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Bet on America

I've been on the Hill a bit the last couple of days, trying to figure out how many cooks have how many fingers in how many health-care reform pies. Deals are being struck behind closed doors; reporters loiter in the corridors, shagging quotes from lawmakers who usually have very little to say that is truly illuminating. (We hear repeatedly that "we're making progress," the facial expression usually indicating otherwise.)

Ultimately health-care reform is a form of long-term nation-building. The current trajectory of health-care costs threatens to bankrupt the country. At the very least, we won't be able to make good on the entitlement programs already on the books. Something's gotta give. "Bending the cost curve" is a matter of national fiscal survival. And there's the little matter of 47 million people who have no insurance -- a moral issue, really.

The conventional wisdom is that, the longer this drags out, the less likely it will be that Congress will approve any kind of sweeping reform. We're told that, come fall, lawmakers will already be focused on the 2010 election. It's rather perverse that the prospect of an upcoming election is considered suppressive rather than inspiring. The assumption is that legislation is, in the most general sense, unpopular. Decisions will be punished. Doing something is dangerous!


Kurt Andersen, who is always a great read (you know him as co-founder, with Graydon Carter, of Spy magazine), takes the view-from-space of Great Power economic trajectories and sees that America could be the Great Britain of the 21st Century -- still a player but [blogger exercising prerogative to write run-on sentence] well past its peak as a global force:

But America in 2009 also looks as if it might rhyme, uncomfortably, with Great Britain circa 1909. A hundred years ago, the British were coming off a proud century as the most important nation on earth -- economically, politically, militarily, culturally. But the United States was coming on fast, having already overtaken the mother country economically (in per capita gross domestic product), and about to do so on all the other major axes of national power and influence. The United States surpassed the United Kingdom in the 20th century for many reasons: a much larger area and population, fewer fetters on individual gumption, a younger nation's ability to make faster social and economic turns. Between the beginning of World War I and the end of World War II, as America emerged as the unequivocal world leader, Great Britain became an admirable also-ran, still significant but radically diminished as a global player. Applying that template to the 21st century, China would be the new us -- feverish with individual and national drive, manufacturer to the world, growing like crazy, bigger and much more populous than the reigning superpower. And thus our next half century would, according to this analogy, unfold like Britain's in the first half of the 20th century, requiring an extreme new humility as we reduce our national ambitions and self-conception.

One can imagine far worse American scenarios than becoming a supersized Great Britain. But even that diminution isn't certain. Historical destinies are directional, not precisely preordained. As I say, history tends to rhyme, not repeat. To a great extent, our national future will unfold over this century according to the collective and individual choices we make now.

As it happens there's a Post story today about China's booming economy -- roaring back from the recession much more quickly than the economies of the rest of the world. But it sounds like the Wild West there -- lots of leveraging, lots of speculation, a bubble in the making. And remember what John Pomfret has said: The country has such bad demographics that it will likely get old before it gets rich.

Too many constraints are built into the country's social, economic and political systems. For four big reasons -- dire demographics, an overrated economy, an environment under siege and an ideology that doesn't travel well -- China is more likely to remain the muscle-bound adolescent of the international system than to become the master of the world.


Cool image of the day: Artist's view of Betelgeuse feeling very bloated and gaseous (note the scale -- that sucker's big and it's going to blow!).


By Joel Achenbach  |  July 29, 2009; 8:33 AM ET
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You guys are all reading the important stuff aren't you.

(knowing full well that if I write this, everyone will magically appear first.)

Posted by: --dr-- | July 29, 2009 10:33 AM | Report abuse

I'll go do the decent thing.

Posted by: --dr-- | July 29, 2009 10:34 AM | Report abuse

Yes, they're still making sausage up on the Hill. The conservative blogosphere is still fear-mongering this whole health care debate as if everyone who has some kind of health care is going to lose it. Well, in case you haven't noticed we've been paying more for less for quite a while now, and it ain't going to get any better with the current system.

Posted by: ebtnut | July 29, 2009 10:35 AM | Report abuse

That C Street Group is really bazaar. Check this out!

Jesus' political policies

James Imhoff seems to be an arrogant treat.

Posted by: russianthistle | July 29, 2009 10:43 AM | Report abuse

China's demographics and non-transparent (corrupt, actually) political/legal system seems to place limits. I suppose the really low-wage manufacturing can move to India, if Indian regulations ever allow it.

The US is becoming such a fragmented collection of interests, with a political system that calls for beggaring your neighbors, that the country might fall apart faster than anyone thinks. Perhaps crushed economically by rising health care costs?

Now, reposted (I managed to be last):

Sheridan's a neat old town. They kept boardwalks on one side of the street for the longest time.

Oregon does get some summer heat. One hot afternoon in Portland, the driver of the un-air conditioned express bus brought along a big cooler of canned soda pop. A while later, the guy got a promotion, doing a route in the trendy Northwest.

Here' it's high summer. Don't really want to do nonessential yard work. The palms are mostly looking happy and growing rapidly; a feather-leaved bangalow from Queensland, a baby when planted in 2004, unfurled a new leaf last night. It's already at least 15 feet tall.

The coonties and other cycads in the genus Zamia are putting out mini-flushes of new leaves. The coonties with their dense, erect feather leaves make effective knee-high shrubs, not needing pruning to keep in shape. They've done wonders for the hot west side of the house where grass never grew well.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | July 29, 2009 10:44 AM | Report abuse

Anyone against "govt-run" healthcare should read Frosti's 9:46 AM in the last boodle.

Scotty.... the WaPo's new mobile site lacks one important feature... a SEARCH function. Yikes!

Hope y'all have a great day. So much work to catch up on, I'll need a vacation to rest up after this week.


Posted by: -TBG- | July 29, 2009 10:44 AM | Report abuse

DR, congrats and a vat of hand dyed yarn to you for making first post.

China plays; Other than this, not sure what to say about how the game will go.

Posted by: CollegeQuaParkian1 | July 29, 2009 10:54 AM | Report abuse

I read the Andersen and Pomfret and both seem to drop my concerns by the wayside. Which I guess I can sum up. Can we adapt our world economy to sustainability? Is that not the core question? Because the alternative is very ugly. Touching on China's population decrease as a negative (in itself, not to invalidate rightful criticism of methods)is counter to this schema.

Also I'm unsure of the data, but my general impression has always been that Great Britain's elites have been far more well-educated than the USA's. I'm no Anglophile, either. That alone makes me suspect that rhyme we may but the tune will be very different. Fascist elements thrived in England up to '39 but theirs were admiring of trains running on time, whereas our Luddite wingnuts want to burn books. And trains, too, come to think of it.

Posted by: Jumper1 | July 29, 2009 11:13 AM | Report abuse

I know I'm a statistical outlier, but I've had the same health insurance policy for quite some time now (15ish years) and I've always been happy with it. No co-pay, no referrals, very little paperwork, etc. It hasn't been cheap, but I've come out ahead...DC's well baby care was covered, and a very expensive condition she had cost me next to nothing, even though she spent three days in intensive care and had plenty of procedures. Of course, no dental or vision coverage, which I could really use, but I can't complain.

One of the things that I found ridiculous when I was looking for policies (granted, over a decade ago) was that only a man could add pregnancy coverage (when/if he marries), but a woman had to either get the coverage (and pay for it) at the outset or go without. I wonder if companies still do it this way....

About the potential nose-dive of US influence a la'd need more than the economics to make that comparison. We'd need our own little Sinn Fein University (Gitmo?), attacks from a territory (I don't see PR or Guam jumping onto that bandwagon) and then a couple of neighbors looking to bomb our cities (does Canada really want US lands? Mexico?). GB relied on the League of Nations to keep the peace, where the US is interested in expanding its Defense Umbrella. Yeah, you might be able to find economic rhymes, but that relies on an all-other-things being equal set-up, when none of the other things are.

But what do I know.

Have a happy day all.

Posted by: LostInThought | July 29, 2009 11:24 AM | Report abuse




Posted by: LostInThought | July 29, 2009 12:04 PM | Report abuse

Hope the Boodle has health insurance! I'd hate to see it go bankrupt.

frosti, have you seen the Daily Show from Monday, where Jon gets Bill Kristol to say that the military health care system is great, therefore a government run health care system is good. It was wonderful.

Posted by: seasea1 | July 29, 2009 1:02 PM | Report abuse

Such an exciting day, Boodle. I am *this* close to buying a gorgeous condo in a great neighbourhood; keep your fingers crossed for me.

Posted by: Yoki | July 29, 2009 1:03 PM | Report abuse

We're getting whipped again. Craaaack Boom!

Only 30mm to go for the all-time record.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | July 29, 2009 1:03 PM | Report abuse

I'm not betting on Sudan.
40 lashes...for wearing pants.
10 lashes for pleading guilty...of wearing pants.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | July 29, 2009 1:26 PM | Report abuse

Front page alert, FWIW...

*muttering semi-coherently about IT issues*

Posted by: Scottynuke | July 29, 2009 1:26 PM | Report abuse

Does anyone here own a Kindle? (the cheaper one.) My daughter turns 50 in a couple of days and I thought that might be a good gift. Since I usually only send a card, it would be an unusual gift -- any advice?

Posted by: nellie4 | July 29, 2009 1:29 PM | Report abuse

Wow, Yoki... that's very cool! Tell us more!

Posted by: -TBG- | July 29, 2009 1:36 PM | Report abuse

*re-reading nellie's post about a gazillion times*

Your daughter is HOW old, nellie???

I'm considering a Kindle for NukeSpawn, but she's already a technophile...

Posted by: Scottynuke | July 29, 2009 1:36 PM | Report abuse

And best of luck, Yoki!! :-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | July 29, 2009 1:37 PM | Report abuse

A Kindle is not a cheap gift. I think around $300. My wife used one to read about five books on vacation. Sure beats lugging around that many paperbacks. Very convenient and easy to use. The adjustable font size is very nice for eyes of a certain age.

Posted by: yellojkt | July 29, 2009 1:41 PM | Report abuse

Scotty, you seem to have missed the post where Wilbrod named me "The Matriarch of the Boodle."

Posted by: nellie4 | July 29, 2009 1:48 PM | Report abuse

Jumper1 (11:13): My impression is that England during its 19th century heyday was mostly run by Scots, who benefited from having truly competent universities.

My hunch is that the US had better access to higher education than England until fairly recently. The English might be ahead of us now.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | July 29, 2009 1:53 PM | Report abuse

Nellie, one time I was meeting my mom (GRHS) at Metro Center during rush. She wasn't familiar with all the platforms/exits, so I asked that she just get off the train and stand there...I'd come down to the correct platform to get her. So I'm up on the top deck peeking over, and see my mom *walking in the opposite direction.* I lean down, yell MOM!!!. Every woman in the place turns to look at me except my mom. I sprint down the escalator, switch platforms, run up the other platform, and finally catch up. Out of breath I say 'Mom, didn't you hear me?' She said "Yes, honey. I started walking slower. But no way was I letting anyone know I have a daughter your age!'

Posted by: LostInThought | July 29, 2009 1:55 PM | Report abuse

The comparison to Great Britain is a very thought provoking one, even if it fails in the particulars. Great Britain lost its position of preeminence, I assert, not because we pushed it out, but because it was unable to hold onto the empire from which its wealth flowed.

So I don't fear a rising China as much as some unknown failure in our system analogous to Britain's empire. You know, some structural configuration upon which our wealth and power resides that will become untenable in the years to come.

And what comes to mind, unsurprisingly, is the Federal deficit. Instead of extracting wealth from empire, we are extracting wealth from debt. And, much like an Empire, that complex structure cannot long last. I just hope we dismantle our debt with less pain and chaos.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | July 29, 2009 1:55 PM | Report abuse

Nellie, there's a Laura Ingalls kind of matriarch, and then there's the T'Pau kind of matriarch...

I can't go wrong assuming the former, right? :-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | July 29, 2009 1:57 PM | Report abuse

It seems to me that tying health insurance to a job is at the root of a lot of problems. If I leave my job, I don't have to get a new car insurance policy. I don't have to get a new homeowners policy. What's the deal?

Sure, companies can presumably get bulk pricing discounts with health insurers, but it's apparently not such a big deal that we go that route for other things. Anybody have any insight into this?

And while I'm comparing insurance - if you try to buy home insurance with a "pre-existing condition" (i.e. you don't have flood coverage, along comes a hurricane, and would like someone to pay for the damage), you'd be put out on your ear, and nobody would say that State Farm did anything wrong. Why is that different for health insurance?

If the government mandates that an insurance company give me coverage for $1000 a year, despite the fact that I have a pre-existing, chronic condition that will cost the company $2000 every year to treat...that's not "insurance", which implies spreading *risk*. That's welfare, which implies spreading *certainty*. Not to say that it's not important that I have access to the care I need, but if we decide it's a priority to cover this sort of thing, maybe it ought to be funded directly through tax revenue, instead of being hidden in higher insurance premiums.

Posted by: tomsing | July 29, 2009 2:00 PM | Report abuse

I have said this before here: even with insurance, middle class people can lose their berths if a health crisis zaps you. And, a chronic condition may do the same only over a longer time frame.

Tis shocking to come up against
1) life time limits on health expenditure
2) exclusions of some conditions

And, a child with a serious health condition has trouble getting insurance post-18.

COBRA is so expensive as to be unworkable for many families.

And, if you lose insurance for a while, you can have trouble getting coverage again.

Insurance is not insurance. Insurance now is a cherry-picking, profits-first, crap shoot.

Posted by: CollegeQuaParkian1 | July 29, 2009 2:18 PM | Report abuse

craps shoot, as in the gambling activity?

crap shoot as in they load ten guns, with one gun full of scat, and aim at you?

most dictionaries say

Still, I wish that the 40 Mil or so uninsured could join the craps game or stand in line to be shat upon.

Posted by: CollegeQuaParkian1 | July 29, 2009 2:48 PM | Report abuse

yellojkt, thanks for telling of your wife's -- and your -- experience with Kindle. It just sounds like my daughter, and I think I may buy one for her.

Posted by: nellie4 | July 29, 2009 2:55 PM | Report abuse

Sign me up as another who thinks the US/Great Britain analagy does not work well when you get into the details.

To me, there are more dissimilarities than similiarites - governmental, social, economic, international relations, etc. as LiT, RD and others suggest.

Somtimes I wonder if people think of the UK as very similar to the United States because the two countries speak the same language (more or less). But the countries are very different, IMO.

I am considering starting a Church of America, possibly with myself as monarch.

Having said that, I wonder how many theses have been written comparing Empires of the past -- Greek, Roman, Holy Roman, French, British, Soviet, etc. with America?

Also, I'm pretty sure that the 21st Century Chinese empire novels have been done already, too. That topic's been a Science Fiction staple for about 30 years.

Finally, someone has to say it:

Betelgeuse, Betelgeuse, Betelgeuse!

(Note: how big a dork am I that I know how to spell it by heart?)


Posted by: -bc- | July 29, 2009 2:55 PM | Report abuse

That's one of those terms that has two opposing meanings. A crap shoot is a risky venture, with little chance of winning. When shooting craps, you've got a decent shot at winning some real money (24 number combos on them there die)...and the house edge tends to be small.

What? Me? Gamble? Not very good at it. Wanna play some cards?

Posted by: LostInThought | July 29, 2009 3:02 PM | Report abuse

BTW, I think I'd look great on a coin.


Posted by: -bc- | July 29, 2009 3:05 PM | Report abuse

My health care coverage isn't really "insurance," because the City self-insures and pays Aetna to administer the benefits. In other words, the City sets aside a certain sum for each employee/retiree and requires each to pay a certain amount out of every paycheck into the fund. Right now I'm paying 20 percent of the premium, that will jump to 30 percent in January with a rate increase on top of that. That means that my cost will have doubled in three years swallowed up any COLA's I've gotten in that period.

Posted by: slyness | July 29, 2009 3:05 PM | Report abuse

About the WH meeting over a beer scheduled for tomorrow...I love this comment (about Gates, Crowley and Obama) by the lawyer of the woman who called 911:

"The one person whose actions have been exemplary will be at work tomorrow in Cambridge. Maybe it's a guy thing."

Posted by: LostInThought | July 29, 2009 3:42 PM | Report abuse

I saw that same quote in the NYTimes piece, LiT...

Ever have to be five people at once??? Even though I don't drink, I'd love a drink right about now -- it's been one 'o them thar days, I tellya. :-O

Posted by: Scottynuke | July 29, 2009 4:01 PM | Report abuse

Gaaaawd.... when can I go on vacation again?

Posted by: -TBG- | July 29, 2009 4:02 PM | Report abuse

How do non-loitering journalists get quotes?

Posted by: Boko999 | July 29, 2009 4:08 PM | Report abuse

LiT, loved your "Mom at the Metro" story!

Posted by: nellie4 | July 29, 2009 4:36 PM | Report abuse

Is that a setup for a joke, Boko?

LiT, I had that thought about the 911 caller - that she should have been invited too! I was glad that neither Gates nor the president attacked her action, especially before it became clear what she had actually said. And might I add, that article is in dire need of a copy editor, or at least a proofreader.

Posted by: seasea1 | July 29, 2009 4:46 PM | Report abuse

Tomsing: The difference is that you are paying all the freight on your car insurance and homeowner's insurance. Health care coverage is usually divided between the employee and the workplace. In the good old days, especially with strong union representation, the employees made only a small (or sometimes no) contribution. But, as the costs have sky-rocketed, the employers have kept both upping the contribution requirement and offering plans with less benefits as a way to try and hold down the cost increases. At lot of folks, if they had to pay the entire heatlth insurance premium, would join those other 50 million who don't have it now.

Posted by: ebtnut | July 29, 2009 4:59 PM | Report abuse

Heck no, CC, it's already there.

Posted by: Boko999 | July 29, 2009 5:00 PM | Report abuse

I understand that health insurance is paid for by employers. My question is, why? Instead of compensating employees by giving them health benefits, why not just give them the cash to purchase their own?

Posted by: tomsing | July 29, 2009 5:06 PM | Report abuse

I'm reminded of a former colleague and supervisor, a southern California/San Francisco State/Berkeley type, who commented that to him, Alberta felt much more as if it were in the same country as California than did northernmost Florida.

I got a bit of the same feeling in Edinburgh, Scotland. Maybe it was all the Texas-Louisiana oil people who had come and gone. Maybe just that many Americans tend to be a bit more like Scots and northern English than like Londoners. I dunno.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | July 29, 2009 5:31 PM | Report abuse

Alberta was settled by Glaswegian football hooligans 1873.

Posted by: Boko999 | July 29, 2009 5:38 PM | Report abuse

tomsing, it's my understanding that it is an accident of history. During WWII there was a wage freeze, so employers lured folks with improved benefits packages. And then employers giving health insurance as a benefit just became a standard.

And now we're locked into it, seemingly. But it seems increasingly out of touch with modern life. I heard a statistic sometime in the 80s that on average people worked for 5 employers. That has to have doubled or more since then (particularly with the Dot Com era job hopping). Tying health care to employers might have made sense in a lifetime employment situation, but now?

Posted by: ScottAMitchell | July 29, 2009 5:58 PM | Report abuse

I've been away, so I don't know if this has already been posted, but I just want to make sure you all get a chance to see Shatner do Palin... part of her farewell speech, word for word...

Posted by: -TBG- | July 29, 2009 6:20 PM | Report abuse

Which means health care benefits are a form of corporate socialism. So what is wrong with national socialism?

Wait. That didn't come out right. You know what I mean.

Posted by: yellojkt | July 29, 2009 6:23 PM | Report abuse

TBG, thanks for that link. I'd fallen behind on my culturally important clips, but I'm all caught up now.

Posted by: -bia- | July 29, 2009 6:33 PM | Report abuse

I'll field that, yello: with national socialism you lose the economic utility of the carrot or stick. The employer can utilize this tool with much greater return than the country as a whole. In other words, what good is blackmail if you don't know the victims personally?

Posted by: Jumper1 | July 29, 2009 6:52 PM | Report abuse

Betelgeuse is cool (relatively speaking, compared to other stellar surface temperatures), but probably not going to blow any time soon. If I recall my stellar evolution coursework correctly. However, it does have the notable distinction of being the first extrasolar object whose surface was directly resolved from (near) Earth, by the Hubble Space Telescope and Dr. Andrea Dupree, showing starspots the size of major sections of our solar system.

Also, Betelgeuse was, inexplicably and inexcusably, the destination star in the novella of "Planet of the Apes" by French writer Pierre Boulle. Betelgeuse is not, and never was (within written human history), a good candidate to be the host of an actively living world. It might once have hosted such a world, but it has long since been swallowed up and evaporated. Poor thing.

I greatly prefer Ann McCaffrey's choice of the much more perkily-named Rukbat as the host for the planet of Pern.

Posted by: ScienceTim | July 29, 2009 6:53 PM | Report abuse

Ah, *Tim, thus the nickname "Wrong Way Boulle?"

Scottynuke, I know all too well what it's like to have to be multiple people. It's very noisy in my head when everyone speaks at the same time, that's fur sure. Then there's the one that howls and wrecks my house once a month...

LiT, thanks for posting that.


Posted by: -bc- | July 29, 2009 7:29 PM | Report abuse

Evening all
Back in west by god for a few days.There was a fairly newborn fawn waiting for me when I got here.Just eating the hanging basket I have on my back deck....very cute it was.

I have been without health insurance since I started my new job,I thought I was getting it August 1, but found out yesterday I have to wait till September 1.Another month living on the edge.....

Sports report to follow later.....

Nice to see yaw...

Posted by: greenwithenvy | July 29, 2009 7:35 PM | Report abuse

The danger depends on what you are doing. Sky diving isn't something you get insured for. Sign a release and jump. The chute is the insurance and it usually opens. You never know and there's the fun.

Posted by: Dermitt | July 29, 2009 7:36 PM | Report abuse

And then there's that flea problem, bc. Makes those crucial first dates tough, doesn't it?

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | July 29, 2009 7:43 PM | Report abuse

If Empire's critics in Britain can be believed, Britain as a whole got little out of it, although some factions did very well, at the general expense, which includes the lives of all the poor Irish, Scotts, Sepoys, Sikhs, etc, who provided the bodies to defend Empire. Even some of Empire's defenders were forced to claim the justification for Empire was prestige and glory.

Gibbons wrote "The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire" (first published in 1776) in part because he was concerned with what the future held for Britain. Harold James, "The Roman Predicament", summarizes some key points from Gibbons for those not inclined to study all 6 volumes. Douglass North used Rome as a case study in looking at stability and change from the persective of socio-economic institutions.

Several common factors emerge: the increasing costs of defending far-flung frontiers, the rise of the vices of civilization - desire for luxury and distaste for sacrifice; growing economic inequality, the corruption of politics by power and wealth, and finally the average person feeling sufficiently oppressed by the state that they became indifferent to its survival.

The Poster formerly know as Ivan

Posted by: j2hess | July 29, 2009 7:47 PM | Report abuse

Personally, I like Shatner doing Lennon/MaCartney.


Posted by: -bc- | July 29, 2009 7:48 PM | Report abuse

Loved that video, TBG, but boy does Shatner look old. I guess there's a logical reason for that: he's 78.

Mr. T called me to come out in the yard to see something: deer hoofprints in one of the beds. That's the first time we've had evidence, although I've seen deer a couple of times in the neighborhood and know that they live along the greenway at the creek about half a mile away.

Posted by: slyness | July 29, 2009 7:58 PM | Report abuse

I've never heard of fairly newbornish fawns chowing down on baskets. I think you've got a goat.

Posted by: Boko999 | July 29, 2009 7:59 PM | Report abuse

Meant to mention earlier - 'Sinn Fein University' is a great pull, LiT.

Not everybody knows the other name for that particular internment camp.


Posted by: -bc- | July 29, 2009 8:05 PM | Report abuse

Oh, please!

gwe, loved the fawn vignette.

Posted by: Yoki | July 29, 2009 8:08 PM | Report abuse

I know GWE's mountain. It's a fawn.

Posted by: LostInThought | July 29, 2009 8:14 PM | Report abuse

This is fun...

Posted by: -TBG- | July 29, 2009 8:16 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: -TBG- | July 29, 2009 8:19 PM | Report abuse

Another thing I neglected to mention earlier - shriek, did you see who Ferrari is pulling out of retirement to replace Massa until he's ready to drive F1 again?

One Michael Schumacher - 7-time world champion and holder of every significant F1 racing record. He might be 40, but I bet he's right on the pace, pronto.


Posted by: -bc- | July 29, 2009 8:21 PM | Report abuse

Thanks bc. Glad someone knew I wasn't speaking Greek (or Gaelic). If it's militant minutiae, I've probably got it in the mental rolodex.

Posted by: LostInThought | July 29, 2009 8:30 PM | Report abuse

I saw Schumacher in Montreal take down favourite-son Villaneueve.

I was ambivalent about that, but not so much that I couldn't recognize a master at work.

Posted by: Yoki | July 29, 2009 8:31 PM | Report abuse

"Militant minutiae in the mental rolodex" is almost as good as "Little old lady got mutilated late last night."

Posted by: -TBG- | July 29, 2009 8:31 PM | Report abuse

LiT, I suspected even before we met in person that if there's civil unrest or an uprising, you either know all about it or are behind it...


Posted by: -bc- | July 29, 2009 8:33 PM | Report abuse

bc....shhhh. Black helicopters.

Posted by: LostInThought | July 29, 2009 8:35 PM | Report abuse

TBG, I think you're onto something there. We must have a songwriter in Boodleland. Gotta work in 'clouds are hard' too. (Where's *Tim when you need him?)

Posted by: LostInThought | July 29, 2009 8:38 PM | Report abuse

Moved a yard of top soil on the lawn this morning and leveled it for reseeding. Got the fence erected around the plot to keep the dogs off and retired at noon when the temp got up to 96. Will seed and compost tomorrow, weather permiting. The weather man said cooling to begin tomorrow. Maybe only a high of 105.
112.8 the high today. Now it's only 105.8. RH 6% Dew point 26.
Medford set a new record temp this morning. 70 degrees. Coolest for this date since 1939.

Posted by: bh72 | July 29, 2009 8:41 PM | Report abuse

We just a pretty violent little thunderstorm roll through,I had forgotten how loud thunder is here in the mountains.

Posted by: greenwithenvy | July 29, 2009 8:46 PM | Report abuse

bh72... that sounds mighty hot to me. The nice thing about traveling north in the summer on the east coast is the temps were nice.

Didn't mind the rain, since we were only visiting. I understand the folks up there not really appreciating a real soaking every day. It does get old.

Posted by: -TBG- | July 29, 2009 9:41 PM | Report abuse

Is everyone busy on Madison Ave now? Thinking up catchy slogans and talking in either hushed tones or snappy patter?

Posted by: -TBG- | July 29, 2009 10:18 PM | Report abuse

Some of us are on Madison, and some of us are not prone to argue.

Posted by: Yoki | July 29, 2009 10:23 PM | Report abuse

Have a martini in my hand via TBG's Mad Men link. Could use a drink after my long, long day, but I'm too lazy to go downstairs and make one.

Shatner reading Palin-priceless.

Any guesses on what health care reform scare stories will be circulating tomorrow? Seems like every day brings a new one.

Toodles boodle and sweet dreams. Can't keep my eyes open any longer.

Posted by: frostbitten1 | July 29, 2009 11:07 PM | Report abuse

New digs, Yoki? All but finished the electrical work today: installed and wired the breakers, installed all but one light fixture, completed the requisite directory, and installed the cover on the panel. The panel wiring looks nice. For reasons I don't understand, I think I'll have to run the riser from the meter through the roof outrigger (=eaves), and two feet above the peak of the roof to a height of fourteen feet (measured from the top of the meter). All of this to satisfy the power company specs. It seems a bit much for such a small structure. The measurement may be from the ground, and if it is, I'm in luck. The 10' length of conduit will satisfy the power company, and we will be able to be powered up directly. Thus, all that remains inside the office is paint and punch out. I'm down to the rot now, mostly on one side of the building. With any luck, It'll be to a point where I can invite the inspector over for a look see, and if it meets his approval, reinstall the equally rotten fascia, paint it, and we're go for final inspection. The HOH company was on site this a.m. to install our new water tap, the culmination of countless voice mails, and visits to the HOH works over the past five weeks.

Posted by: -jack- | July 29, 2009 11:19 PM | Report abuse

One of the remarkable things about having a mom who grew up in a pocket of poverty on Manhattan's E 70th Street is that while the wealthy end of the street toward Central Park was impressive, it wasn't exactly overwhelming. Somehow, the Explorer's Club, the shops on Madison, the perfect block of townhouses, etc. were all felt like home turf, perhaps because my grandmother had been the cleaning lady for some of the best doctors' offices.

Michael Steinberg died. He did program annotations for several orchestras and his books "The Symphony" and "The Concerto" are handy for pre-concert reading.

(Full disclosure: most of my concert-going, on a lifetime basis, was with the Jacksonville Symphony, not a major-league operation. But adventurous enough to play live American composers, including. They Aaron Jay Kernis's "Symphony in Waves" with the composer attending. The first movement has, essentially, each violin playing a solo piece. It took 13 rehearsals to nail it).

Along those lines, I was once in front of the stage at intermission, checking out a whole kitchen-full of percussion instrumemts being prepared for the second half. The assistant percussionist wandered over. He turned out to have been a biology major, and was astounded that I'd actually made a career in the field. And I was amazed that he'd somehow landed a job with a real orchestra.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | July 29, 2009 11:22 PM | Report abuse

Oh, sure, *now* you tell me about the black helicopters.

Darn things sure are quiet, and they can drop 'em right into a small parking lot...

I'm back now, but I think I'll just stand for a little while if it's all the same to everyone. Those black helicopters with policemen in ninja pajamas - they're very thurough, though.


Posted by: -bc- | July 29, 2009 11:37 PM | Report abuse

any advice on how to clean out the skank from the gas tank in the VW, bc? It sucked a ton of it through a newly reconditioned Solex, and the engine won't idle. Methinks its running a bit lean, and adding even more oxygen to the skank in the fuel. Harumph. Schumacher out of retirement? Looks like Ferrari is laying the foundation for a run at the F1 championship.

Posted by: -jack- | July 29, 2009 11:46 PM | Report abuse

jack, if it sat empty or close to it, ya probably have gas resin and bad gas in there.

I don't know what your options are as far as pulling he fuel tank out and cleaning it with turpentine or a fuel tank cleaner (available at good auto/motorcycle parts stores).

Anyway, I think you need to clean the tank, flush the whole fuel system with a cleaner - and maybe even pull the carb off and clean/inspect the jets/needles (what carb do you have, again?).

Change the fuel filter, too.

You can change the filter and run the cleaner through the engine by disconnecting the plug wires and running the starter, which should pull what ever's in the tank (best to start with a clean one) into the fuel system and into the engine.

Change the plugs last, put it all back together and fill with good fresh gas, and you should be good to go.


Posted by: -bc- | July 30, 2009 12:06 AM | Report abuse

Great Britain lost its pre-eminent position in the world because it was forced to fight two world wars it didn't start, but had to fight anyway (and a good thing for Western Civ.). It would probably have lost its position anyway, as the U.S. was already gaining on it and leading it in some categories as early as 1900. But no historical anlysis of these kinds of long-term trends is remotely accurate unless one factors in the extreme distorting affects of WWI and WWII. Analogies to Gibbons, Rome, whatever, don't mean diddly.

And the U.S. is in virtually no way analagous to GB. That we speak the same language is irrelevant.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | July 30, 2009 12:23 AM | Report abuse

Hey, Mudge. Thanks for keeping us straight.

It's 90 degrees at 10 pm - this is unheard of here...well, till now at least. Got to 103 at Seatac for the high. Supposed to be cooler tomorrow, only 100. We're thinking about going to a park on the Cedar River.

Posted by: seasea1 | July 30, 2009 1:12 AM | Report abuse

OMG - this is a great article about/with Paul McCartney.
Anyone in DC going to see him? I highly recommend it!

Posted by: seasea1 | July 30, 2009 1:20 AM | Report abuse

Hi Everyone! Been lurking here and there for a few weeks now but just wanted to say hello.

Posted by: MiddleofthePacific | July 30, 2009 1:54 AM | Report abuse

"Where's *Tim when you need him?"

Cologne, Germany. Caught some manly aroma last night, characteristic of this famously aromatic city, then realized it was just a bit of escaped sewer gas.

Posted by: ScienceTim | July 30, 2009 3:16 AM | Report abuse

“….Betelgeuse feeling very bloated and gaseous….”

Perhaps it chewed too many betel nuts? Being not sciency pointy, I have the tendency to go off tangent and be silly.

When I was a kid, I often watch an Indian woman chew betel nut. I was fascinated and had wondered what she was chewing. I was also fascinated at the load she was able to balance on top of her head. She lived at the edge of out village and had to pass our house if she needed to go to town or visit her friends who lived at the other end of the village. Whenever she took a break under a tree near my house, she would take out a leave from a small container, smeared it with a white paste, add a small piece of don’t know what, folded the leave and put into her mouth. She would chew chew chew and spit. Chew chew chew and spit. Once she caught me looking at her. She smiled, deliberately showing me her orange-stained teeth and gum to scare me.

Posted by: rainforest1 | July 30, 2009 4:15 AM | Report abuse

SCC : ouR village

Posted by: rainforest1 | July 30, 2009 4:19 AM | Report abuse

How did we go a full day without at least one Michael Keaton call out?

"Let's turn on the juice and see what shakes loose."

My wife is out of town (taking our son back to college) and I spent last night fixing the grout in the shower stall. Boy, do I know how to party. Tonight if I'm feeling really wild and crazy, I might steam clean the carpets.

Posted by: yellojkt | July 30, 2009 7:28 AM | Report abuse

Apologies for the delay... Using a borrowed office PC, due to who-knows-WHAT-is-wrong shenanigans with mine...

Today in Nautical and Aviation History

July 30, 1945: The worst sea disaster in U.S. Navy history occurs when the cruiser USS Indianapolis (CA-35, Capt. Charles McVay) is torpedoed and sunk by Japanese sub I-58 (Capt. Mochitsura Hashimoto) on the Indianapolis’ return trip from the island of Tinian, where she had just delivered the two atom bombs destined for Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Of the 1,199 sailors aboard, about 850 make it into the water alive. When rescued four days later, only 316 are still left; most of the 500 who die are killed by sharks. The cruiser had little anti-submarine warfare gear, but relied on its high speed to avoid subs. McVay becomes the only Navy officer (of a possible 350) ever court-martialed for losing his ship in time of war; he was convicted for negligence in failing to zig-zag his ship. The case remains controversial to this day; in 2000 Pres. Clinton and Congress posthumously amended McVay’s record to exonerate him for losing his ship; in 2001 the Navy did the same. No Navy court-martial verdict has ever been overturned; there is no mechanism to do so. McVay himself has severe mental issues after the war, and committed suicide in 1968. McVay asked why the Navy took so long to rescue him and his men; he never got an answer. For years the Navy claimed it never received any of McVay’s SOS calls, but subsequent research shows three such messages were received. One was ignored because the officer receiving it was drunk. Another was ignored because an officer had told his men not to disturb him, so they didn’t. A third SOS was read by an officer who thought it was a Japanese prank. The men in the water were discovered by a routine patrol flight that was unaware the ship was missing or had been sunk.

*yet-another-ice-pack-to-the-back-sorta-day Grover motions* :-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | July 30, 2009 7:44 AM | Report abuse

bc did the "Beetlejuice" honors, yello...

And this is quite sad and apparently should have been easy to deal with (slyness, look away):

Posted by: Scottynuke | July 30, 2009 7:49 AM | Report abuse

Another hot day in the city, debating Dunkin' Donuts vs. soft pretzels to thank the security guards @ work. I'll get enough to pass around here.

Yoki, is this the terraced condo?

SueSea, 2day? Good luck.

Good day, Al. Especially the fawn.

Posted by: -dbG- | July 30, 2009 7:56 AM | Report abuse

'morning all. It's official, this July is the wettest month on record for Ottawa, yesterday's gully washer did the trick.
But we're having a fine day today, dry and sunny.

I read about Schumacher's return yesterday bc. He'll be back bullying rookies and laggards off the track. *sigh* A great champion but what a glass bowl he could be. I would have prefer to see Alonso in the red car but I doubt Renault would have let that happen. I think suspending Renault/Alonzo for the Spanish race is a terrible idea btw.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | July 30, 2009 8:03 AM | Report abuse

You have made me realize I have no idea where the closest hydrant is to where I am. I will find out. I think it's 80 yards from here...

Posted by: Jumper1 | July 30, 2009 8:07 AM | Report abuse

‘Morning all. Incredibly muggy here, dew point in the 70’s, but I won’t complain because 1) it’s fairly typical weather for us and 2) it could be 100 degrees like out west.

Scotty, I am so sorry you are still suffering with your back and I do know how you feel. It’s amazing how long it takes to get better from back pain. That fire story was very scary. We have a hydrant directly across the street and are on relatively flat land which makes me feel fairly secure.

Two more days at the job. I am still very sad but coping. I am also concerned for the company, I don’t want it to fail whether I go back or not. Ah well, they say things are getting better here, we’ll see.

Posted by: badsneakers | July 30, 2009 8:15 AM | Report abuse

Jumper, our firehouse is literally around the corner... And the sirens remind us of that far too often. :-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | July 30, 2009 8:15 AM | Report abuse

So he did.

Posted by: yellojkt | July 30, 2009 8:27 AM | Report abuse

Morning everyone.

Mudge makes a great point that you cannot overlook the impact of the two world wars on Great Britain. Although I suspect that the loss of Empire would have cause grievous damage even in a peaceful world. Of course, the two developments (war and lots of empire) are so tightly linked that a distinction is pretty much impossible.

And the big overarching point is that historical analogies, while interesting, break down pretty quickly. There just isn't enough history.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | July 30, 2009 8:28 AM | Report abuse

I used to have a dog. I know where all the hydrants in my neighborhood are.

Posted by: yellojkt | July 30, 2009 8:28 AM | Report abuse

Crazy people.

Posted by: Jumper1 | July 30, 2009 8:29 AM | Report abuse

Speaking of health care reform, has anybody else been following Nat Silver on FiveThirtyEight?

This guy just amazes me.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | July 30, 2009 8:33 AM | Report abuse

I saw the story, Scotty, and gather that the DC Fire Department doesn't have the records it needs on water mains, hydrants, and pressure. Obviously, it was a terrible loss of the house and art; I hope they find the cause and I hope the fire wasn't set.

RD, I lovelovelove Nate Silver. The analysis on that site just can't be beat anywhere.

Posted by: slyness | July 30, 2009 8:53 AM | Report abuse

Good morning, Boodle.

Not the terraced condo, dbG. The terrace was great, but the indoor space was just too squinchy. As the realtor and I said, the open air is lovely, but this is Calgary. For the number of days it is possible to sit out, it can't really factor into the decision.

The one I'm offering on is large, has a beautiful kitchen and bathrooms, upgrades all over the place, is in my neighbourhood, and best of all, faces into a courtyard garden with 10s of mature trees, water features and tremendous landscaping. And has a balcony big enough for both comfy sitting chairs and a dining table. A much better deal for me.

Al, if you could keep your fingers crossed for me that negotiations go well, it'll help!

Posted by: Yoki | July 30, 2009 9:14 AM | Report abuse

As someone who has been in the WASA records division at Blue Plains, I can't blame them. There are thousands of miles of sewer, storm and water pipes around the city put in over the past hundred years or so.

That said, lots of municipalities have very detailed maps of their systems, some going so far as color coding the hydrants based on available pressure.

Posted by: yellojkt | July 30, 2009 9:18 AM | Report abuse

Exactly, yello. The local fire department has been testing hydrants and keeping data on mains and water availability since the early 80's. When the program first started, we broke mains all over town as the firefighters opened hydrants that had never been used and caused water hammer. We also discolored the water as turbulance in the mains roiled the sediments. The utility folks were NOT happy with the fire department. But they got over it and now the two departments are pretty good about cooperating. It can be done.

Jumper, by local ordinance, there must be a hydrant within a thousand feet of each residence. If the closest doesn't have an orange ring on it, you're good to go. (An orange ring signifies that the hydrant is out of service, i.e., broken.)

Posted by: slyness | July 30, 2009 9:32 AM | Report abuse

Ah Yoki!

a wooata feecha

Posted by: russianthistle | July 30, 2009 9:50 AM | Report abuse

Fingers,toes and eyes crossed for Yoki.And if you need a second home in God's country "I know a guy".

I am out in a little bit to paddle the river with a friend.It is such a nice way to cast aside all the troubles of the world and relax,laugh and relax some more.

The fawn is back again this morning,with no mother in site.A couple of big woodpeckers are knocking back and forth in the woods.

Posted by: greenwithenvy | July 30, 2009 10:13 AM | Report abuse

*snort*, rt!

Yoki, sounds lovely! Good thoughts coming your way.

Also to badsneakers. We're all pulling for you 2.

Big shout out to Don's dot.

Posted by: -dbG- | July 30, 2009 10:15 AM | Report abuse

Good morning, all.

One night a month, I am somewhat interested in my neighborhood hydrants, though their locations are relatively arbitrary in terms of marking territory.

Sort of like using mailboxes to denote the DMZ between North and South Korea.

I do find the technical discussion of hydrant implementation very interesting - for example, I'd never considered the implications of hyrant color.

As I listened to the coverage on the local news today, I heard some of the city officials confusing measurements of flow volume and pressure. 100lb of water pressure through a coffee stirrer is not the same as 1,000 gallons/minute through a 36 in. diameter supply line.


Posted by: -bc- | July 30, 2009 11:30 AM | Report abuse

When I lived in Jacksonville, the fire hydrants were flushed regularly. I now appreciate a bit better that it was a sign of municipal competence.

I also appreciate a bit better about the sewer lines and water mains in my circa-1950 neighborhood being replaced. It was a huge mess.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | July 30, 2009 11:32 AM | Report abuse

bc, thanks for reminding me to get more coffee filters.

Posted by: russianthistle | July 30, 2009 11:45 AM | Report abuse

On the US-GB comparison, I agree with most prior comments. One parallel does arise from the type of empire of each - being a commercial empire. But the main problem with applying any historical parallels is the relative absence of any real competitor. The other problem with comparing China and the US is that one tacitly encourages the basket-case behaviour of its neighbouring states and the other is bordered by North Korea and Myanmar.

Belated reply to Boko: S’truth, lad, now come here and let us give ye a nice Glaswegian kiss.

Posted by: engelmann | July 30, 2009 12:03 PM | Report abuse

@engelmann: *snort!* :-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | July 30, 2009 12:05 PM | Report abuse

Howdy Boodle,
Got back late yesterday from Chi-town after dropping off Southwestress and Lil SW with grandpa. Now I get to handle the home stretch at the old job with only the Gigantic Dog for company, so I hope BPH is still on for next week (I've got loads of backboodling to do). Naturally, my soon to be former employers are keeping me swamped and even though I could just phone it in for these last couple weeks, I feel sorta bad for my friends still working here so I'm actually working extra hours to help. Sucker? I s'pose so, but at least I'm getting overtime for it.

Posted by: Southwester | July 30, 2009 12:13 PM | Report abuse

I know how you feel, SW, but don't overdo it. Good luck with your move and new job!

We experienced the water discoloration effect recently. I had just cleaned the bathroom, and where I was expecting sparkly cleanness, there was a yucky brownness, even after several flushes. So I called the water company, and they said something about flushing hydrants. The discoloration lasted for about 6 hours. Weird experience.

Posted by: seasea1 | July 30, 2009 1:25 PM | Report abuse

bc, ya think? I expect Chief Rubin will be establishing, or putting lots of institutional resources, behind a hydrant maintenance program shortly. I sent the story to Mr. T, who commented that he would not care to be on the other side of a peeing contest with the Chief.

Southwester, you are doing the right thing, good for you. Nice that you get overtime for it.

Posted by: slyness | July 30, 2009 1:25 PM | Report abuse

SWer... yeah..Karma will repay you in spades for pulling the extra weight now when you least feel like it. You don't know how... but it will.

When did we decide for the BPH next week? Is Thursday, Aug 6, good for everyone? I know bc can't make it on Tuesday, and I can't on Wed.

Posted by: -TBG- | July 30, 2009 1:56 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: yellojkt | July 30, 2009 1:56 PM | Report abuse

slyness, Mr. T's right. That's no way to put out a fire.

(Please note that the words "coffee stirrer" and "[redacted] roast" were not mentioned anywhere in this comment. Thank you.)


Posted by: -bc- | July 30, 2009 2:00 PM | Report abuse

I loved this little exchange in today's politics chat:
- - -
Boston: From the polls today, I see that Americans are, once again, ridiculously confused about the issues of the day. Doesn't this say something to the media? I'm fascinated by the oft-pundited idea that Obama needs to do a better job explaining his healthcare plan to the public. Now, obviously, Obama should be -selling- his ideas. But isn't it the media's job to -explain- the plans? (Of course, this doesn't even take into consideration the ridiculousness of polling on "Obama's healthcare plan" when no such thing exists). If the public is confused, it seems to me you guys should consider it your fault, not the government's.

Paul Kane: Um, read today's Wash Post. We did a long explainer-type story on the taxing of benefits.

To be honest, we've written about a dozen of those stories the past 2-3 months. We write them all the time. You know what? You readers don't read them. Because they're very complicated stories, involving obscure tax and health-care laws. Instead, you gobble up stories about Sarah Palin and Skip Gates. You devour argumentative op-ed pieces. You devour news of the weird.

Sadly, it's just the way it is.

that's the link to the most popular things on right now. you'll notice that the piece explaining tax laws and health-care is not in the 10 most read stories.

so, whose fault is it?

Posted by: bobsewell | July 30, 2009 2:17 PM | Report abuse

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