October 31, 2004

In praise of the "deviant strain"

Robert Bork and others characterize any use of our antitrust laws other than the promotion of efficiency as a "deviant strain." Aside from the fact that this "deviant" view of the goals of antitrust were important for the authors of the Sherman Act, the idea that our antitrust laws should be used to support small competitors and prevent the formation of overly powerful concentrations of private capital is a good idea. From this month's issue of Orion, here's Wendell Berry:

As the poor deserve as much justice from our courts as the rich, so the small farmer and the small merchant deserve the same economic justice, the same freedom in the market, as big farmers and chain stores. They should not suffer ruin merely because their rich competitors can afford (for a while) to undersell them.

Furthermore, to permit the smaller enterprises always to be ruined by false advantages, either at home or in the global economy, is ultimately to destroy local, regional, and even national capabilities of producing vital supplies such as food and textiles. It is impossible to understand, let alone justify, a government's willingness to allow the human sources of necessary goods to be destroyed by the "freedom" of this corporate anarchy. It is equally impossible to understand how a government can permit, and even subsidize, the destruction of the land and the land's productivity. Somehow we have lost or discarded any controlling sense of the interdependence of the Earth and the human capacity to use it well. The governmental obligation to protect these economic resources, inseparably human and natural, is the same as the obligation to protect us from hunger or from foreign invaders. In result, there is no difference between a domestic threat to the sources of our life and a foreign one.

Posted by Carey at 10:25 PM | Comments (0)

Enblogment

It should come as no surprise that this blog supports John Kerry.

At this late date, pretty much everything worth saying about either candidate has been said already. Writing an enblogment now just gives me the chance to emphasize those reasons why I think we should give George W. Bush the heave-ho. Yes, my vote for Kerry is also very much an emphatic vote against Bush. In my lifetime, there's never been a worse President. John Kerry was not my preferred candidate for the Democratic nomination, but he has demonstrated that he will be a far more competent, creative, and resourceful President than George W. Bush. We should give him the chance.

This administration can be faulted for many things, but the most damning for me has been its obsession with secrecy. Well before the attacks of September 11, George W. Bush made several decisions that limited the public's access to important information concerning the workings of the government, and that demonstrated Bush's disdain for the concept of public accountability. Bush delayed releasing former president Reagan's papers three times after they became available to the public in January of 2000 under the Presidential Records Act. On November 11, 2001, Bush signed an executive order allowing former Presidents to hide their executive papers indefinitely. Bush cited "security concerns," but national security documents were already protected from disclosure; Bush's order was simply an attempt to keep secret what should be public knowledge in a well-functioning democracy.

A similar preference for secrecy and privilege over open government is evident in the Bush administration's refusal to reveal the names of Vice President Cheney's energy task force. My criticism of this decision is not with its legal grounds--as a political decision it reveals a commitment to using every means available to shield the governing process from the eyes of the public. As a matter of politics, if the President chooses to use every available legal weapon to shield the workings of his administration from me, I'm going to express my displeasure with his decision at the ballot box.

With plenty of evidence that Bush was unwilling to trust the American people before September 11, it's harder for the American public to trust Bush after the attacks. Bush tells us that the Patriot Act's most onerous provisions, including secret searches of library and medical records, are being used judiciously. Can we trust him? Bush tells us that there are no human rights abuses going on in the Guantanamo Bay prison camp. Can we trust him? Since Bush won't allow even minimal public scrutiny (and only permits minimal judicial scrutiny) of either operation, our judgments of both will have to depend entirely upon trust.

Ultimately, trust is a very personal thing. Some people will choose to trust that Bush is doing the right thing--or at least that he isn't doing anything too evil. For several reasons, I cannot will myself to trust George W. Bush.

The most important of these reasons is Bush's campaign to convince the American people of the necessity of the war in Iraq. I'm not concerned here with whether the invasion was or was not justified. I recognize that our President can and should act to protect the nation against imminent threats, and I recognize that there will rarely be "slam dunk" intelligence that any threat is 100% certain. But George W. Bush actively misled the American people about the certainty of the Iraq threat. As the Senate committee investigating pre-war intelligence has found, the intelligence community doubted that Iraq represented an imminent threat. But Bush told the American people that the threat was imminent, without a doubt.

Even if this can't be characterized as a "lie," it is at minimum an aggressive "spin" of the available intelligence. Bush could have chosen a different course; he could have acknowledged that nothing was certain but that he nevertheless believed the risks were too great to ignore. He could have taken responsibility for his judgment call in Iraq by acknowledging that it was just that: a judgment call. But Bush didn't just defend his judgment; he backed it up with questionable evidence that Bush characterized as certain when it wasn't.

Reports from people like former antiterrorism czar Richard Clarke suggest that Bush and his cronies may have set their sights on Iraq first and then tried to drum up evidence of a connection between Iraq and al Qaeda. This "connection" was highlighted by the Bush administration as another reason for the invasion, but it now appears to have been even more tenuous than any evidence of Iraq's nonexistent WMDs. How much weight should we give to Clarke's account? That, too, depends on how much you're willing to trust George W. Bush. Trusting Bush would entail not only disbelieving Clarke, but also disbelieving much of what the Senate committee's report on pre-war Iraq intelligence revealed about the evidence of an Iraq-al Qaeda link. For myself, I think Clarke is far more credible than George W. Bush. If the Senate committee chooses to release "phase II" of its report analyzing the role of the Bush administration in pressuring the intelligence community to produce reports supportive of its Iraq stance, Bush's credibility might fall even farther. By then, though, I hope that Bush will no longer be the President.

There have been many other episodes of this administration's unwarranted obsession with secrecy, both momentous and petty. John Ashcroft's directive that all Freedom of Information Act requests be resisted to the full extent of the law, and Thomas Scully's ordering Medicare chief actuary Richard Foster to withhold cost estimates of a Medicare drug benefit from Congress, are just two episodes that leap to mind.

Attempts to limit the public's voice as well as its information are also characteristic of this administration. The Energy Task Force is perhaps the best example from early in Bush's term; limiting regulatory rule appeal rights to hydroelectric dam owners while excluding the public is a good recent example.

For these reasons as well as many others, I support John Kerry for President. He gives every indication of respecting open government more than George W. Bush.

Posted by Carey at 09:47 PM | Comments (0)

October 30, 2004

Poll monitoring

A tremendous number of students at my law school (e.g. Denise, Heidi, and many others) have volunteered to monitor the polls on Tuesday. Democrat, Republican, and none of the above--everyone wants to see this election go down right.

I went to a "large meeting" today in Ohio as part of the Kerry campaign's poll monitoring efforts. Some things I heard scared me--it would be so easy to create chaos at the polls if you had enough committed troublemakers who wanted to do that kind of thing. Chaos, of course, would drive down voter turnout, so I'm under no illusions that there won't be anyone trying to do this kind of thing on Tuesday.

On the other hand, I think it would take an overt troublemaker to mess things up badly. Most volunteers from whatever party or organization don't really want to be troublemakers, or at least that's what my optimistic self says. My cynical self thinks that's naive, but for now I'm inclined to keep my cynical self in the closed box where he belongs. I think that most Republican volunteers on Tuesday will be there for the same reason we are: to see that everything works well. So long as the few hard-core, ballot-destroying looneys stay away from our polling place, I think we'll all have a pleasant day at the polls.

My fingers are crossed. . .

Posted by Carey at 10:45 PM | Comments (0)

October 29, 2004

Sleepy doctors

The rationale for keeping resident physicians in the hospital for thirty six hours straight and working them up to one hundred hours a week has been steadily weakening, as evidence accumulates linking sleepy residents with reduced performance and a higher rate of patient-care mistakes.

Dr. Bard-Parker summarizes two new studies in the New England Journal of Medicine that support the common-sense intuition that sleepy interns are more error-prone. He rightly points out that these studies haven't completely resolved the issue. As residents spend less time in the hospital, the frequency of patient hand-offs from one resident to another will likely increase. This lack of continuity may itself be a source of error, as Dr. Centor points out.

It seems that the best solution--the one which results in the highest quality patient care--would be to structure residency work hours to balance out these two effects. Most likely, the ideal balance would be different for different specialties and medical settings. Work hours might be much shorter (or longer) in the ICU than on the medicine floors, the psych unit, or the emergency department. If this is correct, then the current ACGME regulations might have to be amended to account for the different practice realities of different specialties.

Another option would be simply to rescind the regulations and trust the specialties to exercise self-regulation of resident work hours that favors patients. While most residency program directors might favor this option, I wonder if it would be wise. Apart from the irrational traditionalism that some program directors still cling to, there are very real financial and institutional pressures that might lead to residents working hours that were best for the bottom line instead of for the patients. This was the reason for the ACGME restrictions in the first place (or, if you're more cynical, it was the threat of work-hours legislation). Assuming the right mix of leadership and institutional support, however, this would allow for the flexibility that is certainly required to set the best policies.

Apart from this, though, is another concern, suggested by some of the comments on Dr. Bard-Parker's post, and by the article cited in his previous post. Shortened work hours might be negatively affecting the ability and willingness of residents to take responsibility for the patients they care for.

My own suspicion is that if you need to work a surgeon, or any physician, 100 hours a week to ensure that they are adequately committed to patient care, you've picked the wrong resident in the first place. No one is suggesting that surgery, or any other medical specialty, should be a "lifestyle" profession. This idea, it seems to me, is a relic of the traditionalist view that physicians must martyr themselves to demonstrate their commitment to patients. It's a different question, of course, whether a resident might not have to occasionally pull 100 hours a week in order to provide the highest level of patient care. But to claim that a resident who doesn't do this isn't sufficiently responsible or committed is irrational.

Anyway, for a good sense of what it might be like to work long hours as a resident, read this.

For your diarrhea quote of the day, go here.

Posted by Carey at 10:11 PM | Comments (0)

October 28, 2004

Does George Lakoff have the answers?

While walking to dinner this evening with a friend, we got to talking about the sad state of American politics. Liberals and conservatives seem to have lost the ability to persuade one another.

They don't even seem to be speaking the same language. For example, many conservatives expressed their outrage over Bill Clinton's "conduct" with Monica Lewinski in moral terms. Clinton's behavior was "immoral" not only because he lied about "having sex with that woman," but because he shouldn't have been having extramarital sex in the first place. Liberals acknowledged that Clinton lied, but it didn't seem to bother them very much. Some of them even sympathized with Clinton, who shouldn't have had to face an inquiry about his private (and off-limits) sexual life in the first place.

Now we're dealing with George W. Bush, and the tables are turned. Once again, a President has lied to us, this time about an imminent threat from a foreign state that justified a preemptive war. Now, though, the liberals seem to be the only ones upset by the Chief Executive's lies.

Both liberals and conservatives claim to disapprove of "lying," but it seems like they're talking about two different things when they use the same word. How can they be expected to persuade one another of anything when they don't speak the same language?

George Lakoff has offered the best analysis of these misunderstandings that I've seen. His book Moral Politics attempts to explain the language and worldview of conservatives and liberals. While I'm not sure I share Coturnix's view that the conservative outlook has been "thoroughly refuted by the past century of cognitive psychology and neuroscience," I find Lakoff's description of the conservative "strict father" and liberal "nurturant parent" worldviews persuasive.

Conservatives, according to Lakoff, see the world through the lens of heirarchy. In the "strict father" model of parenting, subservient children are taught self-discipline and morality by an authoritarian father, who dispenses punishment when his moral edicts are violated. The strict father's goal is to raise children who will be fully capable of leading independent lives as adults--to the extent that his grown children still depend on him for anything, the strict father has failed. Subservience and authority are necessary stages along the path to complete independence. Implicit in this "independence," however is the notion that the adult will govern himself according to the moral edicts passed down from his father, and will in turn pass these on to his children. There is not much room at any time in life for exploration, and there's no room for alternative moral precepts. Conservatives translate this heirarchical model onto the wider society. It explains their simultaneous embrace--so confusing to liberals-- of government "paternalism" in the social realm and laissez-faire in the economic realm. The social realm is where the fundamentals of life are learned, much like childhood in the life of an individual. Here is where the "strict father" government must impose rigid discipline upon the "children" citizens. The point is not to discipline for discipline's sake, but to produce citizens that are capable of governing themselves (according to the imposed moral order). These citizens will not need further guidance as they go out into the adult world of the marketplace, and any attempt by the government to interfere with the market is akin to a father interfering in his adult child's life--a sign that the parent has failed to do his proper job. Conservatives defend "liberty" in the context of this model: it is the liberty of the well-raised adult, who has internalized the morality of his father and who is prepared to pass it on to his "children"--welfare moms, Mexican immigrants, and Iraqis--with harsh discipline if necessary.

Liberals, on the other hand, adopt what Lakoff calls the "nurturant parent" worldview. Here, the role of the parent is to provide a nurturing environment for the child to explore on his own. On this model, the child will turn out well-adjusted and moral if he is allowed to learn things on his own. His moral worth is measured by whether he has chosen what is best for himself. This explains why liberals are more tolerant of other cultures and subcultures than conservatives are. Being gay is neither morally right or wrong; what matters is whether you're gay for the right reasons. A parent should discipline the child only as much as necessary to keep her safe, because safety is a necessary component of the nurturing environment that children need. The goal of childraising is to produce well-adjusted adults who can work well with others. Being human, adults will never lose their need for a safe, nurturing environment, so parents can and should continue to contribute to their children's development throughout their lives. A good parent is never too authoritarian, but never withdraws too completely. When the liberals translate this model onto the wider society, they are unsurprisingly tolerant of "alternative" lifestyles and cultures. What the liberals see as morally praiseworthy freedom to explore, the conservatives see as deviance worthy of punishment. In the economic sphere, the liberals reject the notion of fully independent economic entities who should be left to their own fates. Citizens will always be at risk for economic injury, and the responsible government should make sure that adequate safety nets are in place for those who fall between the cracks. A government has a responsibility, say the liberals, to take care of its citizens.

Undoubtedly, Lakoff provides a helpful way for liberals and conservatives to understand each other. He helps us see why we sometimes seem so incoherent: it only looks incoherent through the other guy's worldview. But is this enough? Is an awareness of how the other side uses language like "morality" and "freedom" enough to enable us to persuade one another in the political arena? On some days, I think so. On other days, I'm not so sure. Lakoff's models simply alert us to other ways in which we disagree.

As for "cognitive science," well... Even if the "strict father" method of raising children is completely discredited by "science," the strict father political worldview remains just that--a worldview. This worldview cannot be proven or disproven by any kind of science that I know, and it is, ultimately, completely independent of how one raises one's children. We shouldn't forget that Lakoff has provided us with helpful metaphors.
(Thanks to Majikthise for the reminder.)

Posted by Carey at 11:08 PM | Comments (0)

Bush cronyism

SEATTLE, Oct. 27 -- The Bush administration has proposed giving dam owners the exclusive right to appeal Interior Department rulings about how dams should be licensed and operated on American rivers, through a little-noticed regulatory tweak that could be worth hundreds of millions of dollars to the hydropower industry.

The proposal would prevent states, Indian tribes and environmental groups from making their own appeals, while granting dam owners the opportunity to take their complaints -- and suggested solutions -- directly to senior political appointees in the Interior Department.
. . .

"It is not legal because one party is being treated very differently than another, and that is very much the opposite of what we have been trying to do for years," said one senior Interior Department official who is involved in the dispute and who requested anonymity for fear of retaliation. "Suddenly, a licensee can walk away from everybody else and have a private meeting with the assistant secretary and bring in new conditions that haven't been reviewed by anybody before."

Posted by Carey at 07:41 AM | Comments (0)

October 27, 2004

Richard Epstein

Listening to University of Chicago law professor Richard Epstein is mind-blowing. He speaks in complete, complex, well-organized paragraphs without ever slowing down to search for a word; he never relies on verbal crutches like "um" or "ah." He'll throw in all sorts of parenthetical expressions and subclauses without ever losing track of the main thought or forgetting to complete his parentheticals. Most of us, myself included, rarely speak in complete sentences. I usually only do it when I'm angry, but even then the sentences I speak aren't nearly as complex as Epstein's when he's giving a talk about the law of eminent domain.

Today I heard Epstein talk for the second time in my life (the first was when I was an undergraduate at the University of Chicago). He said a lot of interesting things about the takings clause, eminent domain, and the Kelo v. New London case before the Supreme Court this term. Most of what he said was over my head, or else it came in such a torrent of amazing speech that I can't remember it all. It was a very intense experience.

One thing I do remember was his answer to a question about Richard Posner's recent diatribe against student-edited law reviews. Although I can't convey the warmly humorous context, I'll paraphrase:

"Oh! Why is he doing this? The system works; there are faculty-edited journals out there. . . . I edited one myself! Sure, there's bad editing going on at the law reviews, but that's usually because of one individual editor who's bad, and you find the same thing with bad editors on faculty journals. . . . I'll just take his comments as the offhand thoughts of a very intelligent federal judge."

Posted by Carey at 09:03 PM | Comments (0)

October 26, 2004

I'm gonna get mine.*

I've decided that as a healthy young person, I resent the elderly and the sick. They're the reason health insurance costs so much! If those people with diabetes, cancer, and other chronic diseases would take responsibility for their own health, instead of relying on the same insurance that I have to pay their medical bills, I wouldn't have to pay so much for my health insurance! Their presence in the same insurance risk pool as me is unfair.

In fact, I'm fed up with the whole concept of health insurance. It's really just a cross-subsidization of the sick by the healthy, and in America we shouldn't have to tolerate these collectivist wealth-transfers. So I'm gonna get myself an HSA!

They're a great way for people like me to stop subsidizing the old and the sick with my hard-earned money. If I go out and buy some health insurance with a really high deductible--more than $1000--then I can go to the bank and open an HSA. I can contribute $2600 or the amount of my deductible, whichever is less, every year to my HSA tax-free! The money rolls over each year, and I can withdraw it to pay for medical bills without any tax liability. That way, if I ever sprain my ankle playing Ultimate Frisbee, I can use the money in my HSA to pay the bills. But the best part is, I won't be in the same insurance risk pool with all those costly old and sick people anymore! They're not going to go for a plan with such a high deductible--it would cost them way too much, seeing as how they're always going to see their doctors for med refills and chronic pain.

Now, I know that when I drop my regular insurance plan and get an HSA instead, I'll be driving up the price of the old plan. But I don't really care. This is America, and if the old and the sick can't afford their insurance premiums, that shouldn't have anything to do with me.

George W. Bush's whole health care plan is built on HSAs. He doesn't like the idea of subsidizing the sick any more than I do. It's my money!

*All kidding aside, I probably will get an HSA. Universal third-party payment is unnecessary and certainly drives costs up. Bush's problem is that he's obsessively focused on overall costs; he doesn't have any plan for covering the uninsured, and doesn't care if some sick people are priced out of health insurance altogether. (More on HSAs here, via Health Care Blog.)

Posted by Carey at 10:19 PM | Comments (0)

October 25, 2004

Absentee Ballot

My absentee ballot came in the mail today. Whew! What a relief! I thought it was never going to get here, and that I'd be disenfranchised--I'm so happy!

To celebrate, I opened the envelope very carefully and took out the ballot. I read the instructions carefully: use a #2 pencil or a black pen. Complete the arrow next to your choice like this (example provided).

I reread the instructions to make sure I wouldn't be voting for Pat Buchanan by mistake. I looked up all the state and county judges that were up for retention, and voted to retain all of them (judges should be insulated from the momentary whims of people like me). Then I voted for state legislators. Then the ballot measures.

At last, it was time. I turned my attention to the upper-left-hand corner. George W. Bush/Dick Cheney. Hm. John F. Kerry/John Edwards.

Well, now. I filled in the arrow next to my choice, stood up, went to the kitchen, and poured myself a small glass of wine, to celebrate. Tomorrow, I'll take my ballot down to the post office and mail it in. I've voted.

Posted by Carey at 06:41 PM | Comments (0)

October 24, 2004

Speaker of the House

It seems that the House Republicans' intransigence on the intelligence reform bill is part and parcel of how many of them behave on a regular basis. The next President, whoever it is, will have to deal with these ideological zealots.

Before we blame all of this on well-known extremist Tom DeLay, we should listen to what the longtime student of Congress Norman Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute has to say about a guy who's less well-known as an extremist, Speaker Dennis Hastert.

Posted by Carey at 06:06 PM | Comments (0)

October 23, 2004

Privatizing higher education

We live in a time when Americans seem incapable of critically scrutinizing what politicians tell them--4 out of 10 Americans still believe Saddam Hussein was involved in the attacks of September 11, and 3 out of ten believe he personally planned them.

This staggering public ignorance can be traced back to a trend that (like so many other modern plagues) initially gained steam during the Reagan administration. I'm talking about the privatization of American higher education. We have lost sight of the fact that an educated population is a public good; we are paying the price in an uncritical and ignorant electorate.

This report on the most expensive colleges notes in passing that the rate of tuition hikes at public universities continues to skyrocket. State officials say that this is a response to tough economic times, but this explanation is too simplistic. In many cases, public university tuition has increased because of state schemes to privatize the universities.

Colorado, for example, has approved a new system of vouchers for higher education. Instead of supporting public education directly with state funds, Colorado's program sends the funds directly to students in the form of vouchers, which can be used at state universities or at selected private colleges. This redirection of state money means that for accounting purposes, many of the state's public universities will be receiving less than ten percent of their funding from the state. Under Colorado law, this means that schools would no longer be classified as "state funded."

Under the voucher program, schools would no longer be technically state funded, and could pursue enterprise status - freeing them from a wide variety of state regulations regarding hiring, firing, tuition, contracts, and more. Some say it will allow schools to operate more like a private business.

Texas, meanwhile, is moving toward privatization by "deregulating" tuition. This means that individual schools will be able to set tuition rates as they see fit--again, allowing them to operate more like private businesses.

In Massachusetts, Governor Mitt Romney proposed the outright privatization of three of the state's public campuses.

In every case, these privatization schemes are shifting more of the burden for supporting the work of the universities to the students, and away from the taxpayers. This fits with the post-Reagan view that higher education primarily benefits the individual students--the "customers"--and does very little to benefit the public at large.

During the great expansion of higher education during the 1960s, there was great public support for universities. It was assumed that universities were a "public good," that investment in them served the public interest, and that the chief beneficiary of that investment was the public itself. Beginning around 1980, a conservative mood swept the country, resulting in the election of President Reagan; Reagan led a tax revolt that systematically reduced public investment in everything except national defense. Whereas in the 1960s universities had been seen as central to national defense, that assumption dissipated in the 1980s . . . . The notion developed that the chief beneficiaries of universities were the students educated, not the public at large, so that it should be the students themselves who bore a larger portion of the cost of education. Faced with substantial inflation and declining support, universities increased fees. From the early 1980s to the present, for example, annual fees at the University of California have risen from zero in 1960-61, to $450 in 1971, to $3600 at the present time, down from two years ago. State support for Berkeley's operating budget has fallen from over 60% in 1980 to 34% at the present time. In the process of privatization of public universities, the largest single group of private contributors is the students, who now contribute about 15% of the operating budget of the University.
The consequences of privatization go beyond the tuition hikes that make higher education less accessible to the less affluent. Privatization also means that the universities no longer see themselves as agents for the public good. Their goals are reoriented toward serving their customers: the students who can afford to attend, and the corporations that offer funding in exchange for a say over what questions are asked and what research agendas are pursued.
When the market interests totally dominate colleges and universities, their role as public agencies significantly diminishes -- as does their capacity to provide venues for the testing of new ideas and agendas for public action. What is lost is the understanding that knowledge has other than instrumental purposes, that ideas are important whether or not they confer personal advantage.

The increasing ignorance of the American public can arguably be traced to two phenomena, both of which are exacerbated, if not caused, by our unwillingness to treat higher education as a public good. First, fewer university-educated people have had the benefit of spending time in an environment where "knowledge has other than instrumental purposes." Second, fewer people can afford the education that the remaining bastions of public liberal education (like the Universities of Colorado, Texas, and Massachusetts) still provide.

And so we are left with a society increasingly bereft of those accoutrements of civilization that can't be provided by the private market. Like good consumers, we all know how to express our preferences, but we are increasingly unable, as citizens, to critique the political marketing campaigns for the products that are offered to satisfy those preferences.

We think that Saddam Hussein planned the 9-11 attacks. And we flirt with reelecting George W. Bush. Charmin really is softer!

Posted by Carey at 11:23 PM | Comments (0)

October 22, 2004

Intelligence failures

My Legislation course has a 9 a.m appointment tomorrow with Michigan Senator Carl Levin, who will be talking about Congressional oversight processes generally and the Senate report on pre-Iraq war intelligence specifically. He's also likely to offer some comments on the reorganization of the intelligence agencies that Congress has been working on.

I've been thinking about what to ask the Senator tomorrow. I think I'll ask him this:

The push to reform America's intelligence services has been spurred by two major reports citing intelligence failures--the Senate report on pre-Iraq war intelligence (links here), and the 9-11 commission report (here). These two reports, to the best of my knowledge, seem to point out at least two different kinds of "intelligence failure." One is the failure of the various services to cooperate and to share information. The other is the politicization of intelligence, such that the Bush administration characterized the Iraq threat as imminent and beyond all doubt, when in fact the underlying intelligence demonstrated that the threat was highly ambiguous and uncertain.

The differing legislative proposals that have passed the House and Senate seem to address the first kind of intelligence failure. Creating a national intelligence director with control over agency funding might solve the coordination problem. My question is, what is being done to address the politicization of intelligence?

Creating a single intelligence director might actually worsen the problem of politicization. If the Bush administration had had this single national intelligence director on board when it was leaning on the intelligence agencies for a rationale to support its decision to invade Iraq, it might have been able to distill the aluminum tubes, the Niger uranium, and the Muhammad Atta-Iraqi-intelligence-meeting-in-Prague stories much quicker than it did under our more fragmented intelligence organization. The "groupthink" that the Senate report criticized might have been even worse.

Our intelligence services failed in many different ways, but it seems to me that the current fixes address only one of these failings.

[As an aside, the House version of the intelligence reorganization bill is an argument for voting the Republicans out. It tried to add to the Senate version things that shouldn't be added (making it easier to deport foreign nationals to countries where they will be tortured (via Fafblog)), and remove things that shouldn't be removed (a civil-liberties watchdog board).]

Posted by Carey at 10:20 PM | Comments (0)

October 21, 2004

Robin Hobb trilogy

I've finally finished Robin Hobb's Liveship Traders series. This one gets the big thumbs-up. George R. R. Martin recommended Hobb on his website, and after reading this series, I can see why. Any author who can weave an engaging story around a talking ship has got to be a good writer. Robin Hobb is good.

The story takes place along the same coastline as Hobb's earlier Assassin series, but much farther south. There are only one or two references to the earlier books, though, so if you blink past these parts you'll miss the connection. Don't worry; these series are completely self-contained, and there's no need to read one before the other. The only reason to do so is to see how much Hobb's skills have improved with the later series.

Vivacia is a sailing ship owned by the Vestrit family of Bingtown. The ship is partially made of wizardwood, which is capable of becoming sentient if enough generations of Vestrits die on deck and lend their life forces to the ship. Althea Vestrit has grown up sailing with her father aboard Vivacia, and she expects to inherit the ship when her father dies and the ship comes to life. Unfortunately for Althea, her father leaves the ship to her sister Keffria, which means that under the patriarchal traditions of Bingtown society the captaincy belongs to Keffria's strong-willed husband Kyle Haven.

Kyle is a real asshole without being a caricature. Hobb's best asset may be her characters, which are uniformly believable and interesting. Kyle Haven is one of those men who truly wants to do what's right, and thinks that this gives him the right to direct the lives of everyone around him. He's infuriating, and all the more so for being realistic. Hobb must have known a few men like Kyle Haven in her own life. Althea, anyway, can't stand Kyle and abandons her ship Vivacia once he becomes the captain. Kyle's pig-headedness leads him to start carrying loads of slaves in the ship's hold, and this foretells doom.

Ultimately, Kyle and the Vivacia meet up with the pirate Kennit, who is both ruthless and a complete sociopath. Hobb makes us privy to Kennit's thoughts, and we realize that although he is charming and courageous and bold and charismatic, he is utterly devoid of concern for anyone besides himself. Nevertheless, the charm and charisma enable Kennit to attract a loyal following, which eventually includes Kyle's young son Wintrow.

There are also packs of huge sea serpents, an acidic river that runs past a buried city from a lost civilization, and a drug-addicted young Satrap who rules over the Jamaillian Empire to the south of Bingtown. These elements make for an engaging story that rarely lets up over the course of three books.

The worst part about Hobb's earlier Assassin series was the plot. While the plotting still isn't as good as the characterization, she's improved it dramatically over what it was in Assassin. Her settings are also good, although they're the weakest part of the story. I never felt like I really knew what Bingtown looked like, or Amber's store, or Captain Kennit's cabin, in the way that George R. R. Martin made me aware of what the Wall was like, or Winterfell. But that's a minor quibble. Hobb's characters are so interesting that you really don't care where they are, so long as you find out what happens to them.

Posted by Carey at 10:16 PM | Comments (0)

October 20, 2004

pain and agony

This post deserves a link, because it's so damn good.

(For my non-medical readers, a Foley catheter is a tube that drains the urinary bladder through the urethra. It usually empties into a bag that enables doctors and nurses to measure exactly how much urine a patient is producing. This is important for assessing a patient's kidney function. Inserting the catheter through the patient's penis is said to be quite painful.)

btw...

GO RED SOX!!!!!

Posted by Carey at 09:46 PM | Comments (0)

America's Alaska problem

Politicians from the state of Alaska are trying to have their cake and eat it too, at the expense of the rest of the country. In this era of war abroad, security problems at home, and record-level federal deficits, every American is affected by the irresponsible behavior of Alaskan politicians.

At times when it suits them, Alaskans like to clamor for the federal government to leave them alone. Especially when it comes to wilderness land management, politicians from Alaska can be counted on to complain loudly about "federal government meddling" in a subject that is "none of the lower-48's business." Arguments that the Alaskan wilderness jewels are truly national treasures that ought to benefit all Americans fall on deaf ears in Alaska.

When it suits them to say the opposite, though, the Alaskan politicians have no problem changing their tune. Instead of asking the government to leave Alaska alone, they demand that the federal government take extra-special care of Alaska at the rest of the country's expense. Specifically, the Alaskans are never loathe to chase after the most outrageous and embarrassing federal pork. Two egregious examples are homeland-security pork and highway-bill pork.

Representative Don Young (R-Alaska), who chairs the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, is the king of highway-bill pork. The non-partisan Taxpayers for Common Sense awarded him the Golden Fleece Award for his attempts to include funding for two "bridges to nowhere" in the current federal highway bill. Young wants taxpayers to shell out $200 million for one bridge and $2 billion for the other. Both bridges would benefit virtually no one at a time when the country is running huge deficits, waging war in Iraq, and struggling to find a way to adequately fund everything from homeland security to education. And yet Young is not embarrassed in the least:

"I'd like to be a little oinker, myself," Young told a Republican lunch crowd in Ketchikan, taking mock offense at the suggestion that Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, directs more pork to their state than he does. "If he's the chief porker, I'm upset."
Alaska is also guilty of gobbling up too much of the nation's scarce homeland-security funding. Under the current formula for dividing the federal government's largest source of homeland security money,
each state receives 0.75% of the $2 billion pot regardless of population, accounting for nearly 40% of the money. The rest is divided among the states on a per-person basis. Other factors, such as population density, potential targets and threat levels, are not taken into consideration (source).
The result is that Alaska gets three times the amount per resident than New York gets. Alaska's biggest homeland-security challenge is deciding what to do with all that federal money. One Alaskan proposal that was wisely turned down by the Department of Homeland Security was a new jet for the governor. No one with any sense of propriety could look you in the eye and say that Alaska deserves this kind of federal money when more attractive terrorist targets elsewhere are underprotected. Yet most of the Alaskan politicians do just that.

Don Young, Senator Ted Stevens, and Governor Frank Murkowski might be forgiven for zealously advancing Alaskan interests. But when these politicians are prepared to sacrifice the national interest for the sake of their state, the rest of the country should be alerted to their behavior, and act to stop it.

Posted by Carey at 09:22 PM | Comments (0)

October 19, 2004

Drafting medical workers

[Preliminary aside: Via TaxProf Blog, I found a new blog today that should interest law students interested in antitrust: the AntitrustProf Blog. If I could only find the ErisaPreemptionProf Blog, I'd be set for the rest of the year...]

Now let's talk about the draft. The NYT reports that the Selective Service has developed a contingency plan for drafting medical workers.

The idea of a separate draft for medical workers isn't new. The Health Care Personnel Delivery System was authorized by Congress in 1987 (details here). Unlike the regular draft, it includes both men and women up to the age of 55. Actual implementation of the medical draft will require a separate act of Congress, but reports that the details of the plan are being worked out now suggest that the bureaucrats are already gearing up for action.

The Selective Service and the current administration deny, of course, that any such plan will ever be implemented, but contingency plans are not made for non-existent contingencies. The daily reports of the Army's personnel shortages and the "back-door draft" (the stop-loss policies) already implemented by the Bush administration suggest that some form of draft is a real possibility, regardless of what this President says. (Bush's willingness to mislead the American people is no longer in doubt.)

Medical workers young and old, male and female, might want to read this helpful information now--just to form their own contingency plans.

Posted by Carey at 09:00 PM | Comments (0)

October 18, 2004

The American paradox

All the buzz about the New York Times Magazine article on George W. Bush's certainty might win more readers for an article about eating published in the same magazine.

After describing the American habit of continually pursuing one new dietary obsession after another, Michael Pollan writes:

If this volatility strikes you as unexceptionable, you might be interested to know that there are other cultures that have been eating more or less the same way for generations, and there are peoples who still rely on archaic criteria like, oh, taste and tradition to guide them in their eating decisions. You might also be interested to know that some of the cultures that set their culinary course by the lights of pleasure and habit rather than nutritional science are actually healthier than we are -- that is, suffer a lower incidence of diet-related health troubles. The ''French paradox'' is the most famous such case, though it's worth keeping in mind the French don't regard the matter as a paradox at all; we Americans resort to that word simply because the French experience -- a population of wine-swilling cheese eaters with lower rates of heart disease and obesity?! -- confounds our orthodoxy about food. Maybe what we should be talking about is an American paradox: that is, a notably unhealthy people obsessed by the idea of eating healthily.

I love America. But I wish the faddish diet crazes like Atkins would just stop, already. Give me a crusty loaf of ciabatta and some extra virgin olive oil for dipping. I'm hungry!

Posted by Carey at 07:45 PM | Comments (0)

October 17, 2004

Question for Professor Bainbridge

EDIT: Professor Bainbridge has revised the post I refer to below to account for new information he received directly from Bruce Bartlett. Bainbridge makes clear that his disagreement with Bartlett is over whether a society can adhere to time-tested moral principles over the long run without faith. Bartlett thinks it can; Bainbridge thinks it cannot.

I hope that this debate doesn't remain solely between "big-C" and "small-c" conservatives. These questions are important for everyone who thinks that moral principles ought to be reflected in politics. I suppose that would include just about everyone, even libertarians. Surely the libertarians would agree that their concern for individual choice is itself a moral principle, and that this principle ought to be reflected in the laws and policies of the government.

This libertarian principle, like all moral principles, depends for its strength upon faith of some kind. It is no more capable of empirical proof than any religious tenet, and yet some libertarians bristle when anyone suggests that "faith" has anything to do with politics. In some general sense, only a political amoralist (neither conservative, liberal, nor libertarian) could plausibly say that politics should have nothing whatsoever to do with faith.

There seems at first glance to be a profound difference, though, between claiming simply that politics should be moral, and claiming that politics should be moral in a way that is guided by a religious faith. But I'm not so sure that the difference is as large as it seems, or that it even exists. The acknowledged source of the morality seems irrelevant. As soon as you say that politics should be moral, you're asserting the right to specify which morality politics should include. Excluding specifically religious formulations of morality is as great an imposition on religious people as embodying a specifically religous morality is an imposition on those who are non-religious. Democracy can't solve this conflict, since no one is prepared to submit their most deeply-held moral beliefs to a vote.

Whether or not you think that the Rawlsian solution of "political liberalism" makes democracy possible by restricting the scope of political discourse to "public reasons," the issue of moral principles in politics isn't just a conservative issue. It's one that liberals, libertarians, and agrarians have to wrestle with as well.

Posted by Carey at 07:45 PM | Comments (0)

Martha

Want to see a large, opinionated pullet?

I thought you did.

How about some good posts on the Sinclair issue? (1, 2)

How about a post about what it means to think like a lawyer?

Blogs are made for lazy Sunday mornings. Now I have to get my ass out of the house.

Posted by Carey at 11:25 AM | Comments (0)

Vaccine liability

In which a post about liability rules turns inexorably towards a rant against right-wing zealots and libertarian ideologues...

The flu vaccine shortage has called attention to the dangerous consequences of relying on a flawed system for assigning liability.

This article (via Kevin, M.D.) by William Tucker argues persuasively that the threat of lawsuits has reduced the number of firms willing to manufacture and sell vaccines. Tucker suggests that this has resulted in higher vaccine prices, vaccine shortages, and an increased chance that the available vaccines won't be effective.

Prior to 1986, liability for vaccine-caused injuries was assigned by the regular product-liability tort system. If you or your child were injured by a vaccine, you called your lawyer and sued the manufacturer. Most jurisdictions adhered to the "strict liability" doctrine that required the plaintiff to prove only that the vaccine was defective, not that the manufacturer was in any way at fault. This led to unpredictably high costs for manufacturers, many of whom simply stopped selling vaccines entirely.

In 1986, Congress tried to solve these problems by changing the liability system. It established the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, which set up a system whereby the federal government would compensate families injured by childhood immunizations out of a trust fund financed by a surcharge on vaccine sales (more details here). The maximum amount of compensation under this plan was fixed, however, and plaintiffs were still able to sue the manufacturers. Tucker suggests that this continued exposure of vaccine makers to liability has led to the failure of the compensation program to preserve the number of vaccine suppliers.

If Tucker is right, we might go a long way toward solving our vaccine problems by making some small changes to the legal regime. One attractive option might be to abandon the strict liability standard. Everyone who chooses to bypass the government's no-fault compensation system would have to prove that the vaccine maker was negligent, instead of merely that the vaccine was defective. This higher standard of proof might lower the number of lawsuits. Another possible solution might be to cap the size of damage awards in successful suits, or permit suits only after the government's compensation program review process determines that the injury was actually caused by the vaccine.

It seems like the tort liability system is actually one of the culprits behind our vaccine shortages. Admitting this should be our first step. However, this admission might itself be more dangerous than it should be, thanks to the unrelenting pressure from right-wing "tort reformers" whose goal is primarily to insulate corporations from all liability regardless of the consequences for public health. Often, these right-wing tort reformers are also in favor of reduced government regulation. They want to free corporations from responsibility both before and after they cause accidents. They say it's "good for the economy," but it's really a threat to our public health and safety.

Corporations, like individuals, should be held accountable. Unlike the right-wing tort-reform zealots, most people don't believe that this accountability can be provided entirely by the unregulated market. There are simply too many imbalances of purchasing power and information. In cases where corporations are not subject to significant tort liability, and are freed from regulatory oversight at the same time, the public becomes dependent upon the goodwill of corporate executives. Even if these people are the sweetest and most lovable individuals on Earth, in their role as corporate executives they are (should be?) under enormous pressure to maximize profits, often over the short-term. This pressure can override ethical concerns, and subject the public to harm. The corporate scandals that have stained our economy--Enron, Arthur Anderson, Tyco, MCI--happened because of the Republican ideological commitment to "small government" that "stays out of the way." This ideology might make sense as a rule of thumb for regulating individuals, but as a policy for governing gigantic multinational corporations whose structural imperative is to maximize profits over the short-term, it's a complete disaster.

In an environment where the right-wing zealots are breathing down our necks and control the White House, it doesn't seem safe to suggest that we tinker with the liability system. It's likely that any reform process will be hijacked for the benefit of the corporations and the detriment of the public. Perhaps, if the zealots lost control of the Presidency, the time might be ripe for some real progress on liability reform. Vaccines, medical malpractice. . . passenger trains. Sigh.

It's past time to replace George W. Bush.

Posted by Carey at 10:30 AM | Comments (0)

October 16, 2004

Motivation

Via Howard Bashman, here's George Will, drooling with excitement at the prospect of a second Bush term:

Any president who serves two terms likely will replace half that judiciary; Bush already has replaced one-quarter. But he is about to become the second president (Carter was the first) to serve a full term without filling a Supreme Court vacancy. It has been 10 years since a new justice (Stephen Breyer) was confirmed; not since 1812-1823, when the court had only seven members, has it gone that long unchanged. Bush's second term could be dominated by nomination battles: Chief Justice William Rehnquist just turned 80, and the average age of the nine justices is 70.

This election is the last before the boomers begin retiring in 2008. It will be won by either a reactionary liberal, whose plan for coping with the demographic deluge consists of complaining about any changes in the welfare state's entitlement menu, or an activist conservative who Wednesday night tartly told his opponent that "a plan is not a litany of complaints."


If George Will is excited, we should be scared.

Posted by Carey at 06:42 PM | Comments (0)

October 15, 2004

Dangers of biotechnology?

Via A&L daily, I found this great review by Jonathan Rauch of the report put out by the President's Council on Bioethics, Beyond Therapy: Biotechnology and the Pursuit of Human Happiness.

Rauch makes an intriguing argument: even if biotechnology eventually allows us to "enhance" ourselves in a way that severs our connection with what it means to be human, the results might not be as bad as we might think. Use of these technologies might not spiral out of control as some pessimists fear, but instead might be self-limited:

At its core, the council’s fear is that biotech is a slippery slope with no bottom. Yet there are already all kinds of enhancement tools that most people forgo. Cosmetic surgery is readily available and fairly inexpensive. But it remains very much a minority taste, showing no sign of becoming the norm. For that matter, Americans could live longer, look better and even feel happier by exercising vigorously for a few hours a week. Most don’t. What is surprising is not how much people will do to make themselves “better than normal,” but how little.

. . .Instead of running out of control, biotechnology may be subject to a natural restraining principle, a natural equilibrium. That possible equilibrium is what we call “wellness.”

Rauch describes wellness as the condition of not having to think about your health at all. You're neither sick and obsessed with regaining your health, nor are you like a bodybuilder on anabolic steroids who's obsessed with maintaining his "enhanced" condition. Wellness is an equilibrium point that attracts those who lie on either side of it.

If it is true that most humans naturally seek wellness rather than perfection and know wellness when they’ve got it, then we have much less to worry about than Beyond Therapy fears. Some people, like Michael Jackson, might stop at nothing to “improve” themselves; but those people would remain a minority, more pitied than envied, cautionary lessons rather than exemplars. The distinction between therapy and enhancement would hold for most people, most of the time. In fact, the weird effects of future biotechnological enhancements—which could make Michael Jackson look normal in comparison—might make wellness more appealing than ever. The idea of being better than normal may prove a bigger flop than the Edsel.

Rauch's argument is appealing-- his point about people's unwillingness to excercise is particularly on-target. He may well be correct that even if biotechnology is able to offer us enhancements that alter our understanding of what it means to be a human being, we human beings won't accept the offer.

Before we allow Rauch's insights to make us sanguine about the dangers of biotech, though, we ought to consider the following:

  • Biotech enhancements might not always be simply offered to us in the way that Rauch describes. Germline engineering, for example, might allow parents to make enhancement decisions for their children. These kids might never know what it was like to experience ordinary "wellness," since some significant part of who they are will have been "enhanced" from birth. These enhanced people won't have chosen their enhancements for themselves. Moreover, these germline genetic enhancements wouldn't imply any need to be "obsessed" over one's health in the way that Rauch's bodybuilder is obsessed. The wellness equilibrium might still apply to the child whose genes have been enhanced, but because the enhancements have been made before birth, it won't serve as a brake on the technology in the way Rauch describes.

  • There are other ways that biotech enhancements might be imposed upon us. The government might try to develop human/animal chimeras that might be useful as soldiers (bye bye Draft, hello Army of the Gorilla Men). What might begin as an optional means of implanting medical records under the skin might be developed into a permanently-implanted identity card (no need to show ID at the airport ticket counters). The great "efficiencies" that these technologies provide ought to make us skeptical that these uses will be easily abandoned.

  • Apart from the unwilling imposition of biotech enhancements that negate the "natural equilibrium" of "wellness," we might consider the possibility that competitive pressures might unduly influence our choices about biotechnology. While it's true that too few people reap the benefits of exercise, the societal obsession with thinness induces millions of people to spend outrageous sums on diet books, magazines, and pills. If exercise was as easy as buying a weight-loss pill, many more people might pursue "enhancement" beyond the state of wellness, because of the perceived social requirement to be thin at all costs. This pressure to become thin would only increase as it became easier to do so, and fewer and fewer people were left that did not meet the society's definition of "thin." This competitive pressure might also induce people to enhance their IQs beyond the state of "wellness." After the technology became available, employers might seek to hire only those people that had chosen the enhancement. Universities seeking to admit the "smartest" people might end up admitting only those who had chosen to "enhance" themselves, and thus the pressure to choose the enhancement might become irresistible as "falling behind" became the only alternative.

    The point of all this may be only that if you're inclined to worry about the dangers of biotechnology, it's not hard to do. I agree with Rauch that we ought to count our blessings for the Council's worrying, since someone, somewhere, ought to be doing it.

    Perhaps the only thing that George W. Bush has done right since taking office is to appoint Leon Kass to chair the Concil on Bioethics.

    Posted by Carey at 10:30 PM | Comments (0)
  • October 14, 2004

    Agrarian politics

    Ming's decision to vote for the Libertarian candidate for President is refreshing. Even though I'm solidly behind Kerry, and implacably against George W. Bush, it's nice to be reminded that the political world isn't black and white.

    Although from day to day I hew pretty closely to the standard liberal line, when I let myself imagine the kind of world I'd really like to live in, I realize that I'm not really a liberal. Liberalism has a lot to recommend it, but it has several important flaws. For example, there is really no way to criticize modern consumerism within the liberal tradition. The liberals share with neoconservatives the idea that everyone ought to be able to afford to eat at Olive Garden. Everyone ought to have the opportunity to sign up for cable TV. Everyone ought to have a job (liberals) or at least the opportunity to find one (neoconservatives). This is ok, as far as it goes, but it doesn't go far enough.

    If you believe that human happiness can't be bought at the mall, neither liberalism nor neoconservatism offers a useful political roadmap, because both ideologies argue that theirs is the best way to put a mall in everyone's neighborhood. They argue over the means, not the goal. This is why the "fringe" political parties are so important. Libertarianism, for example, doesn't assume that everyone's idea of happiness is the same. Paleoconservatism rejects the idea that globalization is akin to nirvana.

    On a day-to-day basis, I usually hew to the standard liberal line. The modern Republican Party's positions are bad for many of the reasons that the liberals give, so it's not hard for me to come across like a standard liberal. When I ask myself what policies I actively support, though, I realize that I'm not a liberal. I'm an agrarian.

    I like the idea of self-sufficiency. I'm not opposed to trade, but I am opposed to the kind of economic centralization that makes continental populations dependent on just a handful of corporations for their incomes, their entertainment, and their food. Outside of our large cities, entire towns are employed by one or two employers that ship their goods all over the world. Everyone in the town buys all they need at Wal-Mart, who can sell for less because their size gives them certain economies of scale. Their radio stations are all Clear Channel, their TV stations are Sinclair, and their movies are all Disney. Neither liberalism nor the modern strain of conservatism sees this as inherently problematic. Agrarians do.

    As an agrarian, I think that industrial, centralized agriculture is a bad thing, compared with numerous family farms. I think we would be better off if a higher percentage of our population were farmers. The ideal of self-sufficiency isn't limited to agriculture, though. It's a theme that runs through most of what my kind of agrarianism advocates. Freedom has an inverse relationship to dependency, and that relationship is why private property is so important. Property isn't a consumer good, it's a means for insuring independence. Democracy has an inverse relationship to centralization. The responsibilities of democracy are more willingly discharged when people know that their votes matter. They matter more when the political decisions are made locally, rather than nationally or internationally.

    Agrarianism does not imply a distaste for cities. It doesn't equate to Luddism, or a desire to go backward in time to the last historical moment when family farms were the norm. It does mean that we might progress furthest by recognizing those elements of our past that are superior to what we have now, instead of holding to the irrational belief that newer is always better. Agrarianism does mean a critical evaluation of new technology, and a realization that some new technologies are more harmful than helpful.

    Agrarianism isn't monolithic, either. Just like conservatism has several factions, agrarianism can be roughly divided into two major versions. One, the one that I don't subscribe to, is a socially traditionalist philosophy that emphasizes religion and hierarchy. Russell Kirk is a good example of this version of agrarianism. The other strain, the one that I like, is best exemplified by writers like Wendell Berry and Edward Abbey. This strain emphasizes localism and respect for the earth.

    Anyway, it's too bad there's no agrarian candidates on the ballot this year.

    "A leader leads from in front, by the power of example. A ruler pushes from behind, by means of the club, the whip, the power of fear."

    --Edward Abbey

    Posted by Carey at 10:02 PM | Comments (0)

    October 13, 2004

    The last debate

    Republican candidates are often described as "pandering to their base." After this debate, I'm sure I'll see various left-wing bloggers claiming that George W. Bush sent a few more "signals" to his "base." I agree that Bush did this tonight with some of his statements about religion and morality. He also used a lot of free-market rhetoric, saying that he believed the "role of government is to get out of the way."

    I wonder if John Kerry tried to send any signals to his base? Maybe because I'm closer to Kerry's base than to Bush's, I thought Kerry spent most of the night using rhetoric that most of us associate with Republicans. Kerry bent over backwards to tell us how many times he cut taxes. He continued to try to talk "tough" on foreign policy. He spent a great deal of time using Bush's words for his health care plan, "government controlled," in the context of denying Bush's charges.

    I'm not quibbling with Kerry's choice of rhetoric; he might have used the words he needed to in order to get elected.

    I wonder, though, if there's any real democratic "base" out there that's powerful enough to compel a candidate to speak their language, in the way that Bush speaks the language of the hard-core right wing. Unions? Kerry used the words "shop steward," but did he really have to? Unions seem to be a dwindling political force. "Universal health care?" Kerry said he wanted to "cover every American," but the exchange seemed to be played out using the Bush rhetoric of "government-controlled healthcare." Religion? Rather than criticize Bush for his policies that have shaded toward theocracy, Kerry felt compelled to match Bush's obvious religious fervor.

    I'm listening to the commentary on the radio right now, and the pundits seem to think that Kerry won this one going away. I hope they're right.

    What does it mean, though, that the rhetorical playing field still seems to be so firmly located on the far right? I hope I'm wrong about that. I think I'll go read Instapundit or Andrew Sullivan, who I'm sure willl comfort me by pointing out how liberal John Kerry is.

    Posted by Carey at 10:53 PM | Comments (0)

    October 12, 2004

    $5,741 for health insurance

    In this week's issue of the student newspaper at my school, the Res Gestae, there's an article by one Ryan B. Parker.

    Mr. Parker points out that the health insurance plan offered by the University of Michigan costs $5,741 per year for a married law student and his or her spouse. That comes out to $17,223 over three years of law school.

    Now, I might be wrong, but I think these figures apply to a policy that covers students for only 8 months out of the year, leaving them uninsured over the summer.

    Mr. Parker did some investigations, and found that some of our classmates had "wives and kids on Medicaid." Two of the six students Mr. Parker spoke with claimed to be uninsured.

    Fortunately, most law students are young and healthy, which makes it all the more ridiculous to expect them to spend this kind of money for insurance that they'll probably never need. It makes far more sense for them to buy high-deductible, low-premium insurance, or to go without insurance altogether. I can't blame anyone who refuses to spend that kind of money for health insurance.

    When young, healthy people do what makes sense for them, however, it burdens those people who aren't young and healthy and who have to have health insurance. The insured risk pools get smaller, and the people who are left are mostly old and sick. The costs go up, which drives more of the healthy people out, and forces costs up. Meanwhile, the unlucky young, uninsured law student who comes down with some nasty neurological disease, or gets hit in the face by a drunk 1L at Bar Night, can find themselves in the hospital with no way to pay the bills. Either he gets less care, or these costs are shifted to the hospital's insured patients, and their premiums go up, too.

    Our emotional and political attachment to the free market makes it hard for us to recognize that everyone, eventually, pays more in a system based upon competing private health insurance carriers. If people act rationally, costs will go up and up and up, even if we ignore the bans on reimporting drugs from Canada and even if the Bush Medicare fiasco had enabled Medicare to negotiate drug prices with Big Pharma, instead of mandating that the government pay whatever Merck asked.

    Mr. Parker says, "I'm not pointing a finger at a guilty party; to be honest, it's such a complicated issue that I wouldn't know where to start if I were."

    I agree that it's too damned complicated. I don't have all the answers. But we're going to have to start making changes soon, because $17,223 is too much money for twenty-somethings to have to pay, and choosing to go without health insurance at all isn't a civilized alternative.

    Posted by Carey at 10:13 PM | Comments (0)

    October 11, 2004

    Notice

    I found this notice included with the folding bookcase that I bought at Target this weekend:

    CAUTIOUS:
    PLEASE DO NOT WORRY IF STILL SOME SMELL FROM THIS FRESH PRODUCT WHEN OPEN IT. AS IT IS NON-TOXIC AND NO DANGEROUS WHILE USING. IT WILL GONE IN FEW DAYS AFTER EXPOSURE IN THE AIR.

    I hope someone gets sick from smelling this bookshelf, and sues the manufacturer. I'm curious whether this notice would get them off the hook.

    Posted by Carey at 07:14 PM | Comments (0)

    October 10, 2004

    Merck, the FDA, and Vioxx

    The October 7 online issue of the New England Journal of Medicine ($$) includes two accounts of Merck's September 30, 2004 decision to withdraw the anti-inflammatory drug Vioxx from the market.

    As the articles describe, Vioxx was the largest prescription-drug withdrawal in history. More than 80 million patients had taken the drug, many to treat symptoms of arthritis, and sales were in excess of $2.5 billion. Merck spent more than $100 million per year in direct-to-consumer advertising for Vioxx.

    Vioxx was so commercially successful because it had a lower incidence of gastrointestinal complications (such as stomach ulcers) when compared with other anti-inflammatory drugs. But almost immediately after the drug had been approved by the FDA, studies began to suggest that Vioxx might pose an increased risk of cardiovascular complications such as heart attacks and strokes.

    The data from these studies were inconclusive. It was only after the results of another study designed to assess the drug's effect on colonic polyps conclusively demonstrated that Vioxx increases the risk of potentially fatal cardiovascular events that Merck decided to stop selling the drug.

    The Vioxx story leaves both Merck and the FDA smelling bad:

  • The FDA knew for years that Vioxx might increase the risks of cardiovascular events, but it (a) never required any studies to investigate this specific possibility, and (b) never required Merck to stop advertising the drug directly to the public. Thus, the FDA largely failed in its duties to protect the public health.
  • Merck knew that Vioxx might increase the risk of stroke and heart attacks, but instead of conducting a study that might have decided the issue, it chose to aggressively market the most favorable explanation of several plausible ones for the increased cardiovascular risks that other studies were suggesting. More to the point, Merck chose willful blindness.

    There's been some discussion elsewhere about the possibility that by suing Merck over Vioxx, overzealous trial lawyers will lead the FDA and the drug companies to become too hesitant to put beneficial new drugs on the market (see Nick Genes, Chris Rangel, Trent McBride). This should be a real worry. When the FDA abdicates its responsibility to the public, and the drug companies bury their heads in the sand to protect their sales numbers, trial lawyers pursuing their own self-interests can sometimes lead to "reforms" that aren't in the public's best interest, either.

    Nevertheless, we shouldn't confine our criticisms to trial lawyers (this applies to the "malpractice crisis" as well). Instead, we ought to be asking whether specific regulatory reforms might prevent another Vioxx episode in the future:

  • Should drug companies continue to be allowed to advertise directly to the public? Would it be wise to prohibit drug companies from using superficial TV ads to induce demand for an arthritis treatment that might increase the risk for fatal complications? Might it be better to require that drug companies promote their drugs in ways that allow more communication of the possible tradeoffs that the use of the drug entails?
  • Should we demand that the FDA be more proactive when reasonable suspicions arise that a drug like Vioxx might cause excess deaths from severe complications? Merck withdrew Vioxx on the fortuitous results of a trial that was not designed to assess the cardiovascular risks of the drug. If that trial had never been done, the question about cardiovascular risk might not have been answered for years. Merck was certainly not asking the question; it was aggressively spinning suggestive data in its favor instead. No one else had any obvious incentives to ask the question. Except, of course, for the public, whose representatives in the FDA were asleep at the wheel (see Kevin, M.D. for more on the FDA).

    See Matthew Holt and Donald E. L. Johnson for discussions about the overall state of the pharmaceutical industry following the withdrawal of Vioxx.

    Posted by Carey at 10:27 PM | Comments (0)
  • October 09, 2004

    "Our Guys" redux

    Remembering that accusations don't prove anything, high school football players in an affluent New Jersey suburb have been accused of raping a 15-year old girl:

    At Montclair High, a pastoral campus of broad lawns and brick buildings shaded by large oak trees and traversed by a brook, several football players emerging from practice said that a sports psychologist, Dr. Ben Brennan, had warned team members to be cautious around girls, and expressed concern that the accusations could reflect badly on the team.

    It's good to know that the football players are being taught to be "cautious around girls." Those dangerous girls are liable to say all kinds of things that could really hurt the football team's reputation.

    Ed Walker, 14, a freshman at Montclair High, said that many students were skeptical of the girl's account. "I think she's just saying stuff," he said. "A lot of people around the school say she's not serious." He called the accused youths "two of the most popular guys in the school."

    Let's hope the freshman boys are the only ones on campus who aren't taking the accusations seriously.

    "I think everyone in town is distressed by this," [the school superintendent] said. "Even though the incident didn't occur at the school or on school premises, these are still our students, and you feel a certain responsibility. Our main concern is for the well-being of the alleged victim and for the privacy of all involved."

    Perhaps the Superintendent should also be concerned about preventing any further episodes of this kind of behavior. Some good old fashioned publicity might actually be good for the safety of the students on campus.

    Corinne Cuozzo, 15, a sophomore at the school, said she was not surprised that Montclair students may have been involved in a sexual assault case. "I could definitely see this kind of thing happening here," she said. "It was just shocking that they got arrested for it. Kids here usually get arrested for something like lighting a garbage can on fire."

    Anyone who's read about the 1989 rape of a retarded girl by several students on the football team in neighboring Glen Ridge can definitely see this kind of thing happening again, too. The only question is whether the willful ignorance of Glen Ridge will be repeated as well.

    Posted by Carey at 09:27 AM | Comments (0)

    October 08, 2004

    Abortion

    This Presidential election must be particularly difficult for people who oppose abortion. Many people who oppose the availability of legal abortions find this issue so central to their moral view of the world that it is almost impossible for them to vote in good conscience for any candidate that supports legal abortions. On this issue, George W. Bush is the only choice.

    That is why I feel so much sympathy for these voters. An opposition to abortion does not necessitate a tolerance for stupidity, lies, or a reckless disregard for the public good, but these is exactly what George W. Bush offers. Abortion opponents are left with a candidate who won't violate one of their fundamental moral principles, but who will lie to them, lead their country into unnecessary wars, and work to destroy the system of social responsibility that we've built up over most of the twentieth century.

    In our two-party system we often have to swallow our distaste and vote for the lesser of two evils. George W. Bush has reminded many abortion opponents of this suboptimal feature of our electoral system.

    Posted by Carey at 11:08 PM | Comments (0)

    October 07, 2004

    Perot in '92!

    The other night I was looking at this electoral vote map. "What's up with this looking exactly like the map four years ago!" I shrieked. "What does it take to get people to change their minds?"

    After four years of Bush's radicalism and terrorist attacks and whatnot, you'd think people wouldn't be voting the exact same way they did in 2000. I'd have thought that the map would either be all red or all blue, but not equally red-and-blue in the same pattern that we saw in the Bush-Gore election. Apparently, people just don't change their minds that fast.

    This got me thinking about myself; after all, if I'm going to be critical of tens of millions of people, I'd rather not be subject to the same criticism myself. I prefer to criticize others from the safety of a holier-than-thou position.

    So I thought back to my own history of voting in Presidential elections. This record is equivocal:

    1992: Perot over Clinton and Bush
    1996: Clinton over Dole
    2000: Nader over Gore and Bush

    I haven't been a one-party voter, and this shows at least that my vote isn't captured by the Democrats. Some folks would think that my Perot vote demonstrates that I'm not captured by the liberals, either. So in this sense, I've proven my ability to change my mind.

    On the other hand, I haven't once voted for a Republican. The closest I came to considering it was Jack Kemp in his primary battle with Dole, and John McCain in his primary battle with George W. Bush. (Both of my preferred Republicans lost, so clearly as a Republican voter I'm out of step with the party. Bastards.) So I suppose that on one issue at least, I haven't been able to change my mind. The Republican Party generally runs the most inferior candidates for President of any party in America.

    So, can I safely criticize the hundreds of millions of people who seem poised to vote for the same party in 2004 as they did in 2000? Of course. Even if I can't really say I'm holier than anybody else, I'm gonna do it anyway.

    Posted by Carey at 09:09 PM | Comments (0)

    October 06, 2004

    Flu vaccine shortage

    In 1918, the world suffered through an influenza pandemic that killed close to 40 million people. This was before the increased transmissibility made possible by air travel.

    If a similar plague came by today it would kill about 1.5 million Americans. That is more than die each year from the ten major killers combined, like cancer, heart disease, strokes, Alzheimer's disease, and AIDS, for example.
    For at least the second year in a row, we're going to be short of flu vaccine. Some doctors and others accuse the government of failing to take action:
    "The vaccine shortages have not been addressed for the past 10 years," said Dr. J. Colin Forrester of Callao, Va.

    Dr. Michael Good of Middletown, Conn., said he can't understand why the problem was not addressed years ago. "Since this has been a problem almost every winter for the past four years, isn't it time we figure out a way to consistently procure and produce vaccine?"

    As long ago as the winter of 2000-2001, the San Francisco Chronicle ran a series of reports describing breakdowns in the nation's flu shot program, which the newspaper described as "as unstable as it is huge."

    In some ways, this looks like a straightforward technological problem. Flu vaccine is incubated in sterile chicken eggs, which are susceptible to contamination and can therefore spread disease. We need to find a better way to manufacture the vaccine. Government should perhaps do more to encourage research in this area, especially when resources are available.

    Whether or not resources are available is a political issue. Will the resources be available now that we've unilaterally invaded Iraq, spent more than $50 billion to date, and find ourselves in a quagmire that we can't simply abandon? Will the resources be available if we continue to spend like drunken sailors on a space-based missile defense system, which won't do much to protect us from nuclear weapons?

    The problems with our public health infrastructure are political issues. President Bush has shown no leadership on this issue, even after September 11 and the increased concern over bioterrorism. He continues to think that space-based missile defense and unilateral invasions of nations that posed no imminent threat to America take precedence over real threats to our health and safety.

    It's time to give George W. Bush the heave-ho.

    Posted by Carey at 09:47 PM | Comments (0)

    October 05, 2004

    Cheney-Edwards debate

    Before I read the spin:

    1. Dick Cheney doesn't want to talk about an amendment banning gay marriage. "I didn't think the amendment was necessary. It should be left to the states. But the President wants the amendment. I support the president."
    2. Dick Cheney doesn't want to talk about Halliburton: "Gwynn, I'll need more than thirty seconds to respond to [Edwards' charges about Halliburton.]"
    3. There were times when Edwards talked too fast, but when he slowed down he sounded great.
    4. The Republicans are probably hoping that the final debate featured Dick Cheney. He is poised and articulate.
    5. Unfortunately for them, they've got to endure another performance from the least qualified candidate on either party's ticket: George W. Bush.

    Posted by Carey at 10:39 PM | Comments (0)

    Blog comments are down

    For now. Apparently, the movable type script that handles comments is chewing up too much cpu power on my hosting company's server.

    This has happened before. I thought this had been fixed, but I guess not. I'll work on this again and hopefully a solution can be found.

    I like comments. I want them back.

    Posted by Carey at 04:48 PM | Comments (0)

    Socratic method

    What's the value of the "socratic method" in law school classes?

    Professor Bainbridge asks:

    Over at his legal theory blog, Larry Solum has a fascinating post arguing that the very concept of the holding of a case is "inherently ambiguous." Since figuring out the holding of the case is a staple of the Socratic method (at least when that method is done superficially), doesn't this [provide] yet another reason to call into question the pedagogical validity of that method?

    This provocative question got me thinking about my own views of the Socratic method, where the professor conducts the class by asking questions of the students rather than simply lecturing.

    I think the socratic method works best in exactly those situations where the answer to the professor's question is "inherently ambiguous." Assuming that both the professor and the student have prepared for class, the process of question-and-answer can reveal the ambiguities of a subject more effectively than a straight lecture can. This is because the method can go beyond merely identifying an ambiguity; it can actually demonstrate it. For the student being questioned (the "socratic bunny"), the method demonstrates that almost any answer that isn't hedged against ambiguity can be revealed by the professor to be inadequate. A student who's been interrogated like this is much more likely to focus on the ambiguites than if she had passively taken notes while the professor warned her that there was "no easy answer" to the question of blah, blah, blah. The effect on the other students in class is similar (if they pay attention).

    The strongest criticism of the socratic method--that much of the class time is taken up with comments by students who lack knowledge at the expense of comments by the professor, who has knowledge--is at its strongest when the subject matter is unambiguous. "I'm going to tell you what the three tallest buildings in the world are: blah, blah, and blah" is a lot more efficient than "Mortimer, what do you think the world's third tallest building is?"

    The question really comes down to whether the advantages of the socratic method for demonstrating ambiguity outweigh the drawbacks of slowing down the rate at which large amounts of factual material can be conveyed. I think the answer depends on how important an understanding of the ambiguities are. My Patent Law professor strikes the right balance, I think. Her classes are a mix of straight lecture when the subject is less ambiguous (statutory text, for example) and socratic questioning when the subject is more ambiguous (the rationales for those rules, or the policy arguments for the rules).

    There's another reason apart from all this to like the socratic method: it can keep students awake. Professors who think there's no role for interrogating students in class should remember that many of their students will be sitting in their third straight hour of class (or, like me this term, their fifth). Any teacher concerned about pedagogical techniques has to recognize that this many hours of passive listening to lectures can dull the attention of even the most conscientious student.

    Of course, the caveat is that the socratic method can't work if a) the professor has no talent for it, and b) the students haven't prepared and don't pay attention. Of course, these limitations apply to any pedagogical method, not just the socratic one.

    Posted by Carey at 04:42 PM | Comments (0)

    October 04, 2004

    Vioxx, Celebrex... "Prexige"?

    Reading this NYTimes article about the possible fate of the COX-2 inhibitors after Merck pulled its version (Vioxx) from the shelves, I had the pleasure of learning that Novartis calls its version "Prexige," and that Pfizer has another drug in this class called "Bextra."

    All these Xs made me think it was time to dig up an article about how drugs are named.

    (Note: the comments for this post are closed. This many drug names in one post will attract too much spam. My blog would be drowned under 300 comments offering "Erecto" over the internet...)

    Posted by Carey at 09:47 AM | Comments (0)

    October 03, 2004

    Thanks

    I've got a new Kerry-Edwards link on my masthead. I lifted the image from Michael Froomkin's blog.

    Thanks, Professor Froomkin. Let's give George W. Bush the heave-ho.

    Posted by Carey at 11:16 PM | Comments (0)

    Christopher Hitchens' mistake

    This is the story of a really smart guy, and how even smart people can get tripped up by dumb fallacies. The smart guy is Christopher Hitchens, and the dumb fallacy is: the enemy of my enemy is my friend.

    Hitchens was, once, primarily known for his attempts to get Henry Kissinger convicted for war crimes. The left loved him. Now, though, he supports George W. Bush and the war in Iraq. The left doesn't love him anymore.

    Hitchens is undoubtedly a smart man, if only because he's refused to surrender his thinking to an ideological autopilot that so many zealots on both the left and the right find so irresistible. In this sense, he should remain a role model for everyone who aspires to think for themselves. Ideologues of all stripes still have much to fear from Hitchens' acid pen, even those on the right with whom Hitchens seems currently to be aligned. They shouldn't assume that Hitchens will follow their ideological roadmap any more closely than he followed the roadmap of the left.

    But Hitchens, like almost everyone else who supports George W. Bush, is making a mistake. He apparently agrees with the neoconservative element of the Bush administration that the best way to fight Islamic fundamentalism is with preemptive war and with the long-term military occupation of large areas of the Middle East. Like the neoconservatives, Hitchens ignores the reality that Islamic fundamentalism isn't a government that can be wiped off the face of the map with sufficient firepower and enough bombs. It is, rather, an ideology, and like all ideologies, it's very difficult to eliminate by simply killing the people who subscribe to it.

    The American right wing has enjoyed great success over the past twenty years in part because they recognize the importance of the "battle of ideas." Their legions of prominent think thanks and AM-radio talk show hosts have served the conservatives well. Hitchens himself has been one of the most potent weapons in this domestic battle, although neither the left nor the right has been able to wholly appropriate his services. It's too bad that Hitchens, who might have legitimate grievances with the left's responses to terrorism, seems to have perceived the military solution offered by the neocons as the only viable alternative.

    There are many other options, of course. While the military should be used to disrupt the terrorist infrastructure (which remains minimal) and to kill individuals who commit acts of terrorism, America's strongest weapon against terrorism is ideological. This is a battle of ideas far more than it is a battle of armies. If the Left hasn't offered a coherent plan for waging this war of ideas, the solution is not to resort solely to military force but to come up with a better ideological strategy. Christopher Hitchens would seem to be ideally suited to such a project. But alas, he has failed to perceive the potency of this alternative and has chosen to subscribe to Wolfowitz's confusion of the war against terrorists with the far more important war against terrorism (which would be an absurdity in any sense other than as a purely ideological war).

    Islamic fundamentalism, like any other "ism," will be defeated only by another ideology. So far, the United states has chosen to oppose it with militarism. It would do better to choose something more potent, such as the ideals of civilization, human dignity, fairness, respect, and democracy. Our invasion of Iraq is none of these things. Our decision to take sides in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is none of these things. Our increasing contempt for civil rights and due process is none of these things. These strategies will certainly succeed at eliminating a few governments (Afghanistan and Iraq, so far) and individual terrorists, but they will most likely strengthen the fundamentalist ideology that sustained them. It's the strategy of fighting fire with gasoline.

    Christopher Hitchens is an implacable opponent of fascism, and has recognized the evil of the Islamic fundamentalism that spawns terrorism and suicide bombers. For this he deserves respect. But he's made the mistake of associating himself with neoconservatives whose only respectable position is a similar hatred for Islamic fundamentalism. The enemy of Christopher Hitchens' enemy has become his friend, but it didn't have to be this way. Let's hope Hitchens' gift for independent thought leads him to recognize that there are other, better alternatives to Paul Wolfowitz and the neocons.

    Posted by Carey at 10:26 PM | Comments (2)

    October 02, 2004

    Cubs choke; whine about it

    The Chicago Cubs, who have gone more years without winning the championship of their sport than any other team in baseball, football, basketball, and hockey, were on the verge of grabbing a wildcard playoff spot this year. The Cubs, with their tradition of excellence, have stepped up to the plate and lost six of their last seven games.

    The Cubs, famous for collapses over the past century, might have outdone their historic selves in the past week. Twice in that time, they lost games in which they were leading with two outs in the ninth inning and with two strikes on what could have been the last batter.

    You'd think the real problem for Cubs manager Dusty Baker and general manager Jim Hendry would be all this losing. Instead, they seem to have focused on the "inappropriate" comments of broadcaster Steve Stone.
    During Thursday's postgame interview on Fox Sports Net, Stone asked Baker about a couple of strategic moves that didn't work out in a 12-inning loss to Cincinnati that severely damaged the Cubs' playoff chances. The tone of the questioning visibly disturbed Baker, and he removed his headset before the interview was over. Immediately after Baker left the air, Stone mentioned that managers get paid big money to make such decisions, while broadcasters receive far less for giving their opinions. That's when Hendry decided Stone crossed the line.

    This is not a good sign. Stone's comments may have been sharp, but they related to the job performance of Baker and the Cubs' players. Which has been very poor of late. If Baker and Hendry can't take the heat for leading their team through another monumental choke, perhaps they should be fired. The Cubs organization might do better without them and their whiny attitudes.

    Steve Stone, on the other hand, might be a good role model for Baker's and Hendry's replacements. He actually gets angry when the Cubs blow it.

    Posted by Carey at 09:15 AM | Comments (5)

    October 01, 2004

    Merck pulls Vioxx...

    ...and Majikthise has one of the most interesting comments about it.

    . . . The real question is why Merck acted so precipitously? Vioxx was one of their best selling drugs. I think it's because they're afraid of lawsuits. Merck has know about the CV risk of Vioxx for years. I wonder why these particular data finally convinced them to pull the drug.

    Yes, I wonder what would have happened if folks like Eliot Spitzer hadn't publicized the drug industry's cover-ups of trials with negative results by filing lawsuits. I wonder where the FDA has been all this time. And I wonder whether this would have happened if the Republicans had succeeded with their "tort reform" plans to insulate corporations from liability.

    Corporations aren't evil, but they are organized solely for maximizing profit. Without effective regulation, and without the public's ability to hold them liable for destructive behavior, they will cause a great deal of harm.

    EDIT: For some more interesting comments, see Chris Rangel:

    So we lose an overly marketed drug that was no more effective and much more expensive than other NSAIDs and had few if any advantages (once a day dosing if that is worth the price). Big deal. But now we are likely to see act II of this drama entitled: "Class Action attack of the Trial Lawyers". Even though the relative increase in cardiovascular events was 50%, the absolute increase was tiny, well under 1% for the study population of 8,000. However, this doesn't matter to greedy trial lawyers and their equally greedy and paranoid clients.

    Posted by Carey at 10:05 AM | Comments (2)

    Bush/Kerry debate

    I think the actual exchange of views was pretty shallow--no surprise there--but it was clear that one candidate was a committed multilateralist while the other was not. I suppose this clear differentiation of views is about as much as you can hope for in these overly-scripted debates, so I'll take it.

    I do wish Kerry had made the case for multilateralism as an important way to build America's strength, which might have been more appealing to undecided voters. Just a few words to the effect that, "goodwill in the international community is a much richer source of American power than Bush's 'missile defense' nonsense."

    Anyway, the thing that counts is the post-debate spin, where the pundits tell the American people what to think. That spin seems to be going for Kerry.

    Posted by Carey at 08:20 AM | Comments (0)