Wednesday, September 30, 2009

I like it, I just don't think other people will

Max Baucus' logic in voting down a public option yesterday was odd. He claimed he wasn't opposed to the public option, but he didn't think it would win 60 votes on the Senate floor. This is interesting from the perspective on the literature on congressional committees (Kiewit & McCubbins, Cox & McCubbins, etc.), which suggests that in a strongly partisan era, committees will try to reflect the preferences of the median member of the majority party. Yet here, Baucus seems to be trying to reflect the chamber median.

But another interesting point, as Ezra Klein notes, is the following question: Exactly which Democrats are planning to filibuster President Obama's signature piece of legislation? I don't think any of them are, which makes Baucus' move even weirder.

Monday, September 28, 2009

The costs of tipping

Tipping provides American waiters with an incentive to increase their check average by pushing bottled water, extra courses, expensive entrees and pricey wines and by showing guests the door as soon as they stop chewing.
That's from Phoebe Damrosch in the NYT (via Ezra), arguing for a new policy of set fees for servers rather than tips. We usually think of tips as providing incentive for better service, but yes, there's a perverse side of this incentive structure, too.

Could this be one of the reasons that Americans are over-eating? We have a restaurant culture where servers can only make a decent wage if customers provide decent tips, and such tips are far from guaranteed. If servers' wages were totally divorced from the amount they served us, would our caloric consumption drop?

For the mountaineers

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Is it a problem when the party decides?

There are lots of interesting things in today's Denver Post story about the Democratic Party's efforts to protect Sen. Michael Bennet from Andrew Romanoff's primary challenge. But what struck me in particular was the claim that voters push back when a party tries to force a nominee on them.

The article lists several recent instances of the Obama White House taking sides in upcoming nominations battles, including its public attempts to push NY Gov. David Paterson aside and to get former VA Gov. Douglas Wilder to endorse a gubernatorial candidate. And then we hear this:
"It may make the situation worse for Bennet for them to play the game this way," said state Rep. Kathleen Curry, a Gunnison lawmaker who is supporting Romanoff.

"People in Colorado have an adverse reaction to the external forces coming down and telling them how to think," she said.
We heard these same sorts of claims a few weeks ago when it appeared that the NRSC was pushing to make Jane Norton the Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate seat.

So here's a question: do voters ever push back? Think about some other recent examples of state or national party leaders trying to pick nominees before primary voters had a chance to weigh in:
  • In the 2004 U.S. Senate race, the Democratic Party pushed Ken Salazar over Mike Miles, while Republican leaders pushed Pete Coors over Bob Shaffer.
  • In the 2006 governor's race, Democratic Party leaders converged quickly around Bill Ritter, forestalling other challengers. Marc Holtzman spent a lot of money and energy to deprive Bob Beauprez of the Republican nomination, but the party had essentially frozen him out.
  • Last year, the Democrats pushed Mark Benner aside to protect Mark Udall's hold on the U.S. Senate nomination, while Republicans invoked "Rule 11" to guarantee Bob Shaffer the slot.
In all these cases, the passed-over candidates pushed back, but it's hard to find any evidence that voters did. Indeed, how would they? Republican voters still managed to vote for their party's nominees, and Democratic voters did the same. Meanwhile, I know many Democratic activists who are pulling strongly for Andrew Romanoff and still love Barack Obama, despite the latter's messing with the former's life.

The lesson: Romanoff faces a very tough race. He could still win the nomination, but if he does, it won't be because Colorado's Democratic voters are angry at party leaders for meddling with the race.

Not getting it

Shorter Christopher Hitchens:
Why is everybody but me laughing at these jokes? Clearly, there's something wrong with everybody but me.
Let me just add that the poll that found that Jon Stewart was America's most trusted newscaster was not evidence of Stewart's villainy or the American's people's stupidity or poor polling methodology. Rather, it's a huge indictment of the state of American television news.

It's not about racism. It's about... something...

Huge thanks to the Denver Post for printing this fine letter today:
The problem with Obama is Obama, not the color of his skin.
Okay, fair enough. One needn't be a racist to oppose Obama. He's proposed to do a lot of things. People may simply disagree with him. Just because one disagrees doesn't mean one hates blacks.
Obama is economically ignorant and not very intelligent.
Oh. You know, there are a lot of things people have criticized Obama for, but unintelligence usually isn't one of them. But I suppose there are several dimensions of intelligence. Maybe it depends how we define our terms.
That is if you define intelligence as critical analysis, sound reasoning, enlightenment, honesty and most of all humility.
Okay! Similarly, Ronald Reagan was quite intelligent, if you define intelligence as height, charm, and looking good on a horse. On the other hand, John Kennedy was not very intelligent, if you define intelligence as faithfulness to one's spouse and not having Addison's disease.
So the tea parties are mostly old people who lived through world wars, left the cruelty of communist nations, know that socialism, fascism, totalitarianism are all kissing cousins and sense and smell the nasty odor of the direction he is not only leading us into, but forcing us. And the U.S. Constitution, be damned!
There are people who lived through both world wars who are marching on Washington? I'd listen to those folks! Especially if they can smell directions!
That’s what it’s all about.
I thought the Hokey Pokey was what it was all about. But maybe that made too much sense.

Saturday, September 26, 2009


Wow. An administrator at Buckingham University in the UK is getting some flack for referring to female undergrads as "perks" for the male (heterosexual) faculty. In his words,
Most male lecturers know that, most years, there will be a girl in class who flashes her admiration and who asks for advice on her essays. What to do?
Enjoy her! She's a perk.
He goes on to explain that this doesn't mean nailing her. Rather, you should just ogle her and then transfer your sexual excitement to your wife.

Now, there are all sorts of troubling issues raised here, some of which are addressed by Dana. But I was fascinated to read this account by Dave Brockington over at LGM. As Brockington explains, the attitude about student-faculty relations is quite different over in the UK than it is here. Here, of course, it is strictly frowned upon (although not always against school rules). People can lose their jobs over this sort of thing. To the extent it exists, people don't really discuss it publicly. Across the Atlantic, however, a faculty member must file paperwork -- a "declaration of interest" -- before dating a student, but after that, it's largely accepted, even if not widely publicized.

Honestly, I'm not sure whose approach is better. This sort of thing obviously goes on on both sides of the Atlantic. Is it better to acknowledge and bureaucratize it, or shun it and pretend it doesn't exist? I'm curious if there are any actual data showing incidence of this across different sets of policies.

Friday, September 25, 2009

One Kilopost

This is my one thousandth post on this blog. They said it couldn't be done.* I couldn't have done it without you.** Thanks to all of you who have read, posted, linked to me, given me suggestions, etc. The real adventure is just beginning.

Meanwhile, let me take this moment to announce a contest. I'd like to redo the masthead at the top of the blog. If anyone wants to submit a design, that would be awesome. The best design gets used. Maybe.

But for now, let's celebrate.
Image and video hosting by TinyPic

*No one actually said that.
**Well, I could have, but it wouldn't have been as fun.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

Did you know that "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" (1968) was written by Ian Fleming and produced by Albert R. Broccoli? It's true! And you know what? It kind of feels like a Bond film. It's filmed in lavish locales all throughout Western Europe, there are tons of cool gadgets, the villain is a sadistic but incompetent madman, and Desmond Llewelyn is in it!

I was watching it with my sick daughter today, and those were my main observations. Also, Dick Van Dyke is an awesome dancer. Oh, and I had always assumed that Julie Andrews was the female lead. She wasn't. That role went to Sally Ann Howes, who had also replaced Julie Andrews on the Broadway version of "My Fair Lady." I don't know why Howes didn't have the same kind of career arc as Andrews -- she was quite lovely and had an amazing voice. But for some reason she ends up being the Costco Julie Andrews. It's just not fair.

Final thoughts on the film: It's absurdly long. Sixty minutes have already elapsed before the family even comes to own the car. And I could have done without the crude anti-Semitic stereotyping. Beyond that, a lovely film.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Outrage is all the rage

Lewis Black on Joe Wilson, Kanye West, Serena Williams, et al.:

Her Majesty's a pretty nice girl

I recently showed "The Queen" (2006) in my politics and film class. Although I usually focus on depictions of American politics for my class, this little diversion was quite worth the effort.

The film is remarkable for a number of reasons. For one, it's amazing that such a compelling drama was produced from such a small event: the decision by the Queen (Helen Mirren) to publicly acknowledge the death of Diana and to lower the flag over Buckingham Palace to half mast. As he did with "Frost/Nixon" (2008), writer Peter Morgan has unearthed a truly interesting story about power from a relatively trivial setting.

Second, the film turns out to be a fascinating study of the power of public opinion, which can even constrain unelected officials. Queen Elizabeth II is depicted as living an insulated life, but the sounds of the outside world keep disturbing her. When newspaper editors demand that she make some public display of mourning in the wake of Diana's death, she refuses to bow to them. Indeed, she views it as her duty not to bow. She sees herself as the embodiment of British tradition, and the British simply soldier on in the face of adversity.

Her adherence to this duty, however, ends up threatening her rule. She is visibly shaken by news that a majority of her citizens feel she has hurt the monarchy, and a quarter of them favor abolishing the crown altogether. Ultimately, she is saved by accepting the advice of Tony Blair (Michael Sheen), the new Prime Minister.

Blair is portrayed as everything she is not: young, middle class, modern, media savvy. But most importantly, as a politician, Blair understands the importance of public opinion. His handling of the Queen is an interesting case study in leadership. He convinces her to do what she does not want to do but is nonetheless in her best interests. She preserves the traditions of her office by sacrificing some of them.

If you're teaching about leadership, tradition, or public opinion, or you just want to see a good film, I highly recommend this.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

More on race in modern politics

I just wanted to follow up on the previous post, which received some interesting comments. According to Marc Hetherington and Jonathan Weiler (via John Sides), opposition to health care reform is strongly correlated with racial resentment. The more you dislike African Americans, the more you oppose health reform. Notably, this correlation was not present during Clinton's push for health reform in the 1990s. The authors take this as evidence that racism is driving opposition to Obama's plans.

Now, as discussed in the comments, this simple correlation is somewhat misleading. It ignores the fact that the parties have been polarizing along racial lines in recent years, something I mentioned in my previous post. (Although, to be fair, Hetherington claims that they still found this result after controlling for party ID.) Take a look at the following graphs. The first is from the National Election Studies question that asks people's opinions on the following statement: "Generations of slavery and discrimination have created conditions that make it difficult for blacks to work their way out of the lower class." The chart below graphs the percent of white respondents disagreeing with this statement, by party:
Note that the parties polarized in the mid-90s on this question. Prior to that, there was no real difference among white Democrats and white Republicans. The same trend can be seen in responses to the statement, "Irish, Italians, Jewish and many other minorities overcame prejudice and worked their way up. Blacks should to the same without any special favors." Below is the percent of whites agreeing:

The conclusion, again, is that the question "Is opposition to Obama based on race?" does not have a simple answer. Racial resentment definitely exists in America today, but it's more polarized along party lines than it has been in a long time. Many people who do not like blacks oppose Obama, but they would likely oppose him even if he were white since they're Republicans.

Late update: Apparently I was paraphrasing Bill Clinton without knowing it:
While it is true that some of the most extreme opponents of President Obama may also still have racial prejudice, I believe that 100% of those who are opposing him now would be against him if he were a white Democrat.
Later update: Charts fixed. I noticed a coding error and extended the analysis to 2008.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Who's right, Jimmy or Barack?

So Jimmy Carter claims that the emotional, borderline-violent resistance to Obama by conservative whites is based on race. And Obama says it isn't. Which one's right?

The problem with this question is that the answer, like the role of racism in American politics in general, is deeply nuanced and doesn't lend itself easily to an A or B response. Ari and I had a spirited discussion on this very topic last week (see the comments here).

Jimmy Carter is making a causal argument: Obama's race is causing many conservatives to oppose him viciously. Of course, any causal argument implies a counter-factual one: if Obama were white, many conservatives would not be opposing him viciously. This, to my mind, strains credulity. Anyone who thinks a white Obama would not be encountering this kind of resistance just doesn't remember Bill Clinton's presidency. Jerry Fallwell called Clinton a murderer. Jesse Helms suggested that Clinton would be shot should he visit the Carolinas. A parody Clinton/Gore bumpersticker read "Commie/Bore." Hillary Clinton was, of course, called a murderous lesbian, as was Janet Reno. And, in the end, Bill Clinton was impeached. And by the way, he was white.

Now this doesn't mean that race has nothing to do with what's going on today. We obviously see a lot of racist crap showing up at protests and town hall meetings. And when white people scream that they want their country back, it's hard not to think that race is playing a role there.

One thing that was both surprising and gratifying was the relative lack of a race effect in last year's election. John Sides did a nice analysis showing that Obama's race may have hurt him by about one percentage point. That's not nothing, but it's far less consequential than many had expected earlier in the year. Of course, that's just another counter-factual argument -- a white Obama would have done about the same as the black Obama did. But this doesn't let white racists off the hook. The two major parties have polarized on racial issues in recent decades, to the point where most white racists, if they vote, are voting Republican. (No, I am not arguing that Republicans are racist. Just that most racists today are Republicans.) So of course Obama didn't lose votes because of his race. He was never going to get those votes anyway because he's a Democrat.

I am confident that either Hillary Clinton or John Edwards would be facing similarly virulent opposition today were either of them president. Probably the same folks bringing the racist drivel to protests would be spewing misogynistic or gay-baiting slogans today. What's motivating the anger is simple ideological resistance to big government (properly distilled by conservative opinion-making elites). It has the added feature of bringing out the racists, but I don't think that's most of what's going on here. As I suggested earlier, you can explain much of what's going on without reference to race.

How 60 becomes the new 50

Jon Bernstein does a really nice job tearing apart Carl Hulse's story about health reform negotiations in today's NYT. It's just kind of a dumb story about how the Democrats want health reform to pass the Senate and aren't sure whether that will happen. A giveaway is this quote by Chris Dodd:
I wouldn’t say today with absolute certainty that you could get to 60, but it would be just as foolish to say you can’t get there either. This is the Senate.
In other words, either we'll pass a bill or we won't. I don't blame Dodd for this vapid response. If someone asked you whether a bill would pass, what else could you say?

But the main thing that irked me (other than, as Bernstein points out, the failure to note that Massachusetts may shortly fill Kennedy's seat in the Senate) was the continuing acceptance of supermajoritarianism as the norm in the Senate and majority rule as the exception:
With the death of Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, Democrats control 59 seats, meaning they need at least one Republican to join them if they are to proceed without employing a procedural shortcut that could cause havoc in the Senate.
It's just taken as a given that you need 60 seats to pass anything in the Senate. Using a different procedure that would pass legislation by majority vote would "cause havoc." No context, no sense that this routinized threat of a filibuster by the minority party is actually historically anomalous, no acknowledgment that the president's signature platform piece "failing" 59-40 would cause other forms of havoc.

Which leaves us no smarter for having read this article and perhaps slightly dumber.

Foxy Sethie

I did an interview with Fox News about Josh Penry's bid for governor, and the bit went national. Check it out.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

All we need to know about Max Baucus

From the Onion.

The great poli sci cake throwdown has begun

Okay, some UCD grad student is into geek cakes. I can respect that. But John Sides has apparently never seen my data cake, in which I chart the rising course evaluations of my departing colleague:

My president

Politicians inevitably disappoint. Governing requires difficult choices and compromises. It's just hard to live up to the kind of idealism that comes across in a campaign.

But then Obama grabbed a lightsaber, and all was right with the world.
(Thanks to John Sides)

Chalk one up for Romanoff

State Treasurer Cary Kennedy is now on his side.

Hickenlooper is backing Bennet, his old chief of staff.

I should keep a running tally.

Won't someone please look at the dudes?

Apparently, most of what people do on Facebook is look at pictures. And not just any pictures.
Piskorski has also found deep gender differences in the use of sites. The biggest usage categories are men looking at women they don’t know, followed by men looking at women they do know. Women look at other women they know. Overall, women receive two-thirds of all page views.
I guess all that time I spend uploading photos would be better spent looking at women I don't know.

(h/t Yglesias)

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

You lie!

For what it's worth, I have a really hard time getting fired up about the punishment of Rep. Joe Wilson. Yes, he violated decorum when he called the president a liar. Yes, it was rude. Sure, such behavior should be discouraged.

But I just don't get why the Beltway establishment is so dead set on setting clear standards for decorum while so lax about things like lawbreaking. Really, mainstream journalists and congressional leaders are squeamish about holding Bush administration officials accountable for authorizing torture and warrantless wiretapping, but they're gung ho about punishing a breach of manners.

I'm all for politeness, but it strikes me as a pretty low-order priority for government.


National Talk Like a Pirate Day is coming up! Get your keyboards ready...
(Thanks, Rob)

Incumbents coming out for Bennet

I received an e-mail this morning from Bill Ritter, Mark Udall, and Bernie Buescher urging me to support Michael Bennet for U.S. Senate. Also, apparently Speaker Terrance Carroll is backing Bennet, as is President Obama, Betsy Markey, Jared Polis, and John Salazar. None of this is terribly surprising. Incumbents tend to watch each other's backs, and Ritter and Udall have obvious professional interests in maintaining strong support for Bennet.

Diana DeGette and Ed Perlmutter, interestingly, have chosen to stay neutral. DeGette is probably still smarting from her early endorsement of Hillary Clinton -- no one likes backing a failed candidate -- and Perlmutter is no doubt still pissed at Ritter for not naming him to the Senate. They are also likely quite torn between the two candidates, who are both bright, capable, and likable.

But this is shaping up into a nice insiders vs. grassroots battle. Romanoff's sponsorship by Pueblo pols Wally Stealy and Bill Thiebaut is a big deal. I'm curious who else will jump out for Andrew after his official announcement tomorrow. Stay tuned.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Okay, Wordle is cool

I've been slow to acknowledge the beauty of Wordle, but this page is pretty neat (h/t Henry). Wordle, in case you are unfamiliar with it, is a tool that graphically depicts the frequencies of words. This page shows the word clouds for all the presidential inaugural addresses. Larger blue words are the ones spoken most often. Darker shaded blue ones are atypical words, compared to preceding and succeeding inaugural addresses. The red words are those which are conspicuously missing from the speech compared to neighboring addresses. Below is the cloud for Lincoln's second inaugural:

"You know, sometimes it's nice having you around. But now ain't one of those times."

This is the best Twitter feed ever.

(Thanks to Allison for the suggestion.)

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Obama speech - quick react

What a fascinating speech. Policy-wise, it was all compromise. An insurance exchange market, an individual mandate, no public option, etc. But on the politics, he was totally bitch-slapping the Republicans. I think that's the reverse of how politics usually works, where you praise your opponents while knifing them on policy. I'm curious how this one will pan out.

The Teddy Kennedy stuff toward the end was just beautiful.

Oh, and that was Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC) heckling Obama and calling him a liar. Man, did Pelosi look pissed.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Finalist, most disturbing video ever

This also happens to be a finalist for the least effective public health advertisement ever.

Don't watch with the kids.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

What's up with the Right?

I'm just on my way back from the annual APSA conference in Toronto. I had a few talks with people on the general topic of why conservative activists in America right now seem particularly crazy. Now, this is not to say that there haven't been some nutty folks on the left of late. But on the right, we've seen not just a few people carrying loaded weapons to town hall meetings, screaming that they want their country back, and literally accusing the president of being both a communist and a Nazi. Some Republican officeholders have actually embraced these protester's claims, and commentators like Rush Limbaugh and Glen Beck have repeated them endlessly. This, of course, is occurring at a time when liberals are largely complaining about how tepid President Obama's policy's have been. The presidential health care proposals are relatively modest compared to what just about every other advanced democracy has enacted or even what the U.S. enacted through Medicare and Social Security. The Obama policies that are most invasive into the free market (e.g.: the financial sector bailout) actually began under President Bush. So why is the Right acting the way it's acting?

One answer to this can be found in some experimental research that my old advisor, John Zaller, described at a panel at the APSA conference. As he noted, recent research shows that there are notable psychological differences between liberals and conservatives. To wit:
  • Conservatives have a heightened startle response relative to liberals. Conservatives react more sharply to loud noises.
  • Conservatives are more likely to register physical disgust at socially questionable behavior (such as sharing a spoon) than liberals are.
  • Conservatives are less comfortable in a crowd of people than liberals are. Conservatives are more comfortable where there's a clear social order.
  • When subjects are shown a video of a dog morphing into a cat, liberals are quicker than conservatives to call it a cat. Conservatives are slower to acknowledge that a change is occurring.
Conservative behavior in these examples should not be thought of as inherently better or worse than liberal behavior. Sometimes a heightened startle response is unnecessary; sometimes it can save your life. And in the last example, liberals were quicker to call the animal a cat, but it wasn't necessarily going to end up as one. Had it changed appearance but ended up back as a dog, the conservatives would have been right.

Meanwhile, look at what's happened in the country just in the last year.
  • A very sharp economic downturn has put many out of work and created uncertainty for many more.
  • The financial industry basically collapsed, undermining a great deal of the perceived structure of the American economy.
  • The country is under unified Democratic rule for the first time in more than a decade.
  • Gay marriage, which seemed like a joke a decade ago, is now legal in a handful of states and is becoming more widespread by the year.
  • The president's name is Barack Hussein Obama.
If you're a conservative and, like many conservatives, feel physically uncomfortable when rapid change occurs or when social structures collapse, this has got to be an incredibly difficult time for you. Now, I haven't even mentioned the president's race. Yes, it's possible there's some racial animus folded into all this, but you can explain much of it without reference to race. This is a time that seems almost designed to make conservatives feel threatened.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

A poem on party elites

There's some wonderful material in Nancy Rosenblum's book On the Side of the Angels. I'll have more on this book later, but right now I'm pleased to report that it includes a poem by Alan Dugan about a local party elite, which I reproduce here:
Alan Dugan, “Portrait of a Local Politician”
It’s like being a winner at an all-night poker game.
I know I can’t leave winning without getting beaten up,
so I go on playing, trying to lose a little, but not too much,
hoping that mutual exhaustion will stop the game in the morning….
Then, I can take my winnings and walk away, carefully,
after giving a cut to the loser who follows me
and wants to break my arm,
and go home to sleep like death and dream
that my patience and expertise and money and winning
makes me a hero. No way. They know I have their money.
They know I’m a winner. They can get me if they can.
I know I have to play in the next game
for safety’s sake, and try to lose a little.
It’s difficult, they’re such a bunch of dopes, but they’re my boys.

No, I'm not boycotting Whole Foods

John Mackey has, in my opinion, some stupid policy ideas. For one thing, he seems to think we can address the millions of Americans lacking health insurance through charity donations. I don't think his ideas are terribly serious or helpful. But as far as I can tell, he hasn't done anything particularly egregious other than write an op/ed.

I'd rather Whole Foods were unionized. I'd rather they sold mayonnaise and cereal that was on par with their produce and meat. I'd rather they didn't charge so damned much. I'd rather a lot of things. But that's just not enough for a boycott.

Really, if I limited my shopping to companies with whose CEOs I agreed on policy grounds, my cupboards would soon be bare and my car would be out of gas. I'd basically just be living off Ben & Jerry's. I don't expect to agree with most CEOs on policies. They're concerned about different things than I am, and they make about a zillion times more than I make. I don't think a store should suffer because its CEO voices his or her opinions.

What we don't get about health reform

David Goldhill's piece on health reform in the Atlantic is lengthy but really quite interesting. The piece covers a lot of ground, but one of the main points it drives home is that the way we finance health care, largely through insurance companies, completely distorts its pricing:
Health insurance is the primary payment mechanism not just for expenses that are unexpected and large, but for nearly all health-care expenses. We’ve become so used to health insurance that we don’t realize how absurd that is. We can’t imagine paying for gas with our auto-insurance policy, or for our electric bills with our homeowners insurance, but we all assume that our regular checkups and dental cleanings will be covered at least partially by insurance. Most pregnancies are planned, and deliveries are predictable many months in advance, yet they’re financed the same way we finance fixing a car after a wreck—through an insurance claim.
The fact that we're out of touch with how much even a modest checkup costs creates a moral hazard situation. We buy more health care and doctors are incentivized to provide more:
Medicare spends almost twice as much per patient in Dallas, where there are more doctors and care facilities per resident, as it does in Salem, Oregon, where supply is tighter. Why? Because doctors (particularly specialists) in surplus areas order more tests and treatments per capita, and keep their practices busy. Many studies have shown that the patients in areas like Dallas do not benefit in any measurable way from all this extra care. All of the physicians I know are genuinely dedicated to their patients. But at the margin, all of us are at least subconsciously influenced by our own economic interests. The data are clear: in our current system, physician supply often begets patient demand.
Lots to think about.

Adding: I'm not convinced Goldhill's reform ideas, which he gets to at the end of the piece, are quite right. His idea for universal catastrophic coverage seems good, but I can imagine hospitals charging just enough to fall into that bracket for things that are not necessarily catastrophic. Also, I've long been leery of health savings accounts as basically just government handouts to young healthy people. Still, Goldhill's idea for banking HSA funds and financing expensive care against future HSA payouts is intriguing. And it would probably be a lot less perverse than what we've currently got.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Red skies at night

Okay, this is creepy. The weird haze we're getting in Denver is largely due to the wildfires in Los Angeles County. I can't see the Rockies. Because of California. Bah!

The candidates strike back

There are some fascinating behind-the-scenes maneuvers going on in the Colorado Republican Party's efforts to find a nominee for the 2010 U.S. Senate race. It's a great party story. The quick version is that the NRSC appears to be attempting to invoke "Rule 11," a collusion with state party officials promising big early national support for a candidate long before the primary. This support is supposed to help clear the field of other candidates and make for a stronger nominee for the fall. This is exactly what the Republicans did in 2008 for Bob Schaffer, who ended up losing by nine points to Mark Udall in the general election.

So now the NRSC wants Jane Norton, a relative moderate, to run for Senate. This tipping of the hat was indicated by the NRSC's registering of two domain names in Norton's name. No doubt because of last year's disastrous election results and because of Norton's moderate record, local Republican aren't so keen about deferring to national party leaders this time around. Ken Buck, who had planned on withdrawing from the race last week, now appears to have gotten so angry about them DC boys messing with the race that he's back in. And some guy named Tom Wiens is jumping in the race. And now Norton is reconsidering the whole thing. Weirdly enough, state GOP chair Dick Wadhams is now complaining about the NRSC, even though he had to have been in on the whole thing from the beginning.

So this looks like an interesting case where the party tried to decide but the candidates pushed back.