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Newsweek's Aliens

[A bulletin for space junkies: The Augustine Committee has released the executive summary of its report. Good news for the International Space Station. Am reading through it as we speak.]

I spend 99.99 percent of my working life wrestling with subject matter I don't fully understand. Like today I was on the phone with a rocket expert and had to ask him, at one point, "What, exactly, is a 'motor'?" He explained the difference between a "motor" and an "engine" when you're in the rocketry business. Apparently (as I now dimly understand it), if it's a solid-fuel rocket, you have a motor, and if it's a liquid-fuel rocket, it's an engine.

Although I am an idiot about many things, I do know a little bit about a couple of subjects, including the search for extra-terrestrial life -- aliens and whatnot. I know, for example, that we haven't found any. I know that the biggest variables in the search remain cloaked in uncertainty. We don't know how life originates. We don't know what the essential requirements for life are. We don't have a "theory of life."

What we might know, soon, is roughly how many Earth-like, rocky, "terrestrial" planets are out there in orbits that put them in what we think would be the habitable zone of their parent star.

Here's what we don't know:

"...perhaps half of the 200 billion or so suns in the Milky Way support terrestrial, Earth-like worlds."

That's from Newsweek. Ran a few weeks ago (sorry I'm so late to get to it). OK, so the sentence is hedged: "some astronomers" have made an "estimate," the story says. But the line I quote above is highlighted in blue type in the magazine, in a section slugged SMART LIST and carrying a giant headline What You Need To Know Now. (This story was hyped on the cover of the magazine with the ridiculous headline "In Search of Aliens.")

The gist of this section is: We're giving you a cheat sheet of stuff that smart people ought to know, and we're leading off with the fact that Earth-like worlds are common. Or, as the headline on this particular article within the What You Need To Know Now matrix says:

"Aliens Exist."

Jeepers. I was under the impression that we didn't, in fact, "know" such a thing. I thought that the possibility of extraterrestrial intelligence was, in fact, one of the Great Unknowns. Seems plausible! It's a big universe! Why can't whatever happened here happen somewhere else? Maybe lots of places! But when did this become something that we "know"?

Knowing something that is actually merely conjecture is not a way to be "smart." That's more like smug certitude.

[Someone please tell me if Smug Certitude is part of an official "rebranding" campaign at Newsweek.]

The great fun of science is dealing with all the stuff we don't know but might somehow figure out. That's the epic quest -- our emergence from the darkness of human ignorance. We know stuff about our universe today that was unimaginable even a century ago. But we still haven't found, with certainty, any liquid water beyond the Earth (contrary to what Newsweek suggests), much less a single bacterium (and much less an alien civilization).

Scientists use hunches, guesses, hypotheses, theories, conjectures, etc., to help them set up experiments and decide where to point their telescopes, but the ones I talk to are always quick to point out what they don't know. There's no surer way to make a fool of yourself in the scientific community than to claim knowledge that no one else has been able to duplicate.

That's why we should be skeptical of this next line from the Newsweek story:

"By 2013, says Borucki, Kepler is likely to have located 'hundreds or even thousands' of potentially habitable worlds."

He said that? "Likely?" "Thousands?"

From my story in The Post: "Scientists estimate that 199 out of 200 hypothetical planets won't be in an orbital plane that aligns them so neatly with Kepler's watchful eye. For that reason, the telescope plays the odds and studies a relatively broad area of the sky. If all of those 100,000 stars have Earth-like planets, Kepler might find as many as 500 over the course of its 3 1/2 -year mission."

To make clear: 500 planets would be the most that Kepler is likely to find even if ALL those stars have Earth-like planets. Kepler also might find just a few, or none, or a dozen, or scores. We don't know.

What Kepler is doing is taking a census. If it finds a fair number of Earth-like planets in that one patch of space, we can extrapolate to the galaxy as a whole -- and to galaxies beyond.

But let's wait for the results before we print the conclusions, shall we?

By Joel Achenbach  |  September 8, 2009; 11:54 AM ET
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Next: New Hubble Pictures


Oh, come now! Wait for the results before the conclusions should get printed? Now, *that* would be a first for the WaPo, eh?


Otherwise, terrific Kit.

Posted by: -ftb- | September 8, 2009 1:23 PM | Report abuse

Oh, and BTW.......


Posted by: -ftb- | September 8, 2009 1:24 PM | Report abuse

The only title more ridiculous than "In Search of Aliens" would be "Captured by Aliens." Just sayin'.

I spent the waning hours of my Labor Day weekend watching the Torchwood: Children of Earth marathon.


It seems some aliens get off on the chemicals produced by pre-pubescent children and it takes a sexually flexible immortal alien-hunter to stop their nefarious scheme to abscond with 10% of the earth's children.

The aliens lived in a big box of smoky poisonous cloudy stuff and had pincers like oversized lobsters. And they tended to splatter goo on the sides of their tank when they were upset.


Those are the sorts of aliens I want to be avoiding.

And as with most Dr. Who oriented shows, the British government is shown to be full of sniveling duplicitous ninnies.

Posted by: yellojkt | September 8, 2009 1:40 PM | Report abuse

BBC America Trivia: Torchwood is an anagram for Doctor Who. I did not know that.

Posted by: yellojkt | September 8, 2009 1:42 PM | Report abuse

It only takes a few off-hand strokes on the riskier portions of Drake's Equation to populate the galaxy with enough aliens to justify a weekly BBC series. Especially if said aliens are fond of visiting Cardiff.

Posted by: yellojkt | September 8, 2009 1:46 PM | Report abuse

Hey, if the aliens let me pick the kids they take I'm all for it. That'll show those skateboarding punks to STAY OFF MY PROPERTY!

Posted by: kguy1 | September 8, 2009 1:49 PM | Report abuse

I can tell you that I have two aliens currently residing in my home, sometime last evening they switched bodies with my children. This morning the aliens, awoke by themselves, dressed, brushed their hair and teeth, prepared their own breakfasts and lunches, did not cry, whine or moan and cheerfully went off to school.

I am keeping these aliens, I fear though they will switch back with my real children in a matter of days.

Posted by: dmd3 | September 8, 2009 1:50 PM | Report abuse

Oh good golly. First of all, it takes just one little zero in the "Drake Equation" to make all those other big numbers moot. But there is a bigger and more fundamental problem here, which is the so called "Powerpoint phenomenon."

As stated, and sometimes overstated, by William Tufte, whenever you reduce complex concepts down to simple bullets you invariably end up grossly simplifying the underlying concepts. This bulletized version of the Gettysburg Address is a well-known example:

Less absurd, but more pernicious, is the so-called "executive summary" mandated for pretty much every major document the government produces.

The problem with these summaries is that they are based on a philosophical notion that the more important someone is, the less detail they require about complex issues. This is closely related to the notion that important people are always insanely busy - certainly to busy to read an *entire* report.

Of course, in a sane world, the opposite should be true. Policy would be set by those who have studied a topic the most, not the least.

I mean, if someone is going to devote millions of dollars, or lives, or whatever, to an issue, I kinda sorta think they should be reading more than just the "Smart List."

Posted by: RD_Padouk | September 8, 2009 1:51 PM | Report abuse

SCC: Ooops I meant *Edward* Tufte.

Although I imagine William Tufte has pretty strong opinions on the topic too.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | September 8, 2009 2:02 PM | Report abuse

" ...if Smug Certitude is part of an official "rebranding" campaign at Newsweek" then the Republican Party is gonna be mighty pissed. They've held the high ground on that one for decades. (Although perhaps Michael Steele sold the Smug Certitude brand to Newsweek to raise some cash? ... Nah.)

"...lived in a big box of smoky poisonous cloudy stuff and had pincers like oversized lobsters. And they tended to splatter goo on the sides of their tank when they were upset." Ah, man oh man. The 60s. I think I remember them well. Good times. Good times.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | September 8, 2009 2:09 PM | Report abuse

SmugCertitude1 would be a good boodle handle. (You know the first SC would be locked out of his/her WaPo account and would have to adopt some other nom de boodle)

Posted by: frostbitten1 | September 8, 2009 2:22 PM | Report abuse

OMG you mean, Newsweek SUCKS and can't be TRUSTED?! When did THAT happen!?

Posted by: Jumper1 | September 8, 2009 2:29 PM | Report abuse

At least since they hired George Will.

Posted by: yellojkt | September 8, 2009 2:33 PM | Report abuse

The aliens are here already, and they're from Earth:

Posted by: ScienceTim | September 8, 2009 2:34 PM | Report abuse

I heart Joel. This is a classic, both for the topic and the uncommon good sense. And I like that he uses "Jeepers".

Posted by: seasea1 | September 8, 2009 2:40 PM | Report abuse

I thought it was when they and Time put cover stories on Bruce Springsteen in the same month and then claimed it was "coincidence." Hmm. That was around the time George joined the Newsweek staff. Coincidence? Or something MORE???

Posted by: Jumper1 | September 8, 2009 2:42 PM | Report abuse

You know, every time I see the name "George Will" in this sanserif font, I think it looks like "George Wii". I don't know what you would do with your George Wii, but it would have to be more fun than George Will.

Posted by: ScienceTim | September 8, 2009 2:42 PM | Report abuse

Rodents Of Unusual Size ***do*** exist.

Posted by: yellojkt | September 8, 2009 2:44 PM | Report abuse

SciTim-wondering why the headline writer went with giant rats (yawn) instead of kangaroos living in trees (yikes!).

Posted by: frostbitten1 | September 8, 2009 2:45 PM | Report abuse


Just got back on boodle after my little hissy. Had a proposal to block out and start fleshing out. Taking a break here to say thanks for your insight and thoughtful conversation. A quick suggestion on a couple of other posts... most employers don't provide health care coverage for their employees. Most employers are small and don't provide coverage.
Your points are good ones about how major initiatives can be picked apart like a herd of wildebeests crossing the plain. Trouble is, I fear that we are going to lose the herd crossing the alligator infested river.

I guess your wise analysis is echoed back to me that I was supporting the point that most wildly inaccurate analysis is because that it is wildly incomplete. One can't analyze the health care of the nation by first turning your back on those without health insurance AND the costly impact of rejected claims.

My second point, and one to which you allude, as time passes, maybe in a few short years, services will be hacked away or picked apart because a "moral" issue here or there held, in most cases, by a minority of Americans.

From a congressperson's perspective, I think they are more apt to be preferring to do no wrong in a few people's eyes than doing a whole lot of right in many people's eyes. (Tough to decipher... sorry)

In other words, even when facing a calamity, it is easy to find a reason to do nothing. At least, we posit, that we are not making it worse.

In fact, we are contributing vastly to the problem. (we being an inactive Congress)

My take away from your post may have been unintended by you, but it was useful, nonetheless. I think the easiest thing would be to figure the costs for medicare for all and figure on that. Public Option is a vague service. AND exposed, since most group coverages are getting worse and worse, I could see businesses demanding the option for their larger groups.

Tim, my problem with private insurance is that it is increasingly sending the insured into bankruptcy. AND, there is talk from the hill of vastly widening gaps between costs and reimbursement. A corollary to your point is that insured and uninsured Americans are getting more and more alike, but we don't know it until it is too late.

What's more, not everyone can work in the military, federal, state and local governments and Starbucks. Some of us have to work in start ups where there is no health care. Also, our government is funding the back-end of insurance coverage for business failures. So much is coming back in the country's lap anyway.


Posted by: russianthistle | September 8, 2009 2:50 PM | Report abuse


I ask our leaders again, what is it about 4 or 5 mega health insurance companies that is so American that we will sacrifice our very way of life by removing them from the equation?

The federal government, as I have mentioned in the past, eliminated many payment obligations from Verizon -- some of them to my business partners which immediately devalued and basically wiped out my business and many like it in one afternoon, just so they could have a better competitive footing against those evil cable companies, so WHAT GIVES?

Sorry, I am carried away again. I am totally rantatious. It's an itch that I can't stop scratching.

Posted by: russianthistle | September 8, 2009 2:51 PM | Report abuse

Go right ahead and rant, Weed, you're making perfect sense.

I've made up my mind. Health care is as much a public good as fire protection and should be provided in similar ways.

Posted by: slyness | September 8, 2009 2:56 PM | Report abuse

Tim, I just got to thinking... I am dumb that way, that possibly, putting a bunch of competitive and small Internet and advanced communications businesses out of action because the government reverse decades-long recip-comp. standards during the Bush Administration may have been a token of exchange for getting "on board" the spying on all Americans phone calls and computer usage.

I just wonder... On the boodle, I guess I may have paid the most for the Federal Govt to read my email. Ah!!! The reality of the USA is even more scary than a world of terrorists and Jack Bauers.

Posted by: russianthistle | September 8, 2009 2:59 PM | Report abuse

Heading out. Gotta go meet the 3:10 from Yukon. Or Moose Jaw. Medicine Hat. Snowballvile. Someplace like that.

Followed by Thunderclaw: Battle of the Crustaceans. 10 Humans Enter. No Crabs Leave. [Cue Tina Turner singing "We Don't Need No More Old Bay."]

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | September 8, 2009 3:03 PM | Report abuse

Joel, I think the critical weasel words in Borucki's slightly hyperbolic statement are "potentially habitable." Our solar system features 3 potentially habitable worlds; more, if you start including the moons of Jupiter and Saturn. Right now, the most that a Kepler-like mission could do if it detected a solar system like ours would be to identify 3 planets within the habitable zone that have large enough radius that they could have a significant atmosphere. The hard problem of identifying actual habitability would be left for a follow-on mission, once we have an idea how big a field one has to work with. For example, if "potentially habitable" planets turn out to be extremely common, then a "Terrestrial Planet Finder" mission (not my name) could be built to concentrate only on relatively nearby stars, making the assumption that there will be enough planets for it to be a worthwhile endeavor. Whereas, if only 10% of stars have potentially habitable planets, then your TPF mission must be engineered to do its work at greater range, so that you can study 10 times as many stars.

Also, note that that 1/200 detection probability is for Earth-like planets in Earth-like orbits of a Sun-like star. The closer you get to the parent star, the higher the probability that a random orientation of the orbit will result in a transiting planet. For planets in extremely close orbits, like the hot Jupiters that now seem to be disturbingly common, that probability can get up to 1/10. Red dwarf stars (aka "M dwarfs") are very cool, comparatively speaking. So cool, in fact, that the habitable zone is only a modest number of stellar diameters from the star (we are 107.5 Sun diameters from the Sun's center). The star will be only about Jupiter size, which decreases the detection probability, but an Earth-size planet will block out a correspondingly larger fraction of the star's light, which significantly improves the detection probability. Until the detection of planets in these tiny orbits around M dwarfs, the assumption was that no such planet could exist in such an orbit. Now we know differently. The planet probably would be tidally locked and thus not rotating with respect to the star -- one side always at noon, one side always at midnight. We are trying to understand whether atmospheric dynamics and heat redistribution could make an Earth-size planet in such an orbit globally habitable, or would all the water evaporate from one side and freeze onto the other side, followed by all the atmosphere, resulting in an airless rock with ice on one side.

Posted by: ScienceTim | September 8, 2009 3:04 PM | Report abuse

Summary report of the U.S. Human Space Flight Plans Committee:

Posted by: ScienceTim | September 8, 2009 3:06 PM | Report abuse


"I just got to thinking... I am dumb that way, that possibly, putting a bunch of competitive and small Internet and advanced communications businesses out of action because the government reverse decades-long recip-comp. standards during the Bush Administration may have been a token of exchange for getting 'on board' the spying on all Americans phone calls and computer usage."

Please provide a little prior warning before departing on another rhetorical flight of fancy. Now I gotta go fix the woo detector.

Posted by: Scottynuke | September 8, 2009 3:26 PM | Report abuse

russianthistle, I should perhaps mention that I am on-board with you for basically everything except for one particular prescribed solution, the "public option." I understand that the public option is only an option, and thus there are supposed to be competitive for-profit insurance products also available. On the other hand, that status also makes it more likely that abortion opponents (as just one possible, but likely, example) will steamroller their opposition and get their narrow views codified into the coverage, since people who want to prevent moralizing in the insurance coverage will have to decide whether the battle is worth the cost. Of course, the people most likely to need an unpopular procedure -- like abortion -- are going to be most likely to need the minimal insurance option -- the public option. It's not a matter of poverty-morality vs. moneyed-people morality, it's just that people who have some money are more likely to have better options.

I am growing fond of the Swiss solution, with heavily-regulated private insurance companies. Of course, that has its downsides, too: as you previously mentioned, what's to stop them from coalescing until there are just a few companies that are "too big to fail"?

Given the way that political parties currently have constituted themselves, and the policy preferences that they have chosen, it seems likely that either of these ugly scenarios is a strong possibility. Selective limitations in insurance coverage seems like it would be easy to institute, but easy to de-institute as well. So that might be cyclic. The failure of insurance regulation seems like it would take decades to become thoroughly undermined, but disastrous once it happens. Hard for me to say which situation would be worse.

Posted by: ScienceTim | September 8, 2009 3:34 PM | Report abuse

rt- I like your sense making rantatious self.

Saw TR Reid on TV shortly after reading his 5 Health Care Myths piece in WaPo and this struck me, he said (I paraphrase a little) "The question isn't how other countries do it, we know how and they're all different but they all cover everyone. The real question is 'why' they cover everyone. We are the only industrialized nation that doesn't see health care as a basic human right."

Unfortunately in my recent experience as a public official and private crusader for the "We're number 37!" movement, I find rantatious and Slyness types are outnumbered by the people who have coverage and only want to extend the benefits of health insurance under narrow circumstances-usually involving only extending their own type of coverage to the "deserving." As if working for a particular employer, or having $,makes one more deserving of health insurance. The inhumanity of some people is turning me into a crazy cat lady.

Posted by: frostbitten1 | September 8, 2009 3:35 PM | Report abuse

I stand up to be counted as a crazy cat(-eye glasses) lady.

Frosti, we shall begin a movement.

Animal Farm: my goodness! Tis true that some people are more deserving than other people. NOT.

Posted by: CollegequaParkian | September 8, 2009 3:45 PM | Report abuse

CquaP!! *HUGSSSSS* :-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | September 8, 2009 3:45 PM | Report abuse

The We Got Ours Syndrome seems pretty rampant. The one advantage of Medicare is that the financing is progressive. Health insurance as a cost is very regressive since costs vary by individual and not by income level. The taxophobic among the middle class and higher is part of this outlook. They don't mind paying for what they get; they just don't want to pay for anybody else.

As long as the No Handouts mentality persists, we will not have universal coverage, which seems the be the one common goal of all the non-US systems out there.

Posted by: yellojkt | September 8, 2009 3:48 PM | Report abuse

I see on the front page that VA is cutting expenses by cutting jobs. I always wondered -- do they actually execute government employees when an agency is shut down? No? Then what do they do with all those suddenly-unemployed people for whom there are no private-sector jobs? Freeze them until they are needed?

You can't really "save money" globally by firing people. The people still exist. Unless there is a complete breakdown of morality, making it permissible to eliminate unemployment by "putting down" those who cannot find a new home within some time limit, we (society) are left with having to find some way to feed and clothe and house and provide health care for those people. Unless there has been some massive breakdown of food-production in the last few years, it certainly should be feasible to take care of all those people. That means the only issue is one of whether we are willing to share resources, or play "keep-away" from those people.

I believe this is getting at what one fundamentally believes the "social contract" is supposed to accomplish. Is it a contract with citizens? Or a contract on them?

Posted by: ScienceTim | September 8, 2009 3:50 PM | Report abuse

My summary of the Space Report:

Gotta keep that space shuttle duct-taped together for yet another year. Buy more baling wire.

The ISS is a lemon that we can't admit is a money sink. Keep it going so we can amortize that sunk cost over a few more years. We just need to make sure we stay friendly with the people that serve as the jitney service.

Mars would be cool to go to, but we gotta learn how to fly around our neighborhood first.

Posted by: yellojkt | September 8, 2009 3:51 PM | Report abuse

CqP! Had a single morning glory flower this morning, and then you appear on the boodle. I shall choose to read much into this confluence of events. If I do better by my vines will you comment more often? How goes the molding of young minds, or are they just moldy?

Posted by: frostbitten1 | September 8, 2009 3:52 PM | Report abuse

The state Merlin is handing out pink slips as well. The net cost between payroll and unemployment is the savings to the state. But since those are different Peters and Pauls, the savings don't look as puny.

Posted by: yellojkt | September 8, 2009 3:54 PM | Report abuse

Frosti, yes, causality between blooms and Parkian, surely.

Mo(u)ld(er)ing of minds continues amid the curious and curiouser backdrop of

when is an absence excused....and what constitutes a confirmation of H1N1...and if I think I am sick, am I sick? Etc.

New information from the BioSci side of campus: hand sanitizers work better on bacteria bugaboos than on virus gremlins.

Posted by: CollegequaParkian | September 8, 2009 3:58 PM | Report abuse

yello says - "As long as the No Handouts mentality persists, we will not have universal coverage, which seems the be the one common goal of all the non-US systems out there."

Precisely, which is why the "We're number 37!" movement assiduously avoids appeals to morality or justice. No, we're all about numbers. "36 countries do it better and cheaper than us" is a powerful statement. Even those who have faith based opinions on this, that is faith in the US being best at everything, find the "36 countries do it cheaper than us" intriguing enough to listen to how they git 'r done. They express disappointment at the sorry state of affairs that you have to cover freeloaders to bring costs down, but even the most strident will admit that major change is needed.

Posted by: frostbitten1 | September 8, 2009 4:00 PM | Report abuse

Something I heard on NPR this morning made me understand where a lot of the distrust with changing health insurance is coming from. Some huge percentage of people with health insurance never have to use it for anything other than routine care. So they don't see a problem. The people who do have to use it for catastrophic illness are the ones who wind up being denied claims, hitting the cap on benefits, etc. They said 80% of the people who get cancer wind up bankrupted by medical bills. I can't locate the story, so the stats may off - but the main thing that struck me was that people who are satisfied with their insurance have not had to use it.

Tim, the Hyde Amendment states that govt funds can't be used to pay for abortions, so that's already off the table for anyone on Medicaid or the proposed public option, I think.

Posted by: seasea1 | September 8, 2009 4:04 PM | Report abuse

Apparently, "fingerprints" courtesy of MS Word tell us who authored the Baucus profer on healthcare:

Liz Fowler has worked for WellPoint

Interesting. And, interestinger.

Guess WellPoint is a player as is United Healthcare and Aetna and the Blues (Cross and Skull OOPS, SHIELD)...the big med peeps.

Posted by: CollegequaParkian | September 8, 2009 4:07 PM | Report abuse


OK, Im a nut. Of course, I was called for quotes a number of times by Tech writers for this rag.

Let me restate that very large companies that ordinary folks often had investment stakes, many in this area, were affected and some went into bankruptcy and others almost vaporized.

Too often, this situation is grouped into the "tech bubble" analysis, but many of the large public communications company failures were caused by the recip deal. Net2000, for instance--considered by the Washington Post to be one of the leading growth companies in the Internet and voice communications business--which was building a large infrastructure base, was pretty much vaporized by the ruling.

The woe is me story that I have is just my loss and my peers. We all are scattered around business in some tech field. You can "woo" me, but hundreds of millions of dollars... even billions may have been lost by that one ruling. Thousands of lives were changed and a number of our most creative American entrepreneurs of the time lost up to a decade of hard work.

Friedman Billings and Ramsey probably took the hardest shot of all the investment firms, I'm guessing.

Other than that, no harm, no foul.

Posted by: russianthistle | September 8, 2009 4:08 PM | Report abuse

Off topic but pithy-

A bore was once defined by John D. MacDonald: "Someone who deprives you of solitude without providing you with companionship."

Posted by: kguy1 | September 8, 2009 4:08 PM | Report abuse

Ah, I've been waiting for the August(ine) report.

Very tempting to roll the pages up into tubes and center an Estes C or D motor in the tail, cut some fins and a nose cone and... whoosh!

To the... er, Deep Space!

I hope Alice Kramden isn't upset by this change in travel plans.


Posted by: -bc- | September 8, 2009 4:09 PM | Report abuse

The Capps amendment to HB3200 provides for a walling off of public funds used for private insurance. That is, when we subsidize coverage for all the freeloaders and they want abortion coverage they'll have to find a health insurance company that takes in enough in private premiums to cover the costs. Ok for some, but others mostly in the extreme right will argue that providing public money in any fashion just frees up private money for nefarious uses and there we are back at the beginning.

Posted by: frostbitten1 | September 8, 2009 4:16 PM | Report abuse

SciTim, I really don't "get" the public option, either. I guess it would be paid Medicare. OK, we can have paid Medicare, but then what ... how do you price it?

More over, why should one person pay for medicare and another get it for free?

(rhetorical question)

Increasingly, the for profit companies are cutting coverage (in real terms) through their conditions for coverage and their protocols and practices. So, what should the govt do? React with crappier coverage as the public option?

... as I said, I don't even understand it, much less get to the point of supporting it other than ... whatever it is, maybe it is better than nothing.

It is still an it, though.

Posted by: russianthistle | September 8, 2009 4:26 PM | Report abuse

I realize this is a dumb question, but don't folks on Medicare pay a premium? I know that it doesn't cover the costs, but I thought everybody enrolled had to pay something.

Posted by: slyness | September 8, 2009 4:28 PM | Report abuse

Crazy Cat Lady standing up here. Actually Crazy Rabbit Lady. Or, since I'm trying to speak (bad) French to assist the Boy in French studies, Crazy Lapin Femme. Please someone tell me the French word for "crazy", I forget. Or just the whole phrase would do.

ScienceTim has touched on something which occurred to me. If we're truly going to save money and resources by cutting unnecessary gummint employees (something that gets a lot of play 'round here) then we really should execute them. By extension, if people really don't want universal health coverage as a governmental responsibility, they should just stop worrying about health insurance at all. Of course, like the execution of gummint officials, they'd have to agree to some pretty tough - and irrevocable - consequences, some of which might be unintended (as in, striking a little closer to home than they anticipated).

Posted by: Ivansmom | September 8, 2009 4:34 PM | Report abuse

Oh, dear, frosti and seasea. So, we already have the moralizing to distort things, and opportunities to make it worse -- with not enough people likely to stand up and say "I am FOR abortions!", even though (IIRC) a majority of Americans are for the availability of abortions -- at least when the issue is presented in individualized terms. We're all against abortion as a blanket contraceptive policy, but most folks accept it as a necessary reality for specific situations -- but only if they can see themselves or loved ones in that situation. We seem to have some notion that we are entitled to the complete medical history of strangers in order to see whether they are 'entitled' (meaning: "at least as deserving as me") to abortion or other procedures.

So, to recap American public morality of the past 10 years or so: availability of abortion = bad general policy, but good when we decide the person is moral and good -- which we believe is the exception (an exception for which we are not willing to make allowance in the law). Torture = good general policy, but bad when we hear about it being applied to people who have done absolutely nothing. Which we would like to believe are the exceptions. Which we like to think of as eggs that must be broken to make the omelette of justice.

Posted by: ScienceTim | September 8, 2009 4:43 PM | Report abuse

There are two ways of look at the public option:

a) The last resort. The dreg pool where all the uninsurables go. Heavily subsidized but money losing. It lets the private companies cherry pick the people THEY want to cover and offer low cost coverage to the lowest risk groups without having to build in allowances for carrying hidden costs from hospitals etc for covering the cost of the uninsured.

b) The shining hill. The insurance system so good that all the private companies have to up their game to meet or beat the coverage available from Uncle Sam. Because if its broad pool and deep taxpayer pockets, it's impossible for companies to compete with and show a profit.

Either concept is unacceptable to insurance industrial complex for some reason.

Posted by: yellojkt | September 8, 2009 4:44 PM | Report abuse

I think there is a deep and abiding belief in America that we all get what we deserve. If we are fortunate and can afford to do pretty much what we like, buy nice stuff, and travel a bit, it is all because of our hard work-not because we were lucky enough not to birth a child with special needs, or to avoid the accident that paralyzed the guy right behind us on the beltway. So, if we deserve our comfortable existence, with health insurance we don't really use, then those who aren't comfortable and don't have adequate insurance clearly don't deserve it. The problem isn't that a string of circumstances beyond their control drained them of all resources, they just didn't work hard enough like we did.

Posted by: frostbitten1 | September 8, 2009 4:44 PM | Report abuse

At one time, most Americans didn't have to pay for Part A of Medicare (Hospital). Part B (doctors), I think has a small deductible and possibly something like a $100 premium.

The service charges may be price-controlled on a state-by-state basis.

Mental Services may be different (more co-pay) and also the mess with the Drug portion is undecipherable.

Posted by: russianthistle | September 8, 2009 4:48 PM | Report abuse

SciTim- in a nutshell, our idea of public morality is so strained that our membership in the "civilized nation" category is merely provisional.

Posted by: frostbitten1 | September 8, 2009 4:49 PM | Report abuse

The Drug section of Medicare is what we might get if we don't simple have a single payer system. Somehow, it will end up, like with Drugs, that by adding an insurance option and govt/private insurance partnership, we will pay more.

I note that, in the Washington Post's article on What people earn, the lobbyist] makes almost ten times more than the President of the United States.

Posted by: russianthistle | September 8, 2009 4:52 PM | Report abuse

Politically, we are a nation of closet Calvinists.

Posted by: ScienceTim | September 8, 2009 4:53 PM | Report abuse

Oh my. Lots of conversations going on here, and I desperately want Thistle to explain what the "recip deal" was.

Otherwise I want to stand up for Crazy Cat Ladies, and Swiss-model health care, and the MANNED MISSION TO CRUITHNE.

Posted by: Jumper1 | September 8, 2009 4:53 PM | Report abuse

How we rule the boodle:

We're an anarcho-syndicalist commune. We take it in turns to act as a sort of executive officer for the week. But all the decisions of that officer have to be ratified at a special biweekly meeting. By a simple majority in the case of purely internal affairs, but by a two-thirds majority in the case of more ....

Posted by: russianthistle | September 8, 2009 4:57 PM | Report abuse

You know Swiss-model Health Care is very similar to Japanese-model Health Care, but it always sounds better to me, as if chocolate is somehow involved.

Posted by: frostbitten1 | September 8, 2009 5:00 PM | Report abuse


Yes, the Calvinistic individual (wo)man against nature, elements, evil....always alone in the sunset, silhouetted against big sky a scene from Shane.

Which, btw, is why I feel a stranger in this my land.

I am a communitarian, which is not at all the AmWay.

I think we are optimists too, so that if really really bad $#@^%$* happens, you will be lifted up by neighbors, (P?)providence, God, the FSM, the local Ethics and Atheists and Piebaking Society, an army of angels, etc. But, the burden is too huge money-wise and timewise when cancer, brain injury, immune disorder, spinal injury (insert your nightmare) happens. Still, we think that Ozzie and Harriet will casserole us, that Dr. Welby will not charge for visits, etc.

Posted by: CollegequaParkian | September 8, 2009 5:06 PM | Report abuse

An answer to the medicare premium question is here:

Some highlights-
* Most people do not pay a monthly Part A premium because they or a spouse has 40 or more quarters of Medicare-covered employment.
$96.40 per month for Part B (more if you earn more than 85K, 170K for a married couple)

There is a $135 deductible for part B and you pay 20% of the medicare allowed rate after the deductible is met.

Posted by: frostbitten1 | September 8, 2009 5:07 PM | Report abuse

Jumper!!! I have to run, but I promise to come back and give some of the story of RBOCS and CLECS and ILECS and the evolution of and then the implosion of the Baby Bell Universe.

Posted by: russianthistle | September 8, 2009 5:11 PM | Report abuse

cQp, followed closely by Dr. Quincy.

Posted by: russianthistle | September 8, 2009 5:15 PM | Report abuse

Much better. And I was thinking "Thistle for Congress" a couple of hours ago anyway.

Posted by: Jumper1 | September 8, 2009 5:45 PM | Report abuse

Righty-oh, frostbitten & CqP, on the situational nature of public morality and Deserving More by Living Right. Righty again to ScienceTim re: Calvinism.

I prefer my Calvinism with a healthy dose of Tiger Hobbes, myself.

I've already done my rant about how Bad Things can Happen to Anyone at Any Time. Please replay as necessary. [Of course I view this as a reason to go through life with optimism but that's just me being quirky.]

Frosti - Swiss-model health care has chocolate, knives and really good watches.

Ain't it about time for the Crab Claw Fest? I hope there are pictures. I want to see those claws and mallets waving! [Footnote: After years misspent in the law I apparently cannot type "waving" without first typing "waiving".]

Posted by: Ivansmom | September 8, 2009 5:45 PM | Report abuse

I lift up my paw as a true-blue member of the Crazy Cat Woman Club (if'n you all will have me). Frosti -- I sincerely agree on the chocolate front, BTW.

I spoke with a woman in the UK today and we talked about the health insurance/health care guano going on over here and she was aghast at the unfortunately itty-bitty brains in this country in the general populace. I've discovered over time that to be able to read a book -- and enjoy doing so!!! -- is elitist. It's a country full of proudly uneducated and selfish people who want to control others (probably because they're so out of control themselves).

Weed, I share your rant and your rantaliciousness.

This Cat is not purring -- rather growling.


Posted by: -ftb- | September 8, 2009 5:55 PM | Report abuse

Ivansmom -- I had to laugh at the "waiving" -- I do that, too.

And I certainly do miss Calvin and Hobbes. Now *that* was a good comic. And mostly even funnier when it wasn't "comic".

Weed -- one more thing -- since your mnemonics of BOCS, CLECS and ILECS, I now know what those mean, having been dropped into the deep end of the telecom litigation pool too many times to count, and bouncing back up to get some air (thankfully). It's an interesting subject, especially when viewed through the template of the dreaded politics of the FCC.

Posted by: -ftb- | September 8, 2009 5:59 PM | Report abuse

We require an oath to join the Crazy Cat Lady "We're Number 37!" movement.

I (state your full name) believe that health care is a fundamental human right and that American Exceptionalism is no exemption from treating my fellows at least as well as I would treat my (species of your favorite pet). To that end, I swear (or affirm) that I will work the phrase "We are number 37! 36 countries do it better and cheaper than we do" into every social networking conversation-both digital and real life-that even tangentially addresses health insurance reform until such reform occurs, a miracle occurs and we climb to the top without reform, or my own insurance fails me and it is left to my heirs and assigns to figure out if it's time to let me go because my physician wasn't paid to help me figure it out myself.
So help me (God, if that's how you roll).

Posted by: frostbitten1 | September 8, 2009 6:09 PM | Report abuse

Semenya with a fashion makeover.,187999

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | September 8, 2009 6:14 PM | Report abuse

I guess everyone's gone to the IBPHCF. Sigh.

Posted by: frostbitten1 | September 8, 2009 6:31 PM | Report abuse

I suspect I'd take Japanese over Swiss food, any day. Including perfect Fuji apples.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | September 8, 2009 6:33 PM | Report abuse

DotC-have been meaning to thank you for your semi-regular links to items from the St. Pete Times. It appears to be bucking a national trend by actually improving over the last few years. Mr. F is going to subscribe to their dead tree edition when he gets to Tampa.

Posted by: frostbitten1 | September 8, 2009 6:36 PM | Report abuse

The space situation is a muddle. The Augustine committee was probably a bad idea because it's now going to be more difficult to pretend we're doing moon or Mars or whatever while actually not.

It's as if someone issued a report pointing out that the Navy's doomed to shrink as its ships become obsolete faster than new ones are built. That seems to be roughly what's happening, but it would be rude to bring it up in an Official Report.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | September 8, 2009 6:36 PM | Report abuse

The St. Pete Times is downsizing like everyone else, but

1. They have an endowment of sorts. The newspaper, Florida Trend magazine, etc. are owned by some sort of foundation.

2. They never sold the paper edition outside of the Tampa Bay area. Internet distribution may actually have helped their bottom line (just speculating, of course).

I haven't been to St. Pete for over a decade. Atlantic Florida might as well be a separate state from the Gulf version. A bit like the way, when Spiro Agnew was nominated for vice president, the Delaware delegation to the convention voted for Romney instead.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | September 8, 2009 6:41 PM | Report abuse

I guess I like that Augustine Executive Report (which is certainly more exhaustive than most) in that it describes and doesn't prescribe. That is, if helps guide policy by pointing out options and the repercussions of these options, it doesn't prescribe one single best option.

On the other hand, there is a school of thought that without a firm recommendation you aren't really giving the policy maker anything truly useful. This is the "gotta risk losing to win" school of analysis, and it goes in and out of favor based on the success of the most recent analysis.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | September 8, 2009 6:48 PM | Report abuse

The descriptive aspect of the Augustine Report seems its worst problem.

Government Programs in general are supposed to have impressive-sounding names, impressive goals, and acute vision. Of course they putter along half-funded, at best.

Think of Government Programs as being a bit like the Virtual Temple that exists in the Talmud, far more complete and orderly than the physical Temple ever was.

An Augustine report that shrieks IT"S UNDERFUNDED is a disruption of that completeness and good order. Similarly, Confucians who appreciate the importance of sincere Rituals would appreciate the affront to the heavenly order. Not to mention those who think good manners prohibit yelling out that the emperor's clothing is invisible.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | September 8, 2009 7:10 PM | Report abuse

I slyness believe that health care is a fundamental human right and that American Exceptionalism is no exemption from treating my fellows at least as well as I would treat my dog. To that end, I swear that I will work the phrase "We are number 37! 36 countries do it better and cheaper than we do" into every social networking conversation-both digital and real life-that even tangentially addresses health insurance reform until such reform occurs, a miracle occurs and we climb to the top without reform, or my own insurance fails me and it is left to my heirs and assigns to figure out if it's time to let me go because my physician wasn't paid to help me figure it out myself.
So help me God.

Frosti, am I in?

While I was having my hair cut this morning, my stylist started a conversation with another stylist about health care and how the present administration was going to destroy it. The other stylist noted that the previous administration did similar things, and I agreed, that the issue was tax cuts and they were stupid. That ended the conversation right there.

The stylist and I have differing points of view. When she was denigrating the previous city manager, whom I have known and liked for three decades, I had to inform her of that. We discuss gardening and hobbies, not politics.

Posted by: slyness | September 8, 2009 7:12 PM | Report abuse

Frosti, I'll join the Crazy Cat Lady club. I can barely stand to watch or listen to the news anymore because of the nutcases ranting constantly. I saw a woman on the news tonight that I'd dearly love to punch! I need to calm down.

Posted by: badsneakers | September 8, 2009 7:15 PM | Report abuse

I've been on both sides of that, RD: studies with no recommendation or studies with firm recommendations. My cynical conclusion, alas, is that absent heavy and personal lobbying (all right, stringent advocacy) either report is welcomed by policymakers and sent to the shelf where it gathers dust until it is joined by the next one.

OATH: [copy Frostbitten's oath here, with appropriate personalization] I do so swear or affirm. Ivansmom, the Crazy Cat [Rabbit] Lady

Posted by: Ivansmom | September 8, 2009 7:15 PM | Report abuse

Ivansmom, did anyone answer you earlier? I think it's something along the lines of 'Je suis une fou lapin dame', or something like that. But hey, I don't speak French. My point here is that you'd be a Dame, not a Femme. As for me, I think the local kids just call me "The Crazy Lady." (It doesn't help that my house looks like the Munsters live here.)

Posted by: LostInThought | September 8, 2009 7:24 PM | Report abuse

Welcome CCLs (it's an honorific, you don't really need cats).

Slyness-one conversation at a time. That's how we're going to get 'em.

Posted by: frostbitten1 | September 8, 2009 7:29 PM | Report abuse

Can guys join your club? I promise I will sit quietly. I have my own bunny.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | September 8, 2009 7:38 PM | Report abuse

You know, one of the more startling parts of that report is the clear-eyed statement that, barring changes, we are looking at a seven (7) year gap in the ability to put people into space. I don't think this was fully appreciated by many. At least not by me.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | September 8, 2009 7:47 PM | Report abuse

Thanks LiT! Fou! That's it. Fou Lapin Dame! Of course, it is probably a different word order, being French. I could look it up in our handy textbook (really, I'm trying to talk French and it is bad French by definition) but won't right now.

I think RD would be a righteous member of the Boodle "We're Number 37!" club. After all, I'm sure we don't want to be gender-exclusive here. RD could be Fou Lapin Monsieur. Greenwithenvy, should he choose to join, could be Fou Poisson Monsieur. And bc - well, what is "werewolf" en Francais?

Posted by: Ivansmom | September 8, 2009 7:50 PM | Report abuse

Loup-garou, if I remember right. And I do!

Loup-garoux du London...

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | September 8, 2009 7:53 PM | Report abuse

Sorry. Desolee. It occured to me that just because I'm speaking bad French doesn't mean the Boodle must. Besides, many of you actually speak French.

So,Crazy Rabbit Guy. Crazy Fish Guy. Is there a male equivalent of Crazy Cat Lady? Why is she a lady anyway?

I'm off to rehearsal. Discuss amongst yourselves.

Posted by: Ivansmom | September 8, 2009 7:55 PM | Report abuse

Hmmm, I'd have guessed something like (I also write bad French.)

Madame Folle-du-chats?

Monsieur Fou-du-lapins?

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | September 8, 2009 8:00 PM | Report abuse

Count me in the CCL club. One of my rabid pro-reform knitter friends has been using "Cut the crap!" to counter anti-reform arguments. Short and sweet.

I'm counting myself very lucky to have health care for Mr seasea and me for $40 a month (including vision care, but not dental). This is because I was over 55 when I was laid off. Otherwise I'm not sure what we'd be doing, other than depleting our savings. Not sure if this is due to union pressure or federal law, but I'm grateful. (I didn't belong to a union, but the benefits they fight for are often reflected in benefits for the non-union workers at my former very large corporation.)

Posted by: seasea1 | September 8, 2009 8:02 PM | Report abuse

I see the dictionary suggests "passione de" for an activity, rather than a person (fou de).

I think I'm sticking with fou de, but only if it doesn't make Shrieking Denizen's tits ache, naturallement...

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | September 8, 2009 8:02 PM | Report abuse

"And this is the cause of my life -- new hope that we will break the old gridlock and guarantee that every American -- north, south, east, west, young, old -- will have decent, quality healthcare as a fundamental right and not a privilege."

--Ted Kennedy, 2008 DNC Convention

[quote found in this article:

count me in the ccl club!

Posted by: LALurker | September 8, 2009 8:35 PM | Report abuse

I hear crabs wailing under a barrage of mallet strikes. I wish I was there, pounding the crustaceans. Or just tearing them apart as I do with lobsters, thanks to strong fingers.

The Crazy Cat Lady question isn't trivial. One Crazy Cat Lady, say living alone with 17 feline in an urine-smelling trailer I would call "La folle aux chats". A group of eccentric but basically sane ladies who like cats I would call "Les folles des chats". A guy with a bunny, if such a thing exists, I would call "Le mec au lapin"...

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | September 8, 2009 8:59 PM | Report abuse

Geez! I can't Boodle from work anymore, then I come home to find an emerging Little Rabbit Fou-Fou Society! :-)

//I spend 99.99 percent of my working life wrestling with subject matter I don't fully understand.//
Yeah, me too!

The amazing health insurance that goes with my new job doesn't kick in for 2 months, but they were generous enough to fund my COBRA for those months. The first bill arrived today, $470 for 5 weeks.

I hope the glasses issue is fixed. It had gotten a little better, then I went back to the optician today and had them adjusted. My computer screen looks better, the one at work is the important test tomorrow.

Have a good night, Al!

Posted by: -dbG- | September 8, 2009 9:13 PM | Report abuse

A thousand pardons RD, I should have made it quite clear that just as cats are not required female plumbing is optional as well. The CCL moniker is just there to signify the passion we "We're number 37!" movement members feel.

Posted by: frostbitten1 | September 8, 2009 9:30 PM | Report abuse

Scene from the ICFBPH:

You have to figure out who is who.

Posted by: yellojkt | September 8, 2009 9:31 PM | Report abuse

sd-Cat hoarders are not CCLs, they are sick and in need of help, which they can no doubt get under your superior health care system.

Posted by: frostbitten1 | September 8, 2009 9:34 PM | Report abuse

Thanks, Yello, now I get it!

As for the crazy cat lady club, can I join as the charter member of the auxillary group, the batsh*t crazy cat lady? Sort of a Steering Committee.

Posted by: rickoshea1 | September 8, 2009 9:57 PM | Report abuse

Well... I must say... the Crab Feast IBPH was fabulous. The singing was loud, the beer was cold (and cheap--by the pitcher) and the crabs were HOT. The mallets were flying like they were shot out of a trebuchet.

I really wish all of you could have been there! Who was there? Let's see... me, Scotty, Maggie O'D, omni, mo, Mudge, Mrs. Mudge, Yoki, yellojkt and Mrs. yellojkt. (Who'd I forget?)

Posted by: -TBG- | September 8, 2009 10:00 PM | Report abuse

When I was working, my share of heathcare costs were about $250/month for medical and dental. It was a small company so they paid a much smaller amount. Now I get subsidized COBRA that costs me about $125/month plus I pay $50/month for dental. Of course this is only good for (I think) nine months, then I get to pay the whole thing or find some other insurance. I don't even want to think about that eventuality. I'm surprised we're as high as #37!

Posted by: badsneakers | September 8, 2009 10:02 PM | Report abuse

That was everybody, TBG. Yep, crab shrapnel was flying everywhere, just like it had been shot out of a No. 37 trebuchet.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | September 8, 2009 10:18 PM | Report abuse

I can also report that both Yoki and omni were formerly -- how can I put this tastefully? -- "crab virgins," but are crab virgins no more. They are now honorary Merliners and have et of the Old Bay, so are therefore hereto and henceforth entitled to all the rights and priveleges appurtaining thereforeto.

Hope I got that legal language right, Ivansmom.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | September 8, 2009 10:25 PM | Report abuse

My fingers are still stinging, and I had only one crab. (nasty things). S'Nuke and I cried for lobster.

Posted by: rickoshea1 | September 8, 2009 10:28 PM | Report abuse

we need pictures!


Posted by: LALurker | September 8, 2009 10:34 PM | Report abuse

Maggie, were they not tasty or was it just too much work?

Yes pictures please.

Posted by: badsneakers | September 8, 2009 10:55 PM | Report abuse

Toodles boodle and sweet dreams official "We're Number 37!" Movement members.

nominated for CCL comment of the day- sneaks'10:02 "I'm surprised we're as high as #37!"

Posted by: frostbitten1 | September 8, 2009 11:17 PM | Report abuse

My review of crabs: way too much work for too little reward (and very little taste).

Posted by: rickoshea1 | September 8, 2009 11:27 PM | Report abuse


The very phrase "We're Number 37!" movement
just gave me a very bad image of a "We're Number 2!" movement.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | September 8, 2009 11:28 PM | Report abuse

But, as you know, I wasn't imprinted in the Chesapeake Bay culture. Give me little necks and lobster, and I'm in heaven! (and some fish chowder, of course.)

Posted by: rickoshea1 | September 8, 2009 11:29 PM | Report abuse

Well, I've been remembering the taste of Maryland blue crabs for a week now. Mmmmm. I don't like the Dungeness crab you get out here, and I haven't had Maine lobster in so long I can't compare it - but I bet it's goooood.

Posted by: seasea1 | September 8, 2009 11:41 PM | Report abuse

It’s 09.09.09 today!

The new Prime Minister of Japan was once nicknamed “the alien” because of his prominent eyes.

I once had a dream that my “soul” was flying in space. I stopped when I came upon a garden with beautiful flowers of mostly pink. I wonder if that is the outskirts of Venus. :-)

Posted by: rainforest1 | September 9, 2009 3:13 AM | Report abuse

Happy 09/09/09 everyone
All I can think of is the beatles #9 off the White Album.I hope nothing funky happens.

I am glad the crab feast was a success,and to you non Marylanders,picking the crabs is most of the fun,but then again I pick the fins,the points almost everywhere there is meat.I also like the fact that it is ok the spit out shells when eating crabs.

I was supposed to go crabbing this Thursday,but the low pressure off the coast may prevent our trip.Crabbing isn't fun in high seas and wind and rain.

Number 9

Posted by: greenwithenvy | September 9, 2009 3:39 AM | Report abuse

It's still 9/8/09 where I am but I'll send an early Happy 09/09/09 to everyone!

Posted by: MiddleofthePacific | September 9, 2009 3:46 AM | Report abuse

Somebody has been working Wilbrodog's gig:

Posted by: yellojkt | September 9, 2009 5:47 AM | Report abuse

Been keeping an eye on this place while you were gone.

Posted by: russianthistle | September 9, 2009 6:13 AM | Report abuse

Good morning, Boodle. The crab feast was super-fun! I've got some pictures but they're locked in my camera until I home on Sunday night.

Important meetings this morning, and so I'd best to it.

Have a lovely day.

Posted by: Yoki | September 9, 2009 6:20 AM | Report abuse

Enjoy your meetings! I need to get to work, as well. Later, plan on testing out new bike.

Posted by: russianthistle | September 9, 2009 6:25 AM | Report abuse

Morning, everybody! I'm glad to hear that everybody had fun picking crabs. Now, pictures, please!

We're too late for dawn patrol, I see. However, country ham biscuits and appropriate beverages on the ready room table.

Yoki, I hope you have productive meetings today!

Posted by: slyness | September 9, 2009 7:11 AM | Report abuse

Joel's take on the Augustine Report:

Posted by: yellojkt | September 9, 2009 7:24 AM | Report abuse

'morning all. Another great day in the other capital. We know that we are going to pay for that fantastic streak of summer-like days somehow. Better enjoy it while it lasts.

It looks like our gunmints "investment" in GM and Chrysler will not be entirely recouped. Paint me surprised. *eye roll*

I'm getting my picture taken for a new passport later this morning so of course my eyes are red and my face is puffy from ragweed allergies. *sigh*

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | September 9, 2009 7:56 AM | Report abuse

thanks Jkt! and, Joel of course!

Seems like the Space Program is dogged by the fact that it's SPACE out there. We are so far beyond what most people consider to be an appropriate level of funding to GET ANYWYERE.

We lack an appropriate "North Pole."

Something does seem a bit strange here. We are talking about spending billions to collect a few pounds of rocks and not one peep from those "fiscal conservatives" on K Street.

Maybe it wasn't the cost of universal health care after all?

Posted by: russianthistle | September 9, 2009 8:00 AM | Report abuse

'Morning, Boodle. *brushing clumbs of Old Bay off my shirt*

E.J. Dionne had a good column on the rightwing nutjob over-reaction to Obama's education speech yesterday, which for some reason the Post downplayed yesterday and disappeared it today, but here it is: (Meanwhile, a lot of dribble stays on the front page for days on end. For good or ill, whatever Bill Walsh learned about leadership has been up for three or four days, at least.)

It appears Liz Kelly has invented a new word (I'm guessing it's Liz's work) that I like: Faux-lebrity. In other words, a fake celebrity. Of course, if you click on that front page link for Liz's Celebritology column, it doesn't take you there at all; it goes to some story about Tila Tequila. In short, a bad link. What a surprise.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | September 9, 2009 8:09 AM | Report abuse

Hey Shriek,

I want to apologize for my cousin.

=== weed

BTW, this kit reminded me that, since the advent of cable and the constant availability of science-like shows, I have developed a fear of large asteroids striking our home planet; massive volcanic eruptions; perma-winters; large waves caused by collapsing islands and mountains; and, of course, sharks.

I so fear sharks that I no longer take baths, only showers. One is never safe no matter how shallow the water.

I do want to visit Troy before any of these things happen.

Posted by: russianthistle | September 9, 2009 8:12 AM | Report abuse

BTW, Boodle, happy 090909.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | September 9, 2009 8:15 AM | Report abuse

Number nine, number nine, number nine...

Posted by: yellojkt | September 9, 2009 8:36 AM | Report abuse

I'm with you on seven of nine.

Posted by: russianthistle | September 9, 2009 8:41 AM | Report abuse

Whew! Finally worked through's nine levels of sign-in...

Yes, pictures aplenty from the crabathon will be had this evening. Including a picture of Maggie O'D!! (sorta)

*somewhat-sleep-deprived Grover waves* :-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | September 9, 2009 8:52 AM | Report abuse

Good morning Boodle! A year of working at an actual work site has proven the undoing of my work from home discipline. Chez Frostbitten looks like the #37 trebuchet was tested here and today's "to do" list contains too many items from yesterday.

Mudge-thanks for the link to Dionne's column.

Don't forget to tell someone "We're #37!" today. I will be working on treating my fellows as well as my cats, but it's a tough call sometimes.

Posted by: frostbitten1 | September 9, 2009 9:07 AM | Report abuse

Everybody knew that as time went by you'd get a little bit older and a little bit slower.

Posted by: Jumper1 | September 9, 2009 9:09 AM | Report abuse

Scanned down past the end of Joel's article about the blue ribbon committee and saw a SLATE promotion listing their articles and spotted one from Hitchens which was teased with the link text "We Can't Abandon Afghanistan Now."

I am thinking that there should be a programming function which takes one argument and returns an answer in data data type.

PullPlug = Abandon_effort("Afghanistan");

There are probably scholars who study plug pulling through the ages... books written, and so forth. I find the NY Times to be a great web resource for so many things. I did a google search and got this:


January 18, 1885, Wednesday

Page 2, 826 words

CAIRO, Jan. 17.--The principal officers here believe that Gen. Woiseley will now proceed with his whole force to Gakdul, leaving a garrison of 150 men at Korti. No news from Metemneh is expected until the 20th inst. The posts are too far apart for the use of the heliograph.

Posted by: russianthistle | September 9, 2009 9:24 AM | Report abuse

StorytellerTim (remember him?) is going to be telling "Cinderella: a Rough Sailor's Tale" at the Workhouse Arts Center in Lorton, VA on September 26. Be there! Spread the word! (Look under the Saturday Series)

Posted by: ScienceTim | September 9, 2009 9:25 AM | Report abuse
Atta's urban planning thesis.

Posted by: Jumper1 | September 9, 2009 9:37 AM | Report abuse

An FB friend claimed to be wondering whether the President's speech to Congress tonight will be inclusive or divisive, prompting this response from me:

Does it matter? He will be inclusive as all get out, and be declared divisive anyway. The fact of the resulting division will be declared as proof of divisiveness, even though it will all be manufactured for individual and partisan political gain. The "loyal" opposition is doing its best to prevent itself from having any substantive contribution to any element of public discourse.

With blessed irony, one of his friends responded by stating that this is the most divisive President ever and the divisiveness all starts at the top.

Posted by: ScienceTim | September 9, 2009 9:48 AM | Report abuse

I'm a trendsetter!
Get Fuzzy stole my shtick too
(Lawsuit possible?)


Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | September 9, 2009 9:50 AM | Report abuse

ScienceTim-- Honest Abe, anybody?

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | September 9, 2009 9:53 AM | Report abuse

Wilbrodog-You should hide it better.
(Psst, shtick not stick)

Never mind.
Frostcat #3

Posted by: frostbitten1 | September 9, 2009 9:55 AM | Report abuse

Good morning, you all.

Looking forward to the crabfest pictures.

Slyness. I noticed your question re medicare, but haven't checked to see if it was answered in the boodle.

Your monthly premiums for medicare are taken from your monthly social security. Part A is for Hospitalization, Part B is for doctors, labs, etc. Part C is for Supplimental health insurance and Part D is for drugs. I have AB&D. I will begin Part C sometime after deciding which insurance co. which is offered to use. I cannot apply until November. Time slot closes up after a certain time. Until recently, Part B was plenty. Medicare has an annual deductible (I don't remember how much, but it is competitive with private providers). Then, Medicare pays 80%, I pay 20%. Because of the cost of one of the additional chemo products I will be taking it is good to begin with a supplimental insurance even though it won't take effect until January, 2010. In this case, the pre-existing condition will be covered as of 01/2010. Until then, I'll be paying 20% of the cost of a drug which may be $5,000. a dose, as I only have Part B. I hope this makes sense.

Posted by: VintageLady | September 9, 2009 10:00 AM | Report abuse

Too late, they took it.
Hey! I'll give you a hiding
That pun was... catty.


Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | September 9, 2009 10:00 AM | Report abuse

FB? Federally Backed? Former Boss? First Baptist?

Posted by: LostInThought | September 9, 2009 10:02 AM | Report abuse

One for alleycats
And other fans of garbage
(Too tasteless for me...)


Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | September 9, 2009 10:03 AM | Report abuse

Weed, back in the day I remember reading editorials saying we couldn't abandon Troy, after the six, eight, ten years we spent surrounding the place. Ditto Jerusalem, back in the Crusades. If I told KR-1 (Richard the Lionheart, to you guys) once, I told him a hundred times, this place ain't worth trying to hang on to. But would he listen? Not for a long time, though he finally did come around.

(Of course, I'm also the guy who suggested that on our way home right before Christmas, we stop and visit Duke Leopold V of Austria for a chat and a little wassail. Bad idea. KR never forgave me for that one, even though dressing in vagrants' clothes and passing ourselves off as poor pilgrims was all his idea. Dickie, I sez, at least take off the costume jewelry before you go for the KFC. But would he listen? Well, I don't have to tell you what happened when Leo the Jerk jerked our chicken.)

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | September 9, 2009 10:05 AM | Report abuse

FB = FaceBook.

Posted by: ScienceTim | September 9, 2009 10:10 AM | Report abuse

I didn't know "FB," either, LiT. I admit to being FaceSpace/MyBook/Twitter/Twinkle-challenged.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | September 9, 2009 10:14 AM | Report abuse

I paid the maximum SS for about 45 years so now I get to recover $1650/mo as long as I live. $65/mo is deducted from that for my medicare support.
Medicare adjusts down the Providence Medical Group bill of $240 for a fifteen minute visit with a doctor to discuss his next chemical experiment to reduce my blood pressure and receive a month's worth of samples of the newest chemical by the amount of $150, pays the medical center $71 leaving me to pay $18.

I have no idea how that 'adjustment' amount is determined. But the med center seems to accept it. Leads me to suspect they just tack the $150 on the bill of those with the gold plated insurance.

I have no idea what the med center pays the doc but they keep him on the clock to turn as many of many 15 minute tricks as possible in a twelve hour day. Kinda like another profession.

Posted by: bh72 | September 9, 2009 10:14 AM | Report abuse

bh, just leave your money on the dresser when you leave.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | September 9, 2009 10:23 AM | Report abuse

bh72 ... dartboard.

Posted by: russianthistle | September 9, 2009 10:24 AM | Report abuse

Mudge, for some reason, it seems more than okay that you're twinkle-challenged.

Think we need to get out more often?

Posted by: LostInThought | September 9, 2009 10:30 AM | Report abuse

It would be interesting to enumerate the ways the theory of planned obsolescence may have invaded health care. I know it has infected the eyeglasses industry - a long-lasting pair of glasses has become far more expensive than they ought. Perhaps next is dentistry, crowns DESIGNED to break. Then cosmetic surgery; implants designed to fail, facelifts utilizing slow-dissolving interior stitches, etc., slowly dissolving collagen implant material. Then the practice will come roaring into mainstream health care: hip replacements designed to wear out, pacemakers with battery life optimized for profit not longevity, etc. Then the perfect beauty of capitalism will finally be realized.

Posted by: Jumper1 | September 9, 2009 10:45 AM | Report abuse


Here you go: Giant bio-engineered crabs to be used for infrastructure projects...

Posted by: russianthistle | September 9, 2009 10:50 AM | Report abuse

Here's an interesting little set-up the insurance companies have going (Mudge, avert your eyes please). Every year, like most women my age and older, I need a mammogram. It's expensive, not pleasant, shouldn't be repeated too often (trouble spots or suspected trouble spots) etc. And every year, the test comes back inconclusive. (Not that the saw something they couldn't identify, it's that the can't see any contrast. I am by no means rare in this way). So they then send me (and the many many women like me) for a sonogram, which is less expensive (downright cheap as far as medical tests go), less invasive (shoot, a walk in the park on a nice sunny day compared to the mammogram), safer, *more accurate* and twice as likely to catch early stages of problems. But the insurance companies won't pay for the sonogram until you've failed the mammogram. Each year. Every time.

It does have the look of a committee decision to it, doesn't it?

Posted by: LostInThought | September 9, 2009 10:52 AM | Report abuse

So, LiT, are you suggesting that there is a stupid Ins. Co. between you and your doctor?

I think we should replace that Insurance company with Stalin, Lennon, and the Hitler Youth.

Posted by: russianthistle | September 9, 2009 10:58 AM | Report abuse

bh72 - Not just those with gold insurance, also the uninsured. We lost our health insurance when my husband lost his job. He's over 65 now, so he is covered by Medicare. I've got 2 1/2 years to go, and was hoping to just get through until then, but got sick last spring. I was finally diagnosed (after about $1800 in testing and doctor bills) with an autoimmune problem. I see the reductions on testing fees on my MIL's Medicare EOB's. The cost for the testing I have to have done before I see the rheumatologist comes to over $450. Although the cost of the visits with a PA (not the Dr) is reasonable, about $70, I have to come up with over $500 every time I go in.
It reminds me of the quote from James Burke's Connections about the Barbary Pirates, "Open your wallets and repeat after me, Help Yourselves."

Posted by: km2bar | September 9, 2009 11:07 AM | Report abuse

When the Economy hits home at the House of Greed!{771DFE3E-EB49-447D-A3DD-1A3A3241409A}

Banks may cut pay as new rules hurt profitability

Last updated: 9/9/2009 10:32:00 AM

LONDON (MarketWatch) -- Investment banks face a sharp drop in profitability due to the global crackdown on capital standards and other rule changes, which could lead to hefty pay cuts in the sector as firms struggle to restructure, according to analysts at J.P. Morgan.

After looking at the likely impact of eight proposed regulatory reforms the broker slashed its forecast for 2011 return on equity -- a key measure of profitability for the investment banks -- to around 11% from 15%.

The lower outlook is mainly due to higher capital requirements for trading activity, but there will also be an impact from new transparency requirements for derivatives and from limits on the positions firms can take in commodities, said analyst Kian Abouhossein in the note.

Shareholders are unlikely to stand for such low returns, forcing banks to cut pay and bonuses and to make further staffing cuts to lift returns back to around 15%, he added.

The broker said it was switching its preference from the investment banking sector to traditional lending banks and made several changes to its ratings.

It upgraded Morgan Stanley (MS) and BNP Paribas (BNP) to overweight from neutral and cut UBS (UBSN) (UBS) to neutral from overweight.

Pay cuts

On average, firms may have to reduce their overall cost per employee to around $543,000 in 2011, a 15% reduction from the expected levels in 2009. They would also need to cut the amount of equity allocated to investment banking and reduce headcounts by around another 3%, J.P. Morgan said.

But the cuts at some firms may need to be much steeper.

The broker said BNP Paribas could have to reduce its cost per head by 39% to 189,000 euros and Societe Generale (GLE) may need to cut its average cost by 18% to 263,000 euros.

The reduction would imply "very low levels of compensation" in 2011, it said.

In terms of job cuts, J.P. Morgan believes Deutsche Bank (DBK) (DB) may need to make the biggest adjustment, cutting around 1,350 employees, or 7% of its workforce.


Posted by: russianthistle | September 9, 2009 11:07 AM | Report abuse

I wonder if some of the "prices" on statements aren't more like the price tags on merchandise that say "suggested retail" but the item is never really offered at that price. Seems like this would circumvent a lot of insurance company hate. "Look what they're saving me!"

Posted by: frostbitten1 | September 9, 2009 11:20 AM | Report abuse

New kit!

Posted by: km2bar | September 9, 2009 11:27 AM | Report abuse

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