Saturday, October 8, 2005

So Friday was a pretty bad day....

This Friday was a less-than-great day for two reasons.

First, the Red Sox got swept in the playoffs. Iím sad about it, but not that sad. I can hardly begrudge the White Sox for their first playoff series victory since 1959 1917, and my son was quite pleased by the result. Along the spectrum of Red Sox Nation, I fall in the Bill Simmons camp Ė disappointed but no longer devastated when they lose. Besides, for reasons I posted on six months ago, I am optimistic about the future.

[Shouldnít you be more "rah-rah" about the team representing the South Side of Chicago?óed.] Well, that leads to the second and more important reason why Friday was a pretty bad day.

The political science department voted to deny me tenure. Next year at this time, I will no longer be residing in Hyde Park or teaching at the University of Chicago.

[Wait a minute, you canít leave it at that. What happened? What the hell happened? Why didnít you get tenure? Was it your failure to anchor yourself within a clearly established theoretical paradigm? A lack of respect from peers in your IPE subfield? Too much output? A declining respect of your subfield by your tenured colleagues? The departmental turn away from mainstream political science scholarship? Your political orientation? Jealousy of your public intellectual status? WAS IT THE FRIGGINí BLOG??!!--ed.] My answers in order: I dunno, perhaps, probably not, maybe, I guess so, a little, could be, I seriously doubt it, and who the hell knows? Any decent social scientist must allow for multiple causes, so itís not necessarily an either/or question. At the moment, I simply lack the data to confirm or deny any explanation. I may garner more information in the days and weeks that follow, but the fact that I was genuinely surprised at the outcome suggests that my ex ante intelligence gathering was piss-poor.

[So what will you do now?--ed.] Look for gainful employment to start in June 2006 Ė a fact that will no doubt amuse readers who have disagreed with my take on the effect of offshore outsourcing on job creation. At least I have some lead time.

[How are you feeling? Are you bitter at the U of C?--ed.] Iíve felt better. And -- duh -- yeah. That said, I will miss the students. The undergrads have been wonderful, and the grad students have been razor-sharp. At the moment, my biggest regret about all this is the knowledge that Iíve taught my last class at the university.

[Speaking of regrets, letís go back to the blog.... erÖ any regrets?--ed.] The very first words I wrote on this blog were: "I shouldn't be doing this. I'll be going up for tenure soon." This is a theme that Iíve touched on several times since then. The point is, I canít say I didnít go into this with my eyes open.

That said, if one assumes that the opportunity cost of blogging (e.g., better or more scholarship) was the difference between tenure and no tenure Ė an unclear assertion at best Ė then itís a tough call. From a strict cost-benefit analysis, one could argue that the doors that blogging opened could have been deferred for a few years in return for the annuity of a tenured position at Chicago. That said, if I did things only for the money, I never would have entered the academy in the first place. And Iíve enjoyed the psychic rewards of blogging way too much to regret my choice.

[Just this week you said, "The academic job market, as I've witnessed it, is a globally rational but locally capricious system." Still believe that?--ed.] Well, Iíd posit that the second half of the hypothesis has received another data point of empirical support. Weíll see how the first half holds up as the job market proceeds.

Blogging may be slower than usual for the next couple of days.

posted by Dan at 10:20 PM | Comments (264) | Trackbacks (0)

Friday, October 7, 2005

Is there anything more exciting than Canadian public television?

Blogging may be slow for the next few days, as I'll be at the University of Toronto's Munk Centre for International Studies for a conference entitled, "Growing Apart: Europe and America."

However, for those diehard readers of who reside in Ontario -- yes, that's all three of you -- I'll be one of a bevy of talking heads for TVOntario's Diplomatic Immunity, airing this Friday.

TVO will also -- God forbid -- be airing the "highlights" of the conference... er... at some point in the next few weeks.

Canadian public TV -- it's fantastic!!

posted by Dan at 12:57 AM | Comments (16) | Trackbacks (0)

Thursday, October 6, 2005

More Miers links

Both Virginia Postrel and Ann Althouse have plenty of posts up about the Miers confirmation, so go check them out.

In this one, Althouse asks:

I have yet to see a single piece of writing by Harriet Miers dealing with an issue of constitutional law or even anything purporting to demonstrate the analytical, interpretive skills required to serve on the Supreme Court. The nomination was announced on Monday. It's Thursday. Can we have something in writing that shows her mind in action, that inspires confidence that this is a person whose judgment we should all trust for the next two decades?

This Jim Lindgren post probably won't assuage her.

In this post, Postrel partially corrects Lindgren's assessment -- but then goes onto observe, "The prose is indeed clunky, however, and the article is banal in that well-known corporate way, where you make an argument--her main point is that the courts need more money--without any sharp points."

I'll give the last word to Postrel, who rebuts the snobbery argument:

The anti-snobbery defense of Miers is an understandable but wrong-headed one--doubly so when it comes from graduates of large, research-oriented public universities that attract great students with low tuitions. My father, a math and physics major at Davidson (a far more academically oriented school then and now than SMU), always had that same southern chip on his shoulder about the Ivy League. Then I went to Princeton, and he discovered that they really do teach you more there. Most important, of course, is that nobody would care where Miers had gone to school if she had a track record, whether as a scholar, a policy maker, or a litigator, on constitutional law. (emphasis added)

posted by Dan at 06:41 PM | Comments (19) | Trackbacks (0)

Scholar-blogger thoughts, cont'd

Following up on my last post:

Oxblog's David Adesnik is happy about the new U of C Law School blog -- and the extent to which the law school is proud of its existence -- but nevertheless believes blogging remains decidedly out of the academic mainstream:

What the issue comes down to, I think, is the perception that blogging is inherently unbecoming of a scholar. Posts are brief and rapid-fire. But what I hope that more faculties are beginning to discover is that blogging can serve as an important complement to the traditional forums for scholarship.

No one thinks that blogging should replace books or journal articles. But I think it can serve as an invaluable means of allowing scholars to apply their knowledge to current situations without having first to write a 30 or 300 page manuscript. Thus, I wish the UC faculty bloggers all the best and hope that their example will demonstrate that blogging is anything but the academic equivalent of lese majeste.

In the spirit of the last paragraph, I would encourage the IR scholars in the audience to check out Dan Nexon's post about the debate over the role that norms play in world politics. He's looking for feedback.

posted by Dan at 05:07 PM | Comments (3) | Trackbacks (0)

"I can't think of anything bigger that's happened in virology for many years."

That's the assessment of one expert in Gina Kolata's New York Times front-pager on new research about the 1918 influenza virus:

The 1918 influenza virus, the cause of one of history's most deadly epidemics, has been reconstructed and found to be a bird flu that jumped directly to humans, two teams of federal and university scientists announced yesterday....

"This is huge, huge, huge," said John Oxford, a professor of virology at St. Bartholomew's and the Royal London Hospital who was not part of the research team. "It's a huge breakthrough to be able to put a searchlight on a virus that killed 50 million people. I can't think of anything bigger that's happened in virology for many years."

The scientists painstakingly traced the genetic sequence, synthesized the virus using tools of molecular biology, and infected mice and human lung cells with it in a secure laboratory at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. The research is being published in the journals Nature and Science.

The findings, the scientists say, reveal a small number of genetic changes that may explain why this virus was so lethal. It is significantly different from flu viruses that caused the more recent pandemics of 1957 and 1968. Those viruses were not bird flu viruses but instead were human flu viruses that picked up a few genetic elements of bird flu.

The research also confirms the legitimacy of worries about the bird flu viruses, called H5N1, that are emerging in Asia. Since 1997, bird flocks in 11 countries have been decimated by flu outbreaks. So far nearly all the people infected - more than 100, including more than 60 who died - contracted the sickness directly from birds. However, there has been little transmission between people.

A companion piece by Gardiner Harris suggests that Democrats have officially freaked out about the avian flu problem:

Health officials have warned for years that a virulent bird flu could kill millions of people, but few in Washington have seemed alarmed. After a closed-door briefing last week, however, fear of an outbreak swept official Washington, which was still reeling from the poor response to Hurricane Katrina.

The day after the briefing, led by Michael O. Leavitt, the secretary of Health and Human Services, and other senior government health officials, the Senate squeezed $3.9 billion for flu preparations into a Pentagon appropriations bill.

On Wednesday, Senate Democrats plan to introduce another bill calling for the creation of a flu pandemic coordinator within the White House and a federal buy-back program for unused flu vaccines, among other measures, according to a draft of the bill. Its authors include the Senate minority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada; Senator Barack Obama of Illinois; and Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts.

Thirty-two Democratic senators sent a letter to President Bush on Tuesday expressing "grave concern that the nation is dangerously unprepared for the serious threat of avian influenza."....

Mr. Leavitt warned in the briefing last week that an outbreak could cause 100,000 to 2 million deaths and as many as 10 million hospitalizations in the United States, one person who was present said. Those numbers have been presented publicly many times before. But hearing them in closed session gave them urgency, some who were at the meeting said.

The briefing "scared the hell out of me," Senator Reid said recently.

So the Times, it appears, passes the Hotline Blog's test of media relevance (link via Glenn Reynolds).

Even though I've been Bush-bashing as of late, it's worth pointing out that Democrats are late to this party. Kolata says in her story that, "Bush administration officials have been talking about pandemic flu preparedness for years, and they say they will soon release a pandemic flu plan, in the works for more than a year." Harris says that, "The Senate majority leader, Bill Frist of Tennessee, said he had been delivering speeches about improving the nation's preparedness for a flu pandemic since December."

Of course, let's see how the plans pan out.

posted by Dan at 01:25 AM | Comments (12) | Trackbacks (0)

Wednesday, October 5, 2005

Who do you trust?

George W. Bush is asking Americans to trust him one hell of a lot in recent weeks.

On the Miers nomination, as George Will put it, "The president's 'argument' for her amounts to: Trust me."

The problem is, this kind of presidential assertion runs into the "crony too far" problem, as Jacob Levy points out:

[T]he administration and its allies are resorting to saying: "Trust us; the President knows her really well, and she's a real right-winger not a potential Souter." But that only emphasizes the fact that she's an insider pick. The more they say "trust us," the more skeptics of [Miers' competence at jurisprudence] will say, "We shouldn't have to take Supreme Court nominations on faith, and the fact that George W. Bush is the guy who has all this secret knowledge about her makes us more worried, not less."

Then there's this Congressional push to ward off further Abu Ghraibs by codifying the United States Army Field Manual on Intelligence Interrogation as the uniform standard for military interrogations in the field. According to the AP's Liz Sidoti, Bush doesn't like that proposal at all (link via Andrew Sullivan):

The stalemate began in July when [Bill] Frist, R-Tenn., who shepherds President Bush's agenda through the Senate by deciding what bills get a vote, abruptly stopped debate on the [defense authorization] bill. That avoided a high-profile fight over amendments, supported by Warner and sponsored by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., restricting the Pentagon's handling of detainees in the war on terror.

The White House had threatened to veto the entire measure over the issue and sent Vice President Dick Cheney to Capitol Hill to press the administration's opposition.

In the Weekly Standard, Tom Donnelly and Vance Serchuk state why the administration is off base:

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. When it comes to detaining prisoners seized in Iraq, Afghanistan and on the other fronts of the terror war, the Pentagon's "just-trust-us" mentality continues to undercut American strategy. Thankfully, Congress is at last on the verge of doing what the administration clearly cannot: set clear standards for the treatment of detainees....

[T]the well-documented pattern of abuses from Afghanistan to Iraq reveals the intellectual bankruptcy of the Pentagon's prized "ambiguity." Despite the unique challenges posed by the war on terror, the Congress--and Republican conservatives, in particular--should be skeptical when the executive branch says, in effect, "Just trust us." Although it's understandable that the Defense Department would like to act with the maximum freedom of action, it has created a Balkanized set of standards in which different rules apply in different places, which plainly does not work. If ever there were an appropriate object for congressional oversight, this is it.

There are good people working in the executive branch in whose competency I trust. At this point, George W. Bush is not one of them.

UPDATE: William J. Stuntz argues in TNR Online that Bush is echoing Truman:

Truman didn't believe in deferring to experts; as the sign on his desk said, the buck stopped with him. Though an ex-senator, he had a very un-legislative disdain for decision-making procedure. Mostly, he just called 'em as he saw 'em, with little reflection and no second-guessing.

In a White House like that, decisions are bound to be high-variance. When layers of process and staff surround every appointment, the extremes--good and bad--tend to be lopped off. Brilliant minds with controversial ideas get nixed along with third-rate schmoozers. But when the boss refuses to staff it out and trusts his own intuition, all those options remain on the table. Cream can rise to the top. So can scum. That is how Harry Truman's presidency produced both Dean Acheson and Fred Vinson, the brilliance of the Marshall Plan and the ineptitude of the Korean War. Few administrations have such highs or such lows.

Like Truman, George W. Bush makes decisions easily. He obviously trusts his own intuitions, especially about people--remember, this is the man who looked into Vladimir Putin's soul. Also like Truman, Bush does not readily admit mistakes, and hence rarely corrects them. It is no accident that both presidents fought badly improvised wars. Finally, Bush has a Truman-like virtue many presidents lack: He doesn't mind having people with better minds and better educations around him. Condoleezza Rice, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz--these are major-league talents, a cut above the norm for their jobs. So is John Roberts, who might be the smartest chief justice since Charles Evans Hughes. But along with the Rices and Robertses come an Alberto Gonzales here, a Michael Brown there--people who are a notch or two below the norm for their jobs. As is Harriet Miers.

This is a nice piece of analogical reasoning, but I don't think it holds up. The first problem is that even the Bush people who are "major-league talents," like Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz, have not acquitted themselves well. The second problem is that Truman, unlike Bush, was a voracious reader who demonstrated a fair amount of intellectual curiousity.

posted by Dan at 03:12 PM | Comments (23) | Trackbacks (0)

Tuesday, October 4, 2005

Gendered observations that make you go, "hmmm...."

Wow, talk about your night and day observations about how Miers' gender will affect her possible performance on the Supreme Court.

First, there's Crooked Timber's Kieran Healy:

[T]he fact that sheís a woman leads me to think that, unlike the likes of Michael Brown, sheís also competent and probably a pretty tough person. Itís hard to get to this point in U.S. politics without having those qualities if youíre a woman.... Iíd be surprised if her confirmation hearings showed her to be clueless or a pushover.

That's a lovely sentiment, but without digging too deep I can think of a few examples on both sides of the political fence who don't meet Healy's criteria. [UPDATE: Healy amends his assessment, but not on the gender issue.]

Then, there's this from the American Thinker's Thomas Lifner:

One of the lessons the President learned at Harvard was the way in which members of small groups assume different roles in their operation, each of which separate roles can influence the overall function. The new Chief Justice is a man of unquestioned brilliance, as well as cordial disposition. He will be able to lead the other Justices through his intellect and knowledge of the law. Having ensured that the Courtís formal leader meets the traditional and obvious qualities of a Justice, and is a man who indeed embodies the norms all Justices feel they must follow, there is room for attending to other important roles in group process.

According to a source in her Dallas church quoted by Marvin Olasky, Harriet Miers is someone who

taught children in Sunday School, made coffee, brought donuts: "Nothing she's asked to do in church is beneath her."

As the courtís new junior member, the 60 year old lady Harriet Miers will finally give a break to Stephen Breyer, who has been relegated to closing and opening the door of the conference room, and fetching beverages for his more senior Justices. Her ability to do this type of work with no resentment, no discomfort, and no regrets will at the least endear her to the others. It will also confirm her as the person who cheerfully keeps the group on an even keel, more comfortable than otherwise might be the case with a level of emotional solidarity.

Apparently, if confirmed, Miers would also have the prerogative to ground any Justice who stays out after curfew.

posted by Dan at 11:03 PM | Comments (9) | Trackbacks (0)

Your scholar-blogger links for today

My co-author Henry Farrell has an excellent essay in the Chronicle of Higher Education about the ways in which blogging and scholarship can complement each other. Without saying his name, it is certainly an excellent rejoinder to one Mr. "Ivan Tribble." The key paragraphs:

Many young academics who are thinking about blogging share [Duncan] Black's dilemma. Is it a good idea to blog if you're on the job market or have a nontenured position? Tenured academics who blog face relatively little risk when they express controversial opinions -- they have job protection. It's a different story for academics without tenure who want to blog. They may worry that their colleagues would find their blogs objectionable, damaging their career chances, and either blog under a pseudonym, like Black and the law professor "Juan Non-Volokh," or not blog at all. Younger scholars may also worry that blogging would eat up time that could be devoted to publishing articles or working on a book. Few if any academics would want to describe their blogging as part of their academic publishing record (although they might reasonably count it toward public-service requirements). While blogging has real intellectual payoffs, it is not conventional academic writing and shouldn't be an academic's main focus if he or she wants to get tenure.

But to dismiss blogging as a bad idea altogether is to make an enormous mistake. Academic bloggers differ in their goals. Some are blogging to get personal or professional grievances off their chests or... to pursue nonacademic interests. Others, perhaps the majority, see blogging as an extension of their academic personas. Their blogs allow them not only to express personal views but also to debate ideas, swap views about their disciplines, and connect to a wider public. For these academics, blogging isn't a hobby; it's an integral part of their scholarly identity. They may very well be the wave of the future.

Meanwhile, for those who believe that the academic life is a cushy one, go click over to Dan Nexon's post about the poli sci job market at Duck of Minerva. The highlights:

[O]ver the years I have:

1) Written at least sixteen applications for post-doctoral fellowships, only two of which were successful;

2) Sent something on the order of a hundred job-application packets to institutions of higher learning, out of which I received a handful of interviews and a miniscule number of offers;

3) Gone mostly bald.

What, then, is my advice?

Let's start with the obvious. There will always be people who are smarter, better credentialed, and much more attractive than you are. Many of them will be applying for the same jobs as you. But take heart in two facts about the world. One, almost no one can physically occupy the position of assistant professor at two institutions. Two, life is unfair. Between these two laws of nature, you just might get a job offer... or even many, many job offers.

Now, the bad news....

The academic job "market," in other words, is nothing of the sort. It is penetrated by informal and formal ties of friendship and influence. Short-lists, interviews, and offers are made on the basis of many collective and individual decisions, including search committees, departments, and various high priests of the academy (e.g., deans and provosts). In aggregate, these decisions can take many surprising and unpredictable directions. Bottom line: it is foolhardy to invest your ego in the process.

I'm simultaneously more pessimistic and optimistic than Nexon.

On the pessimistic side, the fact that no single person can occupy all the jobs proffered to them does not mean the market will clear. Among top-tier institutions, it is far more likely that departments will simply adopt a "wait 'til next year" approach than hire their second choice. At which point the process repeats itself -- a lucky few snap up all the job offers, everyone else waits until next year. For aspiring academics that want the really plum jobs, this can be like repeatedly banging your head against a wall in the hopes of obtaining a result different than your head hurting -- a textbook definition of insanity.

On the optimistic side, I don't think old-boy networks warp the hiring process as much as is often posited. This is what I said in "So You Want to Get a Tenure-Track Job..."

This process has two parts; getting an interview, and then getting an offer. No doubt, letters of recommendation and phone lobbying can help to get you an interview; that, however, is as far as this kind of influence can carry someone. At the interview stage, the quality of your work and your presentation determines whether you get the job.

The academic job market, as I've witnessed it, is a globally rational but locally capricious system. Some people will undoubtedly slip through the cracks -- but on the whole, talent is recognized and rewarded.

posted by Dan at 03:19 PM | Comments (11) | Trackbacks (0)

So how did the grand stategizin' go?

I was in Princeton last week to attend a conference on "National Security in the 21st Century."

Over at Democracy Arsenal, former guest-blogger Suzanne Nossel provides a lengthy post outlining the general sense of the meeting.

Go check it out. There were a few conference papers worth reading, and I'll post links to them once they're made available.

posted by Dan at 10:00 AM | Trackbacks (0)

Monday, October 3, 2005

Open Miers thread

Comment away on the president's latest Supreme Court nomination -- current White House Counsel Harriet Miers.

My substantive take is pretty much in line with the Volokh Conspiracy's David Bernstein -- particularly this point:

What do Miers and Roberts have in common? They both have significant executive branch experience, and both seem more likely than other potential candidates to uphold the Administration on issues related to the War on Terror (e.g., Padilla and whether a citizen arrested in the U.S. can be tried in military court). Conservative political activists want someone who will interpret the Constitution in line with conservative judicial principles. But just as FDR's primary goal in appointing Justices was to appoint Justices that would uphold the centerpiece of his presidency, the New Deal, which coincidentally resulted in his appointing individuals who were liberal on other things, perhaps Bush sees his legacy primarily in terms of the War on Terror, and appointing Justices who will acquiesce in exercises of executive authority is his priority, even if it isn't the priority of either his base or the nation as a whole.

Jack Balkin concurs: "Although we don't know much about Miers, it's likely that, like John Roberts, she was picked with a view toward protecting executive power." That's a thought that makes a small-government conservative just giddy with anticipation, doesn't it?

As for the politics of it, Michelle Malkin chronicles discontent on the right side of the blogosphere -- including her own reaction:

It's not just that Miers has zero judicial experience. It's that she's so transparently a crony/"diversity" pick while so many other vastly more qualified and impressive candidates went to waste.

Eerily enough, this parallels Josh Marshall's reaction:

The key that this nomination should and, I suspect, will turn on is that the she fits the Bush administration mold -- she's a loyalist through and through. The lack of any other clear qualifications for the job becomes clear in that context.

Tom Goldstein at SCOTUSblog informs me that, "Moderate Republicans have no substantial incentive to support Miers."

As an anonymous e-mailer put it to me:

[At the confirmation hearings], there'll be contrasts drawn with Mr. Resume who just took his seat -- "We've just established that the lack of judicial experience or scholarly writings can be compensated for with a stellar legal record. And you, Ms. Miers, have done... what?"

Well, George W. Bush had this to say about her:

When I came to office as the governor of Texas, the Lottery Commission needed a leader of unquestioned integrity. I chose Harriet because I knew she would earn the confidence of the people of Texas. The Dallas Morning News said that Harriet insisted on a system that was fair and honest. She delivered results.

Whoa, hold the phone -- she was a fair and honest Lottery Commissioner? Put this woman on the bench right away!!!

[Isn't that a little harsh?--ed. Look, maybe Miers is supremely qualified -- I'm sure the hearings will reveal something about her competence at jurisprudence. However, a glance at her cv -- and those praising her accomplishments -- suggests that beyond not having ever served on a bench, she appears to have held no other job of parallel legal distinction. Would Miers ever be an answer to any legal question that starts, "Name the top nine lawyers who _____" -- besides serving George W. Bush for an extended period of time? In a post-Katrina environment, that dog won't hunt. You stole that from Jacob Levy--ed. Well, I only borrow from the best, and besides, Jacob also said he wanted this meme to travel as far and wide as possible.]]

Given the politics of the Supreme Court right now, there was no one -- no one -- who was going to skate through this nomination. This choice, however, seems designed to tick off every variety of conservative known to man.

No wonder Glenn Reynolds thinks Bush has pulled a perfect storm -- and not in a good way.

UPDATE: Cass Sunstein is blogging about Miers on the new University of Chicago Law School's Faculty blog:

On technocratic grounds, the following recent nominees were obviously outstanding: Roberts, Breyer, Ginsburg, Scalia, and Bork. (Douglas Ginsburg belongs in that category as well.) No one could doubt the ability and relevant experience of these nominees. Their records clearly demonstrated that they were first-rate. The same could be said of several other recent nominees as well....

What about Harriet Miers? She might be superb, but her record and experience certainly do not compare to those of recent nominees.

Jacob Levy ain't thrilled with Miers either.

Meanwhile Senator Frank Lautenberg (D, NJ) tells the Associated Press that he finds Miers, "courteous and professional."

FINAL UPDATE: Oh, man, does Larry Solum find the right quote from Federalist 76.

posted by Dan at 09:50 AM | Comments (29) | Trackbacks (0)

Things that keep me up at night

The Independent's Jeremy Laurance reports that the World Health Organization is trying to calm people down about avian flu:

The World Health Organisation has moved to play down a cataclysmic warning by one of its own officials that a pandemic caused by the bird flu virus ravaging poultry flocks in the Far East could kill as many as 150 million people.

The prediction came from David Nabarro, a senior WHO expert on infectious diseases, who was appointed on Thursday as UN co-ordinator for avian and human influenza. He said the next pandemic could claim from five million up to 150 million lives....

While he did not say the 150 million prediction was wrong, or even implausible, he said it was impossible to estimate how many could die. But he reiterated the WHO calculation that countries should prepare for 7.4 million deaths globally, arguing that was "the most reasoned position". (emphasis added)

Well, I feel much better now.

Even more calming is this report from Christine Gorman:

If, like public health authorities in the U.S. and many other countries, you're counting on the anti-viral drug Tamiflu (generic name oseltamivir) to save you should bird flu become pandemic, you may have to think again. A Hong Kong expert told Reuters on Friday that a strain of the H5N1 virus isolated in northern Vietnam this year is resistant to Tamiflu. More common human flu viruses have also recently been shown to be developing a resistance to another set of antivirals called adamantine drugs.

If the Vietnam report proves true, the implications will be particularly worrisome for public health programs to combat bird flu: Many governments have made stockpiling Tamiflu the centerpiece of their planning for a possible pandemic. U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt wants to create a big enough stockpile to treat 20 million Americans, and about $3 billion of the $4 billion the U.S. Senate last week proposed allocating to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to prepare for bird flu is to be used to buy Tamiflu. Never mind the fact that Tamiflu is produced in only one facility in the world, which is unlikely to produce enough to fill everyone's stockpile for several more years.

What this tells you is that the medical, private and public sectors had better have more than one big idea on how to deal with a potential pandemic of bird flu among humans. Debating ó as a number of health experts have done recently ó over whether a pandemic would kill 2 million or 150 million people is kind of beside the point.

posted by Dan at 01:04 AM | Comments (7) | Trackbacks (0)