From Shakesville, showing food deserts, places where the population is low income and a substantial portion of residents are without a nearby grocery store, in the United States. The USDA website with more information is here.

The fact that so much of the country has poor access to good sources of food, especially sources of fresh produce and other high quality, healthy foods, worries me. How can we even hope to create a system of agriculture and food distribution that is sustainable and and equitable, when in so many places we’re so far from having any system of food distribution at all? Its a lot easier to put up the billboards I’ve seen telling people to eat more vegetables than it is to create economic and social conditions that give people easy, equal access to healthy food, but I don’t think the billboards are a good long term plan.

Reigning in the pernicious influence of the credit scoring agencies ought to be near the top of any progressive agenda because it makes life even worse for the poorest, for minorities, for the powerless. And it ought to be near the top of any “tea party” type agenda because if you’re genuinely concerned about “the road to serfdom,” then it would be hard not to notice that for most Americans, most of the time, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion are doing more to promote serfdom than even the worst caricature of the IRS or the EPA.

We did not elect these credit agencies to rule over us. They were not established in our Constitution as a fourth, unchecked branch of government. Yet in our capacities as consumers or merchants, as employees or employers, they exert more influence and restrict our freedom far more than anything done by the mayors or councils of our towns, more than anything done by the governors and legislatures of our states. Most days more even than anything done by the Congress or the president. And while the Congress, president, governors, legislatures, mayors and councils are all — at least theoretically — democratically accountable and legally prevented from abusing their powers, the credit scoring agencies are not.

-from slacktivist, A bipartisan enemy of the people

Read the whole thing, its fantastic.

That gives me an idea. No one knows how we’re ever going to provide health care for all these aging baby boomers. Meanwhile, in the absence of any near-term major wars, the population of veterans in the United States will fall dramatically in the next decade. Instead of shuttering under-utilized VHA facilities, maybe we should build more. What if we expanded the veterans health-care system and allowed anyone who is either already a vet or who agrees to perform two years of community service a chance to buy in? Indeed, what if we said to young and middle-aged people, if you serve your community and your country, you can make your parents or other loved ones eligible for care in an expanded VHA system?

The system runs circles around Medicare in both cost and quality. Unlike Medicare, it’s allowed by law to negotiate for deep drug discounts, and does. Unlike Medicare, it provides long-term nursing home care. And it demonstrably delivers some of the best, if not the best, quality health care in the United States with amazing efficiency. Between 1999 and 2003, the number of patients enrolled in the VHA system increased by 70 percent, yet funding (not adjusted for inflation) increased by only 41 percent. So the VHA has not only become the health care industry’s best quality performer, it has done so while spending less and less on each patient. Decreasing cost and improving quality go hand and hand in industries like autos and computers—but in health care, such a relationship virtually unheard of. The more people we can get into the VHA, the more efficient and effective the American health-care system will be.

—  The Best Care Anywhere, by Phillip Longman a 2005 article in the Washington Monthly that has probably the best idea about health care I’ve heard from a “serious” person, ever.

“The reason that the rich were so rich, Vimes reasoned, was because they managed to spend less money.

Take boots, for example. He earned thirty-eight dollars a month plus allowances. A really good pair of leather boots cost fifty dollars. But an affordable pair of boots, which were sort of OK for a season or two and then leaked like hell when the cardboard gave out, cost about ten dollars. Those were the kind of boots Vimes always bought, and wore until the soles were so thin that he could tell where he was in Ankh-Morpork on a foggy night by the feel of the cobbles.

But the thing was that good boots lasted for years and years. A man who could afford fifty dollars had a pair of boots that’d still be keeping his feet dry in ten years’ time, while the poor man who could only afford cheap boots would have spent a hundred dollars on boots in the same time and would still have wet feet.

This was the Captain Samuel Vimes ‘Boots’ theory of socioeconomic unfairness.”
Terry Pratchett (Terry Pratchett’s Men at Arms)