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January 04, 2003

THIS CAT-BLOGGING TREND is out of control.

THE FIRST RECIPIENT OF THE "FISKIE AWARD" has been announced.

IN LIGHT OF THE PARIS RABBI-STABBING INCIDENT, Claire Berlinski emails this from Paris:

Another item to note from Paris: On 16 December 2002 the Conseil d'Administration of Université Paris VI passed a motion recommending the rupture of the European Union's scientific cooperation agreement with Israel. A similar resolution is on the agenda of the meeting of the Université Paris VII Conseil d'Administration, which is to take place on January 7. This is in effect a call for boycott; the proposal would institutionalize the exclusion of Israeli researchers from scientific committees, conferences and scientific journals. It would kill international research projects involving Israeli scientists and academic hosting programs for university faculty. It would ban international student exchange programs. This has attracted surprisingly little attention from the press here, and none at all in the US, as far as I can tell. Is anyone going to stand up and point out that this is an absolute fucking outrage?

Note also that the rabbi who was stabbed was a prominent LEFT-WING PACIFIST. The French press has thus far been tactfully circumspect about the assailant's probable ethnic origin, but earlier that morning, the synagogue received this communication: "Nous aurons la peau du rabbin Gabriel Farhi et vengerons le sang de nos frčres palestiniens. -...- Nous lancerons contre lui le djihad, châtiment réservé aux ennemis de notre cause -...-. Aprčs avoir mis feu ŕ sa synagogue, nous nous vengerons directement sur lui."*

*"We will have the skin of Rabbi Gabriel Farhi and we will venge the blood of our Palestinian brothers -- we will hurl jihad against him, a punishment reserved for the enemies of our cause -- after setting fire to his synagogue, we will venge ourselves upon him directly."

I, for one, am inclined to view the two events as importantly connected.

Well, there you have it: a report from the scene.

EVE TUSHNET has been running a long series on race that I should have linked sooner. But here's the latest installment and you can work backward from there.

GIZMODO ASKS if you've stayed in a hotel room that had a DVD player. Not me. VCR, yes, but not a DVD player.

IS SLASHDOT OVER? Here's an interesting post that I discovered via Nick Denton. Nick wonders if online communities inevitably decline. It does seem that way, though I don't actually think that Slashdot is going anywhere.

Does this mean the blogosphere will eventually collapse into a flamer-haven that everyone else avoids? I'm not sure. It's possible, and it's probably even the way to bet based on history.

On the other hand, online communities in the past have all shared the characteristic that it's possible to inflict speech on other members of the community at a relatively low cost. Usenet flaming is the most obvious example. Dumb Slashdot posts are, somewhat, mitigated by moderation, but I have to say that the moderation system on Slashdot seems less effective lately.

With blogs on the other hand, you can avoid the flaming bloggers. Flaming in comments seems to follow the Usenet model to some degree, but since it's easy to avoid reading blog comments I'm not sure it will be as alienating. Only time will tell.

UPDATE: Jeff Jarvis responds with some thoughts that I'm going to use in my talk tonight. I love the blogosphere!

DID A TV INTERVIEW EARLIER, which for obscure logistical reasons was in my hotel room. They set up a bunch of lights and then -- because the lights get hot -- taped paper cups over the sprinkler heads to keep them from being set off. "We always do it," they explained.

I'd hate to have been the first guy to discover that you needed to do that. . . .

I WONDER IF THE PEOPLE WHO COMPLAINED ABOUT TIPS will complain about this use of snitch-on-your-neighbors data?

Montgomery County police said yesterday that they will use tens of thousands of tips from the October sniper hunt to track down those who violate Maryland gun laws.

"Our goal is to reduce illegal firearm possessions and violent crimes," said Capt. Nancy Demme, spokeswoman for the Montgomery County Police Department. She also said the intensive crackdown would begin in the county in a few weeks.

The mission will be carried out by a task force of county and state police officers, as well as federal agents of the Secret Service and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

This is sure to produce less cooperation in the future. And it explains why so many gun owners don't trust the authorities: They've seen things used as excuses for anti-gun sweeps in the past.

Couple this sort of thing with the abusive behavior exhibited by FBI agents toward gun owners when the sniper investigation was underway, and it seems evident that the ham-handed incompetence of the FBI is, once again, damaging the war on terror and creating a locus of opposition in the United States.

This is just pathetic. How stupid do you have to be to do this kind of stuff? Not too stupid to have a management position at the FBI or ATF, apparently.

JESSE VENTURA says he'll be turning the tables on the media. Will he be signing with MSNBC? Apparently, we'll know Monday.

MARTIN SIEFF WRITES that China will keep propping up North Korea. I'm not sure about his analysis here -- is North Korea that valuable as a "buffer" against ideas of democracy and free markets?

UPDATE: Capitalism, it seems, has already slipped under the covers. . . .

THE MAYOR OF PHILADELPHIA "REGRETS" that the First Amendment is stopping him from shutting down a skit in the Mummer's parade that made fun of the Catholic hierarchy's cover-up in sex abuse cases.

Bill Hobbs says that the mayor should have different concerns:

So, the mayor of the nation's fifth-largest city "regrets" the First Amendment. Amazing. And a terrible shame - because the real target of his regret should be that the Catholic Church - or any powerful institution - would so rapidly turn to ask the government to muzzle its critics.

Or that the Church hierarchs would be party to covering up acts that they -- and he -- would loudly condemn in any other institution.

GOOD / BAD: The in-room high-speed Internet access doesn't work very well. That's the bad. The toll-free tech support number, on the other hand, took me right to a helpful guy who solved the problem from their end. (Some sort of server issue, apparently). I give 'em a B+ for that.

ANOTHER IN THE NO-SURPRISE-HERE DEPARTMENT:

A Jewish rabbi needed treatment in hospital after being attacked as he left a synagogue in eastern Paris on Friday.

Rabbi Gabriel Farhi was stabbed in the stomach by an unknown assailant who then fled the scene.

Mr Farhi, 34, said his wound was "large but not deep".

The rabbi told the French news agency AFP that he had earlier received a threatening letter referring to Jihad - the Muslim holy war - against enemies of the Palestinians. . . .

"Someone rang at the door, I opened and a man a bit shorter than me... wearing a motorbike helmet with its visor down said Allahu Akbar [God is Great] and then stabbed me," Mr Farhi told AFP.

He said the stranger had a perfect French accent.

Somebody needs to explain to the guy that Islam is a religion of peace, and does not countenance such acts.

January 03, 2003

MADE IT HERE ALIVE EARLIER TODAY. Had a nice dinner, and saw Eugene Volokh in the hotel lobby. But the lure of a hotel room with the Insta-Wife and no kids exceeds the lure of blogging. More tomorrow, probably.

In the meantime, read this piece about Saudi Arabia and Islamist violence.

VIRGINIA POSTREL warns Republicans:

"[T]rial lawyer" is not a bad thing to call someone in a campaign. There's a reason successful trial lawyers are successful: They're good at persuading voters (a.k.a. jurors) to join their side.

Yes, there are a lot of people in conservative circles with a visceral dislike of trial lawyers. And it's shared by some voters. But it's not shared by all that many, and if you only read conservative publications it's easy to forget that. Think of trial lawyers as like constituent-service from an incumbent. Most voters know somebody who was helped by one. That establishes a certain reservoir of gratitude.

ARCHITECTURE OR WELFARE REFORM? Mickey Kaus looks at which is better for poor people. Hint: he disagrees with The New York Times!

ANDREW SULLIVAN is endorsing John Edwards:

For the Democrats to nominate a Southerner for the fourth time in four election cycles may make electoral college sense, but it still slights the parts of the country that are more dependably Democratic. Still, I like his politics - they seem sanely to the right of, say, Al Gore. And he has a touch of the Tony Blair about him: the slick yet somehow earnest combination. Hard to pull off.

I really don't have an opinion of Edwards yet. He doesn't even trigger an irrational like or dislike in me when I see him on TV. Oh, well, I'm sure I'll hear enough about him to form an opinion long before it will actually matter.

THEY DON'T CALL THEM "ISLAMO-FASCISTS" FOR NOTHING, YOU KNOW:

They are unlikely allies, but right-wing extremists and Islamic militants share a hatred for Israel and the United States that has drawn the attention of German authorities.

Since 2001, when Islamic extremists and neo-Nazis cheered the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the U.S., the two camps have echoed one another's abhorrence of what they view as a world controlled by Jews and enforced by Washington's military power. There are no links suggesting that right-wing and Islamic groups are collaborating on terrorism-related strategies, but law enforcement officials are concerned over the growing, and sometimes surreal, attraction between the two.

It reminds me of those Reese's Peanut Butter Cup commercials: "Hey, you got anti-Americanism in my anti-Semitism!" "Oh, yeah? Well, you got anti-Semitism in my Anti-Americanism!" "Hmm. . . it's pretty good though!"

THERE'S NOT REALLY ANY "MYSTERY" HERE: It seems pretty obvious that there are a lot of connections between the Saudi government and Al Qaeda. Whether you want to call it a "rogue" operation or not, it is, essentially, a Saudi operation.

January 02, 2003

BLOGGING WILL BE LIGHT as I'm on travel tomorrow. I may manage a post or two in the morning, but then I'm off on a (very brief) trip to speak at a panel on "Communitarian Approaches to Cyberspace" at the Association of American Law Schools conference. Sadly, it's not open to the public, but here's the description:

Panel will discuss the questions of whether or not one can justify creating a commons in cyberspace, and what purpose such a commons could serve.

Panel:
Jack Balkin, Yale Law School
Carol Rose, Yale Law School
Eugene Volokh, UCLA Law School
Glenn Reynolds, College of Law, University of Tennessee

Chair: Peter Levine, University of Maryland, Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement

What will I say? Ah, that would be telling. I'm taking the laptop, so I may post from the road as time permits. In the meantime, OxBlog seems to be on a roll. And read this piece by Marci Hamilton on why federalism is good for civil rights.

JOHN BONO offers a hopeful observation concerning Afghanistan.

COULD FEAR OF TERROR MUZZLE SCIENCE?

I thought this article was about environmental extremists, but it's not. It's still worth reading, though.

UPDATE: This paper from Johns Hopkins on biological research and terrorism is interesting, too. I don't have time to offer any analysis, since I've just skimmed it. But if you're following the subject, you might want to follow the link.

SOMEBODY IS INTO THE TWO TOWERS -- and especially Orlando Bloom as Legolas -- just a little bit too much:

On Friday night we saw The Two Towers, and when Legolas swung himself backwards onto that moving horse, I think I got pregnant.

(Via Missy, who shares the sentiment.)

HOW WALT DISNEY put "rip, mix and burn" into practice. Courtesy of Larry Lessig.

GAWKER reports on the "Southern culture that seems to be quietly infiltrating New York." Buwahahahaha!

THE DIPLOMATIC EQUIVALENT OF CALVINBALL: Steven Den Beste is unimpressed with the efforts of war opponents.

ERIN O'CONNOR IS RESPONDING to a critical article about bloggers and the Boalt sexual harassment case.

DALE AMON HAS POSTED JOHN POINDEXTER'S POWERPOINT SLIDES on the Information Awareness Program.

HOORAY FOR THE BLOGOSPHERE! John Scalzi put his novel online, and touted it on his weblog. The result: it was picked up by a publisher whose editor saw it there. I can't put it any better than Scalzi does:

What I am saying is clearly we've gotten to the point where it's no longer the smart thing to automatically dismiss writing online -- even an online novel -- as "not good enough." Sometimes, it is good enough. It's just that simple. I'm happy to be one of the guys who gets to be the case in point for that.

Amen. If I'm not mistaken -- and if I am, I'm sure she'll correct me -- Claire Berlinski sold her novel Loose Lips after publishing it online. Though she's not a blogger herself, she did get a lot of bloggers to link to it and generate publicity.

HERE'S A RESPONSE TO CHARLES RANGEL by a military dad who thinks bringing back the draft is a bad idea. Read the whole thing, but here's an excerpt:

Congressman Rangel, I know you served this country bravely fifty-odd years ago in that same land. You were there with a varied bunch of guys -- some draftees, some volunteers, some older WWII vets, some career guys. You saw the hell of war up close and personal.

My boy's a volunteer. He wants to join one of, if not the best and most professional military organizations that this planet has ever seen. He wants to test himself against other proud professionals.

He's willing to risk his life for the chance to travel and for the GI educational benefits.

He wants to drive a tank someday.

Save the anti-war politicking for another time, Congressman

I want to know that, if my boy has to put his butt on the line for this country, he's going to be accompanied by other brave men like him. Brave men who believe in the mission and who believe in each other.

Highly trained men. Professionals.

All of them.

Sons and brothers, daughters and sisters of families who support them and pray for them to return safely home.

They are not bargaining chips in your cheap, rhetorical, political game.

One of them is my kid.

Really, you should read it all. (Via Donald Sensing.)

UPDATE: Occam's Toothbrush has more on this. As well as one of the cooler blog titles.

READER CHRIS WRAY WRITES:

Glenn, now that you've linked a story on the virtues of John Edwards, trial lawyer, perhaps you can comment on this terrrible situation in West Virginia - and explain to your readers how the trail lawyers are not culpable here. Or perhaps you might admit that the pious John Edwards notwithstanding, the trial lawyers have a pernicious effect on the well being of our society, and it's only getting worse.

He also links to this story on the West Virginia doctors' strike over malpractice insurance premiums.

Well, I'm of two minds on this. Though I used to teach torts (I gave it up a few years ago to start teaching Internet Law) insurance policy isn't an area of special expertise. But I think that the tort reform = good / trial lawyers = bad formulation is just as simplistic as the big corporations = bad / trial lawyers = good formulation.

What troubles me most is when trial lawyers are actively allied with government against an unpopular group -- as when states pass special legislation to facilitate lawsuits against tobacco companies or gun manufacturers. That sort of partnership, where political contributions by trial lawyers facilitate legislation that then enriches trial lawyers and allows regulation outside of ordinary democratic processes, seems entirely wrong to me.

On the other hand, subjects like medical malpractice are just a mess. It's true that fear of malpractice suits is crippling medicine. It's also true, though, that there's lots of malpractice that never generates any lawsuits at all, and the medical system doesn't regulate its own bad apples very well. Everybody knows who the bad doctors are, but they don't lose their licenses, or their hospital privileges, very easily. That's improved somewhat, but not nearly enough, in recent years.

On the other hand, though I'm a big fan of juries and I've served on a civil jury myself, I think that the trial lawyers are rather hypocritical in the way they sanctify the jury. Watch them change their tune in the face of proposals to strengthen juries in malpractice cases by, say, allowing the jury to call its own expert witnesses!

Malpractice suits don't play a significant role in preventing bad medicine, or in compensating injured patients -- given that most patients never sue, it's essentially a lottery. Sometimes a particularly bad physician is brought to account, but just as often it's somebody who made an honest and forgivable error of judgment, or who did nothing wrong at all. And in some truly dreadful cases, trial lawyers won't bring suit because there's no money in it; I can think of one in particular I know of that would curl your hair, but that a major plaintiffs' firm turned down because they weren't sure they could make money.

So the social value of malpractice suits is overrated: if you wanted to compensate people who were hurt by bad doctors, or if you wanted to police bad doctors, you wouldn't have a system like this one, where profitability to plaintiffs' lawyers -- which is at best only roughly correlated with severity of harm, and even more roughly correlated, if at all, with severity of malpractice -- is the major determinant of what cases get brought and what cases don't.

On the other hand, the tort system is the ultimate fallback. Leaving aside politically motivated shakedowns like the tobacco suits (which, ironically, basically turned the states and the trial lawyers into virtual partners of the tobacco companies they previously condemned as evil), you see a lot of lawsuits because no other regulatory or quality-assurance system is doing the job. And that's largely the case in medicine. The system used to be run for the convenience of doctors. Now it's run for the convenience of insurance companies. It's run for everyone but patients. Lawsuits won't change that, and limiting them won't either.

UPDATE: Meanwhile Duane Freese says it's trial lawyers who have made America fat.

ANOTHER UPDATE: A reader points out that I have two "other hands" above. Well, I said I was of two minds, so shouldn't that entitle me to four hands? That means I still have one in reserve!

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Here's a take on the political context of the Frist / Edwards imagery.

OKAY, THIS IS THE LAST UPDATE: A reader emails:

I found your post thoughtful regarding malpractice suits, but I would add two observations. First, the malpractice issue is a symptom of the real problem, which is government intervention in health care. Prior to the 1960s, there was no "malpractice crises," and there likely would not have been one without the advent of Medicare, Medicaid, and HMOs. It's the government controls that gave rise not just to increased costs, but mediocre physicians as well. There simply are less incentives every year for the best students to go into medicine -- not when then can make a quicker, relatively risk-free buck by becoming a lawyer (a simplistic claim, I admit, but one the admissions numbers for law and medical schools support.)

The second point I would raise is that there is a government alliance at work here, but not necessarily with the trial lawyers, as is the case in the examples you cited. The HMOs and insurers are allied with the government -- notably the FTC and the Justice Department antitrust folks -- in a campaign to prevent physicians getting together to collectively bargain for better compensation. I know, because this has sadly become my specialty in the past year. The FTC has been making examples out of the smallest physician groups in order to scare them into capitulating to large HMO demands. This has nothing to do with protecting competition, as the government claims, but everything to do with passing blame. The government won't admit the failure of their own interventions, so they try and blame the doctors by saying their collective bargaining efforts are unfairly raising patient costs. That the facts don't support this argument is entirely irrelevant, since ultimately the FTC can compel forced settlements out of physicians without going to court.

Sorry for the long post, but I'm getting a little tired of nobody paying attention to this. In some respects, the FTC problem is worse than the malpractice crises. The latter can, and likely will, be fixed with a few legislative adjustments.

Well, there's a cheerful note for you.

WATCH OUT, ANDREW: Oliver Willis is closing in.

KOS'S POLITICAL STATE REPORT is up and running. Check it out. I think this will be very useful, and very interesting.

TIM BLAIR takes on journalistic bloopers and modern media myths.

TED BARLOW IS WONDERING what impact wargames will have on American society's view of war in 20 or 30 years. I don't know -- though I think the impact of computer gaming is likely to be huge, and largely unappreciated.

But here's a piece that Dave Kopel and I wrote on the impact of war-gaming on present-day America. And I think that events over the past year or so have turned out as we hoped.

FRIST AID: First of all, that pun stinks. Memo to journalists: don't use it again!

More seriously, I've been interested to see how much attention the story of Bill Frist's roadside rescue, which I mentioned yesterday, has gotten. Two quick points:

First, the fact that he administered first aid and may have helped some people has, basically, nothing to do with his ability to serve as a Senator, much less Majority Leader -- except, perhaps, that it will make it hard to demonize him as Ebenezer Scrooge returned from the grave, which is the reflexive way Dems treat Republicans. Sorry, new playbook needed guys.

Second, while Frist acquitted himself well, there were (according to a CNN press conference I saw) six other people, including a nurse and a paramedic, who also stopped to help. It seems that some of them even had some medical equipment in their trunks.

The real lesson here is the "pack not a herd" lesson. Official help was nearly a half-hour away, but people with skills and dedication spontaneously organized themselves to do what they could. If we did what I've recommended more than once, here and elsewhere, this sort of thing would happen more often, and more effectively, in a variety of settings.

UPDATE: Reader Jonathan Guest observes: "The reason Frist's roadside assistance is newsworthy is that he's a Senator. Journalists know that most senators are such self absorbed pussies that they'd never think of diving into a situation like that. They'd just wring their hands and go back and pass a law." Well, to be fair, that's only if there were no cameras around.

A huge number of other readers emailed, rather unfairly, that John Edwards would have stopped to help by offering to sue Isuzu or Firestone on the victims' behalf. I believe they may have been inspired by this item -- which is, after all, satire.

UPDATE: Here's the Spoons take on how media coverage ought to be done. But you won't see stories like this until closer to the next election.

ANOTHER UPDATE: And here's an email defending John Edwards, from one of my former students:

I've gone on to be an insurance defense lawyer in Raleigh (putting to work all I learned in your torts class). My firm had a lot of cases with John Edwards when he was still practicing, and continues to do so with his former partner, David Kirby.

I'm not sure I'm what I think of Edwards as a presidential candidate, or whether I'd vote for him, but I wanted to say something in his defense based on the "huge number" of e-mails you've gotten from people saying that Edwards would have offered to sue Isuzu and Firestone if he had been faced with Frist's situation.

Edwards was, in fact, confronted with a similar situation. In 1996, his own teenage son was killed in an accident when his Grand Cherokee rolled over. Edwards did not sue Jeep or whoever the tire manufacturer was. I know that most of the people who thought they were being funny when they sent those e-mails didn't know about Edwards's son, but the jokes become somewhat inappropriate when you know his history.

Well, I didn't, but I do now. And so do they. Here's a link to an article on the subject, too. And this is worth reading, too.

ANOTHER UPDATE: The New Republic thinks it knows why Edwards is running.

THEY'RE TAKING NOMINATIONS for the "Bloggy" Awards.

THIS SOUNDS PRETTY DAMNED TACKY TO ME:

Fairfax County Police are targeting Reston and Herndon area bar-restaurant patrons suspected of having one too many drinks.

Police have been taking them outside for sobriety tests and, if they fail, arresting them for public drunkenness.

The owners of local bar-restaurants are complaining that these tactics are too aggressive. But a county police spokesman says the practice is nothing new and, besides, helps prevent worse abuse that can lead to alcohol-related driving accidents.

Next step: Warrantless visits to your home to see if you're drunk, since -- after all -- you might get in your car and drive somewhere before you sober up.

Ken Layne, through whom I found this story, wants to carpet-bomb the Commonwealth of Virginia. That seems a bit much to me. But if you want to let them know what you think about this, here's the page with their contact information.

There's a picture of George Washington on the website. I can't help but note that the colonial-era response to such tactics would probably have been tarring and feathering.

LILEKS TV IS COMING!

SURFING IN CLASS: Boy, this topic is generating the email. Here's some more -- none of which, I hope, was actually sent from a classroom. Certainly this first one -- which comes from one of my former students -- wasn't:

To quote Woody Allen's famous aphorism, "Seventy percent of success in life is showing up." As a 1999 grad of UTK law, I was quite happy to see my classmates playing Solitaire in class, as I knew that they might as well have stayed home. We did not have wireless Internet in those days, but I suspect that the end result is about the same: those who do not show up (whether in mind or in body) end up paying the price with their class rank and their job prospects. Incidentally, I did extremely well in law school (mostly by showing up and sitting in the back row), notwithstanding the fact that you gave me my lowest grade. : )

Oh, well. Here's another observation:

I'm a 1L at the University of Virginia Law School.

I deliberately avoided the problem you mention by purchasing an ethernet card with a cable. While many of my classmates feel tempted to surf, I can't.

At Virginia, few people complain about others surfing, because (like many schools) the class rows are placed on steeply inclining levels, as one would find a sporting event.

Two other points: (1) Females are much worse than males about emailing, instant messaging, and surfing during class. (2) Only a tiny percentage of our students do it at all (maybe 10% at any given moment), even though students in the middle or bottom of the class have an excellent chance of getting decent jobs. The academic culture here harshly punishes the unprepared. It's a matter of honor.

I was a visiting professor at Virginia (loved the school, but as a then-single guy found Charlottesville deadly) and they do take their honor seriously, though I actually found the students there somewhat less studious than the ones at Tennessee, perhaps because of better job prospects for those in the middle. But that may well have changed since then. Here's more:

I am a 1l at the Ohio State University College of Law, and most classrooms are equipped with a wireless network. I sit in the back of the class in most cases, due to alphabetical seating, so I get a good perspective on the laptop habits of my classmates. I would say that in terms of distracting neighbors, the larger culprit is the games. Solitaire of course is popular, but more and more I see people playing web based flash and java games, ROMs of old nintendo and genesis games, and even internet games through the MS or Yahoo gaming service. If people think that someone checking their email or reading CNN is distracting, they will have big problems when sonic the hedgehog is running across their neighbor's screen. That being said, I have no problems concentrating or ignoring the distractions, and fail to see how someone who has made it all the way here cannot possess the mental dicipline to not spend the whole class period staring at their neighbor's computer.

As for cheating, I have yet to see anything that even smells of cheating with the net or with laptops. Part of the reason is that the school appears to have disabled the wireless network in the classrooms, yet not in the whole building during exams. The result is that the network connects even in the hallway, but when you enter the classroom, it disconnects. Even during earlier tests however, when the network was working during the tests, I never saw anyone with explorer open, let alone cheating. In the end, our tests are open book, and so cheating would be near impossible anyway, unless one opened an instant messenger conversation with another student or something like that.

Yes, law school exams don't lend themselves to cheating, which has the unfortunate side effect of making them harder to grade (and we don't use graders, unlike people in some other disciplines -- we plow through all those bluebooks ourselves.)

Where surfing is concerned, the blame-the-professor angle surfaces:

Having just graduated from UCLA (and done quite well), I can positively state from my own experience that in-class websurfing usually has little to do with any particular student's desire to learn. Law school professors have not been chosen for their ability to teach, especially the professors that have been around for awhile. In-class websurfing is a survival tactic designed to keep the student awake as the professor explains for the fourth time the policy implications of granting ex-parte TROs in highly unlikely hypothetical situations.

Well, speaking as someone who is generally regarded as an "entertaining" teacher, I do have to point out that entertainment isn't the test of good teaching. One of my best professors in law school was deadly dull, but things that he said still bubble up in my brain from time to time. But several readers felt that way. Here's another:

I am no longer a law student, thank God, but when I was reading your blog and the posts on the subject of web-surfing in class, I was shocked that law students were doing that. Here at the University of Memphis, we just don't have that capability. However, I have noticed more and more laptops in the classroom. One student in particular used to pound the keys of her ancient laptop with the fervor of Jerry Lee Lewis in concert. It was very distracting. The newer models of laptops have much quieter keys, but their presence is still annoying when you see people playing video games during class. However, I think this problem of not paying attention in class could easily be solved by teachers at the university level actually teaching and not just droning on and on at the front of the class at a lectern.

I had a teacher at the University of Tennessee who constantly moved around the class as he taught and he asked the students questions and most of the students were attentive.

I had a law professor at the University of Memphis who lectured from the lectern and never moved. He always called on students in alphabetical order, so the rest of the class never paid attention. I, myself read the paper, did crossword puzzles, and passed notes with my fellow students. It did not matter as far as grades went because I knew people who studied hard and paid attention, but made C's and people like me who did relatively nothing and made B's.

However, my point is this: college professors who are researchers and not teachers will not demand or keep students' attention. Professors who are dedicated to teaching will demand and keep their students' attention. A little fear is not a bad thing for a teacher to instill in their students. I was terrified of Robert Banks throughout my law school career, but I studied harder for his classes than any of the rest.

By the way, I had you for a BARBRI session and you were pretty good at keeping the attention of burned out, jaded law school graduates.

Thanks, though the fear of flunking the bar (BAR/BRI is a bar-review course) probably helped hold people's attention, too. . . .

Then there's this example of how wireless networking can produce a "smart mob" that the professor isn't even aware of:

As a recent graduate of Harvard Law ('02) I would like to report that having the internet in the classroom built a collegial atmosphere that stayed with my class for our three years in the school. As you may know, our first year is spent divided into sections each with its own schedule. This meant that we went to every class with the same group of 150 students for basically the entire year. With many of us having seen the Paper Chase before coming to school, imagine our collective relief when we say the numerous Instant Messages that would pop up as the professor bore down with questions. You could pretend to be looking at your notes or materials as you searched the IM's for the consensus answer or to find messages from those you trusted. No longer was it the harsh professor against the lone, scared, student. The entire class helped clandestinely fight every battle, it was all of us against him/her and the professor didn't even know it. Perhaps the positive job market at the time lessened the urge to compete mercilessly, or maybe we were really relieved to find the classroom stocked with normal easygoing people instead of the arrogant cuthroats we heard so much about, but this experience brought our section together. The only danger was that occaisionally, as the Professor kept you on the hook, someone in the class would send you a remark by IM that could never be said aloud. It would take all your effort not to openly crack up, and I distinctly remember at least one time when even that effort wasn't enough. It's kind of hard to explain to the prof. what is so funny about an "easement in perpetuity."

Yeah, it's only the "easements by necessity" that are really funny. Finally, an observation from the pedagogical side about computers in general from a University of Texas faculty member:

I've been reading--with parochial interest--the discussion of students surfing the Web during class. Our school also has a ubiquitous wireless system and my take is similar to your own: a student who fails to pay attention in class, for whatever reason, does so at his own peril. (Or as our technology dean put it, before they were surfing the web they were doing crossword puzzles in my class. Same difference.)

But since I teach the research and writing class, I figured I throw in an observation about another way that law students' affinity for computers can damage their legal education. I've been teaching this class for 10 years and as you would expect students have become far more computer-literate in that time. I now rarely encounter students who are afraid to use online legal research services (Lexis and Westlaw) as I did 10 years ago. Also, because students are familiar with search engines they pick up the mechanics of Lexis and Westlaw searching much more quickly.

On the down side, students in my more recent classes have a much harder time mastering the analytical side of research because they assume that they already know how everything there is to know about online research. In fact, mostly what they've learned to do is enter a query and get a more-or-less relevant hit. There may be more relevant sources out there and there may be better quality sources, but for their purposes those distinctions haven't mattered. When they begin doing legal research, however, suddenly relevance and quality matter a lot and getting just ANY hit isn't enough. Furthermore, legal research often requires them to research slippery and abstract concepts that don't lend themselves to keyword searching. In this environment, if they confine themselves only to what they already know how to do, they aren't likely to get any hits at all. My conversations with practicing lawyers tell me that as a result a lot of new law-school graduates are almost "research-illiterate."

Over the past several years we've been revamping our teaching of legal research to completely integrate use of online services so that students better understand their power and their limitations and are able to rationally choose between print and electronic resources. I can't really say at this point whether we've been successful: it's a work in progress.

That's very true. I have to constantly remind students that just because electronic research is easy doesn't mean it's sufficient. There are many things still to be found in books that are not available on the Web or on commercial services.

The email continues to pour in. I may post more on this later.

BILL HOBBS has been saying that retail sales were better than news reports tended to suggest. He's got another post, with evidence.

READERS OFFER SOME THOUGHTS ON IN-CLASS WEBSURFING:

I sit in the rear center of the classroom, so I can see most of the terminals in front of me.

The sophomores(my class) lost roughly half of those initially enrolled, which is about typical. John and Christy both believe that maintaining standards is paramount, so that is not an issue. By the middle of the first semester, it was obvious that about 6 students were surfing the net full time. Of those, only two survived the freshman year(and neither one is doing well this semester). I took a 2nd year class last spring with the then sophomores, and only one of them
surfed the net. He's completely out now.

The new freshman class is the worst. It's a very young class, with no old coots like me to provide stability. John teaches all the freshman level classes, and he was noting that most of the students are surfing the net constantly, even during tests. It shows in the work that is turned in, which is dreadful. Given the types of questions that I was being asked even in the last week(How do you draw a line at an angle?), it was obvious that these students were not paying attention during class. Granted, a few of them were merely hung-over every morning, but I estimate 17 of 23 will not make it. Of those, 15 are net-surfers. I've told John that I'm not going to worry about competition for jobs from this class.

What concerns John the most is cheating, which he is seeing at a very high rate in the freshman class.

The undergraduate / community college world is very different from law. No doubt we have some degree of cheating, but the essay exams that I give -- which are usually open-book -- stress reasoning, which makes cheating difficult. (The zero-sum world of class-ranking, though it has its downsides, also discourages other students from turning a blind eye to such things). I do, however, make a point of speaking the key parts of at least one exam-question answer sometime during the semester, for the benefit of students who pay close attention.

Another reader writes:

My 2 cents on law school success:

I think your correspondent is 80% right on paying attention in law school.

IMHO, the single most important thing to know to get good grades in law school is: YOU ARE NOT IN CLASS TO LEARN WHAT THE LAW "IS", OR WHAT THE LAW "SHOULD BE." YOU ARE THERE TO FIND OUT *WHAT THE PROFESSOR WANTS YOU TO WRITE DOWN ON YOUR FINAL EXAM.*

This has a few practical implications. First, the single best study method is anything which lets you see inside the prof's thought processes. Read old 4-point exams to see what writing style he prefers, pull a couple of his articles for the same reason. (If he wrote one of the commercial outlines - goldmine).

Second, the second best method is paying attention in class, but specifically to see (1) how the prof approaches problems and (2) what the prof's particular themes are. Is he interested in irreconcilable conflicts (e.g. justice/mercy, strict contract compliance/intent of the drafters), law and econ, "litigants' stories", or what?

(It's worth mentioning that "law school realism" is defensible on something other than pure results. Lawyers are going into the world to learn to communicate with judges, juries, clients, opposing counsel, supervising attorneys, etc. Learning how to tailor a message to a specific audience is one of the key practical skills one can get out of law school.)

A bit cynical, but largely sound. On a more positive note, there's this observation:

Personally, I love looking up stuff the guy up front is talking about as he talks. I think this could be deadly in Q&A sessions--it's a new dimension to rapid response.

My brother sometimes assigns a couple of students to do just this in his history classes.

Another reader adds this less-positive perspective:

"Students who don't pay attention in class are likely to do badly on the exam. That's their problem, not mine." Posted Jan 1, 2003 11:38pm

Unfortunately, it also turns out to be MY problem, too. I'm certain I'm not alone in the category of law students who would love to pay attention in class, and who hope to avoid looking dumb when called on, but are too often distracted by their peers' web surfing, keyboard pounding, and mouse clicking to concentrate properly. Don't get me wrong, I love the net and all that comes with it (blogs included), but perhaps wired schools should install some sort of on/off switch for the professors to control when teaching, so that the internet may be accessible when desired (e.g., for use as an instructional tool or some other useful purpose) and be similarly inaccessible when desired. You're right, these are grownups, and they use technology at their own peril, but there might be more than their grades at stake - can't we at least pretend that there's still some value to education, as an institutional enterprise (inspiring young minds) apart from the grades=job equation? If a slight patriarchal nudge from you and other professors gets a few students' minds off the net and into the classroom, I'd say it's worth it.

Interesting stuff. My advice: sit in the front row! Then you won't see the screens. As for the rest, well, by the time students are in law school, if they don't care enough about learning to avoid distraction, then I'm not sure that I can help. (The undergraduate world is very different, but most undergraduates won't be able to get into law school. Even at the University of Tennessee, a good but not top-level school, our median is the 75th percentile, and that's among the self-selected group of law school applicants.)

But my laissez-faire attitude on this could change, with evidence. I'd be interested to hear more, especially from my law student readers.

HEY -- yesterday was the 20th anniversary of the Internet (well, the TCP/IP protocol, which is close enough) and I didn't even notice. But Mr. Mustard did.

JUSTIN KATZ has a vlog entry on independent music -- and it features the first-ever video-fisking done entirely via facial expressions.

The inexorable march of vlogging moves on. . . .

TALKLEFT CALLS CHARLES RANGEL'S DRAFT PROPOSAL "despicable."

NO, I AM NOT the Antichrist. I feel sure that that position pays better than what I get. Nor am I one of James Carville's blogger shock troops. Nor am I paid by Grover Norquist (er, though, Grover, if you're reading this, the PayPal button is over there on the left. . . . Oh, and you, too, James!). And I'm not a computer program, which should be obvious from my lack of repetitious machine-made tics. Heh. Indeed.

Gee, it must be hard to be an anonyblogger, if you can generate this much speculation while using your real name!

UPDATE: Reader Alex Bensky writes:

I have written the Mean Dean to set his mind--and I hope yours--at ease. You cannot possibly be the Antichrist. Jerry Falwell said not too long ago that the Antichrist is a male Jew living now.

Now, Professor Reynolds, I'm not saying anything one way or the other, but one day you may be glad that I like your blog so much.

What bothers me is that the email turned black and blew away after I read it. . . .

January 01, 2003

PROFESSORS VIE WITH WEB for class's attention. We have what's claimed to be the biggest wireless network anywhere -- it covers our whole campus, indoors and out, and all of the classrooms. I'm sure that we get this, too. I don't worry about it much. Students who don't pay attention in class are likely to do badly on the exam. That's their problem, not mine.

I also tend to wander around the room a lot (I'm one of those don't-stay-behind-the-lectern professors), which may discourage some of that behavior. And I tend to call on the students who don't seem engaged. But I don't make any particular effort to ensure that students aren't surfing or IM-ing or whatever. They're grownups. If they're willing to risk their grades, and to look dumb when they're called on, well, I'm willing for them to do that too.

I don't log their IP addresses when they visit my blog like Jeff Cooper, either. He has this observation, though, with which I heartily agree:

Finally, students—especially first-year students—should not underestimate the impact that failure to pay attention in class may ultimately have. I'm now in my seventh year of teaching, and I've noticed that over time student comprehension of material covered in class has declined as laptop use has increased. In particular, the results of last year's exams showed that large numbers of students failed to grasp and retain points that I emphasized in class. Time after time, students memorized the so-called black letter law but failed to understand any of the subtleties of application. It's those subtleties that make up much of the practice of law, and it's those subtleties that provide fodder for classroom discussion. It's possible, to be sure, that I've become a worse teacher, although I like to think that's unlikely, given that both my command of the material and my comfort in front of the class have improved dramatically over time. More likely, I think, is that students simply aren't paying attention as they used to—and they're paying a price.

I'm not sure I've noticed such a steady decline -- and at any rate, it may be related to many years of good job prospects even for students not at the top of their classes -- but he's right about overreliance on black-letter law. One side-effect of computers, in and out of class, is that they tend to discourage focus and encourage flitting around. I think that law students need focus when they study.

DONALD SENSING HAS MOVED to a new URL (off of Blogspot!). Drop by his new digs, and adjust your bookmarks.

ERIC LINDHOLM, known to the blogosphere for his Smarter Harper's Index, now has a weblog, too! And it's chock-full of bloggy goodness.

SORRY, BUT THIS GUY'S GOING TO BE HARDER TO DEMONIZE than, say, Newt Gingrich:

An Isuzu Rodeo with six people aboard was heading west on Alligator Alley when it rolled over 3 to 4 miles west of the toll plaza in Broward County at 3:51 p.m., Broward Fire-Rescue Assistant Chief Todd Leduc said.

All six, including three children, were thrown out as the vehicle rolled. A 10-year-old boy died on the scene; another passenger died later at a hospital.

Frist, 50, was driving east on the highway, the Everglades portion of Interstate 75, heading to a family vacation home in Fort Lauderdale with his two sons when he came across the accident minutes after it happened.

He stopped and went to work checking the victims. When paramedics arrived, he pointed them to the ones in the most severe condition. Frist helped paramedics and several off-duty firefighters stabilize the victims until they were transported to area hospital after about 30 minutes.

This stuff just keeps happening.

UPDATE: Gweilo Diaries points out that Alexander Cockburn is trying. Well, yeah.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Laurence Simon explores alternative scenarios.

MIKE ALISSI DEBUNKS a Nexis-based story on "conservative media bias" from The American Prospect.

PEOPLE ARE ALWAYS TALKING ABOUT "CATBLOGGING," but here's an example of dog-blogging.

UPDATE: I've added a cat image of my own. Hey, cat-blogging is fun. . . .

ANOTHER UPDATE: Oliver Willis takes dog-blogging to a whole new level.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Now Colby Cosh is doing it. Jeez, is this some kind of awful trend for 2003?

WELL, HERE'S A GOOD WAY TO RE-ENERGIZE THE DEMOCRATS: Drudge is reporting on "Anti-abortion advocates preparing major push for new abortion restrictions in new Congress."

Abortion and cloning. Two reasons why I'm not a Republican.

DAVID LETTERMAN IS MEDIA MENSCH OF THE YEAR, according to the New York Observer.

Good call.

UPDATE: Bryan Preston agrees.

WELL, MY COVER is blown, apparently. All I can say is 101011010010001110.

SELFLESS IN YEMEN: Here's a reminiscence of work at the Baptist hospital where an Islamic fundamentalist gunned down doctors recently. BTW, a reader emailed to say that when Yemeni TV has shown pictures of the hospital, they've blocked out the signs that indicate it's a Baptist institution.

THIS could turn out to be fairly big:

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The State Department is accusing two leading aerospace companies of illegally providing rocket technology to China that could be used for intercontinental missiles.

Hughes Electronics Corp. and Boeing Satellite Systems Inc. are accused of illegally giving technical data to China following failed launches by China of rockets carrying American satellites in 1995 and 1996.

I've seen reports on this before, but I think the climate is such that it may be a bigger deal in the coming year.

IF BAPTISTS OR CATHOLICS were throwing this kind of a -- violent --hissy fit I'd be giving them a lot of grief. And so would a lot of other people.

But in this case it's Israeli Arab muslims. I'm still giving them grief: "Hey, guys, you're theocratic assholes!" Let's see if the people who would be savaging the critics of Robert Mapplethorpe or Larry Flynt join in. Excerpt:

Amal Kashua, a 38-year-old mother of eight, was set upon by a mob last week in Tira, a prosperous Arab community in central Israel. "Yussuf," a Palestinian known only as Amir, was beaten too. They went to hospital under police guard, then into hiding.

Shamed by association, Kashua's relatives disowned her. . . .

"The whole town is satisfied and dissatisfied at once," said local man Fathi Sultan. "Satisfied at what happened, because we tried to protect our honor, but on the other hand dissatisfied because she (Kashua) didn't die, nor her husband."

The real problem, though, isn't theocratic violence, but cultural insensitivity:

"This is a blow to the sensitivity of Muslims everywhere," said Tira attorney Ihab Galgoly, who was representing two men arrested on suspicion of leading the assault on the couple.

"We are considering suing the producers for breach of the law guaranteeing human dignity and freedom."

Why do Arabs have so little credibility? Maybe it's trying to kill people for making porn, and then threatening to sue them for "insensitivity"? Jeez, this is beyond pathetic. It's evidence of a deep-rooted cultural sickness in Arab society today -- one that is ignored by many westerners who would have no trouble recognizing it for what it is if it appeared in, say, Mississippi.

JEFF JARVIS HAS SOME GOOD ADVICE for the Democrats on how to win the punditry wars. I agree with him that Josh Marshall ought to be on TV more. He's got a lot of other good advice, which I started to excerpt, but never mind -- just go read it all. He's on a roll.

ERIC PETERS says that MADD needs to admit victory:

However, there is no evidence that minimal BAC levels of .06 or less — which are reached after a normal-sized person has had a single drink, no more — correlate with a greater likelihood of having an accident as a result of diminished capacity.

It's one thing to lock up the person who is weaving all over the road — quite another to arrest a person at a sobriety checkpoint simply because he has trace amounts of alcohol in his blood.

The anti-drunk-driving groups have done a great service in helping to enlighten the general public — and make it socially unacceptable to drive while drunk. But knowing when to say "when" applies just as equally to social and legal policy. Just because we went on a bender in the past doesn't mean neo-Prohibitionism is the answer today. Reasonable people favor reasonable laws.

And that should satisfy all but the crazies — who should be kept away from the levers of power regardless.

Yes. As I've written before, I think that MADD has succumbed to the institutional corruption that afflicts all public-interest groups in time. Promoting the organization -- which requires a constant flow of new policy items, regardless of how half-baked -- eventually takes over from the goal of actually accomplishing something worthwhile.

Heck, to the extent that they discourage moderate drinking MADD may actually be killing people, rather than saving lives. Is that silly? Sure, but no sillier than some of the things that they say.

ATRIOS has come out of the closet and has "unmasked" himself (er, well, sort of)as Gene Lyons. Which would explain a lot. . . .

UPDATE: Plowing through last night's email I found a message from Razib asking if I am actually Atrios, running a clever disinformation operation. Heh. That would explain a lot, too, wouldn't it?

ANOTHER UPDATE: Note the presence of ellipses above.

WATCHING a few of the shows around midnight last night, I was struck by the spirit of defiance: Times Square revelers with American flags, dismissing terrorists; Robin Williams on Letterman making fun of mullahs in Afghanistan; some comic I didn't know on Leno doing the same while urging that everyone should be his own Air Marshal.

And people were right to be defiant. They're still out there, and they still want to kill us. But when New Year's passes without incident (reportedly with a bigger crowd at Times Square than at the millennium celebrations), and when Islamists are the butt of late-night jokes, the terrorists have lost another round.

UPDATE: Reader Matt Howell emails:

That comic on Leno last night who talked about the air marshals was Jay Mohr. He's been around for a few years, having a brief stint on SNL before the Will Ferrell-Darrell Hammond-Chris Kattan cast came in, and then having a pretty decent career as an actor and stand-up comic since. He actually starred in his own show called Action! on FX, where he played a crazy Hollywood producer. It was one of those really funny shows that for some reason didn't find an audience.

It sure didn't find me. But then, any show that depended on me for its audience would be in deep trouble.

HAPPY NEW YEAR! Here's a blogger prediction roundup from John Hawkins.

December 31, 2002

EDWARD BOYD IS BACK! Maybe it will be a happy new year.

But will Scoble get his wish?

Either way, happy new year! I'll see you tomorrow.

THESE PHOTOS of Iranian actress Hedieh Tehrani aren't very exciting to Americans. But they're creating a sensation in Iran:

This is because nobody in Iran has ever seen her body or her hair in a film or even in public, for Islamic laws prevent Iranian women to apear in public without covering their body and their hair (thanks God, not their faces though, like many Arab women). Aside from the fact that these photos might result in serious damages to her career as a successful and well-paid actress in the future, they can also reveal the huge gap between the private and public lives and values of Iranian people, which is absolutely an outcome of extreme Islamic rules and religon-derived traditional culture.

I find that gap hopeful. Visit WomeninIran.com, too, and hope that this time next year things there will be better. It certainly will if these women have anything to say about it.

ON NEW YEAR'S EVE, A LITTLE LIQUID COURAGE seems, well, appropriate, somehow.

Here at Stately InstaPundit Manor, it's a quiet night. My mother's recently-scoped knee is bothering her more today than yesterday (I think the drugs were still having some effect for the first 24 hours) so she's staying here tonight; she's reading my daughter a "Samantha" story at the moment. I have another half-dozen exams to grade, and I'll probably celebrate the New Year, or at least the end of the old year, with a glass of Remy XO, followed by ZZZ.

I'll likely post again before it's all over.

AN OBSERVATION that sadly will be just as true next year, from Juan Gato:

You know, I'd feel a lot better about the world if I could find some "rebel" group out there actually fighting for liberty rather than for the privilege of stamping everyone under their particular boot.

Yep.

JAY MANIFOLD HAS PREDICTIONS for the coming year. Spoons reviews his track record for the past year. And Kevin McGeehee boldly predicts:

Michael Moore will say something that actually makes sense -- and promptly retract it, claiming he'd been taken out of context.

And Virginia Postrel demonstrates that one of my predictions has already come true!

VLOGGING FOR THE NEW YEAR: Jeff Jarvis rounds up the reactions to his video-blogging ("vlogging") experiment. Follow the link to his videohosting service, be a little patient with the multiple windows it spawns, and watch several new vlogs.

I'm not sure exactly how this relates to blogging, but it's very, very cool stuff.

HAPPY NEW YEAR:

U.S. intelligence officials have identified approximately 15 cargo freighters around the world that they believe are controlled by al Qaeda or could be used by the terrorist network to ferry operatives, bombs, money or commodities over the high seas, government officials said.

American spy agencies track some of the suspicious ships by satellites or surveillance planes and with the help of allied navies or informants in overseas ports. But they have occasionally lost track of the vessels, which are continually given new fictitious names, repainted or re-registered using invented corporate owners, all while plying the oceans. . . .

"If the Coast Guard can't stop 200 people on a freighter from coming into the port of Miami, how can they stop a terrorist with a dirty bomb?" asked Bruce Stubbs, a former Coast Guard captain and now a security consultant.

Long-term, this is likely to put an end to flags of convenience and to introduce the maritime industry to a degree of regulation it has escaped so far. My feelings on that: very mixed.

UPDATE: I wonder if there's a North Korea connection?

BRYAN PRESTON is back and blogging up a storm.

ETHICS AND ETHICISTS, CLONING, IMMIGRATION, LOW-CARB DIETS, AND REFERRAL TRAFFIC: Virginia Postrel has posted a bunch of new stuff on her blog, and there's something for everyone!

MORE GOOD NEWS ABOUT BOOZE: And at such an opportune moment! But this passage is troubling:

Thirty years ago, policy makers just preferred to keep the whole conundrum quiet. The Framingham study, which began to examine risks for heart disease in 1948, was one of the first big studies to find heart benefits from alcohol. One of its researchers, Dr. Carl Seltzer, wrote in a short 1996 memoir that when he and his colleagues informed their government sponsors at the National Heart and Lung Institute in 1972 of these findings, they were forbidden to publish them.

Isn't this, sort of, like tobacco companies covering up bad news because it would hurt their agenda? It seems reasonable to believe that quite a few lives could have been saved had this research not been suppressed.

And this underscores a point that I've made before: claims that the politicization of science is something that only the Bush Administration is engaged in are, well, lies. Public health has always been politicized, which is one reason why people are distrustful today.

BLOG COVERAGE OF THE BOALT SEX SCANDAL has broken out of the Internet and into California legal newspapers. Stefan Sharkansky has a post here, XLRQ comments here, but so far no word from Erin O'Connor, who has been on hiatus for the holidays.

I haven't read the article in question, since it's not on the web, though Sharkansky features lengthy excerpts. Big Media reporting, though, isn't coming off very well in these first-person accounts of being interviewed on the question.

ALTERMAN CLAIMS that the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy has taken over the New York Times.

I tried to reach Ann Coulter for comment, but all I got was a recording of what seemed to be her voice, saying "Buwhahaha!"

THIMEROSAL UPDATE: This post from The Bloviator spells out a lot of the legislative issues more clearly than the mainstream press coverage I've read. Advantage: Bloviator!

TONY WOODLIEF RESPONDS TO CRITICS, and very cogently, too:

Well, since you asked, we aren't the world's policeman, until the world goes and gets itself in another bind, usually involving the Germans directly or indirectly, and requiring some sort of rescue of the French, during which they will try to overcharge us for amenities. Come the wet-ass hour, to quote Al Pacino, we are everybody's daddy. So no, the Europeans don't want us involved, because they are too busy having fun pretending, now that we've defeated the U.S.S.R., that somehow they can manage their own safety without actually having armies, and while selling technology and weapons to terrorists and communist China. About the time they have their fat heads in a noose, made of rope they've sold at EU-subsidized prices to their executioners, then they'll start carping about how isolationist and hard-hearted we are. So the Europeans can bite me. And another thing -- it may be fashionable for liberals whose sole source of education is the E Channel to deride Ronald Reagan as an idiot, but he is a hero, that's right, a hero to millions of East Europeans, because he had the moral courage to call the Soviet Union what it was -- an Evil Empire -- while the slack-shouldered agnostics ladling out second-rate education in our nation's colleges were too busy sipping cappuccino and banging co-eds to recognize that communism is responsible for more state-sponsored murder than ten Nazi holocausts. So to answer your question, no, we aren't the world's policeman, but when there are people out there who want to kill me and my children, and they are actively seeking the means to do so, then my personal philosophy is that you kill them and everything within a ten-mile radius of them, post freaking haste. And if the U.N. doesn't like it, they can pack their louse-filled bags and hold their busy little seminars on gender inequality and structural racism on somebody else's dime. Since you asked, I mean.


Plus he has this stirring observation: "This website may not change the world, but by golly, it sure makes me feel better." Us too, Tony.

IN A BIT OF DUBIOUS MORAL EQUIVALENCE, Josh Marshall is comparing the Administration's treatment of North Korea with Ruby Ridge.

He's quoting someone else here, but I think he's agreeing.

UPDATE: David Adesnik at OxBlog responds to Marshall's earlier post on anti-Americanism.

ANOTHER UPDATE: "Gene Lyons," nee Atrios, thinks that this post was unfair to Josh Marshall. But Josh and I discussed this by email within minutes of its appearing, and I offered to change the post if he thought it characterized his views unfairly. He said no.

TIM BLAIR HAS PREDICTIONS FOR 2003: I hope that at least one of them doesn't come true. . . .

NEW YEAR'S AT TIMES SQUARE -- some thoughts from Michele:

I've lived in New York my entire life and never once have I gone into the city for the New Year's Eve celebration in Times Square. Why anyone would want to stand out in the freezing cold with half a million people, most of them trying to feel you up or steal your wallet as they brush up against you, is beyond me.

I can have just as much fun getting drunk at home and letting my husband feel me up. And he won't try to steal my wallet.

Yeah, baby! Oh, and she's got a poll on blogging up, too.

INTERESTING DEVELOPMENT IN PARIS:

A former soldier who alerted police to a bomb and weapons cache at Paris' biggest international airport has himself been taken into custody.

The man raised the alarm when he said he saw a weapon in the car of an airport baggage handler at Roissy-Charles de Gaulle airport.

The original story -- that a passerby saw weapons in the trunk -- seemed a bit odd to me, but I thought it might just be a cover story to protect an informant or some such. But while the weapons found were real, the question of how they got there now appears, well, complex.

ROBERT MUSIL WONDERS when Paul Krugman will discover the power of Google.

ANDREW SULLIVAN is making his year-end awards. Read 'em, then go to Kausfiles to find out what they really mean!

SGT. STRYKER SAYS THAT CHARLES RANGEL IS WRONG ABOUT THE DRAFT: Me, I just think it's funny that it's the Democrats calling for a draft now. I don't see this as a winning political strategy, though.

UPDATE: A reader likes the Rangel approach and wants to extend it:

I say, excellent idea! Next, New York's very own Sir Charles with the lifetime seat will put forward legislation requiring all Congressfolk to send their kids to public schools. Perhaps this will help re-focus the debate on education reform.

We're more likely to see the draft back first, I think. And we're not likely to see that at all.

UPDATE: Reader Arthur Fleischman notes that the essence of Rangel's strategy is to have a draft so that people can oppose it, and asks:

Basically, isn't Mr. Rangel's proposal one which is designed to reduce the capability of the military while increasing opposition to our government's policies?

That's what Stryker thinks. And I think he's right.

THANKS, JIM! My final TechCentralStation column of the year is up. It was inspired by Jim Henley.

December 30, 2002

DON'T BAN CLONING:

Not only is the U.S. position - complete prohibition - extreme, but even the more conservative, limited ban is insupportable. . . .

But legal prohibition - national or international - is a poor answer. Even if a new law or treaty were able to eliminate reproductive cloning from most of the world, practitioners would likely spring up in places with minimal regulation, next door to the quack cancer and fountain of youth clinics. The actions of rogue cloners in these wholly unregulated milieus could be disastrous.

The potential problems of cloning are, arguably, best left to the forces of the marketplace and the existing protections of national legal systems. If, as experts expect, reproductive cloning is largely unsuccessful, its practitioners will find themselves without clients. If they fail to deliver on their contractual obligations or cause death or injury to an infant, they may be subject to various civil and criminal legal strictures, including fraud, breach of contract, criminal negligence, and manslaughter. They might even be subject, ultimately, to "wrongful life" suits brought by the clone or its agents.

If bureaucrats pursue a legal prohibition , it is likely that they, the research community and society at large will be confounded by the law of unintended consequences.

Yes. I keep waiting for some clear explanation of why cloning is so awful that it must be banned, but nothing I've heard really gets much past the "it gives me the willies" argument. Which isn't an argument at all.

UPDATE: Bigwig is all over the cloning issue. Start at this link and scroll up.

LARRY MILLER on Cardinal Law:

So. Here's the thing. Law knew. He always knew. He denied it for years, and he covered it up his whole career; and you know he did. Worse, he knows he did, and, worst of all (for him), God knows he did. Time after time, as a matter of official policy, he hip-checked the victims and their families (and their nightmares), and, in return for their written promises not to say anything, he threw a few bucks onto their floors.

Why? He liked his job, and he didn't want to leave. He was--what's the word?--selfish, and he waited and weighed the world's reactions with the calmness of a drunken billionaire watching the stock-ticker at his club (a guy I hope to be someday, by the way).

And finally, only when the awful calculus told him things were looking dim, he resigned. Not because he had seen the light and decided to do the honorable thing, but because he assessed his chances and did the only thing he could. Gee, thanks.

Here's what Cardinal Law should have said a long time ago, here's what he should say now, here's what he will never say: "Every time a monster destroyed a boy's life by following his sick urges, it was horrible beyond words. And it was all infinitely worse because the offenders acted in the employ of God. I knew these things happened, and I did nothing. In fact, often I saw to it that the malefactors could continue on professionally. If it happened even once, it was the worst thing in the world, but it happened far more than once. If I thought I was helping my church by my actions, I was wrong. By these actions I might as well have been saying, 'Go ahead. I just won't look.' I cannot ask for the forgiveness of the victims, because too much time and horror has passed. Instead, I will spend the rest of my life fighting this evil as God's representative in protecting the innocent. In other words, being a priest."

He has some thoughts on Trent Lott, too.

MSNBC'S VIEWERSHIP MAY BE DISAPPOINTING, but its website is Number One in readers among news sites. That kind of surprised me, though I suppose it's not really that big a shock when you allow for the big MSN audience.

NEW YEAR'S EVE PLANS: Gawker has a list of suggestions. Some make me wish I still lived in New York. Others make me glad I don't.

WILL VEHRS REVIEWS THE YEAR IN PUNDITRY. Don't miss it.

I THINK THAT GWEILO DIARIES HAS THIS RIGHT:

The Saudis provided -- at a minimum -- money to al Qaeda. I know it. Kleiman knows it. Graham knows it. You know it. The administration knows it. The Saudis damn sure know it. Al Qaeda knows it. The families of the victims know it. I'll lay odds that my Chinese taxi-driver on the way home tonight knows it. Yet its classified?!?

What's this, the betrayal that dare not speak its name?

If the Bush administration's plan does not ultimately include regime change in Saudi Arabia, it is destined for failure and the President is going to lose a lot of supporters very quickly. This had all better be part of a brilliant Machiavellian strategy to oust the House of Saud, while Poppy Bush lulls them into a false sense of security by groveling before them for donations to that sanctuary for the needy and oppressed, Andover Academy.

I can understand not pressing the Saudi issue at the moment, but the above is absolutely right.

THE HISPANOSPHERE: Jim Bennett writes on some changes in Latin America.

MORE ON THIMEROSAL: Mark Kleiman is pointing out a problem that Dr. Manhattan has also noted: the controversial amendment to the Homeland Security bill may not have been anonymous, since Dick Armey has admitted being behind it, but it is, ahem, screwed up. Here's Kleiman's email description, which is particularly clear, and which I think is right (email me if I'm wrong):

1. Frist offered a bill to get Eli Lilly off the hook on thimerosal in the Senate. No hearings were held.

2. That provision appeared in neither the House nor the Senate version of the Homeland Security bill as passed before the election, since it has nothing to do with homeland security.

3. After the election, a version was reported out by the conference committee, with lots of stuff, including the thimerosal language, that hadn't been in either bill.

4. There's no mystery about who put it in: Armey did. But Armey had no particular interest in the thimerosal stuff. The "mystery" is who asked him to put it in. Frist, the author, specifically says he didn't. But no one will say who did. The natural suspect is Mitch Daniels; the early reports were that the pressure came from "the White House," and Daniels is an ex-officer of Lilly and planning to go back to Indiana, where Lilly is based, to run for governor.

5. The Frist version had a necessary conforming amendment to the Internal Revenue Code. The Armey version, the one that passed, didn't. As a result, the bill as passed blocks all lawsuits and directs the claims to VICP, but the VICP trust fund is still barred by law from paying any such claim.

6. All the thimerosal claims are time-barred by the terms of VICP. Neither the Frist version nor the Armey version deals with that.

So unless the thing gets undone, the families are out of luck. Not being a lawyer, I'm not sure why denying someone the right to press a damages claim isn't the sort of "taking" that requires compensation.

Well, as for the last, the answer is that lots of things that ought to be considered "takings" that require compensation aren't treated as such. (And don't even get me started on "qualified immunity"). But this -- unlike the bogus "anonymity" claims that have been raised earlier -- seems like an actual issue, and one that deserves to be addressed.

And why wasn't Bill Keller's column on this, or Eleanor Clift's, this clear and to the point? Were they so anxious to try to pin something on Frist that they missed the real story here? Maybe someone should just give Kleiman a bigshot oped slot.

SORRY FOR THE LIGHT POSTING: My mother had knee surgery and I had to pick her up and bring her here, where she's staying for the night. She's doing fine now.

Er, and a bit of advice: yes, if you do aerobics and go running while wearing heavy ankle weights, it will tone you very impressively. But there is a price. . . .

I've posted on this before, but via Ann Salisbury I notice that Kos's Political State Report is still looking for correspondents. Drop by and sign up if you're interested.

I also agree with Ann that we really need a good, sharp increase in defense spending to meet America's global responsibilities. . . .

NOW THE UNITED STATES IS BEING CRITICIZED FOR EXCESSIVE MULTILATERALISM!

SEOUL (Reuters) - North Korea (news - web sites) said Tuesday it is only the United States that can solve the dispute of its nuclear weapons, warning Washington that internationalizing the issue would bring "uncontrollable catastrophe."

"There is no need for the third party to meddle in the nuclear issue on the peninsula. The issue should be settled between the DPRK (North Korea) and the U.S., the parties responsible for it," said the North's ruling-party newspaper, the Rodong Sinmun.

"If the U.S. persistently tries to internationalize the pending issue between the DPRK and the U.S. in a bid to flee from its responsibility, it will push the situation to an uncontrollable catastrophe," it said.

Those damned cowboy Americans, always trying to round up a posse and bring the whole community into dealing with wrongdoers, instead of doing things one-to-one like civilized people. . . .

I guess we just can't win. Which, I suppose, is the whole idea.

FINANCIAL ISSUES at TomPaine.Com:

But liberals smelled a rat. Drug company Eli Lilly had long sought the clarification, and TomPaine.com, a left-wing Internet publication, promised $10,000 to whomever could conclusively document how the provision found its way into the bill. On December 12, TomPaine.com got its answer. "I did it," House Majority Leader Dick Armey said on a CBS newscast. "I'm proud of it."

Now Mr. Armey has asked TomPaine.com to send the reward to the Cornerstone Community School, a nonprofit private school in Washington for disadvantaged children. But the Web site is balking and has now issued a clarification. "What TomPaine.com is looking for is THE PERSON WHO *ASKED* ARMEY to ALLOW it to happen," it says in characteristic feverishness, braying that "Public officials who work secret deals like this are cowards," and that "democracy requires accountability."

Since TomPaine.com brings up the subject of accountability, it's worth noting that the organization has its own issues regarding ownership. According to its Web site and filings with the Internal Revenue Service, the publication is wholly bankrolled to the tune of $2 million by the Florence Fund, a tax-exempt organization whose purpose is "to invigorate public debate by helping public interest groups put their messages and work products before larger audiences or target audiences more deeply." Of particular interest to the Florence Fund is "the role of money in politics." But what's the role of money in the organization itself?

In its initial tax filings with the IRS in 1999, the Florence Fund claimed over $6.25 million in pledged money.

Jeez, if I'd known they were that rich, I'd have claimed the ten grand for real! Though I guess Armey has a prior claim.

BROCK YATES reports that Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle may turn out to be right.

PATTY MURRAY said that if we did more humanitarian work, like Osama bin Laden did, we'd see less terrorism. That was profoundly dumb on many levels, but here's another example of why:

Three American humanitarian workers were shot and killed at a hospital in southern Yemen, by a man the authorities described as a fundamentalist extremist. They said that he went into the room where the workers were gathered at about 8:30 a.m. local time.

A fourth was wounded in another room in the attack, which took place at a missionary-run hospital in the town of Jibla, the officials said. This individual was later reported to be undergoing surgery.

The man, whom they said was a suspected Islamist militant, was subsequently arrested. He was believed to be a student at Yemen's al-Iman university. . . .

The dead staff were identified as the hospital's administrator, Bill Cane, 60; an obstetrician, Dr. Mersa Miers, and the storage department manager, whose full name was not immediately known.

According to the Yemen Times newspaper, the doctor had spent several years doing humanitarian work in the country.

It doesn't matter if you're a humanitarian: you're still just a target to these people.

Meanwhile, the UPI story contains a bit of editorializing that proves that Patty Murray isn't the only one who's profoundly dumb:

Yemen has seen the widespread possession and use of weapons throughout the country, especially in rural areas.

Yeah. As the reader who sent this link notes, "If we could only take away their guns, then they'd have nothing but airliners with which to attack."

JACKSON DIEHL WRITES that the conventional wisdom on American unilateralism is wrong. It ties in well with this post, below, and especially with this essay by John Hawkins.

STEPHANIE SIMON AT THE LOS ANGELES TIMES reports on the most segregated city in America -- Milwaukee:

The furor over GOP Mississippi Sen. Trent Lott's praise for a former segregationist candidate for president has focused attention on the long history of racial division in the South. These days, however, the gulf between white and black is widest in the North.

Interesting story.

KATE MALCOLM, at Kitchen Cabinet reports that U.N. inspectors seem to be bungling their interviews of Iraqi scientists. I'm shocked.

THIS KEEPS HAPPENING:

Police have arrested a baggage handler at Paris' Charles de Gaulle airport, after two automatic weapons, plastic explosives and a detonator were found in his car.

The man, who is reportedly of Algerian origin, was arrested late on Saturday after a tip-off from a member of the public who saw a weapon in a car boot at the airport. . . .

In total, nine arrests have been made since 16 December, when four people were arrested in the Paris suburb of La Courneuve.

All those arrested are said to be of Algerian or Moroccan origin.

The arrests stem from an investigation into possible connections between Islamic militants in Europe and Chechnya.

Keep your eye on this.

December 29, 2002

SUMAN PALIT has a bunch of interesting new posts. Read 'em, if you're so inclined.

JOSH MARSHALL warns about U.S. unilateralism, and suggests that it would be nice if we shared this world-leadership thing a bit.

Porphyrogenitus agrees, and fantasizes about letting Europe take care of the whole North Korea problem:

Thinking further about this, perhaps it's time to let our EU peers, who believe they should have a full share of leadership alongside the U.S., take the lead in this crisis. This is, after all, only reasonable since the reactor North Korea is using for its plutonium production, designed and built not for energy production but for weapons programs, was designed and built for North Korea by Europeans (Germany, to be exact).


37,000+ French, Italian, Dutch, German, et al troops can replace the American troops on the peninsula and be responsible for serving as a "tripwire" in case of North Korean attack. They can take the lead in deciding how to diffuse this one, and if they decide force is needed, they can bear the lion share of the burden - our troops are busy elsewhere, and our full partners should be able to handle this one while we handle the other. Oh, the U.S. won't be out of the picture - like I said, it will be role reversal. The EU will be expected to "consult" with us at every turn, whatever moves they make will be subjected to un-constructive criticism, and if they make even the smallest of mistakes we'll be quick with the finger of blame.

But, as he notes, Europe can't do it, and wouldn't do it if it could. Which is the problem. I don't think many Americans -- except maybe Bill Kristol -- actually want America to be the world's hyperpower. We'd love to see responsible and capable allies picking up the global-policeman duties. But Europe couldn't even deal with the Balkans -- a minor threat in its own backyard -- without American help. And everyone else, aside from Britain and Australia, is worse.

It's not leadership by our fault. It's leadership by default.

Meanwhile Rantburg notes that the anti-Americanism seems pretty shallow -- like Gerhard Schroder, Roh is trying to throttle it back now that he's been elected and has to actually govern. Like Gerhard, though, he'll discover that America doesn't forget this stuff. Chris Lawrence makes a similar observation.

UPDATE: Juan Gato emails to remind me to link this essay by John Hawkins entitled "confessions of an isolationist wannabe," from earlier this year. I had linked it when it was new, but Gato's right -- it belongs in this discussion. This post is worth reading, too.

TIM CAVANAUGH reports on something missing from this year's poll of top religious stories. You'll never guess what it is.

HISTORICAL ILLITERACY at the New York Times. They could at least have used Google.

THE FBI IS ASKING FOR YOUR HELP, but Kathy Kinsley is skeptical.

A WORRY about strong digital identification systems that's worth reading.

"USEFUL IDIOTS" -- Mark Steyn comments on the risible Archibishop of Canterbury and his fellow churchmen. Excerpt:

How naive do you have to be to swallow that baloney? The Wise Men were Herod's patsies, his useful idiots. Now who does that sound like? Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld? Or Dr Williams, Sean Penn and George Galloway, to name just three of the legions of "wise men" who insist that their appeasement of Saddam demonstrates their superior insight and intelligence?

Penn and Galloway are just following their America-is-always-wrong instincts. By contrast, in tortuously bending the Gospels to his political needs, Dr Williams distorts his faith at least as much as (according to "Muslim moderates") al-Qa'eda does Islam. It's hard not to conclude that the archbishop's secular beliefs have seduced his spiritual ones. He was, of course, wrong on Afghanistan, and - speaking of the slaughter of innocents - utterly silent on this year's vast mound of Christian corpses, culminating in the murder of three small girls in a Pakistani church on Christmas Day. That's "moral surrender".

Catching the eye of godless Britain is an unenviable task, but there's no future for the Church playing catch-up with the Lib Dems. "Tony Blair's - appointment of Rowan Williams as archbishop is his most exciting act of patronage so far," gushed Simon Jenkins in The Times. "Mr Blair has dealt us a wild card, a risk." Hardly. The archbishop offers only the certainty of decline, the final death-spiral into secular liberal irrelevance. No wonder Islam is Britain's fastest-growing religion.

Indeed. And, speaking of the prolific Steyn, he's also critical of Bush on the war, and even cites Bill Quick, in another column:

The endless postponement of the Iraqi D-Day, now as routinely rolled over as those Soviet five-year plans, is all part of some cunning Bush ''rope-a-dope'' strategy. So is Colin Powell's recent statement that the administration isn't looking for regime change in Baghdad. So is the ongoing mantra of ''the Saudis are our friends, no matter how many of us they kill.''

It's true that lulling the enemy into a false sense of security can be very cunning. But only if the sense of security does, indeed, turn out to be false. Otherwise, as the Internet commentator William Quick puts it, how much longer can Bush dine out on Afghanistan? And a lot of what the Bushies do barely falls into the lulling category. When Princess Haifa, wife of the Saudis' Washington ambassador, was revealed to have funneled money, unwittingly or otherwise, to the 9/11 killers, why did Alma Powell and Barbara Bush rush to phone her to commiserate? The connection between Saudi ''charitable giving'' and terrorism is well-known. The most benign explanation is that the princess is an idiot, and Americans are dead because of her idiocy. The wife of the secretary of state and the mother of the president have no business comforting a stooge of their country's enemies.

Indeed, again.

TOMORROW'S NEWS TODAY! Tim Blair reviews Bowling for Columbine for tomorrow's Australian. Short excerpt: "It's a kid flick for the adult anti-American market."

Thanks, international date-line!

WAR AND CUTE BUNNY RABBITS: Anna has one weird blog, but I kind of like it!

ARMED LIBERAL SAYS THAT I'M IRREDEEMABLY WRONG about barbecue. Hmm. I haven't tried any of the places he mentions. Guess I'll have to do more "research."

Hand me that big industrial-sized bottle of Zocor. . . .

PUNDITWATCH IS UP!

AL FRANKEN had a good observation on This Week: We live in an America where the number one rapper is white, and the number one golfer is black.

UPDATE: Okay, okay. A bunch of people have emailed to say that Charles Barkley said this already. It's still good.

Meanwhile Josh Kraushaar points out that there's nothing new about this sort of thing:

In 1956, long before the civil rights movement, one of the top baseball players (Jackie Robinson) was black while the top R&B singer (Elvis Presley) was white.

Well, it wasn't really "long before the civil rights movement," but good point. And reader John Tuttle writes that Tiger Woods isn't black -- just ask him. Finally, reader James Cooper says that the quote's originally from Chris Rock (but doesn't provide a link) and suggests Rock should be the designated comedian on This Week, not Franken as he's both funnier and smarter. From your keyboard to George Stephanopoulos' ears, James.

Rand Simberg agrees that Tiger's not black, and adds: "one of the refreshing things about him is his refusal to play the race game." Okay.

UPDATE: One more, from reader John Briggs:

Back in 1967 after the Six-Days War someone noted how much the world had changed -- the best businessmen were the Germans and the best soldiers were the Jews.

Heh.

"MASSIVE STREET DEMONSTRATIONS" in Venezuela. There's also this observation from El Sur:

Whether he wins or loses in the end, President Hugo Chávez is learning one very important lesson from Venezuela's nationwide work stoppage. That is: it is difficult, if not impossible, to run a modern industry (let alone a country) by force. Chávez has fired oil workers and ordered the military to take over struck facilities owned by state oil company, Petróleos de Venezuela, SA (PDVSA). So far, nothing's worked.

I'm going to be writing more about that point later.

SOME WESTERN ACTIVISTS are going to Iraq to serve as "human shields." I tend to think of this as evolution in action, but Tim Blair has a lengthy response.

JOEL ROSENBERG and Jerry Pournelle have been debating war and the mideast by email. The exchange is posted on Joel's weblog.

SOME OBSERVATIONS ON SMALLPOX PREPAREDNESS:

The other thing we can do is to prepare for the worst-case scenario -- simultaneous releases of aerosolized smallpox virus at major airports or sports stadiums, for instance. The success of the smallpox eradication campaign has made the public-health community confident that it could quickly contain and stop several, even dozens of, smallpox outbreaks if the virus were introduced here. The real question is: Could we meet the challenge if we had thousands or tens of thousands of primary cases? Not with the current plan. It is important to reassure the public by providing a plan to vaccinate the entire country within days if such an outbreak occurred. Many feel that is impossible. Yet it is no more impossible than having the entire country vote in one day.

There is no part of the vaccination process that is so complicated that it would preclude reaching everyone in the United States within three days if the risk of contagion is high. It does mean getting needed supplies in place and training volunteers, National Guard and public health workers how to vaccinate with bifurcated needles, a simple procedure that can be quickly learned. It also means strengthening the public health infrastructure throughout the country, decentralizing the job to every county, shipping vaccine nationwide overnight if the threat proves real and holding clinics in every high school. And it is critical that this be done. A plan to vaccinate the population over a matter of weeks is simply inadequate.

He's more optimistic about "ring vaccination" than this excerpt makes it sound, though he admits doubts about whether it could work in mass-exposure cases. And he's certainly right that many problems would be solved if we could develop a safer vaccine. To that I would add the prospect of antiviral drugs: if smallpox could be treated with something that would prevent most deaths, it would be nearly as good as vaccination.