Kicking them when they’re down

The New York Times looked at the uninsured, those still lacking health care coverage. What’s clear: Obamacare has worked. But the results are uneven. The linked article includes several useful and informative charts. Here’s one:

Screen Shot 2015-10-30 at 10.59.14 AM

Source: NYT

Those states ruled by Republicans are more likely to have higher uninsured populations. They are also economically poorer.

Which party controls a state makes a big difference. Most of the Republican states declined to expand Medicaid, which, of course, adversely impacts the poor. The Times:

Two years into Obamacare, clear regional patterns are emerging about who has health insurance in America and who still doesn’t.

The remaining uninsured are primarily in the South and the Southwest. They tend to be poor. They tend to live in Republican-leaning states. The rates of people without insurance in the Northeast and the upper Midwest have fallen into the single digits since the Affordable Care Act’s main provisions kicked in. But in many parts of the country, obtaining health insurance is still a problem for many Americans.

Coming to a school board near you

What’s going on in Littelton, Colorado? From the New York Times:

…In November 2013, voters broke with union-supported candidates to elect a slate of school board hopefuls running as conservative reformers.

But as those members passed new measures giving money to charters and hired a new superintendent, a backlash grew. Critics accused the board of secrecy and of trying to turn the 86,500-student district into a petri dish for conservative educational ideas. Board meetings turned into shouting matches. Upset parents spliced the live-streamed meeting video — an innovation of the new board — into outrage highlight reels.

In reading the article you will discover that the Koch brothers are pouring tens of thousands of dollars into the conservatives’ campaign. Their money fuels the erosion of public institutions.

War is good for business

One of my favorite TV series was Rubicon, a short-lived venture into the secret shenanigans of national intelligence and security. It focused on the fictional American Policy Institute, a non-governmental entity that ostensibly served the interests of “the United States of America,” as some of the key persona often stated.

As it happens in the program, API principally serves a cabal of well-connected rich white men, one of whom runs API. Their twin task is to manufacture crises to financially exploit, while making sure that their actions and even existence remain undetectable. Ensuring the latter compels its own members to commit suicide should they endanger the group’s objectives or anonymity. The signal to self-destruct comes via a four-leaf clover, perhaps inserted between the pages of the morning newspaper by one of their own.

During one of their regular hush-hush meetings, the group discusses an ongoing situation in Africa. The API director reports that the institute is keeping things “fluid,” suggesting controlled conflict, an exploitable opportunity.

I have no way of knowing if there are real-life analogues to API. However, even former general Eisenhower acknowledged a “military-industrial complex” determined to enrich mostly white men through ever-increasing defense spending. Clearly there are corporations that benefit from war. It does not seem far fetched to imagine one or more API-like organizations working to foment trouble abroad, the kind of trouble leading to lots of weapons and death.

If we look at U.S. military spending over time, we see that it has steadily risen over the decades (from NIPA tables).

Defense spending 1920 to 2015

We quickly notice the blip that was WWII. But then comes the Cold War and the Eisenhower years. Fear reigned, with communists suspected of hiding under beds. The Vietnam War, launched under clearly false pretenses, kept the dollars flowing to Boeing, et al. Then came Reagan. Look at the steep escalation in defense spending. Clinton reduced the largesse before 9/11. G.W. Bush went crazy, as the graph demonstrates. Obama reversed the trend. Yet, total spending still exceeds $700 billion per annum, with conflicts all over the globe, the military-industrial complex’s wet dream.

To those who cry that America is weak because it cut defense spending or failed to spend even more, why haven’t all those trillions of dollars made the world safer? Oh, wait. That’s not the goal. Peace is for paupers.

Cooling it

How about this tidbit?

…the US uses as much electricity to keep buildings cool as the whole of Africa uses on everything.

And it’s going to get worse, as the planet warms, the heat is on, and those with means strive to keep cool. The challenge, of course: Can the globe run air conditioners on non-greenhouse-gas emitting energy resources? Given the failure to rein in emissions despite many promises, I doubt it. Also, you can appreciate the vicious circle. An emissions-driven global warming induces us to use more fossil fuel resources to cool our buildings, which exacerbates the warming, and so on.