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The power of market fundamentalism

The other day I saw a light bulb, made in 1886, on display at the Smithsonian. It would fit into a socket in my house.

We are surrounded by technological fossils. The entire U.S. energy system in the 21st century is still fundamentally based on 19th century concepts and 20th century technologies. Everyone wants a greener society, but change comes slowly when you have an already mature infrastructure and a lot of vested interests. And if Al Gore is right, it comes more slowly yet if market fundamentalism makes it nearly impossible to pass a new law or a new regulation to deal with climate change.

Gore's long op-ed has some interesting passages that deal with the political environment of the post Cold War era:

The decisive victory of democratic capitalism over communism in the 1990s led to a period of philosophical dominance for market economics worldwide and the illusion of a unipolar world. It also led, in the United States, to a hubristic "bubble" of market fundamentalism that encouraged opponents of regulatory constraints to mount an aggressive effort to shift the internal boundary between the democracy sphere and the market sphere. Over time, markets would most efficiently solve most problems, they argued. Laws and regulations interfering with the operations of the market carried a faint odor of the discredited statist adversary we had just defeated.

And here's a little jab at Glenn Beck, et al:

Simultaneously, changes in America's political system -- including the replacement of newspapers and magazines by television as the dominant medium of communication -- conferred powerful advantages on wealthy advocates of unrestrained markets and weakened advocates of legal and regulatory reforms. Some news media organizations now present showmen masquerading as political thinkers who package hatred and divisiveness as entertainment. And as in times past, that has proved to be a potent drug in the veins of the body politic. Their most consistent theme is to label as "socialist" any proposal to reform exploitive behavior in the marketplace.

I'm trying to work through an irony here: The critics of climate change legislation fear socialism, but so much of this issue revolves around the behavior of what historically have been regulated monopolies. Any history of electricity (which is what I've been interested in) deals with J.P. Morgan financing Edison, and George Westinghouse building the first AC grid, and many other entrepreneurial activities, but it also includes the TVA bringing power to rural America. Utilities crave predictability, not the risk associated with high-flying capitalism and market fundamentalism. This means many utilities are potentially allies of energy legislation so long as it the goals and timetables are reasonable (though there will be major differences of opinion about what that means).

According to Stewart Brand, this is going to become a managed planet, with dense cities, nuclear power, biogenic crops, and lots of science. It has to become one. That will please neither environmental purists nor, I suspect, the market fundamentalists.

By Joel Achenbach  |  March 1, 2010; 9:39 AM ET
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Not first.

Posted by: yellojkt | March 1, 2010 11:41 AM | Report abuse

Thank you, Joel, for alerting us to this new kit. Sometimes it does take us a while to catch on, and we appreciate all the help you can give us.

Posted by: slyness | March 1, 2010 11:42 AM | Report abuse

Please let that managed planet scenario happen after I die. So far we haven't managed particularly well.

Posted by: --dr-- | March 1, 2010 11:44 AM | Report abuse

A few days ago the Post ran this Reuters item that shows some promise for new legislation in the climate change suppression effort.

"The Washington Post said the Senators (a bipartisan group, eba) were looking at cutting greenhouse gases by targeting three major sources of emissions: electric utilities, transportation and industry.

The paper said power plants would face an overall cap on emissions that would become more stringent over time. Gasoline might face a carbon tax, with the proceeds going toward development of electric vehicles."

I think this approach has much merit and may be politically doable.

Posted by: edbyronadams | March 1, 2010 11:45 AM | Report abuse

I stand corrected.

This kit ties in well with a book review of The Essential Engineer by Henry Petroski.

The book contends that science alone will not solve the globe's problems. Engineering principles must be applied to create solutions for the myriad of problems that have been identified as well as ones we are not yet aware of.

However, from my experience engineers tend to be reactionary and politically conservative, so marshaling their talents takes more than putting up pictures of lonely drowning polar bears.

Posted by: yellojkt | March 1, 2010 11:48 AM | Report abuse

My first reaction is that utilities learned to crave predictability because that is how they got set up. Gummint set them up this way, pretending that the grid in one area was at least philosophically separate from grids elsewhere. Now we wake up and, surprise, it's the 21st century and everyone's scrambling to figure out how to catch up.

It was thus with postal delivery. The USPS coasted right along until the advent of faxes, overnight delivery and email. My local post office is a veritable diorama compared to the local FedEx Office.

Posted by: MsJS | March 1, 2010 11:50 AM | Report abuse

Well, that was a great Olympics. I’ve kind of OD’d on Canadiana though. I feel like I’m coming off a week long maple syrup bender.

RD, I think it would have only been a real catastrophe if the mens hockey team lost to a team other than US-Russia-Sweden-Finland-Czech. I think it’s clear yesterday had the two best teams playing, so there is no dishonour in second place in that context. Oh sure, heads would have rolled, but not on the same scale.

Apparently the Russians are very unhappy about their showing. Expect them to invest heavily in their programs to prepare for Sochi.

Not that I know anything about short track speed skating, but I thought the call that DQ’d Apolo Ohno was incorrect. Hamelin also had trivial self-protective contact with the Korean just before the Korean went down.

Speed skating team pursuit is absolutely hypnotic to watch.

Vonn did get a lot of air time. The funniest was when they would gratuitously cut to her to watch her reaction to others' runs. OTOH, I would like to know what Ashleigh McIvor's position is on the federal budget.

Posted by: engelmann | March 1, 2010 11:51 AM | Report abuse

Nothing in my 11:48 should be construed to denigrate or belittle the role of vigilant copy editors in the saving of the planet.

Posted by: yellojkt | March 1, 2010 12:02 PM | Report abuse

I am so laughing at myself. Mudged, yet again. What is that, two kits in a row?


In (very mild) defense of NBC, it makes sense that they would tend to favor coverage of either Americans or North Americans, since that is naturally going to be its primary audience. What's the point of focusing a lot of attention on some Slovakian when NBC's viewership over there is going to be in high double digits? So, yes, coverage tends to be skewed toward their primary viewership, and I'm not so sure that's a bad thing.

And yes, they picked out certain people and fawned over them, but I don't see that as anything peculiar to NBC, or to current coverage practices. Even in the good old days of Jim McKay and Wide World of Sports they always focused on certain people. Part of it has to do with trying to figure out beforehand who the likely winner of an event is going to be, and getting a lot of background on that person. This also makes sense. Why focus on somebody seeded 9th?

Then you have the clearly attention-grabbing things, such as the focus on Joannie Rochette, which speaks for itself, You just HAVE to cover stuff like that, or your old, curmudgeonly editor somewhere will get all over your case. So it's simply a case of excess, how much is too much. If it was easy, anybody could do it.

Another part of the problem is that the number of events has approximately doubled in the last 25 years. Didn't it go from something like 49 events to 89 events? Think how much harder it is to cram almost twice as many events into the same 24-hour day. Back in the Jim McKay era, there was only one channel to cover the whole thing. Now, at least, they have two channels, though it still might not be enough.

So NBC has a tough problem: do their mad-dash helter-skelter coverage, jumping all over the place (and pissing viewers off), or sticking with one event and ignoring others (and pissing people off). It's lose-lose.

Also, consider the staffing and infrastructure problem of covering twice as many events. Double the staff, double the payroll. especially since the payroll is like to include a disproportionate number of high-salary experts and former greats, as opposed to just adding more cameramen. You've also got to hire Biff and Sally Jean to provide the color commentary, and at least one of them has to be a former champion of some sort.

I'm not sure the question is why did NBC mess up so much. I think it may just be they could have done much, much worse than they did. Me, I want Roone Arledge and Jim McKay back, but that's not in the cards.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | March 1, 2010 12:16 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, I think there are clearly people who think that the collapse of Communism as a viable system "proves" that it is best to keep the political system and the economic system separate.

Except, of course, it proves nothing of itself. Communism failed because it didn't work very well. But there are lots of things that don't work very well. And one of them, traditionally is unfettered capitalism.

Capitalism is an incredibly powerful force, but it is unstable. It simply doesn't work well without buffers and boundary conditions.

I mean, just think about the whole notion of consumer behavior.

Unless you have legal protection against coercion, capitalism fails because consumers can be simply bullied into favoring one vendor over another. You end up with old Chicago or, some assert, new Russia.

So I just don't buy this false choice between "free markets" and "socialism." Without strong government regulations there is no such thing as a free market.

The same thing applies to the markets of any kind. Including the market of ideas.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | March 1, 2010 12:18 PM | Report abuse

The conservative voices out there keep trying to equate socialism with Soviet communism, and the two are not at all the same. Let's also remember that rampant capitalism essentially depends on a permanent under-class working for minimal wages in order to allow the business enterprises to maximize profit. It was this brand of capitalism that resulted in the union movements of the late 19th Century. Contemplate what our lives would be like without food inspectors, drug reviews, Medicare, Social Security, mass transit, air traffic control, clean air and water regulations, etc.

Posted by: ebtnut | March 1, 2010 12:23 PM | Report abuse

This just occurred to me, and see if you think it makes sense.

In my experience (and generalizing here), toddlers and teenagers seem to think they are invincible and are narcissistic as all get-out. They are warned that stoves are hot, sitting on windowsills and leaning out the window can cause one to fall and die, and that automobiles are not meant to be driven on streets at 100 mph or the equivalent in kph, especially if alcohol (legal or not) is consumed. Or that binge drinking is harmful. Or that having sex without contraceptives (especially at the tender young age of 11 and higher*).

Nothing bad will ever happen because "I don't want it to" or "it only happens to someone else. Whence the denial -- and angry denial, at that. How *dare* someone suggest that bad things happen? Every one of those deniers is a Superhero or something and just by saying *NO* (two-year olds are masterful at that), there is no climate change or no earthquakes or floods or genocides or disease. Because I say so.


* -- the age of entering into puberty has been falling for quite some time, although somehow the age of emotional maturity is about 70 now ...

Posted by: -ftb- | March 1, 2010 12:25 PM | Report abuse

The problem with unrestricted markets is the human effect of the vagaries. A correction in the grain market, for example, historically means famine somewhere in the world. Accepting that some will suffer in order to generate more wealth for others is a morally feeble ideology. I suspect a lot of unrestricted market advocates strongly underrate social and political advantages that we had over communist nations.

Yello, not sure I follow your comments about engineers. There's no political orientation in the profession that prevents us from working on global problems. Our masters just aren't paying us to do it. We rank awfully low in the decision making hierarchy.

Posted by: qgaliana | March 1, 2010 12:38 PM | Report abuse

ftb, there's research out now that says a lot of that behavior has to do with development (or slowness thereof) of the frontal cerebral cortex, which doesn't happen until about age 25. Apparently different areas of the brain mature at different rates (kind of counter-intuitive), those different kinds of "adult" behavior come online at different times.

A lot of this could all be avoided if society followed a few simple rules: lock up all teenagers in convents starting at the onset of puberty, and release them at age 30. Males and females both (and NOT in mixed-gender facilities). Also, drug-induced comas make also work. Let them sleep through it, then wake up as fully functioning people. I realize the prom industry will suffer, but it seems to me a small sacrifice. Ditto the obnoxious music industry, the Miley Cyrus industry, the bong manufacturers association, etc.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | March 1, 2010 12:39 PM | Report abuse

Well said, RD Padouk, well said. Nice follow-up by ebtnut also.


Posted by: DLDx | March 1, 2010 12:42 PM | Report abuse

Brag, so good to hear from you!

On Jim Bunning - I was well aware that he was single-handedly holding up the extension to unemployment benefits. My thought is that we could start saving money by paying Senators and Representatives $1 a year, cut their pensions, health care, etc. It might not save that much actual money, but it would give them that "falling off a cliff" feeling.

As for Olympics coverage, all NBC (and other US networks) have to do is watch Canadian coverage. When I watched in the past, they only had one channel, but covered more events, in real time when possible, and without ceaseless commercials and promotions. And no wasting time on pre-packaged clips. Yes, they focus on Canadian athletes, but it is not nearly as annoying as American networks. Or maybe Canadian athletes aren't as annoying as Americans. Sorry - I'll quit complaining about this.

Posted by: seasea1 | March 1, 2010 12:43 PM | Report abuse

Not all teenagers are deniers. Indeed, the opposite seems true to me. Today's younth are just like we were...the loudmouths for change.

Posted by: LostInThought | March 1, 2010 12:44 PM | Report abuse

SCC: oops. youth

Posted by: LostInThought | March 1, 2010 12:45 PM | Report abuse

The primary reason why "science and engineering" won't ultimately solve global problems is that the problems aren't scientific or technological; they are social and political. It's not fair (or feasible) to ask an engineer or scientist to solve a societal problem. What's the engineering solution to redistribution of wealth? Allocation of resources? Wacko ideology such as Wahabi Islamism, or watching "Jersey Shore"? There isn't one.

I am a complete, total skeptic and negativist on our ability to solve global problems for this reason. It isn't that I don't believe in science; I do. It's that I don't believe in societal change. We simply don't know how to do it. We can't get people to stop driving massive SUVs. Why do we delude ourselves we can clean up the planet? We can't even clean up Toledo, Ohio, or Fall River, Mass. We can't find a place to store nuclear wastes. We can't restrain the oil/gas industries. A third of the Senate doesn't even BELIEVE there is global warming. How do you "solve" it in the face of that?

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | March 1, 2010 12:50 PM | Report abuse

Socialism as an epithet is foolish but regulating markets to the point to which startup costs are prohibitive and operating expenses daunting costs the economy dynamism that is essential for growth. The tradeoff between suppressing the cyclic nature of the market out of compassion and allowing for business deaths and new births can be seen in Europe where the unemployment rate, even in relatively good times remains high.

My objection, and this goes to health care and rising deficits as well, is that the regulation of business to protect the now falls on the future and the young people starting out their lives. I am much more worried about the lives of my children than I am of my own and do not see further government efforts as their friend, but rather their enemy.

That is not to say that the government should not provide and enforce more rules in the financial industry, which allowed wild bets on future growth that could not be sustained. Government, even if they have the will, may find that regulation difficult since Wall Street learned that hiring math PhD's to invent new financial instruments is a way to score easy short term profits.

Posted by: edbyronadams | March 1, 2010 12:59 PM | Report abuse

Well, sure edbyronadams. Over-regulation is a bad thing. The secret is to find the right level of regulation. But the debate now seems dominated by those who view all regulation as bad.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | March 1, 2010 1:08 PM | Report abuse

I have the impression that capitalism and state / central planning aren't what they used to be. That John Nash's and others' work - such as Mandelbrot - produced a tectonic shift that in many ways washed away tired old doctrines as flawed. A tsunami of recalculations. Of course this has yet to sink in. Much as quantum theory only percolated into the public consciousness after 50 years, new paradigms are not even conceived by lightweights on the right, and unfortunately insufficiently by progressives. Betamax really was the better product. Yet we all ended up with VHS.

I think the "grid" used to be not a grid. I think electricity used to be routed by trunk and branch, "tree paradigm." Only in the last few years, I think, is actual networked power transmission going into place. I need to research this more however.

Posted by: Jumper1 | March 1, 2010 1:08 PM | Report abuse

But ed, it is use of language such as "friend" and "enemy" that starts to polarize the conversation and harden the ideology. If you start calling government "the enemy," as you just did, then it is simply "game over." "Friend" isn't quite as bad, in the opposite direction, but sill not a good term. To some extent, government is supposed to be the arbiter, the umpire, and the controller of society (whether loose controller or restrictive is another worthy debate). Govt. shouldn't be the "friend" of business, nor should it be the "enemy." Who says business needs "friends"? It is already as powerful as it can possibly be; many of us think it needs more restraint, not less.

The other problem with "business," ed, is that fundamentally it has no conscience. By and large, it operates to maximize it's own benefit, not society's benefit. This is the crux of what has been wrong with every pro-business advocate. When business's interest coincides with society's that's fine. But it is when business's interest is contrary to society's interest that we have a problem.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | March 1, 2010 1:14 PM | Report abuse


I liked your mentioning of drug safety regulation. That is a classic case of safety versus innovation. That field is so heavily regulated that it is breathtakingly expensive to bring new drugs to market and the political momentum is for further regulation since even the most expensive fine meshed screen will allow products with unforeseen deleterious effects on the market with consequent news stories demanding more regulation.

How do we count the costs? How do we count the "orphan" diseases for which drug research is abandoned, even short term, chronic conditions such as infections for which the market has difficulty paying the companies for marketing costs?

The search for security has a price, sometimes a huge price.

Posted by: edbyronadams | March 1, 2010 1:15 PM | Report abuse

Science and technology *have* to play a role. If we are going to feed 12 billion people on the same land than now feeds 6 billion people, something has to improve. Up until now we have always invented our way to the lead of the Malthusian rat race, but sooner or later something has to give.

Posted by: yellojkt | March 1, 2010 1:15 PM | Report abuse

Jumper, add to your Betamax/VHS argument the assertion (correct, in my view), that Apple has a much, much better operating system than Microsoft, yet MS now has what, about 95% of the market, yet with a clearly inferior product.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | March 1, 2010 1:17 PM | Report abuse

RD_Padouk, I disagree. The pendulum of deregulation has swung and is now swinging back. The political news of the day is a massive change in medical delivery requiring a vast new regulatory bureaucracy.

Posted by: edbyronadams | March 1, 2010 1:18 PM | Report abuse

Power, power, power, power, power. The wind power of sails, and Dutch windmills, and the wind turbines of Tehachapi and Tracy, Calif. and West Texas.

Water power, and Char Miller's watersheds and the David Liss's looms of central England the looms of New England (and labor issues).

Thermal power, the hissing power of Geyersville, Calif., and Yellowstone, and the volcanoes of Hawaii.

Solar power, and solar roof panels and the ability to stimulate growth in carbon-based organics.

Muscle power, the power of horses and big beasts and men.

Carbon power, alive and dead, trees and fires and Tim Egan, and oil, and Daniel Yergin and the derricks of Oildale and Bakersfield. The fire power of weapons.

Atomic power and Ernest Lawrence and nuclear reactors and uranium and Washington state's Richland.

Electric power, thunderstorms and Edison and Menlo Park.

Political power and will.

The power of Tom Friedman. Tom, Tom, Tom. Should I have tried to get a better look, a look other than a glimpse from the street? Because here's what I saw with my good eye? Tom was backlighted, both by the weak light coming in the windows from the setting sun, and the low light from the several floorlamps next to the Mission-style furniture. Friedman was bathed in a yellow glow, a halo effect. The rest of the room fell away.

There is something I could probably pull from the Friedman lecture from the notes still in my purse that would contribute to today's discussion. But last night it was to bed at 11:30, up to shut the window against the violent storm with high winds at 12:30, and up, in physical pain, at 1:30. The theme of the Kits changes so fast, I feel like I'm getting whiplash.

So, hold on buoys, thre's some water power I want to talk about before I can hope to express anything close to cogent about today's topic.

Posted by: laloomis | March 1, 2010 1:20 PM | Report abuse

Cutting all senators' salaries and benefits to zero would not cause a ripple. 68 of the 100 members have net worth in excess of $1,000,000 and 25 have net worth above $10,000,000. The tippy top of this pyramid consists of (surprise!) three ol' white guys who are (double surprise!!) Democrats- Herb Kohl, Mark Warner, and John Kerry, all of whose fortunes top $200,000,000.

Posted by: kguy1 | March 1, 2010 1:22 PM | Report abuse

The power 'grid' is a lot less interlinked than many people think. There are a lot of dead ends and home runs in the system. And the risk of cascade failures is enormous. Just another apocalyptic fear to keep you nervous about.

Posted by: yellojkt | March 1, 2010 1:24 PM | Report abuse

"Science and technology *have* to play a role. If we are going to feed 12 billion people on the same land than now feeds 6 billion people."

No, yello, not necessarily. This assertion implies that we now feed 6 million efficiently and/or "well," etc.-- a lot of variables. And it is also incontestable that we do not now feed those 6 billion adequately.

But there are a number of people who say we are perfectly capable of feeding the 6 billion right now--if we did it properly. (I can't speak to the accuracy of this, but for argument's sake I'm willing to agree "we" could do a much better job.)

The next argument is, why do we have to assume we will grow to 12 billion? perhaps part of the answer is figure out a way not to feed 12 billion, but to keep 6 billion from becoming 12 billion -- and THEN trying to feed the 6 billion properly.

That science and technology can deliver a solution is simply a faith-based theory, it isn't a given at all. In a way, it is asking for the deus ex machina to come in and rescue us. We want "science," machines, to save us from human failings. The more reasonable solution is to work on the human failings, not find ways to build better machines that will "enable" our failings by masking them or "solving" them. To believe in a "science" solution to some extent is also to believe that solving the societal problems isn't doable, so we must "fall back" on "science" to do what humans can't.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | March 1, 2010 1:27 PM | Report abuse

I agree that the future will be increasingly modulated, not because it must me, but because we will want it to be.

The world is full of systems that are stable in the long run but not in the short run. (In economics this observation led to Keynesian quip about everyone being dead in the long run.)

Take population. A natural population will grow until something, like starvation, makes it drop again. The system is stable in the long term. The problem is that the mechanism, starvation, isn't one people are, usually, real comfortable with.

So the solution is to manage the system via birth control coupled with an increased food supply. In this way a new system can established that is stable, or at least slowly changing, in both the long term and short term.

But this new system requires careful management to remain stable. And this management is based on both a scientific understanding of the underlying dynamics, and the technological tools to keep the system from oscillating wildly.

And the same thing, I assert, applies to all sorts of systems from the economy to pollution. They don't *need* to be managed, per se. Without management, eventually, natural corrections will emerge. It's just that these "natural corrections" may be far too brutal for our liking.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | March 1, 2010 1:30 PM | Report abuse

Mudge - I think you are saying that we can't rely on science to solve one part of a system while ignoring the other. And I agree completely. Science needs to be applied to all parts of a system. Including the part that involves people.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | March 1, 2010 1:35 PM | Report abuse

The music...harps or a full symphony? Loud and clear or sort of off in the distance?

And geez, I need to get out more.

Posted by: LostInThought | March 1, 2010 1:36 PM | Report abuse

To add to RD's remark, I'd rather take my chances with the government regulation than Mother Nature's.

Posted by: qgaliana | March 1, 2010 1:40 PM | Report abuse

Daniel Janzen, the pioneer ecological restorationist whose American base is the University of Pennsylvania, has long argued that we have to be gardeners. He must have offended a lot of wilderness enthusiasts, not to mention those who believe in ecological laisser-faire (the belief that "ecological succession" will repair all insults).

Janzen was writing wonderful papers back in the 1970s. He seems not to have burned out or become full of himself.

Jumper, I noticed recently that our municipal power system has been upgrading its distribution network for redundancy.

I think you can argue that Windows is nearly essential for most office environments, but (unless Windows 7 constitutes a big improvement) klutzy and insecure for home use.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | March 1, 2010 1:40 PM | Report abuse


One of the orphan books that I picked up at Half Price Books on February 11, the date between the Trinity lectures by Dustin Lance Black and the Char Miller and Tom Friedman presentations the following week, was "In Search of Robinson Crusoe" by Tim Severin. His 76-page second chapter titled "Isla Robinson Crusoe" tells a long tale. Given the earthquake early Saturday morning originating in the plates just off Chiles' coastline, let me give you the first paragraph from Severinh's second chapter, which tells a very small part of the history of wind and water power.:

"in 1966 the president of Chile, Eduardo Frei Montalva, signed a decree to rename the island where the Duke found Selkirk. It was to be called Isla Robinson Crusoe in future. [sic] Simarly rebranded was one of its neighbors, a slightly larger island one hundred miles farther out in the Pacific. It was dubbed Isla Alejandro Selkirk. No one seems to have found it strange thhat the new names commemorate a fictitious foreigner and a heretical, cantankerous sailor who came to Chile to plunder its citizens and and sack or its towns and churches or hold them for ransom. Previously, the islands had been referred to--when anyone bothered to refer to them at all-as Mas Afuera and Mas a Tierra. This offhand description means nothing more than "Farther Out to Sea" and "Closer to Land." Collectively the two islands and some small islets had long been labeled in a more conventional way--after their discoverer, the Spanish navigator Don Juan Fernandez. Sailing southward from Peru [silver mines] toward Chile [native slaves and wheat] in November 1574, Don Juan abandoned the usual coasting route, where it is a hard slog against the prevailing winds and adverse north-flowing currents. He tried a wider-than-usual loop offshore and into the Pacific, and succeeded in halving the usual voyage time, a feat so astonishing tht he was accused of black magic. One result was that he acquired the nickname "the Witch"; the other was that he stumbled on these far outliers of land.

"The islands' new names, it was hoped, would lure tourists. ..."

Selkirk then goes on to describe the one plane that takes tourists the three-hour flight from Santiago to Chile's Isla Robinson Crusoe.

I am curious. It was reported that 200 tourists were on these islands when Saturday's tsunami struck, and that 10-foot waves swept over them. Hawaii got plenty of advanced tsunami warning. When did Robinson Crusoe Island receive its warning, and with how much time to spare before being inundated? What entity issued the warning? The Pacific Hurricane Center? If so, how well-staffed is it in the middle of the night or in the wee morning hours? How was the information disseminated to those on these remote islands? How quickly and in what ways did officials there act?

Posted by: laloomis | March 1, 2010 1:46 PM | Report abuse

Still, without sound, LiT. *l*

Posted by: laloomis | March 1, 2010 1:48 PM | Report abuse

ed, not that the numbers count for much, but I suspect most people on this particular blog would not agree with your use of "massive" and "vast" to describe the health care proposals. I recognize that you folks on the right use "massive" and "vast," the whol size question in general, as a core criticism. On the opposite side, we simply don't agree with your terms. To us, we simply don't care whether the gummint health plan is "massive" or not; we simply want 31 million people who aren't insured to get some. We really don't give a fig if it is "vast" or not. You, for your part, don't give a fig about the 31 million humans; you just don't want to fund anything, so you can keep your taxes down and government miniscule.

Your criticism of "massiveness" as inherently problematic isn't on our radar, just as helping 31 million isn't on your radar. If conservatives would come up with a plan to help 31 million instead of their current philosophy, which boils down to "tough sh--," then I might respect it. But I simply don't respect "tough sh--" as an operational political philosophy.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | March 1, 2010 1:50 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for the giggle.

(I take it still as in an ethereal way, not in the eerie there's-a-tornado-coming kind of way?)

Have a great day all.

Posted by: LostInThought | March 1, 2010 1:56 PM | Report abuse

The fact that there are in this country many millions of individuals who have no health insurance does not mean that those folks have no access to care. They're all down at the ER. This is the aspect of the current discussion that receives too little attention IMHO. The uninsured get no wellness treatment and only see a doctor when the situation gets severe. Then they resort to the most expensive, least efficient venue, an over crowded ER. Society (taxpayers and the well insured among us) pays a significant price for this under the current system, a price which might very well be reduced under a universal system. This is an argument that seems never to be made.

Posted by: kguy1 | March 1, 2010 2:06 PM | Report abuse

I am mixed politically, being a Western sort. But here is the rub for me: medical problems and thin insurance coverage will break me. I will become poor so fast that that sucking sound you here is me going down the drain. Give me imperfect care in a gov-reg setting over the market. The market is saying to me: tough toenails.

My case is not an outlier; WE HAVE A MARKET FAILURE. That is what government intervention and regulation is for. I look forward to complaining about it. Because I HAVE IT. I could be without out in an instant.

Posted by: CollegeQuaParkian1 | March 1, 2010 2:09 PM | Report abuse

kguy, some of us without insurance do exactly as you do, go to our regular doctors (and pay a higher price than an insurance company would), buy our drugs at Walgreens (again paying a higher price), and only go to the emergency room in an emergency (and pay through the nose). And, you know, it's still a whole lot cheaper than inadequate insurance was. Assuming nothing goes wrong.

Posted by: Wheezy11 | March 1, 2010 2:13 PM | Report abuse

One temp place I signed with recently gave me a brochure about their "health insurance." It costs about $350-400 a month. The *maximum* annual benefit is $25,000.


Posted by: Wheezy11 | March 1, 2010 2:16 PM | Report abuse

kguy, John Boehner and other Republicans have made that argument about people with no insurance being able to get emergency care. The problem is, they think that is just fine and see no reason to change it. Why they don't understand that it drives up costs, I don't know. It's a willful blind spot, IMHO.

Posted by: seasea1 | March 1, 2010 2:17 PM | Report abuse

Lunch with NPR's Neal Conan. Neal and guests run the gamut of nuclear issues:

President Obama announced a multi-billion dollar loan to build a new nuclear reactor in Georgia. But in Vermont, the state senate denied a plant renewal of its license amid safety concerns.

Guests look at nuclear power: The policy, the plants and the public perception.


Rebecca Smith, covers nuclear energy for the Wall Street Journal

Lydia DePillis, reporter and researcher for the New Republic. She wrote "A Nuclear Power Plant With A View" for Slate

Eugene Rosa, professor of sociology and environmental policy at Washington State University

Posted by: laloomis | March 1, 2010 2:45 PM | Report abuse

There is little that is so wrong with the world that it could not be solved by eliminating the majority of the human population. This simple truth tends to engender concern about proposed mechanisms, and suggestions of moral failure. How petty and narrow-minded. To counter this childish opposition, I have conceived of a plan to do the job with no bloodshed, taking advantage of certain traits common to many human societies that will cause the world to participate willingly in the population-reduction program. I believe I have previously mentioned this plan, but here it is again. It requires:

(1) A technology for hormonal manipulation in utero to control the development of sexual characteristics (this is the hard part, unlike most solutions to human problems, for which the technology is the easy part). A child whose phenotype fails to match genotype is typically sterile -- this is the evil-villain part of The Plan.

(2) A mechanism to make the procedure affordable. I favor grants from a multi-national conglomerate of nebulous ideology and uncertain partisanship, so that the plan can be put in action before significant reaction takes place. THRUSH, or SMERSH, or KAOS come to mind as a good parent organization.

(3) And you have to wait about 70 years for The Plan to ripen.

The technology is the hard part, because it will be fairly easy to trick most of the world's populace into buying into The Plan. I surmise that even if fully informed of the 50-50 chance that a child will be sterile, many people will choose a son. Some others may go for a guaranteed daughter -- no sweat, the odds of sterility are the same in that direction (I think).

I guesstimate that in one generation, 1/3 of boys will be sterile, with a birth population of 3/4 boys vs. 1/4 girls. At most 1/2 of coupling opportunities will have potential for self-reproduction (i.e., boy with girl vs. boy with boy), and the high rate of sterility means that the actual number of reproductively competent pairs will be 1/2 * 2/3 = 1/3 as great as otherwise. Replacement rate alone would thus require that each reproductive pair produce 6 adult children as a global average, which seems unlikely. Assuming that social norms on family size do not change TOO terribly fast, the dramatic decrease in birth rates will show up about 16-20 years after the first generation of parents makes the choice to follow The Plan, when their adult boys start looking for permanent partners. Then we just wait for the old folks to die.

70 years, two generations, world population plummets as the old population dies off (if their enraged children don't kill them first). Of course, by then, global climate change may have killed off 1/4 to 1/2 of the world population, anyway.

Fortunately, I am a physicist, so you need not worry about me developing this technology... but *somebody* might do it. Terribly, terribly evil -- but good for the ecosystem and for the species.

Posted by: ScienceTim | March 1, 2010 2:47 PM | Report abuse

The one take-away I got (rightly or wrongly) from James Gleick's 'Chaos' was that there are no steady state systems. Equilibriums are always in flux and sometimes small changes have large impacts.

Most predictions say that world population will steady at 9.2 billion in 2050. I'll take the over on that bet. People do not always behave as Rational Economic Decision Makers.

Compact fluorescent bulbs have to fit the sockets of existing incandescent fixtures because the installed base is so large. Light bulb sockets are primary beneficiaries of the lock-in effect which also benefits Microsoft, although not irreversibly. For my house, I need to stock twelve different bulb sizes in four different socket geometries. A nightmare I tell you.

Posted by: yellojkt | March 1, 2010 2:47 PM | Report abuse

Beat the traffic-


Posted by: kguy1 | March 1, 2010 2:50 PM | Report abuse

At the other end of the spectrum, there's MrJS and I.

We have fantabulous health coverage. And I could go on for longer than Al Gore did today (nearly 1,900 words) about how bad the system can be when it's supposed to be working.

Longer than necessary hospital stays, unnecessary psych consults (ordered when I disagreed with my attending doc regarding his plan of care), useless physical and/or occupational therapy appointments, unneeded hospital tests, and too many/inappropriate prescriptions headline the list.

I will readily take this over having no insurance. I am grateful that this is what I have to complain about when it comes to health care.

That said, the U.S. health care system is broken far beyond any solution being debated on Capitol Hill.

Whatever gets passed will address only the initial stages of what will be a loooooong road towards a working health care system in the U.S.

Posted by: MsJS | March 1, 2010 2:53 PM | Report abuse

I also posit without supporting documentation that at the current moment we have the lowest percentage of the human population in a state of famine than at anytime in history. I would even further hypothesize that this holds true in absolute numbers as well.

Posted by: yellojkt | March 1, 2010 2:55 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: kguy1 | March 1, 2010 3:26 PM | Report abuse

I knew it was just a matter of time.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | March 1, 2010 3:39 PM | Report abuse

Good afternoon, all.
Some scary stuff in the Boodle today, IMO.

Speaking of technological artifacts, weren't we talking about high-speed rail the other day?

If I remember right, the standard rail gauge can be traced back to carriage ruts four or five *thousand years* ago.

One would hope that we're still not dealing with four-octet IP addressing in the year 6010. Shoot, there are only about 4 Billion of them, IIRC. We're already out and don't know it yet. I think there's an proposed v6 version of the IP addressing scheme where the number of possible addresses is represented in scientific notation.

As would the human population at that time, given the current rate of growth.

Bah, plenty of time to wait to develop space travel.

Or much smaller people.

That could make for a well-managed planet, I suppose.


Posted by: -bc- | March 1, 2010 3:44 PM | Report abuse

But can it do a loop, RD_P?

"C'mon, you tub 'a $h|t!!"

Posted by: Scottynuke | March 1, 2010 3:44 PM | Report abuse

Meh. WE have had stealth mode helicopters since at least Airwolf. Can those guys do an inverted barrel roll in THEIR stealth-copter?

Posted by: yellojkt | March 1, 2010 3:47 PM | Report abuse

I like the piece I have seen about the gauge of train tracks being based on wheel ruts, because it is funny. However, I don't believe it to be actually true. I know for a fact that there have been other rail gauges used in the US for various sound technological reasons. I suspect that rail gauge has a lot more to do with the physical dimensions of human beings, resulting in a class of solutions to the problem of wheel-spacing that tend towards the same value to within a reasonable factor.

Time to go see what Snopes says. Oh, yeah, sure, I COULD have checked Snopes prior to saying anything on the subject. Where is the sport in doing that?

Posted by: ScienceTim | March 1, 2010 3:50 PM | Report abuse

S'nuke beat me to the acrobatic helicopter reference. Although looking at those sound recordings, those blades still have enough low frequency amplitude for Radar to warn Hawkeye and B.J. before they came over the hill.

Posted by: yellojkt | March 1, 2010 3:52 PM | Report abuse

Airwolf was a direct result of the success of the film "Blue Thunder" with Roy Scheider-

Posted by: kguy1 | March 1, 2010 3:53 PM | Report abuse

*Tim, thanks for reminding me that I recently DVRed the movie "Children of Men."

Tempted to follow it up with "Soylent Green," "Logan's Run," "Silent Running" or some other classic dystopian film.

I wonder - maybe we *can* have it too good.


Posted by: -bc- | March 1, 2010 3:55 PM | Report abuse

Methinks Brag will be pleased:

NATO warship sinks pirate ship off Somalia


Posted by: Scottynuke | March 1, 2010 3:55 PM | Report abuse

Yello, I would say no for absolute numbers and the percentage rate is nothing to be proud of outside the western world. Unless we want to quibble over just how few calories it takes for a famine - but there are plenty of international groups that make a point of intervening to prevent starvation. Many of the previous gains from the green revolution were wiped out by the global jump in food prices. I note the countries higlighted below are very densely populated or in anarchy. Economic philosophy doesn't seem to be a big factor but agriculture is one of the most heavily regulated industries throughout the western world so there is probably not the difference we might expect between us and say China. Some WFP stats:

- 1.02 billion people do not have enough to eat - more than the populations of USA, Canada and the European Union;
(Source: FAO news release, 19 June 2009)
- The number of undernourished people in the world increased by 75 million in 2007 and 40 million in 2008, largely due to higher food prices;
(Source: FAO news release, 9 Dec 2008)
- 907 million people in developing countries alone are hungry;
(Source: The State of Food Insecurity in the World, FAO, 2008)
- 65 percent of the world's hungry live in only seven countries: India, China, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Pakistan and Ethiopia.
(Source: The State of Food Insecurity in the World, FAO, 2008)

Posted by: qgaliana | March 1, 2010 4:03 PM | Report abuse

Going back on-kit for a moment:

There’s an old saying, which I first heard uttered by the songwriter/comedian Tom Lehrer but may well pre-date him, that goes, “If a person can’t communicate, the very least he can do is to shut up.”

And so I will stick my neck out and state for the record I think Al Gore is one of those people.

Mr. Gore basically says the American people should vote out of office anyone not willing to “do what is required.” Since doing what is required equates to agreeing with him and since he is something of a political lightning rod, he would better serve his cause at this sensitive time by remaining silent.

Yes, Mr. A, I know you like the guy. I'm just one of those who believes his causes may be better off without him as a mouthpiece.

Posted by: MsJS | March 1, 2010 4:06 PM | Report abuse


Airwolf was NOTHING like Blue Thunder. Sometimes brilliant ideas just happen spontaneously and simultaneously.

That's like saying that Happy Day was a direct result of the success of American Graffiti. Or that Parker Lewis Can't Lose was direct result of the success of Ferris Bueller's Day Off.

Well, maybe I see your point.

Posted by: yellojkt | March 1, 2010 4:06 PM | Report abuse

One of the recent conservative talking points is that "Al Gore should say something about the massive snowstorms we've had." Apparently he is supposed to go on the air and state the obvious--that the glaciers are still disappearing and the polar ice caps are still melting and that the snowstorms are a meteorlogical blip on the charts. So that the conservative pundits could further mock him, of course.

Posted by: Raysmom | March 1, 2010 4:18 PM | Report abuse

I vaguely remember a boodle debate a long time ago on the semantics of famine/mal-nourished/ill-nourished. There is a lot of political push to define things downward to make problems sound worse than they are or to mask improvements that could undercut their cause.

Here are some states composited from the Wikipedia article on Malnutrition. I know it's Wikipedia, but the article seems fairly well sourced and footnoted.

Year Malnourished # Malnourished %
1970 n/a 37%
1980 842,000,000 28%
1990 832,000,000 20%
2005 848,000,000 16%
2007 923,000,000 17%

Two trends here: We are doing better, but not great. That is a lot of people without enough to eat. Also, we seem to have plateaued or entered a really slow point of diminishing returns.

Since at least the early 20th century, most famines have been political rather than agricultural. If climate change has the 'chaotic' effect some claim, the situation could get worse before it gets better.

Posted by: yellojkt | March 1, 2010 4:28 PM | Report abuse

And for the cost of a base model Ford Focus you can buy a one of a kind flying hovercraft from New Zealand, but instead you want to argue with me about a 25 year old TV show? Dude, get on there and start bidding! That sucker MOVES! Top speed in excess of 100 kmh (that's 62 mph for the metrically challenged) in an open cockpit craft that does not require a license. This says midlife crisis like nothing else can!

Posted by: kguy1 | March 1, 2010 4:30 PM | Report abuse

World population in 1970 was 3.7 billion, which would infer that the number of malnourished people then was 1,370,000,000. So in the intervening years, we have increased the number of people in the world by 80% and reduced the number of malnourished by over 30%. Clearly, there is more to be done, but the globe has hardly become a Ehrlich-ian Donner Party.

Posted by: yellojkt | March 1, 2010 4:40 PM | Report abuse

ScienceTim, let me recommend "Saturn's Race" by Larry Niven and Steven Barnes. One of the main threads in the book has to do with controlling the population by non lethal means.

Posted by: edbyronadams | March 1, 2010 4:41 PM | Report abuse

Tim: Re: Track Gauge - I'm in your camp on that answer. In a sense, the gauge may be related to the spacing of Egyptin chariot wheels, but I think it was really an evolution of what was most efficient for a horse (or two) to pull, and by such externals and the widths of streets in ancient towns and cities. It appears that the first wooden "tracks" appeared in central European coal mines in the 16th century. You're right that there were (and are) a whole spectrum of track gauges in the world. But it may well be that when Richard Trevithick ran his first steam locomotive in England, the gauge of that mining track may well have set the standard gauge for the rest of the world.

Posted by: ebtnut | March 1, 2010 4:41 PM | Report abuse

SCC: ...externals as the widths...

Posted by: ebtnut | March 1, 2010 4:44 PM | Report abuse

I'm holding out for a flying motorcycle:

I want all to note that this article is from Scientific American, not Popular Mechanics. No word on when those coast-to-coast luxury dirigibles are expected.

Posted by: yellojkt | March 1, 2010 4:45 PM | Report abuse

Is another IRS building under attack?

Posted by: yellojkt | March 1, 2010 4:52 PM | Report abuse

Conservatives, at least in the U.S., seem to have become every bit as ideologically-driven as the Soviet system they abhorred. In this narrow view, markets will *always* produce optimal results, and any government regulation ("interference" or "control" in their lexicon) will *always* produce negative results. 50 years ago, Republicans could make a reasonable claim to being the party of pragmatism, even if their idea of "what works" tended to be what worked 50 years previously. Today, everything in their world view seems to be have a foundation rooted in an unquestioned ideology -- just like those Soviet state planners. (They picked up a few other bad habits from the Soviets as well, such as the notion of the "cult of personality" -- see also "Ronald Reagan.")

Unfortunately, ideological formulations rarely conform to real-world conditions. If the market had an answer to the problem of 30 million uninsured, there would not be 30 million uninsured; the Republican notion of letting insurers compete across state lines in order to increase competition and drive down prices strikes me as mostly noise, unlikely to have any real effect on affordability.

I actually support the idea of a robust, pragmatic conservative party in this country, as a counterweigh and antidote to the inevitable overreaching and unintended consequences of liberal activism. But we don't have anything of the sort. Instead, we have a right-wing party whose starting point is so badly out of sync with observable reality that most political debate in this country becomes badly distorted at the outset, with progressives moving their goal posts to the center before the debate even begins (thus single-payer is off the table), and the right refusing to budge an inch from their "principles."

On a completely unrelated boodle topic, I actually disagree with Jumper's idea that Beta was better -- and I have a Beta in my living room, and use it regularly. The decks were too complicated, broke down too frequently, and had a nasty habit of damaging tapes. There was also virtually no discernible difference between commercially-recorded Beta and VHS tapes. My favorite example of a "best" technology losing out to markedly inferior ones is Technicolor -- by far the best color film technology ever developed -- yet we all ended up watching various crappy chemical color processes in theaters because it was cheaper.

As far as Mac's superiority to PCs, well, of course.

Posted by: rashomon | March 1, 2010 4:53 PM | Report abuse

*faxing **hearts** to rashomon from my ***superior*** iMac*

Posted by: -ftb- | March 1, 2010 4:59 PM | Report abuse

SciTim-- what you are proposing would require illegal, harmful research on fetuses.

I know that's part of why it's evil. TA simpler thing would be to create an human-population analogue of something present in fruitflies-- Wolbachia male-killing bacteria.
Vegetarianism also causes a sex ratio skewered more to girls than boys; nobody knows quite why.

There are also non-hormonal methods that could select for male vs female sperm, so even if there was a huge market for what you're suggesting, people would quickly opt for pre-conception selection for sperm as likely being cheaper. In other words, such a con depending on voluntary participation would fail.

But the real problem with this kind of thinking is that it is no longer 1950, where DDT was the miracle drug and people were naive about tetragonic effects on fetuses.

Societies do change with dissemination of information and technology and facilation of certain trends. There are also now scientists who focus exclusively on studying how people make their choices; what factors prevent people from making healthy choices, and so on.

Now if we could work on developing a system where politicans didn't have their heads so far up their butts they meet the bottom of their necks, that'd be something.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | March 1, 2010 5:02 PM | Report abuse

Joel-- "The other day I saw a light bulb, made in 1886, on display at the Smithsonian. It would fit into a socket in my house."

This, of course, raises the questions of how old your house is and whether your wiring is up to code.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | March 1, 2010 5:03 PM | Report abuse

On two threads at once, here's a documentary on a non-lethal method of population reduction currently in the middle of a massive uncontrolled experiment (thanks to everyone for participating) and an issue where maybe some regulation isn't the enemy:

Posted by: engelmann | March 1, 2010 5:03 PM | Report abuse

Big business is far "vaster" than the U.S. government.

Re the Malthusian problems, sounds like it's in the national interest of the U.S. - and everyone else- to promote birth control worldwide. No one would argue with that. Uh

Posted by: Jumper1 | March 1, 2010 5:10 PM | Report abuse

The free market will sort that out better than vast regulations, engelmann.

Posted by: Jumper1 | March 1, 2010 5:13 PM | Report abuse

Hi yello, I've been aware of those semantic games - I added the brief acknowledgement in the hopes of defusing that sort of discussion :-)

I forgot to post I agreed you were probably right about percentage. Unfortunately it looks like that has been recently climbing as well. Not a good sign. I think we benefitted for several decades from the spread of green revolution technologies, as well as a global community has been capable of responding to famine scenarios nearly anywhere on the globe.

The fact that this is turning around has quite a bit to do with globalization and economic pressure of increased demand aggravated by political decisions that have diverted some supply. Food supply is probably the second oldest thing to be regulated by central governments (after water) who have rarely trusted markets to manage this. This for the very good reason that when people can't get enough to eat they tend to take matters into their own hands rather than submit to the verdict of the market.

Posted by: qgaliana | March 1, 2010 5:15 PM | Report abuse

I suppose the bill is called the Comprehensive Health Care reform even if it just goes half way. That would just make it half vast.

Posted by: edbyronadams | March 1, 2010 5:17 PM | Report abuse

The problem with your proposed treatment for sperm-selection, Wilbrod_Gnome, is that it also requires illegal and unethical experimentation on humans to make the proposed treatment work (just like my evil plan, albeit simpler), without the additional valuable payoff of large populations of infertile adults. Sure, a population heavily skewed towards males will help population numbers, but I'm not sure it will help enough. Whereas your suggestion of techniques to promote selection for females is counter-productive to the goal of decreasing world population. The human cervix is the bottleneck through which population must squeeze. We need a villainous plan that will induce willing complicity of the general population in reducing their own effective fertility. I welcome alternative suggestions.

Posted by: ScienceTim | March 1, 2010 5:33 PM | Report abuse

Wilbrod, I believe the term you're looking for is that the politicians are experiencing an inverted cranial-rectal convergence.

Posted by: MsJS | March 1, 2010 5:34 PM | Report abuse

I'm more concerned about the opposite problem, having to repopulate when we crawl out from the mineshafts:

General "Buck" Turgidson: Doctor, you mentioned the ratio of ten women to each man. Now, wouldn't that necessitate the abandonment of the so-called monogamous sexual relationship, I mean, as far as men were concerned?
Dr. Strangelove: Regrettably, yes. But it is, you know, a sacrifice required for the future of the human race. I hasten to add that since each man will be required to do prodigious... service along these lines, the women will have to be selected for their sexual characteristics which will have to be of a highly stimulating nature.

I just picture myself being chased across the desert like Don Johnson in A Boy And His Dog.

Posted by: yellojkt | March 1, 2010 5:51 PM | Report abuse

The bill does seem to be half vast. I suppose that is natural given the fight between those that want the whole bill passed, complete (the vast-wholes) and the fiscal conservatives that are concerned about immediate deficit reduction (the tight-vasts). However, there already is a vast bureaucracy associated with private insurers and consequently the only conclusion must be that the tight-vasts are primarily concerned with saving their own vastness.

Posted by: engelmann | March 1, 2010 5:54 PM | Report abuse

EBA -- the name, like all political actions, is not real. But, I call this current reform efforts something like this:

Insurance as a BIG BOWL: All Cherries Invited PS: Picking out of cherries is very mean and not really American. Read Animal Farm, with the rule that some piggies (read cherries) are more equal that others. Blech on that. Fie. I should learn to swear as this situation is worth some really fine and dandy expletives.

You do not know me but hey, I WORK LIKE A DOG. Insurance worries keep me up at night. Think on me, if you like...and my teen boy and cute doggies....

I wish more Repubs would really meditate on what Teddy Roosevelt did in his life and what values he used to guide his actions. And, I am a reluctant Dem -- prolife femininst Catholic social teaching-slinging voter etc. Am in strange company but see that as evidence that I am thinking and thinking hard. Why should we let a party-line -- left or right -- dictate the micro actions on everything?

When did markets become so sacred? After WWII when growth was required to lift the boats of broken countries. .. Growth -- particularly UNeconomic growth -- may sink our boats and that of our children and grandchildren. I raise your market regulation worry with that, dear EBA-boodler. More than one way to go to hell in a handbasket.

Of course, I am looking for an economics of love and generosity, rather than a what-is-good for GM must be good for the wee people. Sigh. I BE WEIRD that way.

Shall stop; let's have a lovely dinner. At CqParkian, ravioli casserole with salad. 2% milk for CPBoy and friends; shiraz in an enamel cup for me.

Posted by: CollegeQuaParkian1 | March 1, 2010 6:07 PM | Report abuse

Oh, CqP, I have plenty of *hearts* in my pantry for you. We may not agree on everything (but I suspect that on most things we do), but I think your 6:07 rant is simply delicious.

For the Rethugs to think that the welfare (a word chosen deliberately) of bazillionaire health insurance CEOs and their executives (after all, private jets need to be pampered, too) is more important than life itself for bazillions of the rest of us, is beyond despicable. Besides -- and I know I repeat myself here -- if socialized medicine is good enough for members of Congress, it's EXPLETIVE good enough for the rest of us.

*18 months to Medicare ... and counting*

Posted by: -ftb- | March 1, 2010 6:14 PM | Report abuse

Part of the solution has to be raising the education levels and status of women. When women have economic choices and control over their lives, they have fewer children.

If we have made any progress here in the West, it is in empowering women and minorities. Granted, we have far yet to go, but when I consider the societal changes in my lifetime, even in my professional career, I hope all is not lost for us.

Posted by: slyness | March 1, 2010 6:33 PM | Report abuse

On the topic of things that you'll never get back:

The quake in Chile was so powerful that it shifted the earth's axis by about three inches, and shortened the day by about 1/1millionth of a second.

And it was probably the most productive microsecond of my day. I just know I'll end up getting that much less sleep every night now.

Posted by: rashomon | March 1, 2010 7:11 PM | Report abuse

Great. Now my watch is fast.

Posted by: byoolin1 | March 1, 2010 7:38 PM | Report abuse

Here's a little parable.

Imagine we had no public school system. Imagine we just had private for-profit schools, and these schools are pretty good. (Maybe the best in the world.)

But let's say that the economy gets bad and lots of people can't afford to send their kids to school. (Or lots and lots of people decide it just isn't important for their kids to get an education.)

Several things would happen. First, the private schools would have to charge more to remain profitable, which reduces the number of people who can afford to attend school even more.

Further, some of the schools decide to charge less to educate smart kids, because they are easier to teach. This means that those who need an education the most will find it the most difficult to get.

Quickly, the system will spiral into a vicious cycle in which the only people who can afford an education are smart rich kids. The rest must get their education at home or, maybe, the public library.

Now, at some point wild-eyed liberals begin to argue that education is important. Indeed, they assert that having a well educated-population is actually crucial to the country as a whole.

So let's say that the wild-eyed liberals in government propose a taxpayer supported public school system and mandate that everyone must go to either one of these public schools or to an accredited private one.

You know, the education system we actually have.

But following the mindset of HCR opponents, this would be socialistic and a federal takeover of education. Probably institute mind control and all sorts of bad stuff. This would destroy those excellent private schools the rich smart kids enjoy. And new taxes? That help poor people? Some of whom are really hard to educate? Tyranny!

So maybe, as a compromise, the government proposed a system where there are no public schools, but the private schools must accept everyone. The government will require all kids to go to school, but will subsidize poorer students. The private schools would make money and we would be guaranteed a well-educated population.

This would be a system far less "socialistic" than that radical "public school system" notion.

But in this parable not even *this* would be tolerated.

And so the spiral continues until only the very rich can afford this anything approaching a quality education. The rest are left crowded in the underfunded libraries desperate to learn.

And the whole nation suffers.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | March 1, 2010 7:41 PM | Report abuse

RD_P: The conservatives and libertarians leave education to the states.

Posted by: MsJS | March 1, 2010 7:44 PM | Report abuse

RD, some of the more wacko libertarians and conservatives actually argue for the abolition of public schools.

Posted by: rashomon | March 1, 2010 7:56 PM | Report abuse

We keep hearing about the improved building codes in Chile resulted in less damage but in this panorama there appears the construction was only plastered over adobe brick. And even the bricks aren't alternated joints.

Posted by: bh72 | March 1, 2010 8:23 PM | Report abuse

Also note where there was some rebar, it came out clean meaning it was dry and/or oily when the concrete was poured with very little cement. And the rebar wasn't tied through the joints.

Posted by: bh72 | March 1, 2010 8:29 PM | Report abuse

RD,I love your parable. Will probably borrow it. It's similar to the parable I use when people start ranting for school vouchers: let's say our town has a public pool. It's OK - gets a little crowded on hot days and the locker rooms could use refurbishing. You would rather not go there and associate with the hoi polloi. So you demand that the town give you your share of the pool's money so that you can build your own pool in your backyard. Or "pool" the money with your neighbors (of your social class) and build a nicer neighborhood pool. The town says no.

Why does this surprise people?

Posted by: Wheezy11 | March 1, 2010 8:31 PM | Report abuse

That's the point exactly, Wheezy. These kind of comparisons aren't exact analogues, of course, but I think they help show that HCR is neither as radical nor unprecedented as some assert.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | March 1, 2010 8:42 PM | Report abuse

Some very sensible stuff, RD, rashomon. RD, I like your schools analogy. To me, it is even more powerful because (as rashomon notes) some of my more conservative, or reactionary, acquaintances who don't want health care "reform" would in fact abolish public schools, or at least not object if someone else did it. They just seldom say so in public.

ScienceTim, I also appreciated your Evil Plan. I think it is a great long-term solution to overpopulation. It is practical, simple, unethical and morally repugnant. Well done, sir.

Posted by: Ivansmom | March 1, 2010 8:48 PM | Report abuse

The Chilean navy failed (FAILED !!!) to issue a tsunami warning for its own coastline (and presumably islands?) as reported by both ABC World News Tonight and PBS's WorldFocus tonight. So, unquestionably unnecessary loss of life.

It made me think that a generation of time is about 25 years. Big Chilean quakes in 1960 and 1985 and 2010. Two twenty-five year gaps, or two generation's gaps. Certainly the navy is aware of the potential of a quake interacting with water. Why such a colossal failure?

slyness, the first graf in your 6:33 is exactly the point that Nicholas Kristof hammers home so effectively in his (and his wife's) latest book.

Posted by: laloomis | March 1, 2010 8:55 PM | Report abuse

I am a little confused there are people that believe health care costs will go down if there are no public hospitals, would that be because people choose not to get sick anymore? Unlike education we do not have control over whether we get sick or not.

Posted by: dmd3 | March 1, 2010 9:00 PM | Report abuse

SciTim's piece of irony is a neoModest Proposal, making him a cousin so to speak of Jonathan Swift. Here is JS's original text of the Modest Proposal in which the Irish solve the famine by eating their children.

Since some of my students write the phrase often "my modest proposal" or "this modest proposal" in a move of humility, and I respond with "you need to understand what that means...."


Posted by: CollegeQuaParkian1 | March 1, 2010 9:12 PM | Report abuse

dmd, health care costs would go down without public hospitals because we wouldn't have to pay for all those people who get sick but could not afford private care.

Remember Scrooge - if they are like to die, they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.

Posted by: Ivansmom | March 1, 2010 9:14 PM | Report abuse

The Chilean Navy's failure to warn of tsunamis was reported in Chile early on. It seems harbor masters issued warnings anyway, so people mostly fled. Officials immediately apologized for the Navy's failure.

Something like a non-techie version of Tim's Evil Plan seems to be playing out in much of Europe. Quite a large number of reasons not to have children. Population collapse is possible.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | March 1, 2010 9:17 PM | Report abuse

Public libraries are another example of a public service that competes with the private sector using taxpayer money.

Posted by: yellojkt | March 1, 2010 9:18 PM | Report abuse

In the long run, dmd, I think we do have some control over our health; many diseases occur because of bad lifestyle choices, such as smoking (cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) and eating poorly (obesity, diabetes, heart disease, etc.). But your larger point is correct, we do not consciously choose to get sick. And costs won't go down till we take responsibility for our health and act accordingly.

Posted by: slyness | March 1, 2010 9:19 PM | Report abuse

Or, as they say in South Carolina, don't feed stray animals.

Posted by: seasea1 | March 1, 2010 9:19 PM | Report abuse

But Ivansmom that only works if the people who cannot afford private care have the decency to go off and die quietly, I think that is what I am having a hard time getting my head around, that people - not the boodle - could possibly be OK with this.

Yes Slyness that is true, but many of those disease are best prevented by good medical, regular check ups, medical advice, having your doctor explain healthy diet choices, proper exercise or sending you to people who will do that etc.

Posted by: dmd3 | March 1, 2010 9:24 PM | Report abuse

Thanks, DotC.

AP's Michael Warren and Roberto Candia have the best coverage so far of who issued warnings and who didn't, the story reported about an hour ago:

Chile's defense minister has said the navy made a mistake by not immediately activating a tsunami warning. He said port captains who did call warnings in several coastal towns saved hundreds of lives.

The waves came too quickly for a group of 40 retirees vacationing at a seaside campground in the village of Pelluhue. They had piled into a bus that was swept out to sea, along with trucks and houses, when the tsunami surged 200 meters (yards) into the summer resort town.

As of Monday, firefighters said, five of the retirees' bodies had been recovered. At least 30 remained missing.

Most residents in Pelluhue, where 300 homes were destroyed, were aware of the tsunami threat. Street signs point to the nearest tsunami evacuation route.

"We ran through the highest part of town, yelling, 'Get out of your homes!'" said Claudio Escalona, 43, who fled his home near the campground with his wife and daughters, ages 4 and 6. "About 20 minutes later came three waves, two of them huge, about 6 meters (18 feet) each, and a third even bigger. That one went into everything."

"You could hear the screams of children, women, everyone," Escalona said. "There were the screams, and then a tremendous silence."

In the village of Dichato, teenagers drinking on the beach were the first to shout the warning when they saw a horseshoe-shaped bay empty about an hour after the quake. They ran through the streets, screaming. Police joined them, using megaphones.

The water rose steadily, surging above the second floors of homes and lifting them off their foundations. Cars were stacked three high in the streets. Miles inland along a river valley, cows munched Monday next to marooned boats, refrigerators, sofas and other debris.

"The maritime radio said there wouldn't be a tsunami," said survivor Rogilio Reyes, who was tipped off by the teenagers.

Dichato Mayor Eduardo Aguilera said 49 people were missing and 800 homes were destroyed. Some people fled to high ground, only to return too early and get caught by the tsunami, he said. Fourteen bodies were found by Monday. The only aid: A fire department water truck.

Posted by: laloomis | March 1, 2010 9:27 PM | Report abuse

Slyness, everyone will die of something. While a disease like diabetes will undoubtedly raise lifetime health care costs, lung cancer may arguably cut them. Dying in six expensive months at age 55 would be a significant savings over 5 years of care for Alzheimer's at age 80, no? Those people who do everything right often still need care.

Posted by: Wheezy11 | March 1, 2010 9:31 PM | Report abuse

About half an hour ago--but can't locate it now--NYT had a picture gallery from Chile and one of the photos showed a store in Constitucion, Chile, the shelves competely emptied by looters and lots of trash on the floor of the aisle shown.

Why, I haven't seen a store's shelves so emptied since Washington D.C.'s recent Snowmageddon. (photo credit: Joel Achenbach)

Unfortunately, there are savages (evil opportunists, if you'd prefer) in Chile taking all manner of items from other types of stores and robbing private homes.

Posted by: laloomis | March 1, 2010 9:35 PM | Report abuse

I had some time to browse through the transcript of the HCR summit. Can someone tell me where this high risk pool idea came from? Since it seems to defeat the whole purpose of insurance in the first place I don't even understand how it came to be concoted or why it is even discussed.

Posted by: qgaliana | March 1, 2010 9:38 PM | Report abuse

Two proper nouns or names mentioned very early in the Neal Conan's NPR program today--Nevada's Yucca Mountain and Washinton's Hanford site--now in the news tonight. One of the individuals who called into Conan's radio show had a female relative who was a down-winder from Hanford, with serious health problems.

Posted by: laloomis | March 1, 2010 9:44 PM | Report abuse

That's precisely why I pay for a long-term care insurance policy, Wheezy. But my personal experience with cancer treatment is that it's much longer than six months, regardless of age. And then there are the costs of recurring cancer, if one is fortunate enough to survive the first bout.

This is certainly not my area of expertise, but I have read that the bulk of health care costs are expended in the last 18 months of a person's life. That stands to reason, and I assume it is true regardless of age.

The important thing is to be healthy as long as possible, and die as quickly as possible. I plan to be healthy till I die in my sleep at a ripe old age. ;-)

Posted by: slyness | March 1, 2010 9:49 PM | Report abuse

qq, I don't know specifically what they said at the HCR summit, but the high-risk pool is an old idea, whereby most states forced insurers to take on those at high risk of needing to actually use their health insurance, for an increased premium. As far as I know, that's not available anywhere now. If you actually have, say, leukemia, you are not going to be able to buy insurance. At all. Back then, you could buy it but it would cost I think 4 or 5 times as much as regular insurance. Back then regular insurance was under $100/month, and you could pay $500 or $600 for the high risk pool. Well worth it if you had a serious condition. This all presupposes that you have assets you are trying to protect.

Posted by: Wheezy11 | March 1, 2010 9:50 PM | Report abuse

Tele 13 reports that a La Polar multi-market in Concepcion burned and collapsed due to an explosive device hurled from a gray car. The car's license plate number was noted by witnesses and 4 persons have been detained, 5 others are sought according to El Sur, newspaper in Concepcion. There have been 5 other supermarket arsons.

Video at Tele 13 shows heavy smoke from the fire, viewed from the famous fallen Alto Rio apartment building.

CNN has a fresh report with roughly the same info.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | March 1, 2010 9:59 PM | Report abuse

High risk pools are another Republican idea that doesn't stand up to scrutiny. Very expensive, won't work.

Here's Jon Kyl (R-AZ) saying that unemployment benefits are a disincentive to looking for work:

What a bunch of maroons.

Posted by: seasea1 | March 1, 2010 10:02 PM | Report abuse

Here's the promo video for the Condominio Alto Rio, the infamous new building that fell on its side in Concepcion.

Locating the condo proved tricky. Google Maps' aerial imagery and street names seem out of date. A search for the condo's address, 776 Av. Padre Hurtado at the corner of Maipu leads to a wrong-looking street. Instead, it seems that a street alongside the railroad tracks was redesigned to take traffic off Av. Arturo Pratt, and was named for the late priest when he was beatified. So that puts the building at the railroad track essentially at Av. Miguel Zanartu where it passes under the tracks. Maipu is the next street south.
Geographical info from

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | March 1, 2010 11:08 PM | Report abuse

I wrote a really long comment, but the comment monster ate it up. Have a good night, everyone.

Brag, happy you're okay, stay safe.

Posted by: cmyth4u | March 1, 2010 11:27 PM | Report abuse

Here's another YouTube posting of the Alto Rio Condo promo video. This one has 480p available. And nasty comments.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | March 1, 2010 11:31 PM | Report abuse

Sorry about your consumed comment, Cassandra.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | March 1, 2010 11:32 PM | Report abuse

Brag, really glad to hear you are o.k. Please do write up your experiences for us all.

Posted by: nellie4 | March 2, 2010 12:02 AM | Report abuse

Dave, I could glean enough from those comments to get the tone, without knowing any Spanish to speak of. My favorite:

Este es el MEGAFAIL del año

Which my kids tell me is grammatically incorrect in ways even deeper than the all-caps English slang, but the point gets across.

Posted by: Wheezy11 | March 2, 2010 12:27 AM | Report abuse

There's a discontinuity between CNN (and Brag) telling us that life is returning to normal in parts of Santiago, with 90% of stores open and most utilities restored, right next to stories of people desperate for the basics of life and rescuers unable to reach them to provide the needed help. Couldn't the desperate people be bused to the (nearby) places where life is returning to normal? It reminds me of a friend from India describing what she was hearing right after the tsunami - a mile or two from the devastated coastal areas, her parents' friends were golfing and sipping drinks at their country clubs completely oblivious and unconcerned about the fate of the peasants who were suffering.

People should pay attention to suffering. Was it Hunter Thompson who said that was the Republican's motto: ignore agony?

Posted by: Wheezy11 | March 2, 2010 12:36 AM | Report abuse

I think it was Vonnegut.

'Nite, all.

Posted by: Wheezy11 | March 2, 2010 12:44 AM | Report abuse

Brag! Glad you checked in. We were beating drums looking for you.

Posted by: rainforest1 | March 2, 2010 1:32 AM | Report abuse

This article on CNN talks about the situation in Concepcion:

It's a couple hundred miles from Santiago, and with major damage to roads, bridges - it takes time to get things under control. I know here they tell us to be prepared to get along for 3 to 7 days on our own in the event of a huge earthquake. I'm sure many people in Santiago are concerned about areas that sustained more damage. I remember watching Katrina unfold in abject horror and helplessness - could not believe it was happening in my country. You would hope that people would help each other, but that's not always the case.

Posted by: seasea1 | March 2, 2010 2:54 AM | Report abuse

God loves us so much more than we can imagine through Him that died for all, Jesus Christ.

Good morning,friends. Thanks, Dave. My comment was "real" long, and that could have been the reason it was chewed up, plus yesterday was a bad day, and my mood probably was in the comment, big time.

Part of it...

I really like your responses RD concerning the kit. And Mudge, your 1:50 comment was right on spot.

I also talked about the disparity in education here in North Carolina, citing some school systems that are in court because of their polices concerning African-American children. I stated that since integration you have people in the state that have tried to turn the system around to where it once was by hauling research data and literally standing in the way of any policy they consider not good for schools. In other words, the children tend to get along fine, but it's the parents that want to change whatever. And it never stops. These parents die and bequeath this work to their off springs, so it's unending.

As for the Reublicans' view on unemployment and everything in between, I suggested we drop those Senators off in the districts that are not going to receive whatever they're blustering to hold up, leaving them on the street, and let us see how long they last. Sitting in the ivory tower dictating people's lives doesn't exactly make it real does it? I would love to see how long they last.

I also said I know this is mean, but hey, it was a bad day.

Just a little of what the comment monster ate up. Hope this will pass.

ftb, liked your comments too. Science Tim, not crazy about your view, but I suspect it has been tried, and as we speak someone probably thinks it's a fantastic idea.

And I also referred to the "elephant in the room", because hard cold logic calls for identifying the people plague by many of these problems, and it is moi,and those like me, is it not?

Scotty, Mudge, Martooni, Yoki(hope all is well), Lindaloo, and all the wonderful people here, have a fantastic day.

Slyness, let us pray for no snow. I don't want to see the the white snuff, but of course, no one ask me!

Posted by: cmyth4u | March 2, 2010 5:49 AM | Report abuse

At five o'clock in the morning I've learned a wonderful and useful lessons, clothes will burn in the microwave. I wish I had known this before buring up my granddaughter's school shirt. Oh, well, grandma will have to replace it. Everything shown on television isn't good. Thought I would do a quickie, as in life they don't usually work. Oh, the horror. I'm the flaming grandmother. The day is starting out fantastic!

Posted by: cmyth4u | March 2, 2010 5:55 AM | Report abuse

I hope you're OK Cassandra. I wish I'd been there to help. I'm very good at it, I just put out Buddy.

Posted by: Boko999 | March 2, 2010 6:16 AM | Report abuse

I'm okay, Boko.

Posted by: cmyth4u | March 2, 2010 6:34 AM | Report abuse

No snow, no snow, no snow...that's my mantra for today! The Geekdottir has to drive home from Alabama to show for jury duty tomorrow, so please, no snow!

Of course, I don't know how it will snow (and stick) if the temperature is 37 and supposed to rise to 40 today.

Cassandra, I hope the day gets better as it goes on!

I've got a busy morning ahead, so I'll get started. Ham biscuits and grits and a mixed fruit bowl on the ready room table, so enjoy, folks.

Posted by: slyness | March 2, 2010 6:58 AM | Report abuse

laloomis, where'd that come from? Seeing who is paying attention, who's gun shy? I've got a very busy schedule, and there's really no need to keep me on my toes. Savages is definitely the wrong word because of the connotations. As has been covered here more than once, it's one of those words that almost never applies to someone alive today...uncivilized. Not sure that evil opportunists is the right term either, in that many of those people are probably not evil, but afraid. It's likely that what little they had is gone, and they're probably looking for use as a new starting point. Your prior post points to that. Hard to appreciate what that might be like without being in their shoes.

Off to do a hundred things before lunch, so have a happy day all.

Posted by: LostInThought | March 2, 2010 6:59 AM | Report abuse

Cassandra!! Glad you're OK -- clothing can always be replaced! *HUGSSSSSSSS*

*still-getting-back-into-the-swing-of-the-work-week Grover waves* :-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | March 2, 2010 7:31 AM | Report abuse

Financial Times has an op-ed piece today on the politics of earthquake recovery in Chile. The incoming president is the first right-winger since Pinochet, which raises a bunch of issues. Deploying the armed forces to maintain law and order is far more problematic than in the US (and we got hung up on post Civil War legislation, the posse comitatus act, severely limiting the military's ability to do that. If the Civil War is still looming over the US, Pinochet must have a dark shadow indeed).

There's a big push in the Raleigh area to get rid of school assignments based on parents' incomes to one that emphasizes neighborhood schools.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | March 2, 2010 8:43 AM | Report abuse

Something to entertain you mathematically inclined literature fans.

The first link contains the Secret Code.
The second the explanation.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | March 2, 2010 8:45 AM | Report abuse

I'm not near my Vonnegut collection, but I was able to find this online in an essay by Gary Gordon:

///In his November 1972 Harper’s Magazine piece on those political conventions in Miami Beach, Vonnegut imagined a visitor from another planet would observe: “The two real parties in America are the Winners and the Losers. The people do not acknowledge this. They claim membership in two imaginary parties, the Republicans and Democrats, instead.” He notes the Winner’s axiom: Ignore agony. And later in the piece he notes: “The Winners are at war with the Losers, and the fix is in.” ///

Nearly 40 years later, the sentiment still rings true.

Posted by: yellojkt | March 2, 2010 8:48 AM | Report abuse

Hola, los Boodleros!
Big news here is the outrage over the looting that took place in Concepcion and the formation of vigilante groups, considered to be the other face of the same coin.
The army has either received or will shortly get sizeable reinforcements and should be a able to stop this nonsense.

Lots of complaining about government's slow response. Too much visiting and studying situation rather than acting.
The signing of a state of emergency was delayed by 24 hours.

Then there is the tsunami warning given a few minutes after the quake, then rescended by some bureucrat who claimed the alert was ill defined to call it a tsunami.

Some minutes later, a long stretch of coast gut hammered.

Since yesterday, Santiago looking normal. I'm still without electricity as a nearby substation was destroyed by a serioes of explosions half way through the event.

TBF many thanks for posting on Google. A lot of people saw your post.

Have a good day, everyone


Posted by: Braguine | March 2, 2010 9:03 AM | Report abuse

Brag!! :-) Continued good fortune to you in nagivating the aftermath!!

Posted by: Scottynuke | March 2, 2010 9:19 AM | Report abuse

Good morning, y'all.

Warm muffins, coffee and OJ on the table.

RD_P, the author had a lot of free time on his hands. And why do I suddenly want pie for breakfast?

Cassandra, I've always wanted to split up Congress into various groups of 10-12 and drop them in random places around the U.S. without cell phones, credit cards or cash. The goal is to get back to the Capitol Building. Each group is monitored and if a group member tries to use his/her job title as a way to advance, or contacts a family member, the entire group gets shipped back to their original drop off point. Only none of them know any of this up front, they learn from their mistakes.

I plan on enjoying the day. Hope you can, too.

Posted by: MsJS | March 2, 2010 9:25 AM | Report abuse

Sounds like a great reality show, MsJS...

"The Amazing Congressional Race," perhaps?


Posted by: Scottynuke | March 2, 2010 9:39 AM | Report abuse


Had to laugh out loud at you comment. It felt good. Think we could get a reality show going. May sound extreme, but that's exactly what televison loves, extreme. I'll bet it would be a winner and I'm dead serious.

Posted by: cmyth4u | March 2, 2010 9:54 AM | Report abuse

Scotty, the idea has its roots in treasure hunts and scavenger hunts I used to play as a kid. When The Amazing Race came out, my first thought was 'nice try, but the teams get waaaayy too much information and help.'

Posted by: MsJS | March 2, 2010 9:58 AM | Report abuse

There is a show called The Pluto Files on PBS tonight. It is about the controversy over why Goofy is a talking dog but Pluto isn't.

For some reasons they have involved a lot of astronomers in this debate.

Posted by: yellojkt | March 2, 2010 9:59 AM | Report abuse

Maybe we'd think kinder thoughts about all the celestial bodies if they were given warm and fuzzy names.

In keeping with the Disney theme, I hereby rename our habitat Goofy. The Moon is now Tinkerbell.

Posted by: MsJS | March 2, 2010 10:08 AM | Report abuse

Cassandra, MsJS, I like your ideas. Some local legislators live pretty much like their constituents, but it is almost impossible on the national level. We had a couple of legislators in the recent past who spent a month living on the TANF/poverty level food allowances. That was interesting; they learned something. Let's take away a part of Sen. Bunning's monthly income equal to a comparable unemployment benefit, take him off the Senate health plan, and find him some nice bad roads in his district to drive on.

Posted by: Ivansmom | March 2, 2010 10:10 AM | Report abuse

Primary election day here in Texas. The choices for governor?:

A hair-care-products magnate, a current governor who wanted to secede from the Union; a former Houston mayor, a less-known woman on the extreme far right who thinks there's some truth to the claims of the 9/11 truthers, and a current U.S. senator who supported the spending of unneccesary millions (according to her opponent's attack ad), including funding a teapot museum in North Carolina. Only in the Lone Star State.

That and the tussle over school board seats (and evolution) promise to be the most interesting races of the day.

Husband dropped one of two ramikins, coming straight from the oven and holding his molten lava cake creation, after 9 p.m. last night. He managed to catch the descending hot dish before it reached the floor, thereby preventing it from breaking. Hot melted chocolate on five wallpapered walls, two doors, two dishtowels, two potholders, one scatter rug, one pair of socks, and drops of chocolate too numerous to mention across an uncounted number of off-white floor tiles. Two burned fingers and two huge blisters this morning. One load of laundry last night and one load of laundry to do this morning. And you wonder how I spend my time? *l*

Later, folks.

Posted by: laloomis | March 2, 2010 10:18 AM | Report abuse

Your piem led me by a rambling path, RD, to finding my newest subject

Posted by: Jumper1 | March 2, 2010 10:20 AM | Report abuse

Over the last few decades I have not understood the disappearance of non-profit hospitals. As if by a vast conspiracy. Or maybe something about tax codes; I don't know.

Posted by: Jumper1 | March 2, 2010 10:23 AM | Report abuse

Farouk's on fire;

Posted by: laloomis | March 2, 2010 10:27 AM | Report abuse

The history of electricity in the US didn't revolve around predictability, it centered on profit. One of the earliest pioneers -- Chicago utilities baron Sam Insull -- created a system where supposedly independent utility commissions would decide on rates, which would lock in dividends and profits. As I discovered in writing my "Merchant of Power," the grid evolved out of the "Superpower" movement of the 1920s and 1930s. It's an ancient, "dumb" system that needs to be updated.

Posted by: johnwasik1 | March 2, 2010 10:28 AM | Report abuse

More lunar ice found

Posted by: Jumper1 | March 2, 2010 10:30 AM | Report abuse

laloomis....and a partridge in a pear tree. Oy. When that stuff happens to me, I'm grateful I don't have to take the laundry down to the river and beat it on a rock.

Hope his fingers heal quickly.

Posted by: LostInThought | March 2, 2010 10:33 AM | Report abuse

I have never been even remotely a fan of Orrin Hatch, but in today's op-ed I just want to dope-slap him, suggesting that it is the Dems who are abusing their office. During 8 years of Bush everything was honkey-dory.


Posted by: curmudgeon6 | March 2, 2010 10:55 AM | Report abuse

I get a feeling that in the hospital business, there's efficiencies of scale--a chain can buy stuff and probably hire staff cheaper than a freestanding hospital. Sort of like the way Marriott is moving into running luxury hotels. The lux hotel keeps its name and identity, but Marriott runs the reservation system and everything else, far more cheaply and effectively than the hotel could on its own.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | March 2, 2010 10:59 AM | Report abuse

Thanks, LiT.

We're off to the polls shortly, but this interesting tidbit from the NYT: the formation of a Coffee Party--hardly the Teabaggers, as the article explains.

Posted by: laloomis | March 2, 2010 11:01 AM | Report abuse

O.K., one last bit: colorful Texas lingo.

The school board race in our part of the state will perhaps (unknown at this point) pit incumbent Republican Ken Mercer against the Democrat challenger on today's primary ballot, Rebecca Bell-Metereau, who has a doctorate in education, lots of educational experience. I found it funny what what blogger, the Sensuous Curmudgeon, had to say about Mercer:

"I’m already hoping to see Mercer defeated, and frankly, if I lived in Mercer’s district I’d vote for a road-kill armadillo instead of him."

Posted by: laloomis | March 2, 2010 11:11 AM | Report abuse

The "Sensuous Curmudgeon"???? What the hell am I, chopped liver?

*calling my copy right infringement attorney forthwith*

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | March 2, 2010 11:41 AM | Report abuse

Yes, DotC, there is such a thing as "economy of scale," but it isn't infinitely elastic, nor does it always work to everyone's benefit. In a hospital, for instance, if you are staying a few days, you might ask for a couple of asprin or Tylenol, and you'd think that by virtue of the economy-of-scale they'd buy them by the 55-gallon drum, which they probably due. But then you find our on your bill two months later that they charged you $6 for the two [expletive] asprin. And how much does aspirin cost per pill, anyway, if you buy a 2,000-pill jub at Costco or wherever? How is $6 for two freaking Tylenol any kind of "economy" and for whom?

So yes, hospitals buy latex gloves and those idiot gowns, and bandaids, and various pills, and this and that by the metric ton. But what proportion of any given medical procedure is tied up in consumables? If your cancer treatment over a year costs $100,000, how much of that is the cost of the gloves? Two bucks? Three? A hundred bucks in needles? A hundred bucks in swabs? Five bucks in kleenex? Yes, there are economies of scale, but where and how is the other $99,600 being spent?

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | March 2, 2010 11:50 AM | Report abuse

This is why I believe that conservatism as a serviceable governing philosophy is anachronistic. It fails to reckon with the reality that the world is becoming more complex and more concentrated in these large cities.

Conservatism's appeal is directed toward an increasingly diminishing bloc of voters: rural, small communities who still have vestiges of the old agrarian way of life that prevailed at our founding. I see no evidence that present conservative leaders have adapted to this reality. Indeed one of their cornerstones is a denial of climate change due to global warming.

But there are other aspects of this broad denial of the reality our planet faces. Their social and cultural views are at odds with the growing population. Their economic views are tailored to a smaller. limited government in the face of a growing complex world. And their political views are in favor of decreasing regulation at the very time such heightened oversight of our financial and economic system is most keenly needed.

I simply do not see conservatism as it is as surviving in the world we are evolving into. And I am astonished that so few--other than intelligent thinkers like Al Gore--have had the prescience to see this.

Posted by: jaxas70 | March 2, 2010 11:51 AM | Report abuse

There was a big trend in the 80s where all the non-profit health care groups, hospitals and insurance organizations, all got taken private by insiders in leveraged buy-outs. The stipulation was that the 'fair market value' of the previously charitable assets had to be put in some sort of trust. I imagine there was plenty of shenanigans over who got control of those trusts and how the funds were used.

Posted by: yellojkt | March 2, 2010 11:58 AM | Report abuse

SCC: Due? How about the much simpler, less French "do."

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | March 2, 2010 12:00 PM | Report abuse

"where and how is the other $99,600 being spent?"

If people really knew, there would be a lot more outrage. The real reason for health care reform has vanished down the wonkhole as people debate the details around the margin while the fish is still rotting from the inside.

Posted by: yellojkt | March 2, 2010 12:02 PM | Report abuse

Usually they spend that $99,600 treating the people with no insurance who walk in the door.

Posted by: Jumper1 | March 2, 2010 12:10 PM | Report abuse

Anyone here from the NE area might be interested in this sad news, Don Kent, legendary weatherman here, has died.

Grew up watching him, didn't trust anyone elses forecast. RIP Don.

Posted by: badsneakers | March 2, 2010 12:11 PM | Report abuse

I have a friend who is the executive director of a charitable organization charged with doing good works using the profits from selling Howard County General to Johns Hopkins. Unfortunately, none of the good works that I do or propose to do, fall under the immediate-health standards improvement requirement of her organization, else I should rain proposals on her head.

Posted by: ScienceTim | March 2, 2010 12:12 PM | Report abuse

zackly, 'Mudge and Yello!

PaterJS and I were in the hospital at the same time, he in southern CA and I in TWC. We got a great chuckle afterwards comparing what our respective hospitals charged for facial tissues, gloves, vitamins, Tylenol, etc.

We laughed less at the stuff we thought was a total waste (which I partially documented on this boodle at 2:53pm yesterday).

Posted by: MsJS | March 2, 2010 12:16 PM | Report abuse

Mudge, the "economies of scale" only apply on the cost side for the hospital. The pricing (to the customer) side, not so much. I'm sure that they're spreading the cost of other things (nurses, beds, building, for example) across the consumable items. What allocation scheme they use I do not know--but be assured that it's done in such a way that all their costs are covered(including the cost of providing care to the uninsured, by the way) and then some.

Posted by: Raysmom | March 2, 2010 12:18 PM | Report abuse

I suspect that the for-profit chains have ways to control personnel costs. Not to mention that, at least in the recent past, hospital chains tended to be run by pirates.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | March 2, 2010 12:21 PM | Report abuse

Agreed, yello. Nobody has any handle whatsoever on "costs" (using the term strictly in accounting terms) as opposed to "prices" of services received. I suppose some of the inside bean-counters know these things, but no outsider ever sees them. The problem is further compounded by how things are billed. The "hospital stay" per se is one bill, but the specific doctors may bill seperately and independently.

Our two best friends (with home we built our vacation house I mention from time to time) are an operating room nurse and a surgical assistant. They often discuss their billing problems, especially with insurance companies. It is nothing short of a complete horror astory/nightmare. What amazes me (though I never say anything to them) is how in the world allegedly smart people (doctors) ever let the medical profession become this way. In theory, doctors and lawyers are the two "smartest" professions on earth-- you have to have the highest grades of anyone on earth to get into medical school and law school.

I see no sign whatsoever that doctors or lawyers are any smarter than plumbers and electricians in how their trades are run. Dumber, in fact.

One of the most interesting things about John Barry's book, "The Great Influenza," is his discussion of what the field of medicine was like circa 1900 to 1920. In a nutshell, the medical field was run by physicians, doctors. They ran hospitals as well as research facilities and programs (because there was no one else to run them). Over the decades, they gave up their power, so that the bean-counters, accountants, insurance companies and big Pharm have taken over.

On the one hand, I never did understand the point of going to medical school and internship and residency in order to become an administrator/CEO. But on the other hand, the way the field of medicine has evolved has been nothing short of chaotic and out-of-control. The entire field is -- pardon my French -- effed up from top to bottom, sideways, crosswise, laterally, and from one end to the other. If I thought it was only "mildly" effed up, I'd be more optimistic about it ever getting "fixed." But I am completely pessimistic. I sometimes think we ought to go back to witchcraft, spells, eye of newt, surgery performed by the village barber, etc., and try to start over, rebuilding the industry from scratch.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | March 2, 2010 12:22 PM | Report abuse

I have a Boodle tax question: the ScienceSpouse and I have recently purchased two tickets in a raffle conducted by Maryland Public Television, raffling off a newly-built $1.88M "green" home. They will sell a total of 29,999 tickets, so the odds of winning are clearly on our side. My question is whether it is possible to accept such a winning prize without immediately going bankrupt.

If I were *paid* $1.88M in a year, it would be no great trouble to pay the $750k (or so) in income tax on winning this monetary equivalent. That is not the case, however -- unlike typical sweepstakes, there is no cash equivalent offered. Would my only choice be to refuse the prize or to take out a mortgage twice the value of my current home (according to recent assessment) in order to afford to accept this "free" gift? The transfer taxes and closing costs alone would break (my) bank. It looks like the only option that is a net plus for the "winner" is to take the house, take out a mortgage against it to pay for the cost of accepting the free thing, then immediately sell the house at whatever loss is necessary to cover the "income" from the "gift", the immediate cost of accepting the "gift", and the income tax on the sale of the house. I'd be surprised if one could walk away with more than 1/4 of the value of the house. And that's *if* you are able to find a buyer who will take it for 25% off of its supposed value.

Looks like the concept of the white elephant is alive and well.

They claim all sales are final on the tickets. No duh -- as soon as anyone begins to examine the situation, it becomes immediately apparent that it would be disastrous to win unless you are already in the category of people who could afford to purchase a $1.88M house.

Posted by: ScienceTim | March 2, 2010 12:29 PM | Report abuse

I have another Boodle question: why is King Arthur flour so good? I had always assumed that it was gourmet-food snobbery, that one paid 50% extra or whatever it is, in order to get a slight and subtle enhancement in the flavor of one's bread that only the most-refined palate could detect -- or that only a person who claimed such a palate might claim to detect. I find, instead, that it is astoundingly, obviously, wonderfully good. It is totally worth the additional price of King Arthur flour. A bite of bread made with KA flour is a transcendent experience. It is a whiff of what it is to eat the food of the gods. I would not say it is better than sex, but a pleasant cap on such physical escapades might involve a slice of buttered KA bread. It's that easy to taste the difference. It's that good.

So, *why* is it that good? Is it the variety of wheat? The grading of wheat as it is selected for processing? Some method of milling? The addition of crack cocaine to the flour?

Posted by: ScienceTim | March 2, 2010 12:36 PM | Report abuse

Tim, something like that has happened in SE Florida. House raffle, with winner given the option of selling the house back to the builder. The allegedly $700,000 house lost half its value at raffle time and the builder was unable to take it back...the winner's stuck with a house on which his family can't afford taxes and insurance.

'mudge, who better to command bean counters and doctors than pirates?

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | March 2, 2010 12:38 PM | Report abuse

Tim, I don't know about the MPT raffle, but every year HGTV does a similar "green home" giveaway, and the associated tax burden is part of the prize. That is, you win the house, the SUV that comes with it, AND they pay the IRS whatever the tax on this comes to. One would hope the MPT thing does the same, because otherwise you'd be right: "winning" becomes "losing" right away.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | March 2, 2010 12:38 PM | Report abuse

SCC: The HGTV is a give-away contest, not a raffle where you buy tickets. But otherwise the same theory: you have to enter to win, and one can enter once a day during the entry period. The point is the taxes are included in the prize.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | March 2, 2010 12:40 PM | Report abuse

As long as you sold it in the same year perhaps you could write off some of the loss and pay the income tax with the proceeds. Taking out a mortgage on the house to pay the income tax hit strikes me as the only logical way to keep it. Not to mention the annual property tax on the house year after year. If you can't afford to buy a $2M house, you can't afford to keep a $2M house. But go ahead and throw me in that briarpatch.

Posted by: yellojkt | March 2, 2010 12:42 PM | Report abuse

Psst, Mudge. Some of us take to the term "bean counter" about as kindly as we did to "brainiac" in high school;)

Posted by: Raysmom | March 2, 2010 12:42 PM | Report abuse

Dave, in my day I have known some pirates I would trust a helluva lot more than any CEOs, especially those in insurance and Big Pharm. Give me Black Bart, Billy Kidd (a very misunderstood guy), Mary Read and Anne Bonney any day. (Eddie Teach, not so much. A little bipolar, and a pyromaniac. But a fun guy at a party until the horseplay got out of hand. But hell, four out of five ain't so bad.)

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | March 2, 2010 12:47 PM | Report abuse

Mudge, you may use the Frenchified "due" or the more pedestrian "do" just as long as you take pains to avoid the vulgarian "do-do."

One of the many things that drive up the cost of health care is the diagnostic arms race- Inova gets a new "open" MRI at a cost of a bajillion dollars and must now justify that investment by scanning every hangnail that walks through the door. The docs are all paranoid about malpractice for misdiagnosis, so they're happy to order lots and lots of non-invasive but expensive tests. The rival hospital down the street is duty bound to order up their very own bajillion dollar MRI to stay competitive and so it goes.

Posted by: kguy1 | March 2, 2010 12:51 PM | Report abuse

Hard red spring wheat, Tim. According to their website.
And I can't find it around here.

Posted by: Jumper1 | March 2, 2010 12:52 PM | Report abuse

Nope -- the raffle rules clearly state that the poor sucker... I mean, "winner", is responsible for all closing costs and state and Federal income tax. If they were honest, the raffle rules would state a minimum income level to participate -- "you must be this rich to participate."

An interesting feature is that the raffle will be conducted only if they sell enough tickets to cover the cost of the house. That tells me that it is not something they have to get rid of -- they won't even be buying it until they have enough money. Why that matters is that I doubt that they have any intention of buying it at all. Somebody will win, the consequences of winning will be explained, and one person after another will refuse the prize. In the end, MPT will get to keep 100% of the raffle, because nobody can afford to take the prize.

Skimming through the rules, I see nothing that says that the prize MUST be awarded to someone, although it notes that in the event of a forfeit, they will select another "winner". In case you are interested, here are the rules:

My inclination is to consider this a donation to MPT, with which I would be comfortable if I were doing it under less shady circumstances. Unfortunately, it notes way down at the bottom of the rules that chances in a raffle are NOT considered a donation and are not deductible, even if you have no intention of accepting the prize.

Frankly, the more I think about it, the more I think the whole thing is pretty shabby.

Posted by: ScienceTim | March 2, 2010 12:54 PM | Report abuse

Sorry, Raysmom. As a lifelong ink-stained wretch, I tend not to be very sensitive about the nicknames of other professions (legal sharks, butchers, pain jockeys, used car salesmen, IT nerds, etc.). My only objection to bean-counters is when they make policy decisions in fields outside their own. I have no problem with people who do accounting work, per se, and I appreciate that it is very helpful if someone actually counts the beans. I just don't want them deciding that my pre-existing condition isn't covered.

And anyway, we kid because we love.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | March 2, 2010 12:54 PM | Report abuse

Thick snow is quickly covering the ground in Charlotte NC. Forgive us for loving it.

I CAN buy that flour. Homemade bread coming up soon.

Posted by: Jumper1 | March 2, 2010 12:55 PM | Report abuse

Tim, you know this means you're going to win that house! And Mudge, a green house with an SUV? Wouldn't they cancel each other out?

I'm laughing at the Congresscritter contests. I really like the idea of dropping them somewhere and not telling them the rules. I've watched little bits of the Undercover Boss show, where the CEO finds out how lousy some jobs are, etc. A Congressperson version of that would be interesting. I wrote to Bunning yesterday, but I see I've had no effect.

Posted by: seasea1 | March 2, 2010 12:55 PM | Report abuse

Man, I am *forever* dismayed at the inability of this boodle to stay on topic or discuss important matters.

Oh, BTW, here's a great picture of Cheryl Bernard.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | March 2, 2010 12:56 PM | Report abuse

I've suspected that hard wheat is grown in North Dakota, exported to Italy to be made into pasta, then exported back to the US.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | March 2, 2010 12:58 PM | Report abuse

DoTC, that explains "The Jolly Ranger Hospice" down the road.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | March 2, 2010 1:02 PM | Report abuse

SciTim: I long ago gave up supporting Public TV sweepstakes events for that very reason.

As to the Clueless in Congress Reality Show, anyone know some TV people we can pitch this to?

Posted by: MsJS | March 2, 2010 1:04 PM | Report abuse

hmmm, fuzzy thinking aboundeth on here... Global warming is going on and man's burning of fossil fuels is contributing to it... Anyone who disputes that is delusional...

But the Devil is in the details... The current global warming / climate change, pick your nomenclature, has been going on for some 15,000 years now... Man, his campfires in a cave back then notwithstanding, has nothing to say about it... It is going on and will continue to go on for at least another 15,000 years (chronological rule of discovery) and likely longer than that - until the inevitable and shivering collapse into another lengthy period of glaciation... If one were allowed to pick ones time of existence, an interglacial warming period would be my choice - so I feel blessed and vastly warmer than if squatting in a cave under a glacier...

As far as the massive engine in my vehicle spewing heat death - oh posh, give me a break... The next asteroid (inevitable) will make my poor little compact car's contribution to CO2 and smog look like a mosquito fart... What is incalculable is whether the burning of fossil fuels is significant compared the overall progression of this interglacial warming period... And that is where those who would have me financially fleeced to keep Fat Al in jet fuel for his peregrinations about the globe, part company... The best numbers and science I have seen suggest that we will mostly hasten this interglacial warming period forward to the next apogee of the pendulum by a few hundreds or a few thousands of years... That amount of deviation in a probable fifty thousand to seventy thousand year interglacial is within my level of tolerance...


Posted by: ad4hk2004 | March 2, 2010 1:07 PM | Report abuse

That's at least a valid reason to deny man-made global warming is of alarm right now, but global warming is real.

I DO think the impacts of pollution caused by our activity is of greatest short-term concern. Not everything burns into clean CO2. We release mercury into the atmosphere. We release heavy metals into the soil and water. That will kill us faster.

Anybody who uses disbelief in global warming to excuse pollution is creating a toxic smoke screen.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | March 2, 2010 1:16 PM | Report abuse

good afternoon boodle! Scrambling to catch up here on kits and boodles while I listen to Mayor Booker's recent talk in Minneapolis and make feeble attempts to get my head out of vacation mode.

DotC-you would be right about ND wheat going to Italy and coming back as pasta. However, more of it-along with Canadian wheat-is ending up in Asia these days.

Posted by: frostbitten1 | March 2, 2010 1:17 PM | Report abuse

RE kguy1 -

What he said!

dr. o

Posted by: ad4hk2004 | March 2, 2010 1:17 PM | Report abuse

Speaking of green houses, the WaPo Science section has a great article on ground source (aka geothermal) heat pumps.

My only quibble is the claim that they 'expel zero emissions'. It's an electric system, so there are no fossil fuels being burned on site, but there is a power plant at the end of every power cord. Unless you have a private wind farm, some dinosaurs are being incinerated somewhere.

The key take-away point is that without generous tax credits (and a way to get a drilling rig in your backyard) these systems are very marginal on a first cost basis.

Posted by: yellojkt | March 2, 2010 1:18 PM | Report abuse

Interesting. A denier bemoans our fuzzy thinking. Actually, our fuzzy thinking probably comes from all our wool-gathering and our knitting discussions; there tends to be a lot of yarn-related particulate matter in the air hereabouts.

Yes, seasea, I've often wondered about the HGTV green home and the SUV, too. And the joke about the "green home" is that it is some lavish, posh MacMansion, some 5,000-sq-ft. but "green" thing on a three-acre plot beautifully landscaped. I mean, they are always fabulous houses -- but the residual Strelnikov in me sometimes wonders about the allocation of resources. Yes, it has triple-pain windows, solar heating, this, that and the other green feature-- and could house a family of 20.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | March 2, 2010 1:27 PM | Report abuse

I find the Women of Curling (and I may have to break my 20 year boycott of Playboy to get that hypothetical issue) far more attractive than the Alpine Ski Bunnies.

I posted my risque photolink for Madeline DuPont a few boodles back, so if you are the kind of person that appreciates that form of art (and you know who you are) you will have to scroll back to find it.

In the interest of equality of the sexes, I tried to find some beefcake photos of either Thomas Ulsrud or John Morris but failed to find anything suitably lascivious.

Posted by: yellojkt | March 2, 2010 1:36 PM | Report abuse

I don't know about the rest of you, but every time I see the word 'denier', I find myself thinking it's a French verb.

Posted by: MsJS | March 2, 2010 1:41 PM | Report abuse

I like that pic of Bernard because it is a great picture of a curler who just happens to be a lovely woman.

This is entirely different than a picture of a lovely woman who just happens to be a curler.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | March 2, 2010 1:47 PM | Report abuse

@ ad4hk2004 -- that's a parody, right? No way that stream-of-consciousness silliness is for real.

We are in the midst of an inter-glacial. Inter-glacials are not 70K years, they are about 26k. This one has been going on for about 10K years so far. In any case, the anticipated ending of the current inter-glacial has zero relevance to the present climate debate, so your effort to raise it as an issue is the reddest of red herrings.

Warming has not been continuous throughout the inter-glacial period. CO2 content can be compared to ocean levels and temperature proxies in the past (past = several interglacials; must use proxies, as there were no thermometers or writing at the relevant times) . The present CO2 content correlates with a much warmer climate. It is true that CO2 content, on those previous occasions, trailed behind rising sea-level and temperature. However, the radiative-transfer physics of CO2 is the well-understood part of the climate problem. It is dead certain that high CO2 is what enabled high temperatures to be maintained for extended periods, even if it is a side-effect of what got the world to that state. Since the CO2 content is now at an historic (and prehistoric) high level, there is every reason to think that global heat content (as opposed to "sensible temperature") will reach a high level as well.

Planning on asteroid impact to reset the game, so you might as well pollute the environment now, is stupid. It's on a par with James Watt's (Secretary of the Interior) suggestion that we should use up Earth's resources quickly so as to fulfill (his interpretation of) the Bible and hasten the return of Jesus.

Posted by: ScienceTim | March 2, 2010 1:55 PM | Report abuse

Skepticism is good, but it is stupid to believe that just because YOU are not able to understand climate science that it must be wrong; and, furthermore, to fantasize that people who have devoted their professional careers to the subject are either uniformly misguided or participating in a conspiracy to hide The Truth. Skepticism is the stance that enables us to ask probing questions that reveal defects in current understanding. Skepticism is not the same as denial of everything that is too difficult to understand at the present level of effort.

You want to know what fuzzy thinking is? Fuzzy thinking is imagining that you, as an obvious non-scientist, are able to cut incisively to the core of climate-change science and see The Truth, in contrast to thousands of professionals, every one of whom sees his personal path to success and renown in showing that his colleagues all are fundamentally wrong.

Science is not about chanting in unison. Science is about picking apart every notion, idea, or ridiculous claim to see if the facts contradict it. Your claims are demonstrably false. The claims of climate-change scientists have not yet been shown to be false, despite the fact that every one of those very smart fellows is working over-time to discover such flaws. You may be right, they may all be wrong, but you will have to get serious and learn the language and the facts and the methods before you will be able to show that the existing state of knowledge is wrong in a demonstrable way.

Better get to work, bunky. You have a lot to do.

Posted by: ScienceTim | March 2, 2010 1:58 PM | Report abuse

I thought "denier" was all about thread count.

Posted by: kguy1 | March 2, 2010 1:58 PM | Report abuse

Jumper, is the snow sticking on your side of town? Nothing on the ground here, it's just wet. Geekdottir is on her way home, I won't be able to relax till she gets here. She should be through Atlanta by now...

It makes sense to me that we should do what's necessary to mitigate climate change. I don't really care about who's causing it, we know the results, and we need to move forward. Later, we can study the causes and see if we were right or wrong. That is, if we haven't destroyed ourselves in the meantime.

Posted by: slyness | March 2, 2010 1:58 PM | Report abuse

SciTim, that's a great post.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | March 2, 2010 2:05 PM | Report abuse

You guys have me laughing. MsJS, I have *eggzactly* the same reaction to the word "denier" and my high school French is more than 40 years old, so I am frenvious over your facility in la langue.

That being said, I wonder if "mosquito fart" could be a reputable Boodle handle. Thoughts?

Posted by: -ftb- | March 2, 2010 2:06 PM | Report abuse

The Health Care system is a billing nightmare, that's for sure.

For example, the amount of lubricant and latex gloves they're using on me is criminal. Though the alternative is worse, I guess.

And every time I suggest I bring my own, they flatly refuse - what's the matter, don't they like the smell of pina colada?



Posted by: -bc- | March 2, 2010 2:15 PM | Report abuse

RD, Raysdad had a thing for Cheryl Bernard, too. Which meant he had to overlook my salivating for Thomas Ulsrud.

Posted by: Raysmom | March 2, 2010 2:21 PM | Report abuse

I'm still hung up on ScitTim's otherwise wonderful post on the question of zackly how red is the reddest of red herrings. Would it help the discussion if we all agreed that the reddest of red herrings should now be called a crimson herring? I could also live with scarlet herring, as long as it doesn't produce a Rovestorm of Scarlet Johanssen references. I suppose maroon herring and burgundy herring might also be in the running.

I realize the danger here of opening up the notion of an infrared herring, but hey, we're all adults here. I can handle it if you can.

Or we could just cut to the chase and call it a denny herring. Or deniherring. Something along those lines.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | March 2, 2010 2:31 PM | Report abuse

It was a full moon last night. What did that ED visit (geez, not *that* ED. Give me a break. The new politically correct name for Emergency Room is Emergency Department since technically they tend to have lots of rooms) cost ya, bc?

Posted by: yellojkt | March 2, 2010 2:35 PM | Report abuse

Um, that's Scarlett with two t's, and here she is with both of her t's -

Posted by: kguy1 | March 2, 2010 2:39 PM | Report abuse

NC announced it's no longer advisable to eat red herrings caught ANYWHERE in the state, in general, because they are now loaded with mercury from coal burning power plants. Any other freshwater fish either.

Funny, slyness, it almost all melted in the last few minutes.

Posted by: Jumper1 | March 2, 2010 2:40 PM | Report abuse

May I just say I was not fortunate enough to watch the ladies curling gold-medal game in its entirety?

And 'Mudge, I'd vote for "maroon herring," since those offering the canards are clearly maroons in the best Bugs Bunny tradition.

Posted by: Scottynuke | March 2, 2010 2:43 PM | Report abuse

Go to and enter info about your ISP and you can watch hours of curling of whatever gender you want. They have full matches archived in their entirety or they have 3-6 minute "best throws" highlight reels where they show the last throw or two of the ends with significant scores in them.

That's what tided me over from the end of the men's curling gold medal game until the start of the ladies figure skating one night.

Posted by: yellojkt | March 2, 2010 2:50 PM | Report abuse

I knew I could count on you, yello. :-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | March 2, 2010 2:51 PM | Report abuse

Two of the best things about Cheryl Bernard are
(1) she's 44 years old, not some 20-something. That's one fine-looking 44-year-old.
(2) She co-wrote a book called "Between the Sheets." I chose to ignore what it's *realy* about. My fantasy notion is much better.

Unpleasant facts about Cheryl Bernard:
(1) She's married.
(2) Not to me.

Ambiguous facts about Cheryl Bernard:
(1) She lives in San Diego. Shouldn't she live someplace cold? (My garage has an upstairs room that's available.)

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | March 2, 2010 2:53 PM | Report abuse

Denny-o is fine with getting fleeced by Exxon and the House of Saud.

Decent link, yello, on geothermal. I'm pondering the efficiencies (or lack thereof) to incorporating the water heater in that system. Ought to be easy in summer when your heat pump is shedding heat anyway. Winter, I dunno. And gas is pretty cheap for hot water.

Posted by: Jumper1 | March 2, 2010 2:54 PM | Report abuse

Those deniers are weft and warped.

Beautiful day here, the male cardinals are claiming their territories, I've seen some greening grass and the first outside fly since November.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | March 2, 2010 3:03 PM | Report abuse

We are leaking ice from every strait.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | March 2, 2010 3:05 PM | Report abuse

That is one long url. However, when linking to Scarlett Johansson, you are required by Rule 22 of the Commentary And Discussion Guidelines to use the Official Weingarten Chat ScarJo Link:

Posted by: yellojkt | March 2, 2010 3:13 PM | Report abuse

For anyone who thought that the Norwegian curling team's pants were loud, how about these:

Posted by: Raysmom | March 2, 2010 3:13 PM | Report abuse

Those pants shine the best in the 48in. waiste 28in. inseam size.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | March 2, 2010 3:16 PM | Report abuse

That is the funnel size.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | March 2, 2010 3:17 PM | Report abuse

Warning, CqP, do NOT click on Raysmom's link!

That is one majorly UGLY pair of pants!

Posted by: slyness | March 2, 2010 3:18 PM | Report abuse

And you can get a jacket to match!

Posted by: Raysmom | March 2, 2010 3:22 PM | Report abuse

Ambiguous Cheryl Bernard Fact #2:
She has the Olympic rings tattooed on her forearm.

Posted by: yellojkt | March 2, 2010 3:30 PM | Report abuse

Here's the accompanying copy-

"After a grueling day out on the course, when it's time to birdie the 19th hole or cavort at the banquet, after the guys have gotten used to your loud pants, hit them with the apres golf jacket. If you think chicks dig the ain't seen nothin' till you put on the coat!"

Mister Sulu, sport coats set on stun!

Posted by: kguy1 | March 2, 2010 3:30 PM | Report abuse

If only I had a dollar for every denier... what is the exchange rate anyways?

Posted by: qgaliana | March 2, 2010 3:31 PM | Report abuse

Hey Shriek - What is the "grass" of which you speak. You mean there is something under this cold, whitish, grey-streaked matter?

Posted by: ebtnut | March 2, 2010 3:32 PM | Report abuse

So, what does this guy sell (you just know he's in sales)?

a. Used cars
b. Insurance
c. Novelty condoms
d. Prosthetic thumbs

Posted by: kguy1 | March 2, 2010 3:35 PM | Report abuse

qg, as far as I'm concerned a denier isn't worth a plugged nickel.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | March 2, 2010 3:36 PM | Report abuse

Oh, it's about 4 sesterces or one dinar to the denier, give or take a few filings.

Do not count on me for the denier du culte.

Yes ebnut, real greening grass.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | March 2, 2010 3:37 PM | Report abuse

There are about 18,000 Vietnamese dong to the dollar. So if a denier isn't worth a plugged nickel, that means that there are no more than 900 dongs in a denier.

Posted by: yellojkt | March 2, 2010 4:08 PM | Report abuse

yellow, are those new, crisp dongs? or old, faded, banged-up dinged dongs?

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | March 2, 2010 4:13 PM | Report abuse

mudge, I'm pretty sure there's an exact one/one correlation between deniers and ding-dongs.

Posted by: rashomon | March 2, 2010 4:17 PM | Report abuse

The dong, dinged or not, has the real smell of money.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | March 2, 2010 4:23 PM | Report abuse

It's a Denar, worth about two cents.

Posted by: Jumper1 | March 2, 2010 4:29 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: Jumper1 | March 2, 2010 4:30 PM | Report abuse

SD, I'm pretty sure the denier is backed by gold or financial instruments of some sort.

Posted by: engelmann | March 2, 2010 4:33 PM | Report abuse

Tim, while I have no use for James Watt -- he's a major a-hole -- but, in the interest of accuracy, he didn't really say the line about natural resources and the second coming. Bill Moyers famously apologized to him about this a few years ago.

Now here's a good quote showing what a crazed wingnut he is:

"If the troubles from environmentalists cannot be solved in the jury box or at the ballot box, perhaps the cartridge box should be used."

It's in the seventh graf:

Posted by: rashomon | March 2, 2010 4:33 PM | Report abuse

A thread of one denier weighs one gram per nine thousand meters. That's some pretty gossamer stuff!

Posted by: bobsewell | March 2, 2010 4:36 PM | Report abuse

The denier got replaced by the you row.

The you row is a manually powered boat.

People on boats measure time in bells, which can be thought of as dongs.

So deniers were used to place bets on boat races and the time of the race was measured in dongs. When boats crashed, that was referred to as a dinged dong.

In the event of a dinged dong, spectators were often heard saying, "Ho Ho, that was some Dinged Dong." This was often said with a Twinkie in one's eye.

Posted by: MsJS | March 2, 2010 4:38 PM | Report abuse

And I say that with some authority, being from the province where the denier is legal tender. I note though that other provinces appear to be willing to accept transfer payments in deniers.

Posted by: engelmann | March 2, 2010 4:40 PM | Report abuse

We do love transfer payments engelmann, keep them coming.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | March 2, 2010 4:48 PM | Report abuse

Once again, sucked in by something that sounds right, but isn't really true. Thanks, rashomon.

Posted by: ScienceTim | March 2, 2010 4:50 PM | Report abuse

Given that 'tender' is a noun, verb and adjective, one could go in a number of different directions with 'legal tender.'

The boodle boggles at the possibilities.

Warped mind today. Must be something in those brownies I baked.

Posted by: MsJS | March 2, 2010 4:57 PM | Report abuse

What I wouldn't give to have the dernier denier be shot into outer space ...

ooooooohhh, brownies (mmmmmm). With walnuts, perhaps? No green veggies (yanno), I gather.

Posted by: -ftb- | March 2, 2010 5:26 PM | Report abuse

Don't stick your head in the gas oven Ms. Js. It helps to keep the mind clear.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | March 2, 2010 5:28 PM | Report abuse


Are you serious about the freshwater fish in North Carolina? Everywhere?

Posted by: cmyth4u | March 2, 2010 5:38 PM | Report abuse


Are you serious about the freshwater fish in North Carolina? Everywhere?

Posted by: cmyth4u | March 2, 2010 5:41 PM | Report abuse

New Kit!

Posted by: -ftb- | March 2, 2010 5:50 PM | Report abuse

Okay. I was chuckling to myself at the various "denier" possibilities and offshoots, when I got to MsJS's summary. Full-throated laughter.

Nice job, ScienceTim.

I went to a backwater ER today, nice quiet place, to have these stitches in my little finger removed (they put 'em in last week) and the darn place was so busy they never got to me. I brought plenty of work so I can sit there even longer tomorrow.

Posted by: Ivansmom | March 2, 2010 5:51 PM | Report abuse

Very funny! I say in reply to your 4;38,


Posted by: rickoshea1 | March 2, 2010 5:53 PM | Report abuse

I am sure others have mentioned it, but intelligence will trump any system weakness. In my world, the best system is probably the one where people tell you to take some time, think it over, do some research, and get back to me. Those people KNOW they are right, or KNOW they are the best. All the screamers and epithet throwers are the polar opposite.

Posted by: steveboyington | March 2, 2010 6:43 PM | Report abuse

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