Make Icebergs Great Again — and congratulations for Jim Morin’s 2017 Pulitzer Prize in Editorial Cartooning

Congratulations to Jim Morin — 2017 Pulitzer Prize in Editorial Cartooning

Thanks, gocomics.org

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Want the White Working Class to Live Longer? — Fight for Real Healthcare!

❝ The U.S. white working class is in big trouble. The data is piling up. Economists Anne Case and Angus Deaton have a new paper out, exploring mortality trends in the U.S. The results confirm the finding of their famous 2015 study — white Americans without college degrees are dying in increasing numbers, even as other groups within and outside of the country live longer. And the negative trends continued over the past year.

The problem appears to be specific to white Americans…

❝ Why is this happening? Case and Deaton don’t really know. Obesity would seem like a possible culprit, but it’s also up among black Americans and British people, whose mortality rates from heart disease have fallen. Deaths from suicide, alcoholism and drug overdoses — what the authors collectively call “deaths of despair” — have been climbing rapidly. But they only account for a minority of the increase. And no one knows the definitive reason for white despair.

❝ Case and Deaton instead suggest economic causes — lack of opportunity, economic insecurity and inequality. But this is hard to square with falling mortality for black Americans, who also suffered mightily in the Great Recession and have been on the losing end of increasing inequality…

❝ …But whatever the cause, I know of one policy that would go a long way toward fighting the baleful trend — national health care.

A national health service — which also goes by the names of single-payer health care and socialized medicine — would drive down the price of basic health care. Because an NHS would be such a huge customer, it would be able to use its market power to get better deals from providers. This is probably why the same health-care treatments and services cost so much less in Europe than in the U.S. — those other countries have their governments do the bargaining. In fact, this already works in the U.S. — Medicare, the single-payer system that ensures the elderly, has seen much lower cost growth than private health insurance, even though Medicare isn’t yet allowed by law to negotiate for cheaper drugs…

Though the Pentagon is allowed to do for our military.

❝ Finally, an NHS could prevent overuse of opioids. Prescription of painkillers has been a major factor in the opiate epidemic, which has hit the white working class hard. Drug manufacturers, however, have lobbied to preserve widespread access to opioids. These companies have also given doctors incentives and perks — essentially, bribes — to keep prescribing these dangerous drugs. An NHS would be able to resist lobbying pressure and make sure doctors didn’t have an incentive to hand out too many opioid pills.

❝ A NHS wouldn’t require the creation of a new bureaucracy — it would just require expanding Medicare to cover the whole nation. There’s already a campaign to do this, led by none other than Senator Bernie Sanders. An NHS also wouldn’t prevent rich people from buying expensive or rapid treatment in private markets.

I agree with Noah. “If…Trump wanted to prevent the people who elected him from continuing to die in rising numbers, he would join Sanders in the campaign to extend Medicare to cover all Americans”…But, then, we already know Trump is a pathological liar. I wouldn’t trust him to carry through even on a promise to Bernie – much less the rest of us.

No, I like the idea of supporting the election of for-real independents regardless of whatever political label they want to slap on their foreheads. Fight for single-payer expansion of Medicare to all and I’m there, Bubba.

BTW, Noah Smith is one of the jillions of folks on Twitter actually worth following.

All Earth’s spiders could eat every human on Earth — in one year


Click to enlarge – if you must

Spiders are quite literally all around us. A recent entomological survey of North Carolina homes turned up spiders in 100 percent of them, including 68 percent of bathrooms and more than three-quarters of bedrooms. There’s a good chance at least one spider is staring at you right now, sizing you up from a darkened corner of the room, eight eyes glistening in the shadows.

❝ Spiders mostly eat insects, although some of the larger species have been known to snack on lizards, birds and even small mammals. Given their abundance and the voraciousness of their appetites, two European biologists recently wondered: If you were to tally up all the food eaten by the world’s entire spider population in a single year, how much would it be?

❝ Martin Nyffeler and Klaus Birkhofer published their estimate in the journal the Science of Nature earlier this month, and the number they arrived at is frankly shocking: The world’s spiders consume somewhere between 400 million and 800 million tons of prey in any given year. That means that spiders eat at least as much meat as all 7 billion humans on the planet combined, who the authors note consume about 400 million tons of meat and fish each year.

Or, for a slightly more disturbing comparison: The total biomass of all adult humans on Earth is estimated to be 287 million tons. Even if you tack on another 70 million-ish tons to account for the weight of kids, it’s still not equal to the total amount of food eaten by spiders in a given year, exceeding the total weight of humanity.

In other words, spiders could eat all of us and still be hungry.

RTFA more even more info aimed at making it harder to fall asleep at night. In a nice, warm, dark room.

What the Republican [screw your] online privacy bill will do


Republicans always celebrate screwing over your privacy

❝ The new Republican Congress hasn’t gotten much done in its first three months, but one thing it has accomplished is rolling back internet privacy regulations passed in the waning days of the Obama administration.

The regulations, if they had gone into effect, would have prohibited internet service providers from selling information about your online activities to advertisers. But…the House of Representatives blocked the move. Companion legislation has already passed the Senate, and President Donald Trump is expected to sign the bill.

❝ That has sparked a backlash from Democrats and many privacy advocates. Michael Copps, a former member of the Federal Communications Commission, called the bill a “perversion of what the internet was supposed to be.” And many ordinary internet users wondered what they should do to protect their online privacy.

❝ The good news is that nothing is going to change right away. The Obama regulations weren’t scheduled to take effect until later this year, so the Republican bill simply preserves the status quo, which allows ISPs to sell customer data to advertisers. And while the law currently allows ISPs to do this, most aren’t currently doing it.

What the bill does do, however, is open the door for ISPs to sell customer data to advertisers in the future. Which means that customers who don’t want their ISPs sharing this kind of information with advertising networks are going to have to do some extra work to opt out of any programs their ISPs eventually put into place.

The bill has all the things wrong that are basic to opt-out regulations. The default setting = you are screwed unless you notice you are being screwed and hollering sets you free. The Republicans thought of that and opting-out will only be an option if your service provider feels like it. They won’t have to respect your privacy – which would have been required by Obama’s regs.

They will have the right to sell your metadata without your permission. So, if you think you can trust your ISP, cross your fingers and keep voting Republican. BTW, I have a bridge in Brooklyn going up for sale, next month. I’ll give you first bid.

Support for legal cannabis in the United States surged in 2016


Click to enlarge

Public support for marijuana legalization surged in 2016, according to data just released from the General Social Survey.

Last year 57 percent of Americans told the survey’s pollsters that they “think the use of marijuana should be legal,” up from 52 percent in 2014.

❝ The numbers from the General Social Survey — a large nationwide survey conducted every two years and widely considered to represent the gold standard for public opinion research — comport with other national surveys last year, which found support ranging from the upper 50s to low 60s.

But the survey indicates two significant fault lines when it comes to marijuana policy: age and political party. Fully two-thirds of respondents ages 18 to 34 supported legalization in the survey, as well as majorities of those ages 35 to 49 and 50 to 64. But seniors 65 and older stood apart, with only 42 percent supporting legalization.

Lots of my peers really are chickenshit about entering the 21st Century.

❝ Breaking the numbers down by political affiliation tells a slightly different story. In the early 2000s, opposition to marijuana legalization was more or less a bipartisan issue. Only 29 percent of Democrats and 26 percent of Republicans voiced support for legal weed in 2000…

Since then, support for legalization among Democrats and independents has risen much faster than among Republicans. In 2016, more than 60 percent of the former two groups supported legal marijuana. Among Republicans support stood at only 40 percent, a gap of more than 20 percentage points between Democrats and independents on the one hand, and Republicans on the other.

❝ …With victories for legalization in California, Nevada, Maine and Massachusetts last year, roughly 1-in-5 Americans will soon have access to legal marijuana in their home states…But many lawmakers and law enforcement groups remain resolutely opposed to legalization. In Massachusetts, one of the most reliably Democratic states in the nation, lawmakers lobbied strongly against last fall’s voter-approved ballot initiative, and have been working since then to delay implementation of the measure. Similar efforts are underfoot in nearby Maine…

Ayup. Our lawmakers tend to be better at foot-dragging [knuckle-dragging?] than providing leadership.

❝ Meanwhile, Canadian lawmakers are expected to formally announce that nationwide marijuana legalization will be implemented by July of 2018, meaning that for Americans in northern border states, a legal pot fix is just a crossing away.

NM Senator offers bill to see who flies south for the winter with Trump


One month of Trump’s R&R cost taxpayers more than a year of Obama

❝ New Mexico’s Senator Tom Udall just introduced an important bill with a funny name: the MAR-A-LAGO Act, or the, Making Access Records Available to Lead American Government Openness Act.

❝ Mar-A-Lago is President Trump’s self-described “Winter White House,” and it’s been the focus of a lot of attention since Trump took office. His weekly trips cost taxpayers $3 million each weekend he attends and he’s not just going alone. Trump infamously held an open air situation room meeting in front of his club members and the press as he monitored a North Korea missile test while dining on the patio…

So…Sen. Tom Udall, along with other members of Congress, introduced the well-named MAR-A-LAGO Act to require Trump’s White House to disclose who is meeting with Trump behind the closed doors of Trump’s secretive Winter White House.

❝ “It’s simple: the American people have a right to know who has access to the president and who has leverage over this administration,” said Udall.

No doubt True Believers in Trumpism will maintain their habit of ignorance, following every statement, every order as direction from a primitive god. The rest of us – the majority of those who voted, the majority of the whole nation IMHO, want to know what is going on? Especially since we’re picking up the tab.

Outbreak of extremely dangerous strain of E. coli linked to SoyNut butters

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 23 people in nine states had been infected as of March 21 with a particularly dangerous strain of E. coli linked to I.M. Healthy brand SoyNut Butters and Granola products. Twenty of the reported victims are younger than 18, and 10 have been hospitalized. Seven have developed a type of kidney failure known as hemolytic uremic syndrome…

According to the company’s announcement, which is posted on the Food and Drug Administration’s website, I.M. Healthy products from SoyNut Butter Co. in Glenview, Illinois, were distributed to child care centers and schools in multiple states. The CDC reports that four of those sickened attended centers where the products were served.

This outbreak is particularly alarming as young children exposed to E. coli are more likely to develop severe illness and HUS than are healthy adults, who can often recover relatively quickly. Children have less-developed immune systems with a limited ability to fight infections. In addition, children’s lower body weight reduces the amount of a pathogen needed to cause illness. There are many short-and long-term health consequences that can develop from infection with E. coli…and even death.

Please be careful out there, folks.

A Giant Step Forward in the Flint, Michigan, Water Crisis

From Rhea Suh, President NRDC


Unless you’re a Republican, nowadays

❝ For once, I am excited to report that there is good news on the Flint water crisis front. The pipes at the heart of the disaster are going to be replaced. For the first time in the three years since this Michigan city’s water was turned to poison, Flint’s citizens have a guarantee that the resources are in place to replace its estimated 18,000 lead pipes. And for the first time, they know when the pipes will be gone.

Let’s be clear, Flint is not fixed. But things are going to get better.

❝ This did not happen because of the city, state, or federal governments that failed them. It happened because brave people in Flint stood up for their neighbors. They went to court. One of the genius parts of American environmental protections are the citizen suit provisions in our major environmental laws. When the government fails to protect its citizens, we are all empowered to go to court and force the government to do its job.

❝ That happened in Flint. After the city and state trashed the drinking water infrastructure through a series of mistakes and errors, we joined with the Concerned Pastors for Social Action and Flint resident Melissa Mays to petition the federal government to use its emergency powers to help the beleaguered city. They refused. So, along with ACLU Michigan, we sued the city and state. The Safe Drinking Water Act also has provisions for citizens to enforce drinking water rules. Though there have only been a handful of these kinds of cases filed under the act, we all thought Flint seemed like a textbook situation for this type of case…

And today, that suit comes to the end with a settlement that guarantees that in three years, the lead pipes will be replaced. It guarantees that the state kicks in $67 million to help fix the mistakes, along with tens of millions more from federal sources…

❝ …But for today, let’s just celebrate good news for Flint. A city that deserves far more of it in the years to come.

I’ll second that emotion. RTFA for more details, past and present. Rhea Suh is too politely politic to trash-talk the conservatives, mostly in the Republican Party – and some Democrats deserve their share of condemnation for foot-dragging.

Too many folks hold elective office who consider budgets and balance sheets more important than the lives of the human beings they represent.