Ephedra

This ephedra stuff is scary. WP article notes that:

Ephedra has been linked to lifethreatening side effects, even when used by outwardly healthy people at recommended doses, because it speeds heart rate and constricts blood vessels. Those effects can be exacerbated by exercise and use of other stimulants such as caffeine...

I'm no bodybuilder, but a couple years ago I saw the ads for ephedra products in Men's Health (think Ripped Fuel), and considered using them. I chose not to, but only after doing sufficient research on the Internet to find that the potential side effects were frightening.

As long as the FDA is in the business of regulating drugs, they ought to be regulating these supplements. I think their inactivity sends the wrong message, as it implies to consumers that all herbal supplements are more safe and harmless than the medicines and drugs that do fall under FDA regulation. This dichotomy is itself dangerous.

UPDATE: CNN/SI's Alexander Wolff lays out a good case for regulating ephedra, but Tim Layden makes some interesting points on why regulation may have limited effects (at least for athletes).

Proceduralism

Mickey Kaus has a good analysis of what he calls proceduralism, as applied to the U.N. and Iraq. Particularly worth noting is his recognition that those anti-war advocates who emphasize the costs of war and post-war occupation may be missing their own point:

The seemingly sophisticated focus, among antiwar types, on the difficulty of administering postwar Iraq actually undermines the anti-war case, in this sense, because it suggests that without those difficulties a war outside the U.N. would be justifiable. In fact, those difficulties are largely irrelevant to the initial question of procedural legitimacy.

He also points out that the difficulty facing the United States at the U.N. is not a result of the breakdown of international law. Instead it is in some ways a perfect example of the restraint that international law is supposed to entail.

[T]hat's what the international rules mean -- that we sometimes have to do things that are worse for us, including things that increase the risks we face. That's the price of having an international structure of law -- a New World Order, someone once called it -- which will be a handy thing to have when we're combatting terrorism (which we'll be doing for the rest of our lives).

On the other hand, from a proceduralist perspective (to which I do not necessarily subscribe) I'm not sure Kaus' analysis is complete. The options as he sees them are 1) the U.N. supports an American-led war; 2) France vetoes and American attacks anyway; 3) France vetoes and the U.S. abides by the rules.

In particular, it is this third possibility that Kaus did not fully examine. Even if Bush et al abide by a U.N. refusal to authorize war, there may still be significant damage done to the U.N.'s credibility within the United States. Remember that Bush almost didn't go the U.N. for Resolution 1441. It was only the efforts of Powell (and perhaps Blair) that involved the U.N. in the first place.

Thus if France (or Russia) vetoes, or the U.S. simply cannot garner 9 votes, the lesson learned might not be that American must sometimes bear the costs of abiding by international rules. Instead, the lesson learned might be that the next time a conflict arises, the United States should not involve the U.N. at all.

Kaus acknowledges this, but only insofar as the U.S. might "even to try to replace the U.N. with a new organization with better procedures." Isn't there another possibility? Perhaps the U.S. will leave the U.N. just as it is, but ignore it. That ought to be the most frightening possibility for proceduralists.

Glenn Reynolds and Sodomy

Glenn Reynolds thinks the anti-sodomy law in Lawrence v. Texas ought to be (and probably will be) struck down. He sees the issue involved as "observing traditional limitations on what�s a legitimate governmental concern." I wonder how he would apply this to the right to abortion.

UPDATE: Glenn says he's not sure, but does mention that the TN Supreme Court has extended the doctrine to include abortion (I think Planned Parenthood of Middle Tennessee v. Sundquist is on point).

Guns and Law School

Our weekly law school newspaper here included an article about a law professor's membership in the local gun club. It was not a news article, it was actually a fairly humorous and well-intended feature. As a likely future member of the same club, I'll be interested to see if any letters to the editor result from the article.

Russia, Pakistan, Mexico, Guinea, Iraq

Looks like Russia is saber-rattling with its veto power. This may explain why France seemed to back off from its veto threat.

On the other hand, the same story notes the very surprising (to me at least) possibility that Pakistan may actually vote with the United States. Musharraf has been on rather shaky ground with the religious powers in Pakistan, and this is sure to antagonize them. I wonder if we will hear what caused this shift. Add it to Mexico's wavering earlier this week, and Bush may have 6 of the 9 votes he needs. The pressure would really seem to be mounting on the African members.

Not so, says Guinea. You have to love diplomatese. The tiny country of Guinea is "in negotiations with everybody," yet they "cannot say that pressure is being applied." After all, pressure usually only occurs when the parties have unequal bargaining power. That wouldn't be the case between the United States and Guinea, right?

Blood Donations & the Military

Both Glenn Reynolds and Matthew Yglesias have had recent posts about blood donation. I'd like to add that donating blood is a direct and significant way to contribute to the health and protection of the soldiers in our military. America's Blood Centers, responsible for nearly half the donation supply, has entered into an agreement with the Department of Defense to supplement the military's blood supply during wartime. Go here to find out how to donate to one of their centers.

UPDATE: If you can (I'm not sure what the eligibility requirements are), you might consider donating directly to the military. This site has a list of military donation centers.

Estrada Filibuster & the Credibility Gap

Interesting analysis from Jeff Cooper on the potential Democratic filibuster of Estrada, and how it fits into the broader attack on Bush's 'credibility.'

The question I have is, can a 'credibility gap' attack survive the start of war? It seems unlikely that any Democratic leader would openly attack the honesty of the Commander-in-Chief in wartime and risk incurring the wrath of a patriotic public.

My theory: perhaps the Democrats realize that if America goes to war and is brilliantly successful, not much can be done to puncture Bush's wartime numbers. On the other hand, if the war does not go as planned (victory may be fleeting, nation-building may be impossible, and the war will certainly be more expensive than the WH admits), the Democrats have already opened the question of a credibility gap. The Democrats are then in the position of fitting the current wartime crisis into a pre-established pattern. This might make them less vulnerable to charges that they are simply taking advantage of wartime difficulties. Just a theory.

UPDATE: Jeff Cooper responds: "I'd add one other possibility: the Democrats may realize that, whatever boost the presdent's popularity may receive during a war with Iraq, that boost may prove ephemeral. Democrats, after all, remember the plunge in George H. W. Bush's popularity during the months after Desert Storm brought his approval rating to stratospheric heights. It makes sense now to lay the groundwork for criticism that will inevitably be revived later, regardless of what happens in Iraq."

Jeff was kind enough to add me to his blogroll, and sent a bit of wisdom my way: "Pace yourself."

UPDATE: I just noticed that Mickey Kaus has been thinking along the same lines, but from the administration's perspective:

[I]sn't it politically better for Bush to attack next winter than now? For one thing, the actual popularity-boosting war would be closer to the elections -- and right in the middle of the early primary season, making the anti-war Democrats highly uncomfortable. Plus, given the possibility of post-war chaos and anti-American blowback over the mid-to-long term, an Iraq iintervention is likely to look a lot better, in November, 2004, if it's only 12 months old than if it's 18 months old.

Yglesias Misquoted

Matthew Yglesias had a run-in with the creative quoting habits of the media (in this case, the Harvard Crimson). Matthew, I share your pain. The topic of my last post (ROTC and Harvard) became quite a hot topic after September 11, and I don't think the Crimson ever properly quoted the ROTC cadets they interviewed.

I'd be interested to hear whether Matthew thinks the misquoting was intentional or merely incompetent. (UPDATE: his response is in the comments).

Soldiers' Children Mistreated and the Ban on ROTC

As someone with strongly conflicted feelings on the coming conflict with Iraq, I have respect for all on both sides of the issue who are conducting this dialogue with thoughtfulness and intelligence.

For these people, I have no respect. Winds of Change has very comprehensive coverage of a story about teachers in Maine taunting the children of soldiers deployed overseas.

Unfortunately, I cannot say I am surprised by these incidents. They likely stem from the same misguided anti-military prejudice that some people cannot separate from their feelings about war, the Bush Administration, or Vietnam. I never experienced first-hand attacks like those felt by the young children in Maine, but I have crossed paths with institutional anti-military prejudice.

As a Harvard student, I had to come to terms with the fact that my university forbade my Army ROTC program from openly recruiting or organizing on school property. September 11, 2001, was fall registration day at Harvard. I first heard the day's terrible news at the activities fair, where I was representing an umbrella organization set up to allow informational distribution about the ROTC programs at MIT. I was not allowed to wear my uniform. No active-duty officers were allowed to represent the organization.

In December, as our troops were doing battle in Afghanistan, I joined several fellow cadets in setting up a table with Christmas cards to the troops which Harvard students could sign, and which we would mail. An admirable number of students signed the cards. An unfortunate number laughed, scoffed, mocked, or made disrespectful comments.

I was 21 at the time, well-educated, and able to recognize this anti-military prejudice for what it was. I doubt the young children in Maine are able to do the same, and it makes their teachers' behavior even less forgivable.