Are health insurance co-payments a bad idea?

Are health insurance co-payments a bad idea?

Are health insurance co-payments a bad idea?

A mostly political Weblog.
Aug. 29 2005 5:26 PM

Able Danger Mystery Solved?

Bloggers may have figured it out.

Spotty: Andrew Krepinevich's "oil spot" strategy may or may not be a good way to fight the war in Iraq. But Eduwonk thinks it's a good way to pursue education reform:

Instead of just supporting often isolated politicians who are constantly under attack or fighting hopeless guerilla warfare inside bureaucracies, establishing some oil spots in big cities, winning victories, and establishing some proof points ...

Wasn't that what Milwaukee was supposed to be--the "proof point" for school choice? ... In truth, I'm not sure the oil spot strategy works that well when you are confronting geographically pervasive, deeply entrenched bureaucratic interests, as opposed to mere armed insurgents. In manufacturing, for example, the "proof point" that relaxed work rules could produce high quality American goods was supposed to be GM's Saturn subdivision in Tennessee. In fact, Saturn succeeded. But the result wasn't that the Saturn model spread to other GM (or Ford) plants. The result was that the rest of GM--union and management--mobilized to make sure that Saturn got killed off as quickly as possible, a project they've almost completed. ... Similarly, the most successful welfare reform effort of the 1990s was Wisconsin's W-2 plan, with its public jobs component. Have other jurisdictions rushed to emulate W-2--as I, for one, expected? Not that I've noticed (with the exception of Guiliani's New York). ... 2:13 P.M.


Cheap Dates at The New Yorker: Does Malcolm Gladwell believe that all health care copayments are a bad idea--an inappropriate invocation of the theory of "moral hazard" (i.e. the idea that if you have health insurance you'll consume more health care)? Should we all have first-dollar, no-copay plans like some UAW workers? If so--and Gladwell criticizes copayments as low as a $20 copay for a doctor visit--isn't he making more than an argument in favor of universal health care coverage? He would seem to be making an argument against many, perhaps most, of the universal health care coverage systems that have been proposed, which rely on copayments and deductibles to hold down the cost--including (I'm pretty sure) Hillary Clinton's plan. Gladwell might have a) explained this to his readers and b) either pointed out that this means universal health insurance will cost much more than people currently think, or else described an alternative means of cost control. Plus, even if copayments do discourage people from seeking benefiicial care, shouldn't Democrats be happy to settle for a cheaper universal health system with copays, at least as a start? ... 

On the other hand, why burden New Yorker readers with these complexities when you can just bash Bush's Health Savings Account plan?

P.S.: I'm willing to be convinced that copays discourage necessary care along with unnecessary care. But the assumption that they discourage mainly unnecessary care is not "plainly absurd," the position attributed to John Nyman, the University of Minnesota economist whose book Gladwell is discussing.** If people "go to the doctor grudgingly, because we're sick"--i.e. because we conclude we're sick--you'd think we could also conclude rationally when we're more sick and when we're less sick, when we really need of a doctor's visit (and never mind the copay) and when we have a cold we'll get over soon enough (so let's save the $20).  The anti-copay argument is hardly proven by pointing out that people with full insurance don't spend all their time at the hospital, or that --as Uwe Reinhardt puts it in Gladwell's article, "Moral hazard is overblown." "Overblown" isn't the same thing as "nonexistent." ... 

P.P.S.: Like many New Yorker policy articles, Gladwell's reads like a lecture to an isolated, ill-informed and somewhat gullible group of highly literate children. They are cheap dates. They won't think of the obvious objections. They won't demand that you "play Notre Dame," as my boss Charles Peters used to say, and take on the best arguments for the other side. They just need to be given a bit of intellectual entertainment and pointed off in a comforting anti-Bush direction. [Like highbrow sheep?--ed You said that.]


Supplemental reading: Here are excerpts from a Nyman article that indeed seems to be an argument against any copayment in many circumstances. Nyman also sketches some alternative cost-reduction strategies--including "global budgeting" to "slow the expansion of health care services down to levels closer to inflation and growth of the GDP." Global budgeting, at least as practiced in Canada, was trenchantly criticized in a 1992 WaPo article by ... Malcolm Gladwell. (See "Why Canada's Health Plan is No Remedy for America," Washington Post, March 22, 1992) ... .See also Gladwell's forceful, occasionally quirky defense of the American health care system  in 2000. ("I don't know that young men need health insurance.") [Thanks to Dr. M]

**--Has Nyman never heard of a "gomer"? 

Late hit: This is the second Gladwell article I've read that enthusiastically promotes the ideas in a book without grappling with even the obvious possible criticisms. (The other author given similar treatment was Judith Rich Harris). He's becoming the Cousin Brucie of the bien pensants! 9:59 P.M. link


Not so fast? Just when I thought the Able Danger claims might be explained by a conflation of one Mohamed El-Amir (a.k.a. Mohamed Atta) with another, come two potentially complicating developments:

1) Ed Epstein emails to say that J.D. Smith, the Able Danger contractor who made news yesterday (see below) did not say he relied on "public" information, but rather "open source" information, meaning information from sources not classified as secret. Epstein claims those sources could include airline passenger manifests and State Department visa applications. He has revised his post  to argue more clearly how Able Danger might have culled Atta's name from these "open" sources in 2000. Update-Contra Epstein: A veteran reporter emails

open source info does NOT include airline manifests and credit card info, which is either protected by law from disclosure (like credit info in the US) or proprietary to the companies involved (and thus not usually available to investigators without a subpoena).

In any case, I'm told Smith was specifically asked at the Friday press conference if Able Danger had visa, credit or airplane info and he said they had nothing like that.

2) The New York Post comes up with a reason  why the Able Danger contract to Smith's outfit was terminated--fear on the part of "military brass" that an unrelated chart on China-U.S. connections had put too much "focus on U.S. citizens." At first glance, the story seems to oddly shore up the Able Danger claims, by providing a good reason for a) the Pentagon's hostility to the program and b) the frustration of the Able Danger "whistleblowers" who have come forward. It also adds a slight Keystone Kops quality. (The Able Danger chart on China suggested "Condoleezza Rice and other prominent Americans as potential security risks.")

11:40 A.M. link


'Able Danger' Ball Advances: Fox News reports on this morning's press conference  with J.D. Smith, the latest Able Danger figure to step forward. Smith, a defense contractor, claims Mohamed Atta's name and picture were on a chart on his wall well before 9/11. ... Bonus Value-Adding Info!Kf also hears: 1) Smith said the data mined by Able Danger was public data, which would seem to rule out the kind of searches (e.g. of "Arab males who applied for a U.S. visa with a newly issued passport") envisioned by Ed Epstein; 2) Smith acknowledged that the picture of Atta he claims to have seen on the chart was very grainy, but he says he recognized Atta by his distinctive cheekbones; 3) Smith maintains that Able Danger obtained the Atta information from a female researcher in California, whom he declined to identify; and 4) Smith didn't have a very good answer when confronted with the "Two Atta" theory first suggested by Tom Maguire--i.e. that the Able Danger people might have confused the 9/11 hijacker Atta with a known Abu Nidal terrorist with a near-identical name. ... That said, I'm told Smith seemed sincere. And if the Able Danger crew wasn't trying to talk to the FBI about Mohamed Atta, what were they trying to talk about? Were they just bureaucrats scheduling meetings to justify their existence? ... Take it away, Minuteman.

Update--the two El-Amirs: Minuteman delivers! J.D. Smith also said that Able Danger had gotten Atta's name by linking him to Omar Abdul Rahman, the blind sheikh implicated in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. But how could they have linked Atta to Rahman? Easy! It turns out, as blogger A.J. Strata discovered, that there are links--whether accurate or inaccurate [thanks--lawyer]--in the public domain between Rahman and a doctor, Magdy El-Amir--who may be completely innocent! [ditto]--but who has a brother named Mohamed El-Amir who has apparently been linked by Dateline--again, perhaps erroneously--to some intrigue or other. Mohammed El-Amir ... why is that name familiar? Wasn't that the same name used by Mohammed Atta at the beginning 2000? I think it was!  In other words, here is a simple explanation for how Able Danger could have fingered an Egyptian with the name of the 9/11 hijacker, Mohamed El-Amir (whom we now know as Mohamed Atta). It was just a different Mohamed El-Amir. ... Why do I feel that through the power of the blogosphere we are asymptotically approaching the truth? ...

Backfill: Umansky flagged a possible El-Amir confusion last week. ...

[If the Able Danger project confused the 9/11 Mohamed El-Amir (Atta) with another Mohamed El-Amir, that might explain why that name would be on a chart. But J.D. Smith emphatically says they had the 9/11 Atta'sphoto. How to explain that?--ed I've been assuming that if you could account for Able Danger getting Atta's name, the photo might be explained as a case of honest memory confusion. Or maybe they managed to obtain the right photo for the wrong man!] 2:59 P.M.  link


New Jaguar : It's astonishingly uninspired, as feared. If Jaguar were a separate stock, you could short it. ... 1:19 P.M.

kf senses a subtle media shift  against the visionary Jon Klein. This could disrupt Klein's obvious plan to secure himself a lucrative Pew fellowship when he's forced to leave CNN. ... 12:25 P.M.

The Hillary Train Wreck: Recent multiple exposures to Westside L.A. liberals confirms that (as George Will  and Kevin Drum suggest) Hillary Clinton is currently heading for a much bigger train wreck in her party than anticipated--a wreck all her cautious planning failed to anticipate, and probably exacerbated.

The same press drumbeat of defeatism about Iraq that has helped bring down Bush's numbers has also emboldened the party's mainstream left base (i.e., not just MoveOn or the DailyKos crowd). They hardly care whether Hillary is a member of the DLC. But they do not want to support someone who voted for the war, as Hillary did. They might have been willing to do that in 2004, when they didn't think a majority of Americans also opposed the war. But that was then. ... What's more, they want a Democrat who is willing to break from the respectable Beltway Tough-It-Out Consensus now, publicly, in a way Hillary has been unable to do. They're so desperate for a champion they're even temporarily captivated by Sen. Hagel's mere mention of "Vietnam."  Hagel/Dean for America! Or maybe Hagel/Gingrich. ...

P.S.: Hillary's dilemma is similar to the one that must have been faced by Bobby Kennedy in 1968--how to break with LBJ and the surface D.C. consensus in favor of the war. But Hillary's dilemma is worse, because Iraq isn't Vietnam and the current Beltway consensus she's being asked to denounce is a lot righter than LBJ was. Even mainstream Bush-bashing libs, in my experience, readily recognize that just withdrawing from Iraq now would be a global strategic disaster in a way withdrawing from Vietnam wasn't. That of course makes them even more determined to hold accountable politicians who got us into Iraq in the first place, and Hillary is arguably one of them. ...

P.P.S.:  The obvious, crowd-pleasing Kabuki-move--which Hillary has to be considering right now--is to follow Drum's advice and come out for

a gradual, phased withdrawal based on specified interim goals and a hard end-date two years from now.

I say it's a Kabuki move because it's mainly for show: It's hard to believe that Hillary, or any leading contender, will really leave Iraq if the "specified interim goals" aren't met and two years from now it looks as if staying another year is necessary to prevent a failed, Somalia-like state. Either there will (under press questioning) be an explicit contingency escape clause to this effect or if there isn't the public won't believe there isn't. That's because sticking to a hard end date in that circumstance would be insane!**

Given this reality, there's mainly a rhetorical difference between a) setting a chronologically explicit (but actually flexible) timetable in order to get the Iraqis to "take the training of their own security forces more seriously"--what the Drum position amounts to--and b) making an explicitly flexible (chronologically vague) pledge to get out as soon as Iraqis can defend themselves, coupled with leaks about actual, planned troop reductions--which is the current U.S. position. Either way, we're getting out as soon as we can! (Or as soon as we're kicked out.) Still, in the current news climate any politician who calls for (a) will get lots of press and effectively register displeasure with the war. Hillary might not be able to resist.

**--In contrast, during the Vietnam years many on the left (myself included) were ready to withdraw even if it meant the South Vietnamese government would not survive.

P.P.P.S.: WaPo's  David Ignatius  laments the Democratic Party's lack of a strong spokesman who can fulfill "the role of an opposition party" in Bush's time of troubles. I'm not sure it's a big dilemma for Democrats (as opposed to for Hillary) if the party remains championless. After all, there already is an effective anti-Bush opposition party in America. It's called the media. We don't need two of them!  Alert kf reader G.S. suggests leaderless Democrats take another look at that Amazing Dr. Pollkatz Polling Graphic.  The only time Bush's steady polling decline stopped was in 2004, when he actually had some identifiable Democratic champions (Dean, then Kerry) to be set off against. G.S.'s upshot is

Midterm political advice for the Dems: Keep the party face-less through the 2006 races.

It's good to be kingless! ... 2:22 P.M link

Tony Blankley tries to figure out  what, other than inaccurately downbeat MSM reporting (or accurately downbeat MSM reporting) might explain the current, somewhat puzzling, public pessimism on Iraq:

Let me hazard a guess. Many of the strongest supporters of the president's Iraq war aims are coming to suspect that the president has placed a limit on troop strength in Iraq for reasons extraneous to calculations of victory. ...

The president says he is sending as many troops as the generals ask for -- which is true. But recently, retired generals, and others, are saying that they are afraid to ask for more. ...

Surely we could use an extra Army division to secure the Syrian and Iranian border, across which the administration asserts enemy terrorists are regularly crossing.

I'm not sure he's right, though, that we can easily stall for "a couple of years" until more troops can be brought online. ... Backfill: For a good, rough overview of the current constraints on the number of deployable U.S. troops, see this Fred Kaplan piece. ... 4:50 P.M.

There's something wrong with everyone, but if there's something wrong with Dave Bing, it's not easy to spot. ... 3:43 P.M.

Slate'sFred Kaplan, citing Juan Cole as backup, writes of the draft Iraqi constitution [emphasis added]:

Much has been made of the assembly's debate over whether Islam should be declared "the source" of legislation or merely "a source." But look at how it came out: "a fundamental source"—which, as professor/blogger Juan Cole notes, amountsto pretty much the same thing as "the source."

No it doesn't. If something's "a fundamental source" rather than "the fundamental source" then there can be other fundamental sources. It's not, you know, the source. Duh! ... I'd say a) by buying off the mullahs with the weasel-word "fundamental," this provision looks on its face like a win for the anti-clerics; and b) Kaplan and Cole are so eager to find fault with the constitution (and, by implication, the war) that they've lost touch with logic. ... Update: Brookhiser takes an in-between position. [Via Lucianne ] ... More: Alenda Lux offers a sensible, calming perspective on the press' shariaphobia. .. In general, doesn't modernization and democracy itself tend to produce growing support for women's rights? If so, what's so bad about a constitution that leaves the question open to future interpretation? That interpetation will go the right way, in the long run. The Iraqis may wind up enforcing strict Islamic law with the same fervor that we enforce the far more explicit provisions of the Second Amendment. ... P.S.: It's not just liberal anti-war snipers who are making too big a deal of the Islamic-law compromises in the Iraq constitution.  Right-wing war supporters like Ralph Peters ("If Iraq's constitution fails to guarantee fundamental human and legal rights to half its population, our mighty efforts will have been in vain") seem wildly over-rigid on this issue. ...  2:54 A.M.

Like Something Out of 1984: Readers have kindly been sending me mid-1980s neolib articles attacking "comparable worth." A Dec. 3, 1984 New Republic editorial included that idea on a post-Mondale list of policies Democrats "would be better off without." But the article also offered a semi-prescient list of "good ideas for Democrats to start chewing on." One in particular seemed ripped from today's headlines--much more relevant today, actually, than it was back in 1984, before the fall of the Berlin Wall:

A United Nations of the democracies. A world body composed only of nations that share our most important values might be a more effective forum for addressing some of the international concerns now being ignored or parodied in the glass house by the East River. The promise of membership in such a prestigious club, and the threat of expulsion, might even become effective incentives for democratic behavior by countries on the brink. The first issue a "democratic U.N." might usefully address would be a treaty to fight terrorism. A common, and not always unjust, complaint about the Democratic Party is that it has become isolationist. If the "liberal internationalism" that the Scoop Jackson wing of the party claims to long for is to be distinguished from the foreign policy of President Reagan, it must include cooperative elements like this, and not just a military buildup and concomitant snarling.

You'd think President Bush, having declared it "the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture," might be highly receptive to this idea. Of course, a U.N. that included only democracies could also provide--eventually--a legitimate framework for a nascent world government. That would ... er, reduce its appeal to many of today's Republicans. But should it bother Democrats? 1:29 A.M.

The NYT's Steven Erlanger suggests:

The relatively easy withdrawal [from Gaza] may also make it harder for Prime Minister Ariel Sharon of Israel to withstand pressure for further negotiated withdrawals from the West Bank, even though he insists that there will be no more such unilateral retreats.

Israeli-Palestinian negotiations are outside my Commentary Comfort Zone--but isn't it also possible that the Israeli withdrawal has been a little too easy? More televised pictures of the Israeli army overcoming desperate resistance of Jewish settlers--even, perhaps especially, images of violence--would help convince the world that a real concession and sacrifice was being made, that some factions on the Israeli side were being defeated. That might not only make peace easier to negotiate with the Palestinians, it would also have a salutary effect on the hundreds of millions of Muslims watching the process around the world. ... 1:49 P.M.

The Census Bureau is scheduled to release a report on family income and poverty next Tuesday. I hear the Census numbers are not so encouraging. The Brookings Institution will have a panel discuss them that same day at 2:00 (at its D.C. headquarters). Open to "press and the public," it says here. ... 11:32 A.M.

Steve Bartin's NewsAlert notes that the overall Muslim birthrate is falling rapidly. As reported in an Asian Times article,  by "2050, according to the latest UN projections, the population growth rate of the Muslim world will converge on that of the United States (although it will be much higher than Europe's or China's)." Bartin suggests that this is good for the struggle against "radical Islam"--but the AT article makes it clear that a) the birth stats are the effect, more than the cause, of Westernization, and b) the latter is a process that isn't likely to stop angering large numbers of Muslims anytime soon. ... P.S.: The AT does theatrically declare that "Islam has one generation in which to establish a global theocracy before hitting a demographic barrier." But this isn't World War I, where you need large numbers of young men in uniforms to do damage. ... 5:47 P.M.

Small Red Ones: Just when you thought the Dems' relatively intense anger augured significant, potentially power-reorienting gains in the 2006 mid-term elections comes Michael Barone to note (as paraphrased by the Wash Times):

In a Senate controlled by a 55-seat GOP majority, there are nine Republicans from among the 19 states won by Mr. Kerry and 16 Democrats among the 31 states won by Mr. Bush. Mr. Barone reveals that in states where their party's nominee received less than 47 percent of the vote, there are 11 Democratic senators and only three Republicans. [**]...[snip] "In the long run," he concludes, "Republicans are well positioned to increase their numbers in both Senate and House."

More proof, if any were needed, that in that "long run" the Republicans best friend is the inalterable malapportionment of the Senate, with its proliferation of small red states. (The Republicans' second-best friend, Barone notes, is the Voting Rights Act, which effectively herds the heavily-liberal black Congressional vote into a few wildly pro-Dem ghe ... er, districts.)...

**--In the short run--i.e. 2006--there are only three Dems up for reelection in states where Kerry did sub-47%, balanced by two Republicans in Bush sub-47 states. But there are 17 Dem Senate seats up for grabs and only 15 GOP seats. ... 2:38 P.M. link

Is Dana Vachon  really the Next Michael Lewis? I don't know. But let's keep putting that pressure on him and see if he cracks! ... P.S.: He writes about OK! here. ... 11:38 A.M.

Do I Hear 4? Maguire notes that the presence of two Mohamed Attas in Prague--the 9/11 hijacker and a Pakistani businessman with the same name--within days of each other (May-June 2000) helped confuse investigators after 9/11. But that means, of course, that there were not "Two Attas" but Three Attas potentially on Able-Dangeresque data-mining radar screens prior to 9/11: 1) the future 9/11 hijacker; 2) the Abu Nidal terrorist extradited to Israel; 3) the Pakistani businessman who flew to Prague from Saudi Arabia. ... 11:10 A.M. link

The Huffington Post redesign has buried Greg Gutfeld's subversive (but not quite subversive enough) double secret hidden blog even deeper in the site. But kf operatives have made the incredible journey and come back with what appears to be an actual bookmarkable URL. ... Don't go there now, though. Nothing much new. ... 10:46 A.M. link

Jonathan Chait  begins to make  the badly-needed liberal case against Sheehanism:

The trouble is, plenty of liberals have come to believe their own bleatings about moral authority. Liberal blogs are filled with attacks on "chicken hawk" conservatives who support the war but never served in the military. A recent story in the antiwar magazine Nation attacked my New Republic editor, Peter Beinart, a supporter of the Iraq war, for having "no national security experience," as if Nation editors routinely served in the Marine Corps.

The silliness of this argument is obvious. There are parents of dead soldiers on both sides. Conservatives have begun trotting out their own this week. What does this tell us about the virtues or flaws of the war? Nothing. ... [snip]

Sheehan also criticizes the Afghanistan war. One of the most common (and strongest) liberal indictments of the Iraq war is that it diverted troops that could have been deployed against Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. Are liberals who make that case, yet failed to enlist themselves, chicken hawks too?

[Via  Insta ] 3:25 A.M. link

Rush Limbaugh has lost 43 percent of his audience in the 25-43 demographic in Minnesota's Twin Cities. "Sean Hannity's show is down a whopping 63 percent." Sure, last year was an election year; you'd expect a dropoff. Still, reports the Star Tribune,

[T]he shift is serious enough that "we're weighing where these shows fit for us in the future," according to Todd Fisher, general manager at KSTP (1500 AM), which carries both syndicated programs.

Caveat: The Strib's headline, in terrible taste, suggests the dread Lib Bias may be at work in this story. ... 2:58 A.M. link

One of the founders of the anti-illegal-immigrant "Minutemen" is running for the California Congressional seat being vacated by Rep. Chris Cox--as a third-party candidate. That could get interesting. [You linked to Polipundit, who is soliciting donations for this guy. Haven't you just contributed more than $2,000 worth of publicity in violation of applicable campaign finance laws?--ed Ryan Sager might say that. Come and get me, coppers!] 2:41 A.M. link

Edward Jay Epstein describes how Able Danger's data miners could indeed have come up with Atta's name--the "real" 9/11 Atta's name--by cross-checking various databases in fairly obvious ways. Since much of the respectable skepticism of Able Danger centers on the question "How could they have done it," Epstein's effort seems important. ... P.S.:  My own impression is that data-mining is scary-powerful. For years,, using only links suggested by the purchases of its customers, kept badgering me robotically about buying an album by Built to Spill. (The automated progression went something like: 'May we suggest Built to Spill' ... 'You might also like Built to Spill' ...'You're missing a big bet if you don't get Built to Spill' ... 'Buy Built to Spill this instant, you f-----g moron.')  I finally caved and bought a CD by Built to Spill. I love it. .. P.P.S.: Of course, Epstein's speculation assumes the Able Danger data-miners had access to a "list of Arab males who flew to Pakistan in 1999." It's not clear they did, or indeed that anyone had such a list (though I certainly hope they do now). ... 3:12 P.M. link

Krugman,  Overfisked! Some bloggers are blasting  Paul Krugman for writing:

Two different news media consortiums reviewed Florida's ballots; both found that a full manual recount would have given the [2000] election to Mr. Gore.

Kausfiles says not so fast! Krugman writes "full" recount. That's because there were various permutations of the media recounts, and it made a big difference if you recounted only the 61,000 undervotes (ballots where no preference registered) or if you also recounted the 114,000 "overvotes" (ballots on which more than one preference registered). It's true that the ledes of the relevant MSM stories on the media recounts both emphasized the versions of the recount that would have favored Bush. (Sample: "Florida Recounts Would Have Favored Bush".) But those ledes, while comforting to most Americans who didn't want an election decided by the Supreme Court, were highly misleading. They reflected the undervote-only recounts. The mother lode of hidden Gore votes, it turned out, was in the overvotes, especially ballots of voters who

tried to be extra-clear in their choice and ended up nullifying the vote. They filled in the oval next to a candidate and then filled in the oval for "write-in" and wrote the same candidate's name again.

The discomfiting truth is that, if you also recounted overvotes, the NORC media recount, under several "certainty" standards, showed Gore the winner.

Using the most inclusive standards, Bush actually gained more votes than Gore -- about 300 net -- from the examination of the undervote ballots. But Gore picked up 885 more votes than Bush from the examination of overvote ballots, 662 of those from optical scan ballots.

What's more, there's strong, near-smoking evidence that if the recount had been allowed to proceed overvotes would have been counted (despite the Gore camp's revealingly obtuse, self-defeating focus on the "undervotes"). ... Sorry, J-Pod!  I wish you were right. 2:46 P.M. link

Worthless! I didn't think I'd ever again have to discuss "comparable worth," one of the really bad ideas from the comic book era of interest group liberalism in the Carter years. But John Roberts' opposition to the idea ("staggeringly pernicious") is now being filed under a general "Roberts Resisted Women's Rights" headline. ... The truth is that "comparable worth" shouldn't just be opposed by those on the Right who worry (correctly) that it is "anti-capitalist." It should also be opposed by those on the Left who recognize that it's fundamentally inegalitarian and elitist. ...

Put simply, comparable worth would require that judges adjust market wages for jobs that were historically disproportionately male or disproportionately female. So you have toll collector--a historically male job. It's also an excruciatingly boring job.  Or garbage collector--a smelly job. To compensate for the boredom, or the smell, you have to pay the toll and garbage collectors a little bit more in the marketplace. With "comparable worth," a judge would review the toll and garbage collectors' jobs and notice that they don't require much "skill" and "education" and actually reduce the wage (or the future increase in the wage).

In other words, it's a scheme that would take whatever meager rewards the marketplace offers to uneducated workers and nullify them, replacing the market with a bureaucratic judicial respect for educational credentials and yuppie resumes. The market already offers enough payback for education and smarts. We don't need feminists to come along and say that the credentialed deserve even more money.** 

P.S.: All these arguments were made at length in neolib publications like the New Republic and Washington Monthly decades ago. (See, e.g., "Comparable Worth: Another Terrible Idea," Wash. Monthly, January, 1984.) Unfortunately those articles are so old they're pre-Google and pre-NEXIS. If anyone has a link it would be greatly appreciated. ... Meanwhile, here's a brief contemporary expression of liberal contempt for the "comparable worth" idea.

P.P.S.: You can tell that contemporary legal feminists are now somewhat embarrassed by "comparable worth," because the Roberts stories (in WaPoand the NYT)  actually play down its salience. But the feminists should be embarrassed, because even if it's dead (and I'm not sure of that) "comparable worth" shows what can happen--what did happen--when you set up an intellectual conveyor belt that sends the latest and brightest ideas of liberal litigators and professors and their law students straight to liberal judges and their law clerks (often those same law students a year later) for quick approval. If nothing else, the madeleine-like memory of this once-celebrated "women's rights" idea should remind everyone why it's valuable to have stubborn non-progressive doubters like Roberts around. ...

** Another way to put it: Job A doesn't require a college degree. Job B does. But they both earn the same in the marketplace--perhaps because lots of young college grads want job B. Does B deserve (by court order!) to make more, just because he or she is better educated, even if nobody wants to pay him or her more for this "knowledge"? "Comparable worth" says yes--as if educated people are inherently worth more than uneducated people. That isn't equality--it's not economic equality and it certainly isn't social equality. It's a corporatist snobbery that even Richard Herrnstein might not have dared advocate.  ...  12:46 P.M. link

Two Attas: "Mohammed Atta and Date Bef 09/11/01": Tom Maguire had a good idea--since Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer claims that the secret Able Danger program had mined public databases to turn up Mohammed Atta's name prior to 9/11, why not look at some public databases, like NEXIS, and see whether Atta turns up? If you send NEXIS the following request

mohammed atta and date bef 09/11/01

it will turn up a 1/28/91 Atlanta Constitution story with the following initiallly astonishing paragraph:

There was a report on "60 Minutes" in which an expert said that Abu Nidal cells were in the United States. Is that true?

Yes, In New York, Dearborn a Michigan city with a large Arab population and Los Angeles. But that doesn't mean they're terrorists. They're support groups, and for the FBI to uncover enough about them and to go through the business of trying to deport them is a long and difficult matter that is not at all easy to accomplish. In 1987, the FBI arrested an Abu Nidal organization member Mohammed Atta in New York on an Israeli warrant charging him with participating in an attack on a bus carrying civilians in the Israeli-occupied West Bank in 1986. They're around.

It turns out that this is not the same Mohammed Atta who flew a plane into the World Trade Center on 9/11. It's a Mohammed Atta who was (as the story says) an Abu Nidal terrorist extradited to Israel to face charges of fire bombing and machine-gunning a bus.

But the more you think about it, the more Maguire's theory--that the existence of this other Atta explains the Able Danger scandal--makes sense. Specifically, Maguire speculates that the "Atta" fingered by Able Danger was really the first, "Abu Nidal" Atta, and not the second, 9/11 "Al Qaeda" Atta. It was the first Atta's name that was on the list that Lt. Col. Shaffer remembers being shown.

Indeed, Maguires "Two Atta" scenario explains at least three otherwise puzzling aspects of the Able Danger Story:

1) Q. How did the data mining program name an obscure Hamburg grad student so efficiently? A: It didn't. It named a known terrorist--it might even have started with his name. As Maguire argues:

If you were data mining for new terrorists, mightn't you start with him and see who his friends and connections were?  As Shaffer explained in an interview with Michael Savage, its all about linkages.

2) Q. What database could possibly have turned up the 9/11 Atta, whose only apparent contact witht he U.S. was applying for a visa? A: It didn't turn up that Atta. It turned up another Atta who had a longer paper trail and was actually arrested.

3) Q: Why was the Defense department so skittish about passing on Atta's name. A. That's understandable if, as Maguire asserts, the first, "Abu Nidal" Atta was a naturalized U.S. citizen. Pentagon spying on U.S. citizens was of questionable legality.

Of course, just because the Atta on the list was the "wrong" Atta, it wouldn't mean that, if the Able Danger info had been shared with the FBI, we wouldn't have accidentally stopped or caught the "right" Atta before 9/11. ...And it still would have been nice if the 9/11 Commission had bothered to clear all this up! ... P.S.: It's also possible, of course, that Able Danger's massive computer program turned up info on both Attas because it assumed, wrongly, that they were the same person. 12:23 A.M. link

Mark Kleiman detects the birth of a new "civil right to get a high-school diploma now matter how little you know, and consequently to have a high-school diploma that certifies precisely nothing about your abilities ...." Brought to you courtesy of "The Civil Rights Project at Harvard University." ... P.S.: Do you think Justice Roberts will be receptive to attempts to strike down public school exams because of "the extremely negative effects the tests are having on students of color, English Language Learners, and students with disabilities" and their ability to "receive the diploma they have been working toward for 12 years"? Only if it's a Hogan & Hartson pro bono project! ... 3:13 P.M.

The New Scholarship on Star Trek and Pedophilia: 'Don't Let Her Touch Your Wand, Jim!' In May, Yale cyberlaw expert Ernest Miller noticed an astonishing tidbit in a Los Angeles Times story on the Toronto police Sex Crimes Unit's pursuit of pedophiles:

All but one of the [over 100] offenders they have arrested in the last four years was a hard-core Trekkie.

Miller was skeptical but the cops basically stood by their story--at the least, a "majority of those arrested show 'at least a passing interest in Star Trek, if not a strong interest.'" Not just an interest in science fiction generally, mind you. But Star Trek.

The conventional explanation for this seemingly bizarre correlation was that pedophiles must simply be trying to use an interest in Star Trek as a device to lure their prey. But Ellen Ladowsky, an L.A. therapist, thinks there actually is something inherent in the show itself that makes it "irresistible to perverts.". She lays out her case in HuffPost. Sample:

[W]hen it comes to relationships off the ship, Captain Kirk displays a truly astonishing emotional poverty. He goes from planet to planet, having trysts with an assortment of nubile women, but never forms any real attachments. ... [snip] ...There's a pervasive message that women are toxic. In an episode called Cat's Paw, there is an evil sorceress who separates the crew from each other and from the starship. The perpetually indignant Dr. McCoy cautions Kirk, "Don't let her touch your wand Jim, or you'll lose all your power!["] On the very rare occasions where Kirk seems to find love, his partners quickly die off. After one of his loves has croaked, Kirk admonishes Spock "Love, you're better off without it." [Emphasis added]

Ladowsky argues pedophiles naturally identify with the crew's "utopian interracial and interplanetary world" as a model for "denial of the difference between the sexes and the difference between the generations." And then there are the monsters:

[I]f the pedophiles are identifying with the crew members, who do the monsters represent? Possibly aspects of the pedophile's mind that are split off because they are unthinkable, and projected into someone else. On the Enterprise, aggressive impulses aren't battling it out with libidinal ones as they are here on earth. In the Star Trek universe, every "bad" impulse is attributed to an external force. When it comes to sex, for example, it's always an outside influence that takes possession of the crew's minds and bodies, causing them to behave in erotically driven ways. Child molesters have a similar mechanism at work. They deny having any sexual impulses themselves; they frequently claim that it was the children who seduced them.

Ladowsky only discusses the original Star Trek series, not the Next Generation and subsequent follow-ups. But her post certainly seems a big step in the direction of an actual explanation. Give her tenure! ... P.S.: Too bad she has little hope of breaking through the Huffies' bizarre obsession with their temporary fetishistic love object, Cindy Sheehan. ... 11:24 A.M. link

WaPo's Robin Wright, who has been sneering from the sidelines throughout the Iraq war, recently co-wrote a much-noticed article, "U.S. Lowers Sights on What Can Be Achieved in Iraq."Am I the only person who found it thin and unconvincing? When I read, in Wright's lede, that the "Bush administration is significantly lowering expectations of what can be achieved in Iraq," I expect to see a depressing Kerry-like acceptance of a post-pullout stable military autocracy or acceptance of an Iran-style religious state--something that would really suggest that the invasion wasn't close to being worth the costs. Instead, Wright tells us: 1) What we already knew--there's not enough electricity or security and unemployment is very high. Damage from looting has hurt the ability to quickly build a "robust" Iraqi economy; 2) Oil production is "estimated at 2.2 million barrels a day, short of the goal of 2.5 million"! 3) the constitution will "require laws to be compliant with Islam," as if that vague requirement automatically means something horrible; 4) Kurds and Shiites are expecting "de facto long term" some sort of autonomy. (That's a bad thing?) 5) We don't expect to "fully defeat the insurgency" before our troops leave. ... There are also some downbeat, non-specific quotes from critics like Larry Diamond--who laments that we "don't have the time to go through the process we envisioned ... to build a democratic culture and consensus." And there's one anonymous "U.S. official" who says "we will have some form of Islamic republic." But there's no indication that this "Islamic republic" won't be democratic--e.g. that it will be de facto ruled by mullahs as opposed to elections. [Isn't the United Kingdom "a Christian monarchy with a state church"--reader T.N. That's Robin Wright's next piece: "Magna Carta Failing to Achieve Initial Expectations."] ... P.S.:  I'm not saying the Bushies haven't drastically lowered their expectations recently. I'm saying Wright doesn't show it. ... P.P.S.: Wright also notes, without irony, that Iraq is "incapable of providing enough refined fuel amid a car-buying boom that has put an estimated 1 million more vehicles on the road." [Emph. added] A "car-buying boom"--another shocking failure! Don't they know about global warming? ... 11:58 A.M. link

Just Askin' II: According to the Rasmussen robo-poll, 43% of Americans approve of how Bush is doing his job, while 55% disapprove. But what's really striking is that the disapprovers disapprove much more vehemently than the approvers approve--41% of those surveyed "strongly disapproved" of Bush, while only 21% "strongly approve." Doesn't this imbalance of fervor mean something in low-turnout elections, such as the upcoming 2006 mid-terms? Specifically, doesn't it mean the anti-Bush forces should do very well in 2006, in a mirror-reversal of the 1994 mid-terms? ... P.S.: That assumes gerrymandering hasn't made Denny Hastert a democracy-proof Speaker for Life. ... 11:10 A.M. link

Just Askin' I: I suspect Dexter Filkins (or his rewrite desk) was pessimistically hyperventilating when the NYT declared yesterday that the Iraq constitution-writing process had "descended toward paralysis." But would it really be so terrible if the Iraqis failed to come up with a new constitution and the National Assembly were dissolved and new elections held? Just asking! Presumably more Sunnis would participate in elections the next time around, resulting in a more representative constitution-drafting group--and a constitution more likely to placate Sunni dissidents (and embolden Sunnis who may be willing to risk supporting the new state).  2:43 A.M. link


Drudge Report--80 % true. Close enough! Instapundit--All-powerful hit king. Joshua Marshall--He reports! And decides!  Wonkette--Makes Jack Shafer feel guilty.  Salon--Survives! kf gloating on hold. Andrew Sullivan--He asks, he tells. He sells! David Corn--Trustworthy reporting from the left.  Washington Monthly--Includes Charlie Peters' proto-blog. the drink. Virginia Postrel--Friend of the future! Peggy Noonan--Gold in every column. Matt Miller--Savvy rad-centrism. WaPo--Waking from post-Bradlee snooze. Keller's Calmer Times--Registration required.  NY Observer--Read it before the good writers are all hired away. New Republic--Left on welfare, right on warfare!  Jim Pinkerton--Quality ideas come from quantity ideas. Tom Tomorrow--Everyone's favorite leftish cartoonists' blog.  Ann "Too Far" Coulter--Sometimes it's just far enough. Bull Moose--National Greatness Central. John Ellis--Forget that Florida business! The cuz knows politics, and he has, ah, sources. "The Note"--How the pros start their day. Romenesko--O.K. they actually start it here. Center on Budget and Policy Priorities--Money Liberal Central. Steve Chapman--Ornery-but-lovable libertarian. Rich Galen--Sophisticated GOP insider. Man Without Qualities--Seems to know a lot about white collar crime. Hmmm. horror stories. Eugene Volokh--Smart, packin' prof, and not Instapundit! Eve Tushnet--Queer, Catholic, conservative and not Andrew Sullivan! WSJ's Best of the Web--James Taranto's excellent obsessions. Walter Shapiro--Politics and (don't laugh) neoliberal humor! Eric Alterman--Born to blog. Joe Conason--Bush-bashing, free most days. Lloyd Grove--Don't let him write about you. Arianna's Huffosphere--Now a whole fleet of hybrid vehicles. populists. Take on the News--TomPaine's blog.  B-Log--Blog of spirituality!  Hit & Run--Reason gone wild! Daniel Weintraub--Beeblogger and Davis Recall Central. Eduwonk--You'll never have to read another mind-numbing education story again. Nonzero--Bob Wright explains it all. John Leo--If you've got political correctness, he's got a column ... [More tk]