesky deficits acknowledged on the GOP watch!

  6. Great WaPo article on health care cost in the U.S. As pointed out in the article, a huge driver of cost is pharmaceuticals….yet Republicans designed the largest health care plan in America (Medicare Part D) with a “no bid” exclusion for drug costs in order to protect RX profits. Cost sharing via the doughnut hole was projected to share costs between consumers and government but the burden on the consumer was too great. Modifications within the ACA helped bring this disproportion into greater balance, but medication is still a huge expense for many seniors. People end up not filling prescriptions due to cost, thus incurring preventable, more serious problems and subsequent hospitalizations.

    Prevention, prevention, prevention. There is a reasonable and necessary place for it in health care. Any meaningful reform of health care has to address RX costs which can be done by enabling price negotiation within Medicare, just as it does via the VA and Medicaid.

    The article didn’t touch upon home health, but this could be a huge cost saver for all government assisted health care programs. Billing for visiting nurses with more services performed in the home and not in the doctor’s office at higher rates, are obvious cost savers while still providing the medical care needed by the patient. (This is an area in which I have lots of personal experience…wouldn’t it be nice if people like me who have suggestions that would save taxpayer dollars and still deliver medical care had a viable way to offer them for consideration?) Most IV procedures can be done at home for a fraction of the cost that in office procedures bill.

    Diabetes – major driver, much of which is adult onset, is highly controllable given patient education and medication. Same with heart disease. Falls are a big problem (#5 in ranking in the study) and home health could be a huge benefit here. People are living longer and they want to stay in their homes (as taxpayers, we should want that as well…). Doing so with smart safeguards is possible with appropriate devices, some home modifications, instruction, and limited supervision.

    This is a big, important subject that interests me a lot because I am immersed in it by virtue of my family situation. There is much that can be done to reduce costs, improve quality of care and life, with common sense planning, education, more cost control in delivery of medical services, and negotiated pharmaceutical pricing. In their zeal to repeal Obamacare, it is my hope that common sense improvements will not be ignored for political gain. There will always be health conditions that are much more difficult to manage and reduce cost of care, but this makes it more imperative to control costs in other areas, as possible, without depriving people of the health care they need.

    I’ve been following the Forbes “Apothecary” posts that deal with health care. Avik Roy is the blog coordinator but there are many contributors that look at cost, etc from a broad perspective – ACA reform, insurance, etc. There is a great deal of good information in the posts and the reader comments are also helpful. If this area interests you, you might sign up to follow it. You can access through google or FB if you don’t want to subscribe (I don’t). Chris also posts there from time to time and so there is that incentive as well.

    1. Just back from Puerto Vallarta and Guadalajara Mexico…took my parents one of whom is being treated for cancer. Yes, he has medicare and private insurance supplements but still can’t afford the care prescribed by his doctors…so now we go to Mexico for some of the treatments and medications.

      Almost every doctor I encountered was either Johns Hopkins or Georgetown Medical School grads with a few other US schools thrown in. All but one was fluent in english. The care and treatments were similar in quality as he gets at UCSD Medical San Diego. Price of medical care is almost 36% cheaper with much less stress and paperwork….and waiting on decisions from insurers.

      Seriously, thinking of buying the private insurance for Mexico and moving down there….beautiful to boot and cheap to live

      1. Yep, Trump had better build in a south-opening door (only) at the border wall as Americans seek not only a more diverse living environment but one that offers more affordability. The ex-pat community in Mexico is quite robust. Hope your dad continues to make progress, Koctya. The big “c” is frightening but there is so much positive work being done on immunotherapy treatment that is bringing good results and hope to people. It’s wonderful to be able to help parents with something so personal. Kudos.

        Interesting that the docs were trained in US medical schools and chose to practice in Mexico…guess they like the lifestyle in the area enough to accept lower earnings capacity with lower cost of living offset. Friends of mine have had a second home in Ajijic, Mexico (outside Guadalajara) for almost 40 years which is a huge expat area adjacent to Lake Chapala. I’ve visited twice and understand why they love it.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.