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October 31, 2003

All Hallow's Eve

There's a shine here in Montreal today. The weather is nice (it's a balmy 16°C), the sun is out, folks are walking around in costume and you can't walk a block without seeing a bright orange unicef box.

There's been some press this year about how Holloween is becoming an adult's holiday, what with the costume parties and all. I expect that's particularly true on a university campus. Still, the festive atmosphere has more of a pagan or agrarian 'market-day' feeling than anything else - appropriate, I suppose, given the gradual shift of Holloween from a pagan to a Christian and on to a secular festival.

In any case, it's a lovely day here, and the world seems largely quiet. At least from this myopic vantage. Have a nice weekend.

Posted by David Mader at 01:52 PM | (2) | Back to Main

October 30, 2003

Lunchtime Again in America

According to numbers released today, the American economy expanded at 7.2%/annum in the third quarter this year. That's the greatest quarterly GDP growth rate in about twenty years. I can't put it better than this:

"There's nothing but good news here,'' said Laurence H. Meyer, a former Federal Reserve governor and visiting scholar at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. ``There was broad-based strength in final demand, and a key component that people had been worried about -- business fixed investment -- was very, very strong. The economy has turned the corner.''

Gotta love that last line. The Dubya campaign should put it in reelection ads, starting now: the economy has turned the corner.

It's not morning again in America, of course, as it was twenty years ago, in part because this might be temporary and in part because we weren't nearly as poorly-off as we were back then. That's a selling point in itself, I think. The message to the electorate is: things are getting better - and that wasn't so bad, now, was it? Obviously that belittles those who lost jobs, but I don't think this downturn compares to the recession of the early nineties. In fact I don't think it's clear we ever hit recession - the economy kept growing, it just wasn't growing very fast.

Over at the Corner, Jonah Goldberg wonders how the Democrats will spin the good news. He's already had a bit of reader feedback (here, here, here, here, &c.).

The real point, though, is not whether the 7% is accurate or lasting - a Conerite is right to point out that the numbers may well be adjusted downwards. The important thing is whether the public feels like we've turned a corner. There's a substantial amount of market activity - I don't just mean financial markets, but markets aggregated over the economy - that's driven by perception and anticipation. I don't want to overstate it, but I think it's substantial enough that just as bearish gloom dampens economic activity, so optimism promotes it.

And, of course, when the public is economically optimistic, incumbents are almost unbeatable.

Posted by David Mader at 12:20 PM | (3) | Back to Main

October 29, 2003

Blogs March On

Sorry about the light blogging. I had nothing to say. Believe it or not. I'm stewing over some stuff - something about the British Tories dumping IDS, the parallels to the leadership woes of Canada's conservative movement and what it says about trust and leadership in politics; something about the Gender Genie and what it tells us about the founding documents; something about Milton and resolve. But that's all in the head. My head. It's all in my head.

In the meantime, though, this: I noticed a comment on an old post about General Boykin. It brought me to Girl Meets World, the blog of Seton Hill student Amanda C. Poking around her site, I discovered that Seton Hill offers Moveable Type facilities to all its students.

I can't express quite how fantastic I find that idea. It instantly creates a new plane of community, it allows a whole new form of discussion, it's simple and easy to use (relative to setting your own MT blog - trust me) and cheap, especially for a university which ought to be able to provide hosting services.

I don't know whether any other school has done this - made MT expressly available - but I wouldn't be surprised if a small school like Setton Hill were leading the way. Hopefully, they're doing just that - leading the way to a greater trend. Hopefully other schools are taking note.

Posted by David Mader at 06:41 PM | (3) | Back to Main

October 28, 2003

Red China Watch

Baby steps forward, bigger steps back. A little while ago I noted some potentially positive developments in China and wondered whether they indicated a general trend.

Add to the balance sheet the arrest of twelve Catholic priests. The Telegraph reports that the arrests come a week after a Buddhist and a Muslim were executed for 'separatist activities'.

The arrests suggest a bit of a misunderstanding of Christianity which, after all, was founded (especially in its institutional sense) upon hardship, persecution and martydom. I wouldn't be surprised if the Catholicism that emerges in a post-Communist China is of a particular fervour, not because of the socio-economic conditions per se but because of the immediacy of the persecution and the consequent resonance of the Christian message and texts.

Posted by David Mader at 07:31 PM | (0) | Back to Main

Ebadi Interview

Those interested in the struggle for freedom in Iran, and especially those who derided or second-guessed this year's Nobel Peace Prize selection, would do very well to read this interview of Laureate Shirin Ebadi. Excerpts:

Some say your selection is a political move by Europe to show that regime change can come through "soft power" as against the American use of "hard power" in Iraq and Afghanistan.

I don't share that analysis. The situation in Iran is different from Iraq and Afghanistan. There were no mechanisms for internal change in Iraq and Afghanistan. In Iran, there are. Europe has understood that to stop wars it is necessary to ensure respect for human rights throughout the world. This is both a principled and a pragmatic position.

What would you say to those who say Islam is incompatible with human rights?

That they are wrong. It is true that human rights are violated in most Muslim countries. But this is a political, not a religious, reality. We have had all sorts of regimes in Muslim countries, including secularists, Marxists, and nationalists. They, too, violated human rights. If corrupt and brutal regimes oppress their people, in what way is this a sign of Islam's incompatibility with human rights? The Baathist regime in Iraq was supposedly secular. And in North Korea we do not have an Islamic regime.

So you believe that we should leave religion out of political discussions.

As individuals we are all affected by our religious beliefs or lack of them. That is a fact of life. What I am saying is that we should not allow anyone to impose his interpretation of religion on others by force, intimidation, or peer pressure. People should stop putting the adjective Islamic before or after every word so that they can interpret everything in the interest of their corruption and brutality. They talk of "Islamic" psychology so that they can claim that women are weak, unstable, and unfit to have a role in decision-making. They talk of "Islamic" economics so that they can justify the abuse of the nation's wealth. They talk of "Islamic" education so that they can justify their policy of brainwashing children and youths. They talk of "Islamic" philology so that they can twist language to suit their aims.

Also of note: "The elder [daughter], Negar, aged 22, is a graduate in communications-engineering from the Sharif University in Tehran. She is currently attending a postgraduate course at McGill University in Canada." Ms Ebadi's privacy ought to be respected, of course, but it seems to me that's a scoop for our campus papers right there.

[Via Pejman Yousefzadeh]

Posted by David Mader at 12:19 PM | (1) | Back to Main

The Emerging Conservative Majority

Or some such. Via Pejman Yousefzadeh via Instapundit comes this very interesting article on the emergent American conservatism and the factors that are helping to make it the political status quo. The author identifies cable television, the internet and a change in publishers' attitudes as the three main factors contributing to the ideological shift.

Reading the piece, I couldn't help but think of a discussion I've been having recently about the rise of the 'manly man' and his embrace by wider society. The American Enterprise magazine had a whole issue on the subject, the flavor of which you can get through Christina Hoff Summers' lead:

Efforts to civilize boys with honor codes, character education, manners, and rules of good sportsmanship are necessary and effective, and fully consistent with their masculine natures. Efforts to feminize them with dolls, quilts, non-competitive games, girl-centered books, and feelings exercises will fail; though they will succeed in making millions of boys quite unhappy. Dissident feminist Camille Paglia is one of the few scholars who values maleness: “Masculinity is aggressive, unstable, combustible. It is also the most creative cultural force in history. When I cross…any of America’s great bridges, I think—men have done this. Construction is a sublime male poetry.”

I think it's fairly easy to see this resurgent masculinity in the context of the rejuvinated conservatism.

But the fact is, this new conservatism is quite unlike its twentieth century American predecessor. I don't think Jerry Fallwell would be the only fomer conservative figurehead to be horrified by the association of the ideology with the boys of South Park. Perhaps the most telling line in the whole article comes from a college student:

The label is really about rejecting the image of conservatives as uptight squares—crusty old men or nerdy kids in blue blazers. We might have long hair, smoke cigarettes, get drunk on weekends, have sex before marriage, watch R-rated movies, cuss like sailors—and also happen to be conservative, or at least libertarian.

The emphasis is mine. The behaviour which the student describes and implicitly condones would be abhorrent to the conservatives of yesteryear, and to a good many of today (including, I'd wager, David Frum). Such behavior would, upon a time, have precluded one from the conservative 'tent'. Now it's seen as no obstacle. Clearly something has changed.

I was going to trace part of the genesis of this new conservatism to the blending of libertarianism and neoconservatism under Reagan, but I realize that's both insufficient and wide of the mark. However this new ideological stream came about, it seems to have done so largely independent of the GOP, and at times in direct reaction to it. In fact, it would be wrong for traditional conservatives to take this emergent movement (if one may call it that, which one probably can't) for granted. The fact is that today's emerging conservatives aren't conservatives at all. They're whigs, or liberals. You can tack a neo- onto either one.

The real question is how the parties, artifically entrenched by undemocratic and (worse) unrepublican laws, will react. The Democrats, being in a state of transition anyway, have a tremendous opportunity to harness the interests of this new group. Perhaps after another disastrous appeal to the left they will. I wouldn't bet the farm, though, in which case the focus shifts to the GOP. As long as traditional conservatives believe that FoxNews and SouthPark and the blogosphere mean victory in the culture wars, inroads should be relatively easy to make. The honeymoon, however, can't last. Conservatives and neoliberals have fundamental ideological differences which are, in many cases, deeper than those separating many nominal Democrats and Republicans today. It isn't just morality versus libertine excess. Beyond practical political considerations, there's very little reason why laissez faire can't accomodate devout faith. The real division is coercion versus laissez faire. So long as conservatives believe they know a higher truth and will legislate by it, they will rankle neoliberals who eschew arbitrary judgement (as opposed to rational judgement) except in pursuit of moderation and compromise.

Practical considerations can keep the two ideologies under the same tent for a time. Over time, however, I suspect neoliberalism will cause a new party realignment, reflecting the basic division outlined above. Conservatives will hold coercive government power to be of a more pressing interest than whatever linked them to the neoliberals, and will gradually shift to a new party to group with similarly-minded ideologues - or neoliberals will do the same on the basis of their commitment to moderate laissez faire.

Perhaps it's wishful thinking. Still, changes are afoot. Quoth Buffalo Springield: "There's something happening here."

Posted by David Mader at 09:36 AM | (3) | Back to Main

October 27, 2003

Baghdad Rocked by Terror Attacks

Terrorists detonated an ambulance packed with explosives in front of the Red Cross headquarters this morning, killing more than thirty people. Simultaneous attacks at Iraqi police stations around the city killed more. Over 200 people are reported injured in the blast.

The attacks may have revealed a pattern to Iraqi terrorism:

US Brigadier General Mark Hertling said the attacks matched an emerging pattern which showed that the majority of terror strikes were being carried out on a Sunday or Monday.

"We believe ... the terrorists-will use the mosques as cover, going to mosques to meet and discuss the event, spending Saturday planning it, and then on Sunday or Monday: 'spike'. They all follow the same pattern."

Using mosques as cover, using ambulances as bombs... boy, whatever you do, don't call these depraved murderers the servants of a greater evil. Wouldn't want to ruffle feathers.

Posted by David Mader at 10:21 AM | (0) | Back to Main

October 26, 2003

Launcher Find Gives Credence to El Al Threat

As relayed by LGF, the Jerusalem Post is reporting that Canadian authorities are investigating a potential connection between last week's El Al threat and the discovery of a rocket launcher at a Canada Post cache earlier this year. From the Calgary Sun:

Security officials are also trying to determine if a rocket launcher found in a postal shipment is linked to the threat.

The Mounties and CSIS are tracing the origins and destination of a German-made rocket launcher, found by Canada Customs officers among 14 caches of weapons, entering the country at a Mississauga postal plant between April 2001 and March 2003.

The weapon is designed to be fired from a person's shoulder and can be outfitted with heat-seeking missiles.

The revelation should simply confirm what we already know, or ought to know: terrorist cells are active in Canada. That launcher was not the first to come to Canada, nor the last. Even if no connection is discovered, I don't think it's unreasonable to conclude that a serious attack was averted last week. But, as I mentioned earlier, the threat remains very real.

Posted by David Mader at 01:22 PM | (0) | Back to Main

El Al Flight Diverted - Again

Chatting with reader Adam at a party tonight, I learned that the El Al flight diverted away from Toronto's Pearson Airport on Thursday was diverted again on its return flight from Los Angeles, stopping in Hamilton rather than Toronto.

Adam and I were talking about the meaning and ramifications. We agreed that the thing to watch will be next week's LA-bound El Al flights. If the threat was indeed of a shoulder-launched missile attack, I don't see why simply moving the landings to Hamilton (an hour by car to the South-West) would make a difference. Unless, of course, the security threat involved a breach of airport security, such as a baggage handler who had access to the tarmac area and who was discovered to have materials suggesting a terrorist attack. In fact, I'd put my money on something like that.

The other point I made was that a shoulder-launched attack has echoes of Kenya, which was (I believe) the job of an al-Qaida affiliate. It, like most a-Q attacks, involved hitting simultaneous targets. If the Toronto threat was to follow the same MO, the question Canadian (and American and Israeli) authorities must be asking is: what was the other target? And will the foiling of the plane attack put it on the back-burner - or will the terrorist settle for only one attack?

Posted by David Mader at 01:39 AM | (1) | Back to Main

Wolfowitz Survives Mortar Attack

The hotel housing Depuity Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz was hit by a rocket attack in the early Baghdad dawn. Though Wolfowitz was unharmed, a number of serious injuries have been reported.

[Via LGF]

Posted by David Mader at 01:28 AM | (0) | Back to Main

October 23, 2003

El Al Diversion

An El Al plane has been diverted to Montreal following a 'serious' security threat.

[NOTE: This story is not breaking. I had initially and inadvertently been led to believe otherwise; the mistake was compounded by the fact that few outlets (including blogs) seemed to be reporting it. The plane landed in Hamilton at about 10:30 AM EDT, and passengers were shuttled to their destinations. A sweep of the airport and environs did not yeild anything suspicious. It is still not clear, however, that the threat was a hoax. If you're interested in the nature of the threat, read on...]

MORE: CTV reports:

CTV News has learned that a security threat of the highest order was the reason an Israeli El Al airliner flying from Tel Aviv was diverted away from Toronto's Pearson International Airport.

"There was a threat of a missile and officials say that it was so credible that they decided not to take any chances. That is why they put the helicopters in the air with forward-looking infrared radar, searching for any kind of signature around the airport that might indicate where the terrorists may be hiding," CTV's Mike Duffy said.

Originating in Tel Aviv, the plane was first ordered to land in Montreal but it was diverted to Hamilton when it became airborne. The diversion was ordered by Transport Canada, based on a tip from Israeli security sources.

MORE: The Toronto Star reports that the plane was destined to Toronto, but was diverted to Montreal and then to Hamilton. Not sure how that works - Montreal is east of T-dot, while Hamilton is south-west. [Scratch that; the above CTV piece explains.]

MORE: The J-Post reports it as a more-or-less routine bomb-scare, phoned in an hour before the plane was scheduled to land. I can't imagine such threats are uncommon, however, and we don't often see this sort of diversion.

Posted by David Mader at 11:17 PM | (0) | Back to Main

Want to Live For Centuries?

It may only cost you your dignity.

The Biblical literalists, by the by, should have a field day with this.

Posted by David Mader at 10:50 PM | (2) | Back to Main

War Consciousness and Civil Separation

A propos the earlier discussion of the current war, Matt suggests that the split between those who believe we are at war and those who don't has potentially dangerous consequences.

He's right. Click through to read his arguments, and to find out why I agree.

Posted by David Mader at 10:45 PM | (0) | Back to Main

Who Is William Arkin?

That's Hugh Hewitt's question, and he says that the answer holds the key to the Boykin controversy. He goes on:

The tone of most of the attacks on the General are obviously anti-evangelical Christian, and the rush to convict Boykin without even requiring Arkin to produce transcripts of the talks underscores that anti-evangelical Christian bigotry is driving the controversy. The Penatgon stood up for the General yesterday in a promising sign that it won't be stampeded into allowing Boykin to become an American Dreyfus. Other figures from the center-right need to denounce the smear as well, and to insist that before any more judgments on Boykin are passed out by editorial writers at Administration-hating newspapers, they ought first to oblige Arkin to give up the tapes he says he has, so transcripts can be prepared and reviewed.

Is that so much to ask? Conservative commentators who otherwise give such careful attention to verifiable fact in political discourse should take this into consideration before being steam-rolled into selling out Boykin because Arkin says he sounds crazy.

Posted by David Mader at 12:33 PM | (1) | Back to Main

Bush Heckled Down Under

So reports Drudge. But who got the worst of it?

"We are not a sheriff," shouted Greens leader Bob Brown who ignored an order to leave the house.

The heckling did not rattle Bush, who is on his first trip to Australia. The last U.S. president to visit Australia was Bill Clinton in 1996 -- who was also heckled by Brown.

"I love free speech," quipped Bush, to cheers from the house, having been warned he could face politicians' protests.

But following Bush's speech, the parliament voted to suspend Brown and his Greens colleague Kerry Nettle from parliament for 24 hours, which will bar them on Friday when Chinese President Hu Jintao addresses parliament during a three-day state visit.

That'll learn 'em.

Posted by David Mader at 12:29 PM | (1) | Back to Main

Galloway Expelled

Scottish MP George Galloway - 'the member for Baghdad West' - has been expelled from the British Labour Party due to his public statements during the Iraq war. The expulsion ostensibly centered on an interview Galloway gave in which, according to the disciplinary board, he incited Arabs to fight British troops; incited British troops to insubordinate; he threatened to stand against Labour; and he backed an anti-war candidate in another riding.

Galloway was also the subject of serious speculation regarding bribes and other contributions from Hussein and other top-tier members of the Iraqi Baathist regime. While some of the documents which fueled the allegation were later alleged to be false, the basic suggestion of impropriety, and potential illegal activity, remain credible and outstanding. Galloway had, in short, become a serious liability for Labour, if not the realm; his expulsion is laudatory but not unexpected.

[Cheers to LGF for the pointer]

UPDATE (21:33 EDT): This is rich. A reader identifying himself as "George Galloway" has left the following comment:

"While some of the documents which fueled the allegation were later alleged to be false..."

That's total nonsense. The Christian Science Monitor was successfuly sued for libel and paid undisclosed damages. The Daily Telavivagraph (whose journalist miraculously "found" documents in bombed out Baghdad) is currently being sued too.

Unless you are careful what you write, you may be next.

The commenter, who arrived via bloogz.com, accessed maderblog using an Energis.co.uk IP address. Though based in Leeds, Energis provides "provide high-value telecommunications to major UK companies and public institutions in Great Britain and Ireland," according to the company's home-page. It's just on this side of the realm of impossibility that our commenter is who he claims to be.

In any case, "Mr Galloway" is upset at my suggestion that some of the claims made against "his" character during the Iraq war have not been resolved. I admit, reading it again, that the language cited in the comment is somewhat sloppy: I've no doubt that all of the documents which fueled the allegations were alleged to be false, at least by Galloway's more ardent supporters. But the substance of my point came immediately afterwords: "the basic suggestion of impropriety, and potential illegal activity, remain[s] credible and outstanding." Our commenter indicates that this suggestion is libelous.

It isn't:

Galloway leukaemia fund faces inquiry

An appeal set up by George Galloway to treat an Iraqi girl suffering from leukaemia is to be the subject of a Charity Commission inquiry, it was confirmed yesterday.

This follows a two-month study by the commission to determine whether it could investigate the now defunct Mariam Appeal, based on whether the funds it raised were charitable.

The commission said its initial findings were that the funds raised were charitable.

The appeal was set up in 1998 to raise £100,000 to treat four-year-old Mariam Hamza. Mr Galloway claimed that uranium-tipped weapons used in the first Gulf war had caused her leukaemia. She was successfully treated in hospitals in Glasgow and America.

The appeal subsequently campaigned against sanctions against Iraq.

The MP disclosed two months ago that the appeal had funds of about £1 million, some of which he used to pay for 14 overseas trips between September 1999 and January 2002, including one by double-decker bus to 11 countries in two months. He said he had never benefited personally from the fund.

Again, the basic suggestion of impropriety, and potential illegal activity, remains credible and outstanding.

"Galloway" says that "his" suit against the Christian Science Monitor was been "successful", causing the payment of "undisclosed damages." Perhaps he is privy to such information; the rest of us, including Britain's ITV believe that suit to be ongoing: "Mr Galloway rejected the apology from the Christian Science Monitor and pledged to continue his legal action against the newspaper." [LATER: I believed this story to be contemporary; in fact it dates from June. Strikeout added 22:54 PM EDT]

Like the Daily Telegraph, however, I will not retract my comments and allegations, "Mr Galloway's" threat aside. "You may be next," he threatens, to which I reply: bring it. I am domiciled in Canada; my site is hosted in the United States; each country has more stringent libel laws, though I'm confident my writings would be protected in England as well, being justified and supported. In fact, I'd welcome the opportunity to confront you, "Mr Galloway," and your invidious polemics in a court of law.

"Telavivagraph" indeed.

Posted by David Mader at 12:01 PM | (2) | Back to Main

This War

In the comments to my post on the Denial of Service attacks targetting HostingMatters earlier this week, readers Nick and Cam questioned my characterization of the war I believe we're now fighting, and of the enemy that I believe we face. I tried to explain my position, and pointed to a number of other resources that could be useful in getting an understanding of the position I share.

Well, I somehow neglected to mention perhaps the finest regular update on the activities of 'our enemy' published on the web: the Winds of War feature on the inestimable group-blog Winds of Change. The twice-weekly briefing aims "to give you one power-packed briefing of insights, news and trends from the global War on Terror that leaves you stimulated, informed, and occasionally amused." The latest WoW tracks developments in Iraq, Indonesia, Iran, Latin America, North Africa and beyond. If you don't believe we're fighting a common enemy, have a look at the past few months of WoW reports.

ALSO (13:38 EDT): I recommend the Command Post's Global War on Terror page.

Posted by David Mader at 11:54 AM | (0) | Back to Main

The Rumsfeld Memo

Interesting commentary regarding Don Rumsfeld's leaked memo. If you haven't read it, the salient bits:

TO: Gen. Dick Myers
Paul Wolfowitz
Gen. Pete Pace
Doug Feith

FROM: Donald Rumsfeld

SUBJECT: Global War on Terrorism

The questions I posed to combatant commanders this week were: Are we winning or losing the Global War on Terror? Is DoD changing fast enough to deal with the new 21st century security environment? Can a big institution change fast enough? Is the USG changing fast enough?

DoD has been organized, trained and equipped to fight big armies, navies and air forces. It is not possible to change DoD fast enough to successfully fight the global war on terror; an alternative might be to try to fashion a new institution, either within DoD or elsewhere — one that seamlessly focuses the capabilities of several departments and agencies on this key problem.

With respect to global terrorism, the record since Septermber 11th seems to be:

We are having mixed results with Al Qaida, although we have put considerable pressure on them — nonetheless, a great many remain at large.

USG has made reasonable progress in capturing or killing the top 55 Iraqis.

USG has made somewhat slower progress tracking down the Taliban — Omar, Hekmatyar, etc.

With respect to the Ansar Al-Islam, we are just getting started.

Have we fashioned the right mix of rewards, amnesty, protection and confidence in the US?

Does DoD need to think through new ways to organize, train, equip and focus to deal with the global war on terror?

Are the changes we have and are making too modest and incremental? My impression is that we have not yet made truly bold moves, although we have have made many sensible, logical moves in the right direction, but are they enough?

Et cetera. I think it's fairly evident that the memo reflets, more than anything, Rumsfeld's management style - one worthy of emulation, I'd imagine. Virginia Postrel strikes the right note in saying that, political ramifications aside, these are precisely the types of questions that need to be asked:

Probing questions are exactly what DoD needs, no matter how unpolitic they may be. The Pentagon is set up to fight not just traditional armed forces but traditional armed forces in countries with centrally planned economies and innovation-suppressing totalitalitarian governments--adversaries who make the Pentagon look nimble by comparison. But the future security of Americans depends on responding to nimble enemies with flexible tactics. Rumsfeld is asking the right questions.

Yea. This seems to be a common sentiment. There's far less concensus, however, over the nature of the 'leak'. Volokh and Instapundit suggest that this was a serious breach and a detriment to national security:

The real damage isn't that it gives our enemies a window into our military thinking, though that's certainly damaging. The real damage is that when this sort of self-examination -- which is essential to winning any war -- becomes the subject of leaks and bad press, you tend to get less of it.

Instapundit points to this Fox News story - suggesting Rummy was 'livid' over the leak - to bolster his case.

But Eric Muller of Is That Legal suggests that it may not have been a leak at all, and he's got some interesting pieces of evidence to support his own thesis:

I'm scanning everything that's being written about this "leak," and I'm still not seeing evidence that it was "leaked." (That evidence may be out there and I'm just missing it.) But what I see in the USA Today story is this: "Three members of Congress who met with Rumsfeld Wednesday morning said the defense secretary gave them copies of the memo and discussed it with them." This is not how you handle a confidential internal memorandum, is it, if you don't want it to see the light of day...

Why, one might reasonably ask, would Rumsfeld want such a memo disseminated? Ultimately I have to leave this to the Kremlinologists, but (a) Rumsfeld has recently been angry at the White House about being removed from the loop on certain decisions related to Iraq, (b) there may be stuff in there that Rumsfeld wants al Qaeda to know top-level people are thinking about, and (c) Rumsfeld might be looking to adjust the way in which he is seen by others, either here or overseas.

He goes on to note that the Pentagon has the full text of the memo on its website, and that no Pentagon source is using the word 'leak'. It certainly seems a bit, well, inside-baseball for Rumsfeld to have leaked the memo himself; still, I think the Secretary comes off looking good, if anything, in the eyes of supporters who might have recently become dissillusioned, and I don't think Rummy gives much of a rodent's posterior what his determined critics make of it.

Posted by David Mader at 12:25 AM | (0) | Back to Main

October 22, 2003

The Emerging Majority?

A poll by Harvard's Institute of Politics found that college students have a generally favourable impression of President Bush, who has a job approval rating among students of sixty-one percent - about ten points higher than the nation as a whole.

As this Knight Ridder article suggests, college kids aren't an emerging Republican majority - though 31% identify with the GOP, versus 27% Democrat, again a reversal of the national trend.

What does it mean? The Knight Ridder article actualyl has some good analysis, suggesting that party loyalty is no longer a generational thing. One can't help but wonder, though, whether the comination of GOP receptiveness and political independence reflects a resurgence of classically-liberal ideas. Maybe it's wishful thinking, but I've constantly been surprised by my fellows here at McGill who exhibit political beliefs that while certianly not partisan are most definately suggestive of a mixture of 'fiscal conservatism' and 'social liberalism'.

The summary text of the study is available here. Thanks to my dad for the pointer.

Posted by David Mader at 09:09 PM | (1) | Back to Main

Boykin - II

No time for a long post,alas. But I want to say one thing. Everyone seems agreed that, in the words of Australia's Age, Boykin "said Muslims worship an idol and not a 'real God'."

Following September 11, everyone seemed to be falling over himself to explain that the nineteen hijackers were not real Muslims, and that their justification of mass murder through Islam was false. "Those who murder in the name of Allah," the President told Congress to lasting applause, "blaspheme the name of Allah."

Yet when General Boykin says of a Somali warlord - an equally murderous and comparably fanatical manifestation of such fundamentalism - that "I knew that my God was a real God, and his was an idol," the same apologists automatically assert that the General was referring to all of Islam.

Boykin did not say, of course, 'Allah is an idol' or 'Islam is idolotry.' He said, in a specific context, that a Somali warlord who presumably justified his actions in theological terms (see an alternate account of the exchange here) worshipped an idol - that is, professed faith in a false god.

If the September 11 hijackers' "pretenses to piety" were false, the Somali's invocations of Allah to justify his actions were also false. An idol is not simply a graven image; it is a false god. Those who criticize Boykin for calling the Somali's god an idol logically imply that they believe his god to be True.

And I'm sure they don't mean to do that.

Posted by David Mader at 12:32 PM | (3) | Back to Main

DoS and the WoT

James Lileks' spidey senses are tingling:

I’ve no reason to say this, but: my antennae are twitching. I have this feeling that 2004 is going to feel a lot like 1968. But it’s just a feeling.

I don't think he's alone. I've long been of the opinion that we're entering into a period of violence and upheaval the likes of which our generation hasn't know. In fact, we may simply be reverting to the 'normal' state of human affairs after a fifty-year hiatus brought about by the false peace of the Cold War in North America.

The fact is, sooner or later there will be another, and a bigger, terrorist attack. Many of us on the right like to think that it's necessary to keep Dubya and his successors in office in order to combat the emergent threat. Despite our best efforts, though, we simply cannot, in an open society, prevent the type of attack that is therefore inevitable. I don't believe that our society will become less free, to the point that such an attack could be properly averted; it would involve a tyranny which we in the United States and Canada, and our forebears in the United Kingdom, have not known for centuries.

Moreover, Dubya and his successors will not occupy positions of power indefinately. Sooner or later a capitulator will come to office. This won't necessarily denote a failure of nerve on the part of the American people, but it could very well denote fatigue. The great paradox of the WoT is that as it becomes more successful, the signs of that success become harder to discern. Success breeds complacence. Eventually, if we are so lucky that enough time passes without a terrorist attack, attentions will shift, and a personality or ideology will come to the fore which, when presented with the inevitable challenge, will falter.

This is the nature of history: it goes on. We cannot, of course, live detached from the march of history, for we are the marchers. And so we feel the anxiety that Lileks expresses. We feel the anticipation which Dan Darling notes. We expect terrible things, things we cannot comprehend, and we know not when to expect them.

But we go on.

Posted by David Mader at 12:13 PM | (6) | Back to Main

October 21, 2003

Denial of Service

Hostingmatters was hit with a third DoS today (the first was on Friday); they've each targetted a specific site, and the initial attempts to prevent a repeat haven't worked. I don't understand all the details, but the posts on the server's forums suggest that the block of IP addresses (1 of 16 that Hostingmatters runs) which included the targetted site has been isolated, and sites using that IP block will be reassigned. The rest of HM's IP blocks have been cut loose, so to speak, so that they can be accessed directly, rather than as part of HM's whole block. Wow, that's a bad explanation. Anyway, the point is, I'm back up and things seem to be running fine, but LGF is still down, as is Instapundit, and I suspect they're both hosted on the isolated IP block.

UPDATE (16:41 EST): Here's the explanation from HostingMatters, as posted at their support forum:

The attacker is still going after the old clotho IP, even though that is no longer bound anywhere. Since it is still routed, however, the traffic still tries to get to the location where it is advertised (i.e., the Jacksonville facility). None of the upstreams appear to be equipped to deal with the attack, for whatever reason, and we'll reserve our commentary on that).

This is what we're going to do: since the attacked is still going after that old IP, we are requesting that Peak10 (via AT&T and Qwest, who advertise our routes) break out our /20 and start advertising the individual /24s instead, and then drop the /24 containing the target IP. What this means is that instead of advertising all of our IPs, from the first one to the last, they will advertise each block on its own, from 0 through 255.

What this also means is that we have to change the IPs on every server that is bound to an IP within the same block as the IP the attacker has targeted. This will involve about 25 servers, and at least one of our own nameserver IPs. We are headed to the NOC to do this right now. Peak10 is working with Qwest and AT&T to get the individual /24s readvertised with the exception of the affected block.

I don't know whether that's of interest to anyone, but I posted it in the context of a discussion over at Winds of Change, so I thought I'd copy it here too.

MORE (17:53 EST): There's some good discussion and interesting links over at the Winds of Change link above. Charles Johnson, whose site has been affected by this DoS, notes that the site rumoured to have been the target of the attacks was one which had successfully had "terrorist web sites" shut down; in other words, this isn't simply a politically-motivated attack on a certain sector of the blogosphere, and not perhaps something we would expect to see frequently.

Also, Pejman Yousefzadeh, whose regular site is down, mentions that he has a backup here.

EVEN MORE (18:00 EST): On the other hand, Winds of Change team member Dan Darling says that we can indeed expect more of this sort of thing - and that this may just be a test run.

Posted by David Mader at 03:34 PM | (0) | Back to Main

The Common Weal

Matt weighs in with his first substantive post, on "Living in a Society" and why Margaret Thatcher was wrong.

Surprising as it may seem, I agree entirely. Well, almost entirely. In general I much prefer the Hobbesian to the Rouseauvian concept of 'social contract' (Hobbes does not, I believe, use the term). I certainly share Matt's focus on individual interactions. He is spot on in saying that "Man as man only exists as such in relation to his fellows." Yes. Those rights that men enjoy are rights only by virtue of the mutual interaction of individuals. Without such interactions, those rights are absurd.

I do want to defend Baronness Thatcher, though, who I think has been misunderstood. Where Matt points out that she conflates society and government, I think the error is not hers but rather that of those she criticizes. There was - and remains - a sense among many that they are 'owed by society' - a living wage, the comforts of wealth, et cetera. In the modern state, the debts of society are fulfilled by the government - or rather, those who claim such debts turn to the government to have them fulfilled. In denying society, Thatcher was simply denying that the government should serve as a clearinghouse for those who made claims on their neighbors. Ultimately, she said, our responsibilities are to one another, and we must address those responsibilities between ourselves. The government is our servant, not an autonomous manifestation of our society, and even so it should not be used to excuse us from our own individual responsibilities.

I wonder, as well, whether the Rouseauvian conception of 'general will' might not encourage the sort of institutionalization of society, through the notion that 'society' can be defined and therefore directed. I don't want to put words in Rousseau's (or Matt's) mouth, but my cursory understanding of the philosphe's work, and of the historical interpretation of his work, suggests a much more state-centric understanding of society than even Hobbes.

Posted by David Mader at 12:00 PM | (1) | Back to Main

October 20, 2003


I've been having a looong discussion about the Boykin controversy. The more I think about it, the more I think the whole thing shows nothing more than the complete (and, I should think, embarrassing) misunderstanding of evangelism and the Christian worldview, and its subsequent demonization, by the General's critics.

It's too late to go into a whole rant, but Hugh Hewitt owns the issue, and now reports that despite repeated requests, the reporter who broke the story refuses to provide transcripts of the alleged quotes.

Again, I think that by in large the quotes Boykin is said to have made are perfectly defensible, but it seems increasinly possible that he was misquoted anyway.

Posted by David Mader at 11:16 PM | (0) | Back to Main


I bet you didn't know I play ball for Wisconsin.

Wisconsin- The injury to Alando Tucker hurts this group immensely. Tucker is extremely active down low and the Badgers hope he recovers quicker than expected. What’s left are 2 serviceable big men in Dave Wilkinson and Dave Mader. Both of them can knock down the outside shots consistently.

You got that right.

[Thanks to Dan for the pointer.]

Posted by David Mader at 02:46 PM | (0) | Back to Main

Welcome to the Neighborhood

I'm under orders not to blog until I get my law school applications off, which is, I think, a manifestly reasonable order. I do, however, want to welcome my friend and sometime reader Matt to the blogosphere - he's set up shop at Living In A Society. He's just getting started, so swing buy and check it out, and keep going back. Matt is, without a doubt, one of the most principled, thoughtful and intelligent liberals I know, and I know an awful lot of liberals. He's also a fellow historian, which makes his reasoning and perspective that much stronger. I'm excited about his foray into blogging, and I have no doubt he'll be the source of much thoughtful commentary and good old fashioned argumentation.

And, as a token of my welcome, I just want to say that we all know there's no such thing as society.

Posted by David Mader at 02:45 PM | (2) | Back to Main

October 17, 2003

Easterbrook Apologizes

Gregg Easterbrook has issued an apology of sorts for his earlier column given the resultant controversy.

I say "of sorts", because the substance of the apology seems to be a frustration that Jews are so sensitive to age-old stereotypes: "[A]ccusing a Christian of adoring money above all else does not engage any history of ugly stereotypes. Accuse a Jewish person of this and you invoke a thousand years of stereotypes about that which Jews have specific historical reasons to fear." Easterbrook doesn't apologize for making the accusation; he 'apologizes' for the fact that the accusation made people angry.

The apology may mollify those who saw the apparent stereotyping as the main problem with Easterbrook's column. My main beef, though, was with Easterbrook's suggestion that the actions and thoughts of individuals should conform to some racially-determined program. Far from retracting this suggestion, Easterbrook repeats and expands it:

How, I wondered, could anyone Jewish--members of a group who suffered the worst act of violence in all history, and who suffer today, in Israel, intolerable violence--seek profit from a movie that glamorizes violence as cool fun?

I've made my arguments as to why this is such a destructive point of view, and I recognize that many will be content to let Easterbrook off the hook. I have no interest in perpetuating any controversy. Nor do I think that Easterbrook comes out of this brouhaha looking like an anti-semite of any degree.

But I do think he quite clearly reveals a different and distinct sort of prejudice, an intellectual prejudice, and a conceit, that will hereafter color my understanding of his work.

Posted by David Mader at 12:33 PM | (2) | Back to Main

"That's Not a Knife..."

... writ large.

This guy's my hero.

Posted by David Mader at 12:07 PM | (2) | Back to Main

The New Canadian Conservatism II

The more I think about it, the better I like this deal. I certainly appreciate the reservations raised in the comments, especially Charles' point about Quebec. Chatting with my brother yesterday, I myself raised the question of how the new party would play in Quebec.

That being said, I increasingly think that this deal isn't about the policies; it's about the merger. The two existing parties and their memberships don't agree on all policies, but they recognize that the public is fed up with one-party rule and is more or less demanding a credible alternative. Moreover, conservative voters are frankly fed up with the intransigence of both parties. They want to see some real action.

That being the case, the deal is right to eschew policies for mechanics. Once the new party is formed, it can address questions of policy. At that point, if dissenters choose to bolt, there will be no question as to which is the legitimate conservative voice. No doubt Joe Clark, David Orchard and the rest will fight vigorously to prevent ratification and, if that fails, to impose a progressive platform. Within a new party structure, however, the true blue conservatives should have the numbers and the sway to oppose this movement and to construct a real common sense platform. If Clark et al. choose to bolt, they will be recognized by all as no more than a Red Rump, an obstacle to the defeat of the Liberals.

I have little doubt, in fact, that a "Progressive Conservative" ticket will run against the new Conservative Party in the next election. There may even be a second Reform Party made up of Alliance dissenters. But if the formation of the Conservative Party is successful, these groups will be marginal - much more marginal than the PC Party is now. More importantly, if the merger is successful, and if the majority of Alliance members and a significant number of Tories vote to make it successful, the Red Rump will be seen to be marginal by the voting public.

That's why this agreement is so important - and why it's right to focus on mechanics rather than policy. For years both parties have been talking about merger, and have pointed the finger when talks fell apart. Look, they said, we're not the obstacle to a credible alternative, they are. But without a firm deal, the voting public damned both houses. A firm deal will change that. A firm deal will create a clear distinction between the real conservative party and the dissenters. The Conservative Party then won't have to point any fingers, because the intransigence of the Red Rump will be clear to all Canadians.

Posted by David Mader at 11:56 AM | (2) | Back to Main

Blog Outage

I wasn't able to access the blog late yesterday, and I know some of my readers had the same problem. Instapundit also seemed to be down, which suggests a problem at our (common) server. In any case, we're back up, and no lasting damage seems to have been done.

UPDATE: Yes indeed, Hosting Matters was hit by a denial of service attack.

Posted by David Mader at 11:38 AM | (0) | Back to Main

October 16, 2003

The New Canadian Conservatism?

The Canadian Alliance and the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada have made an agreement-in-principle to merge. The full text of the agreement is here.

A lot of the agreement has to do with the mechanics of merger, which might be interesting if you're a Canadian politics geek and have followed the bickering between the (much larger) CA and the (much older) PCPC. More interesting, perhaps, is the statement of principles. While not too detailed (in fact I imagine many Liberals could in good conscience endorse it), it makes some subtle points.

First, what was included:

  • A belief that the best guarantors of the prosperity and well-being of the
    people of Canada are:

    • The freedom of individual Canadians to pursue their enlightened and legitimate self-interest within a competitive economy;

    • The freedom of individual Canadians to enjoy the fruits of their labour to the greatest possible extent; and

    • The right to own property;

  • A belief that a responsible government must be fiscally prudent and should be limited to those responsibilities which cannot be discharged reasonably by the individual or others;

  • A belief that the purpose of Canada as a nation state and its government, guided by reflective and prudent leadership, is to create a climate wherein individual initiative is rewarded, excellence is pursued, security and privacy of the individual is provided and prosperity is guaranteed by a free competitive market economy;

  • A belief that the greatest potential for achieving social and economic objectives is under a global trading regime that is free and fair.

Though individually a bit weak, taken together these establish a strong market orientation for the new party. That should distinguish it from the left (and predominant) wing of the Tory party, which is far more economically interventionist than even the governing liberals, at least ideologically. In fact, the biggest obstacle for the merger comes from David Orchard and the other Red Tories for whom these free market principles are anathema.

As important as what's in the agreement is what's left out: social policy. The closest the document comes to the topic is in the following principle:

  • A belief that good and responsible government is attentive to the people it represents and has representatives who at all times conduct themselves in an ethical manner and display integrity, honesty and concern for the best interest of all;

Yet even this really speaks to the corruption of the current Liberal government. In fact, the only explicit mention of social policy is a dedication to "progressive social policy and individual rights and responsibilities," an ambiguous phrase that must give Western social conservatives the willies. Social policy may well be to CA ratification what interventionism is to the PCPC.

The fact that neither party will be fully satisfied should be a reason for hope, however. The agreement does seem to represent a compromise. Now it's up to the members of each party to embrace that compromise - or to doom the country to countless more years of misrule.

Posted by David Mader at 03:49 PM | (2) | Back to Main

October 15, 2003

The Easterbrook Controversy

Damian Penny says Gregg Easterbrook is simply misunderstood. Easterbrook sparked some blogosphere controversy with his review of Quentin Tarantino's upcoming film Kill Bill. The review ended with the following paragraphs:

Corporate sidelight: Kill Bill is distributed by Miramax, a Disney studio. Disney seeks profit by wallowing in gore--Kill Bill opens with an entire family being graphically slaughtered for the personal amusement of the killers--and by depicting violence and murder as pleasurable sport. Disney's Miramax has been behind a significant share of Hollywood's recent violence-glorifying junk, including Scream, whose thesis was that murdering your friends and teachers is a fun way for high-school kids to get back at anyone who teases them. Scream was the favorite movie of the Columbine killers.

Set aside what it says about Hollywood that today even Disney thinks what the public needs is ever-more-graphic depictions of killing the innocent as cool amusement. Disney's CEO, Michael Eisner, is Jewish; the chief of Miramax, Harvey Weinstein, is Jewish. Yes, there are plenty of Christian and other Hollywood executives who worship money above all else, promoting for profit the adulation of violence. Does that make it right for Jewish executives to worship money above all else, by promoting for profit the adulation of violence? Recent European history alone ought to cause Jewish executives to experience second thoughts about glorifying the killing of the helpless as a fun lifestyle choice. But history is hardly the only concern. Films made in Hollywood are now shown all over the world, to audiences that may not understand the dialogue or even look at the subtitles, but can't possibly miss the message--now Disney's message--that hearing the screams of the innocent is a really fun way to express yourself.

Comments Penny:

What Easterbrook is trying to say, in a somewhat ham-handed fashion, is that many people believe money-hungry Jews control Hollywood, and that in releasing violent "junk" like Kill Bill, Eisner and the Weinsteins are simply fuelling the old stereotype...

At most, I think he's being somewhat condescending toward Jews - implying that they have to hold themselves to a higher moral standard than other people, because of the way they've suffered. Thanks for the advice, Gregg. But is he saying Jews are selfish or that they're responsible for bringing violence upon themselves? I just don't see it that way.

Penny's theory makes sense, but I think he - and other critics - are reading more into Easterbrook's comments than is actually there. It seems to me the 'Jewish interlude' begins with the reference to Michael Eisner and ends with the sentence "But history is hardly the only concern." Easterbrook thereafter reverts to his larger point, as his conclusion: by releasing movies such as Kill Bill, all Hollywood executives contribute to a global culture of violence.

What, then, was the point of the Jewish interlude? Let's revisit it:

Disney's CEO, Michael Eisner, is Jewish; the chief of Miramax, Harvey Weinstein, is Jewish. Yes, there are plenty of Christian and other Hollywood executives who worship money above all else, promoting for profit the adulation of violence. Does that make it right for Jewish executives to worship money above all else, by promoting for profit the adulation of violence? Recent European history alone ought to cause Jewish executives to experience second thoughts about glorifying the killing of the helpless as a fun lifestyle choice.

To simplify: Lots of Hollywood execs are Jews. Yes, there are Goyishe execs who make violent films for profit, but that doesn't mean Jews should do the same. Why single out Jewish execs? Because "recent European history" should make Jews - more than other groups - less willing to glorify violene.

This reference to the Holocaust is, in my mind, the real controversy, because of what it suggests about Easterbrook's attitude towards Jews and politics. On a superficial level, of course, the reference suggests some comparison between the fictional world of motion pictures and the actual and systematic murder of more than six million people. On a more subtle leve, however, it implies that Jews, solely by virtue of their faith, should be constrained in their actions and (more importantly) their thoughts because of their historical experience. It's the same conceit that presumes blacks must - must - be Democrats, and that any contravention of this obvious historical necessity implies deviance - if not race treason.

Easterbrook displays a similar conceit regarding the inability of the popular audience to discern fact from fiction, but that touches on his greater point about movies and the 'culture of violence' which I'm not interested in debating at this point. My interest is in pointing out that even if, as Penny says, Easterbrook did not mean to consciously endorse old racial stereotypes, he unconsciously endorsed new ones. He shouldn't escape criticism for that.

BACKGROUND: Via Instapundit, comments from Meryl Yourish and Roger Simon (who provides links to more reaction). Penny seems to refer explicitly to Yourish, and I think he's right to suggest that she draws some unsubstantiated conclusions.

Posted by David Mader at 11:37 AM | (0) | Back to Main

October 14, 2003

The Lady's Not For Turning

Goodness me. Thatcherism in Germany, Thatcherism in France. Why, it's almost as if the Iron Lady was on to something.

How fascinating, by the way, that economic reform is notionally entrusted to female leadership. Is that also a consequence of the original Thatcherism, or might the Baroness' own tenure have been a manifestation of some more fundamental European trend?

Posted by David Mader at 04:37 PM | (0) | Back to Main

October 12, 2003

Two If By Sea

Israel has obtained the capacity to deliver sea-launched nuclear missiles, according to Israeli and American sources cited in the LA Times. The disclosure is understood to be a warning to Iran in anticipation of the Islamic Republic's own declaration of a nuclear capacity. The ability to launch nuclear weapons from submarines adds a level of deterrence, allowing Israeli to retaliate against a nuclear first-strike even if that first-strike were to destroy Israel's land-based weapons systems.

That the disclosure comes jointly from Israel and the United States suggests that Washington is more active in the campaign to limit Iran's nuclear capability than is otherwise assumed. The controversy over WMD in Iraq has drained America's political capital with regards to the potential for an Iranian WMD program; this revelation suggests that in matters of such pressing interest, the White House will be content to simply get the job done, quietly if necessary, and regardless of international opinion.

JUST ONE THING (22:42 EST): The article contains this passage: '...near the town of Zachariah, which is Hebrew for "God remembers with vengeance."' Except it doesn't. I'm no Hebrew scholar, but I'm pretty sure Zechariah simply means 'God remembers' - from Zachar - Zachor - "remember"' and iah - yah - "God". Am I off base here? Or is the LA Times engaging in some creative translation?

Posted by David Mader at 10:31 PM | (4) | Back to Main

Thought for the Day

The extension of democracy through every country and continent remains a legitimate and indeed fundamental aspect of sound foreign policy
- Margaret Thatcher

Posted by David Mader at 07:33 PM | (0) | Back to Main

October 10, 2003

Cuba Sera Pronto Libre

The struggle for freedom may be centered in the Middle East at present, but it continues worldwide, and it must be continued in both peaceful and military means.

In that spirit, the President today announced a new policy to bring freedom and democracy to Cuba:

One hundred and thirty-five years ago today, the struggle for Cuban freedom began at a sugar mill near Manzanillo. Carlos Manuel de Cespedas -- known as the Father of the Homeland -- led an uprising against colonial rule. Today, the struggle for freedom continues -- it hasn't ended -- in cities and towns of that beautiful island, in Castro's prisons, and in the heart of every Cuban patriot. It is carried on by brave dissidents like Oscar Elias Biscet, Marta Beatriz Roque, Leonardo Bruzon Avila.

Last year in Miami, I offered Cuba's government a way forward -- a way forward toward democracy and hope and better relations with the United States. I pledged to work with our Congress to ease bans on trade and travel between our two countries if -- and only if -- the Cuban government held free and fair elections, allowed the Cuban people to organize, assemble and to speak freely, and ease the stranglehold on private enterprise.

Since I made that offer, we have seen how the Castro regime answers diplomatic initiatives. The dictator has responded with defiance and contempt and a new round of brutal oppression that outraged the world's conscience.

In April, 75 peaceful members of Cuban opposition were given harsh prison sentences, some as long a 20 years. Their crimes were to publish newspapers, to organize petition drives, to meet to discuss the future of their country. Cuba's political prisoners subjected to beatings and solitary confinement and the denial of medical treatment. Elections in Cuba are still a sham. Opposition groups still organize and meet at their own peril. Private economic activity is still strangled. Non-government trade unions are still oppressed and suppressed. Property rights are still ignored. And most goods and services produced in Cuba are still reserved for the political elites.

Clearly, the Castro regime will not change by its own choice. But Cuba must change. So today I'm announcing several new initiatives intended to hasten the arrival of a new, free, democratic Cuba.

The explicit proposals - enforcement of restrictions on Cuba travel, an increase in the number of Cuban immigrants, and the creation of what amounts to a standing executive committee on Cuba - suggest a rededication to existing policies rather than a wholly new tack. Still, they ought not be dismissed as mere show. The President makes good arguments for each (including the first, which is somewhat controversial given the suggestion that the quickest way to topple Castro is to expose him to American investment activity), but the greatest impact may come from the rhetoric. After the Cuban Missile Crisis the United States essentially committed itself to the perpetuation of the Castro regime, and since then change in Havanah hasn't been a serious consideration.

Bush's announcement may therefore herald a fundamental shift in attitude in Washington - including Foggy Bottom - regarding the permanence or transience of the Castro regime. Furthermore, the emphasis on encouraging reform from within - through an increase in broadcast activities - should please those who (nominally) support human rights but oppose the exercise of American power.

A final remark on the language of the statement. Bush ends with an invokation of the march of liberty:

This country loves freedom and we know that the enemy of every tyrant is the truth. We're determined to bring the truth to the people who suffer under Fidel Castro.

Cuba has a proud history of fighting for freedom, and that fight goes on. In all that lies ahead, the Cuban people have a constant friend in the United States of America. No tyrant can stand forever against the power of liberty, because the hope of freedom is found in every heart. So today we are confident that no matter what the dictator intends or plans, Cuba sera pronto libre.

When the President used similar language in confronting Iraq and the Arab tyrannies, it was said to be a ruse to obscure the true motive - oil. Perhaps critics of this administration will now recognize, at least to a certain degree, that it holds a true dedication to the spread of feedom for its own sake.

And perhaps those who initially supported this administration only to develop doubts, especially over the summer, will be buoyed by the rope-a-dope language Bush used to introduce his initiative:

Last year in Miami, I offered Cuba's government a way forward... Since I made that offer, we have seen how the Castro regime answers diplomatic initiatives. The dictator has responded with defiance and contempt and a new round of brutal oppression that outraged the world's conscience.

It's possible that this new Cuba initiative was thought up last week as a means to distract from the Plame Affair. It's perhaps much more likely that it was an inevitable consequence of the anticipated refusal of Havanah to play ball. In the past few weeks the White House seems to have roused itself from its summer slumber. As it attempts to retake the initiative - on Iraq, on Terror, and on the struggle for freedom - erstwhile supporters might reconsider their impatience with an administration that seems to have a knack for staying the course - even when others fail to see it.

Posted by David Mader at 04:06 PM | (0) | Back to Main

Statement of Principles

Earlier this year I tried to organize a student group similar to the Oxford Democracy Forum. It didn't work out, alas - organization of that type isn't my strong suit - but in the course of my efforts I drafted a statement of principles that (I believe) synthesized my sentiments regarding the (then potential) war in Iraq and the larger global campaign for freedom. To be frank, I thought it was a pretty solid document, and I'm reproducing it here.

Statement of Principles

We are a generation of a new age. As children we watched the Berlin Wall come down; in the decade that followed -- the decade of our youth -- we witnessed, and enjoyed, a tremendous economic expansion. Ours was a world of distant, localized conflicts and an independent, successful and secure North America. Coming into our adulthood at the beginning of a new century, we looked forward to a life consistent with the peace and prosperity of our early years.

The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, shattered the illusions under which we had grown. Not only were our hopes for a peaceful life dashed; our very security was shown to be at risk. Ours is a world of terror alerts, sleeper cells and dirty bombs; our televisions bring us news of terrorist arrests in our own cities; soldiers guard our airports; fighter jets patrol our skies.

Even as we confront these new dangers, we are mindful of the many other threats that perpetuate a dangerous world. Many of the regimes that sponsor terror also deny their own citizens basic human rights; their repressive world-view drives their terrorism and tyranny alike. Other regimes whose human rights abuses were overlooked during the Cold War have been allowed to consolidate their control; their citizens remain unfree. Still other nations have seen their electoral processes subverted and their democratic systems undermined; the rights of their citizens cannot but erode.

We do not believe that these are unrelated phenomena; rather, we believe that terrorism and tyranny are two faces of a common ill. By rejecting the principles of human rights and democracy, international terrorists and nationally-based tyrants pose a similar threat to the freedom of all humanity.

WE, students, affirm and declare:

I - Human Rights

  1. Humans enjoy certain fundamental and inalienable rights, granted them by no other man or woman, but by their Creator, or by virtue of their mutual interaction.

  2. Foremost among these is the right to security in one's person, and the consequent right to be free from any coercive act or decree which tends to adversely affect one's physical security.

  3. Humans further enjoy the freedoms of conscience, expression, movement and association, except insofar as the exercise of these serves to adversely affect the fundamental rights of another; moreover, none may restrict the rights or freedoms of others without their express and continued consent.

II - Democracy

  1. Democratic government is necessary for the continued security of the rights and freedoms of humankind.

  2. Democratic government which guarantees universal participation, equal representation and a reasonable limit on the exercise of power is the single extant form of governance that incorporates the rights of humankind into the governmental order, and reconciles the exercise of power with the freedom of the individual and the community.

  3. Human rights can never be guaranteed by an undemocratic government, and no government that fails to guarantee human rights can properly be considered democratic.

III - Security

  1. Undemocratic government, being that which fails to guarantee the fundamental rights of its citizens, represents a threat to democracy everywhere, being hostile to its fundamental tenets.

  2. Any government that exhibits a hostility towards democracy represents a threat to human rights everywhere, being hostile to the apparatus necessary for their security.

  3. Democratic governments must make every attempt, using peaceful methods when possible, and military means when necessary, to reduce and eliminate threats to human rights and democracy worldwide, and, consequently, to expand and secure democracy and human rights worldwide.

We undertake to promote these principles on our university campus through the sponsorship of speakers, debates, publications and other methods of raising awareness of and support for democracy. We further undertake to encourage the promotion of these principles beyond the halls of the academy by lobbying our governments and international organizations to adopt appropriate policies. We will work with any and all groups, both on and off campus, that share a dedication to the principles stated herein.

We reject the presumption so common on our campus, and on campuses around the world, that the American-led War on Terror represents political opportunism, economic imperialism or Anglo-American racism. We believe that as long as threats to democracy remain unaddressed, we will not truly be free; and that so long as our peers suffer under tyranny and oppression, we shall not be at peace.

Posted by David Mader at 03:11 PM | (3) | Back to Main


OSLO, October 10, 2003:

The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided to award the Nobel Peace Prize for 2003 to Shirin Ebadi for her efforts for democracy and human rights. She has focused especially on the struggle for the rights of women and children.

As a lawyer, judge, lecturer, writer and activist, she has spoken out clearly and strongly in her country, Iran, and far beyond its borders. She has stood up as a sound professional, a courageous person, and has never heeded the threats to her own safety.

Her principal arena is the struggle for basic human rights, and no society deserves to be labelled civilized unless the rights of women and children are respected. In an era of violence, she has consistently supported non-violence. It is fundamental to her view that the supreme political power in a community must be built on democratic elections. She favours enlightenment and dialogue as the best path to changing attitudes and resolving conflict.

Ebadi is a conscious Moslem. She sees no conflict between Islam and fundamental human rights. It is important to her that the dialogue between the different cultures and religions of the world should take as its point of departure their shared values. It is a pleasure for the Norwegian Nobel Committee to award the Peace Prize to a woman who is part of the Moslem world, and of whom that world can be proud - along with all who fight for human rights wherever they live.

During recent decades, democracy and human rights have advanced in various parts of the world. By its awards of the Nobel Peace Prize, the Norwegian Nobel Committee has attempted to speed up this process.

We hope that the people of Iran will feel joyous that for the first time in history one of their citizens has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, and we hope the Prize will be an inspiration for all those who struggle for human rights and democracy in her country, in the Moslem world, and in all countries where the fight for human rights needs inspiration and support.

The Washington Post calls it an "award designed to spur wider democracy in the Islamic world," and I think the Nobel committee's press release backs that up.

Persian bloggress Iranian Girl comments: "Till now I haven't heard a word about this big event in news of Iran's channels... but this is not a kind of thing that can be forgotten; no matter if they talk about that or not. She has won the World Nobel peace prize & the world will talk about that." Yes, they will. The pro-democracy rallies earlier this year, and their suppression, attracted little attention. Hopefully this will alert many to the ongoing struggle for democracy in Iran.

Little comment on the blogosphere so far. Andrew Sullivan: "It's a sign that the world understands the plight of people living under Islamist dictatorships and wants to support those who have made a difference in moving the Muslim world toward greater pluarlism and openness." Oxblogger Patrick Belton: "May Ms. Ebadi's work, supported now by its proper attention, prosper and continue." Damian Penny: "Iranians are clamoring for democracy and freedom, and the Nobel committee deserves credit for recognizing this." I haven't seen many comments from the left side of the blogosphere either, but then I must admit I don't know my way around that well.

On the big-NGO side, Amnesty has what could be called a note 'welcoming" the award while Human Rights Watch had a stronger statement celebrating "Nobel Prize Committee's choice of Iranian rights defender Shirin Ebadi for this year's Peace Prize [which] is a welcome sign of international support for all Iranians, and especially Iranian women, struggling to exercise their basic rights."

I must say I've become a bit disappointed, surfing the blogosphere, at the subdued reaction. Many bloggers qualified what remarks they made by saying they didn't know much about Ebadi. I suspect this is a consequence of the Nobel committee's award decisions in recent years, which many (and especially conservatives) found more or less outrageous. But if the awarding of the Peace Prize to Yassir Arafat was worthy of outrage, this award is worthing of a parallel celebration. Iran's struggle for democracy is one of the most important developments on the international stage today. In Persia's experience we are reminded of the ongoing nature of the struggle for liberty - and of the universal and timeless nature of the ideals of free government. Elbadi's award cannot be seen as anything but a recognition of this struggle and, in the committee's words, "an inspiration for all those who struggle for human rights and democracy in her country, in the Moslem world, and in all countries where the fight for human rights needs inspiration and support."

Yes, yes and yes. Throw caution to the wind: today is a day for freedom and celebration.

UPDATE (17:30 EST): Joe Katzman has the right spirit: "Whatever the reason for this fluke of good judgment, my sincere congratulations go out to Shirin Ebadi - and to the cause she fights for." Also check out Iranian group-blog Free Thoughts, which has an open comment thread.

Posted by David Mader at 02:45 PM | (3) | Back to Main

October 09, 2003


Eugene Volokh endorses the proposed Hatch amendment:

I have no interest in the job, but Orrin Hatch's proposed constitutional amendment that would "allow[] people who have been U.S. citizens for at least 20 years to be elected to the White House" is a good idea. Seems perfectly fair to me...
The best explanation I'd heard for the original requirement that the President be a natural-born citizen is that the Framers were worried that foreign nations might bribe or pressure enough people that they can place a scion of their ruling house in the U.S. Presidency. That had happened often enough in Europe in the centuries before; but it's not a serious concern today, and it seems to me sensible that this form of discrimination -- not the most heinous form by any means, but still not a justifiable one -- be eliminated.

Yes. There's a legitimate question over how serious the threat was in 1787, and at the time the foreign-born (I believe) Gouvernor Morris protested the inclusion of the 'natural born citizen' clause. Certainly there's no reason to keep the restriction today, unless one possesses both a nativism and a mistrust of the American people to vote in their best interests.

And, for the record, no, I am not interested in the job either. Unlike Volokh, I'm not even a citizen yet, let alone an eminent citizen. Not that I haven't brainstormed ways to become a natural born citizen - such as by having Canada join the Union according to the Articles of Confederation and then invoking the proviso to the natural born citizen clause (see para. 4), which opened executive office to "a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the adoption of this Constitution." Being a citizen of Canada at the point it acceded to the Union and adopted the Constitution, one could argue, would qualify one for office. Of course one could equally argue that the Articles of Confederation were superceded in 1787, etc. But it's an idea.

Posted by David Mader at 12:26 PM | (5) | Back to Main

October 08, 2003

Demolition Man

Earlier in the day I was forwarded the following:

In the movie 'demolition man', sandra bullock explains to a recently awakened Stallone (who was in some sort of coma) that she's heading down to "the President Schwarzennegger Library". The Year is 2023. She explains that in 2003 Schwarzennegger had become so popular in the US, that a senator had tried to start a 'movement' to change the constitution and allow naturalize US citizens (who have been in the country for 20+ years) to become President. The amendment was passed shortly after. As a result of Arnold's rise to fame in 2003, he had become President of the United States a few years later.

Sounded a bit too good to be true, so I went searching for a real quote. I couldn't find a full script for the movie online, but a number of sites did mention the 'Arnold Exchange', especially after Shwarzenegger announced his candidacy earlier this year. According to about.com, the actual dialogue from the movie reads as follows:

Stallone: "Hold it! The Schwarzenegger Library?"
Bullock: "Yes, the Schwarzenegger Presidential Library. Wasn't he an actor?"
Stallone: "Stop! He was President?"
Bullock: "Yes. Even though he was not born in this country, his popularity at the time caused the 61st Amendment…"

Admittedly rather prescient, but hardly as precise as the initial story suggested. Make of it what you will...

UPDATE (17:33 EST): Here's the apparent text of the original story, from Le Monde:

Sylvester Stallone est un policier de Los Angeles mis en hibernation et
réveillé en 2032. A un moment, sa partenaire, Sandra Bullock, évoque la
"librairie présidentielle Schwarzenegger". Elle explique que l'acteur est
devenu si populaire que le peuple a décidé de supprimer l'article de la
Constitution qui interdit à quelqu'un n'étant pas né américain de devenir

Ce n'est pas forcément de la science-fiction. Le sénateur républicain Orrin
Hatch a déposé il y a quelques semaines un amendement autorisant un citoyen
naturalisé depuis vingt ans à être candidat à la présidentielle. Arnold
Schwarzenegger est devenu citoyen américain en 1983. S'il est élu gouverneur
et l'amendement voté, tout est possible.

The confusion comes, I think, from reading the second paragraph as part of the description of the movie, instead of as an explanation of the actual state of affairs regarding a proposed 'natural born citizen' amendment and Arnold's consequent political opportunity.

I dwell on this, by the way, not to expose any particular misinterpretation but rather to confront the possibility of a general misinterpretation of the sort that can quite quickly gain a life of its own on the internet.

Posted by David Mader at 03:03 PM | (2) | Back to Main

What He Said

Why does it take Mark Steyn one sentence to say what I can't in ten paragraphs?

The only reason for getting rid of Saddam was that America couldn't afford not to get rid of him: it was necessary to prick the Middle Eastern terrorist bubble, of which he was the most successful manifestation.

Oh, right: it's because he's Mark Steyn.

Posted by David Mader at 12:08 AM | (0) | Back to Main

October 07, 2003


This AP article seems to back up my point yesterday that the real subtext of Ambassador Gillerman's address to the UNSC was Damascus' continued reluctance to aid the US in the War on Terror, recent capitulations following the invasion of Baghdad not withstanding.

President Bush's strong defense of Israel's air strike on Syria is erasing any differences between the United States and Israel on the tactics of fighting terror. It also appears to be spurring assertive stands by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Syrian President Bashar Assad.

The White House has concluded Syria is on the wrong side of the war against terror. And longtime State Department reservations about Israel's tactics as well as concern about the impact of violence on faltering peacemaking efforts are being swept aside by Bush's public stance.

The emphasis is mine. The whole article is well worth the read, especially the suggestion that the White House now has State playing along in applying the pressure to Damascus.

MORE: LGF brings us the text of Gillerman's speech, reproduced in its entirety below. The speech is a terrible indictment of Syria's complicity in terrorism, and a forthright challenge to the Security Council to live up to its responsibilities. I urge you to read it.

The President: I give the floor to the representative of Israel.

Mr. Gillerman (Israel): First, let me congratulate you, Sir, on your assumption of the presidency of the Security Council. Let me also express to you my regret that your first meeting should be of this nature and take place on this day.

I wish also to express to Sir Emyr Jones Parry my great appreciation for his able and fair stewardship of the Security Council last month.

This meeting of the Security Council is being convened within hours of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, which is the holiest day of the Jewish calendar. I deeply regret that the Council could not meet after this most important religious day so as to allow Israel to participate fully in the debate. I will, unfortunately, have to leave this meeting after I make my statement in order to observe this holy day. Yesterday, a Palestinian suicide bomber entered a crowded beachfront restaurant in the port city of Haifa, murdering 19 innocent civilians and wounding at least 60 others. The restaurant — a symbol of Arab-Israeli coexistence, as is the city of Haifa — was frequented by Jewish and Arab citizens of Israel alike, and among the victims were four Israeli Arabs, three children and a little baby girl. Five victims were members of the same family and three were members of another family. Whole families were wiped out by that horrendous act, taking place on the Jewish sabbath on a quiet, peaceful beachfront in the city of Haifa.

Islamic Jihad, a terrorist organization that operates freely from Palestinian Authority territory and has headquarters in Damascus, Syria, proudly claimed responsibility for this massacre. Islamic Jihad is an organization committed to the destruction of Israel through holy war and which engages in the deliberate and widespread murder of innocents to that end. It opposes moderate Arab Governments and actively supports terrorist attacks against Western targets. There could not be a more obvious example of a terrorist organization.

The massacre in Haifa is the latest of over 40 terrorist atrocities committed by Islamic Jihad in the past few years. Among the attacks perpetrated by that organization were the massacre of 21 teenagers at a discotheque in Tel Aviv on 2 June 2001; the bombing of 5 June 2002 at the Meggido Junction, which killed 18 Israelis; the bombing of a commuter bus on 21 October 2002, which killed 14 Israelis; the attack on a shopping mall in the Israeli town of Afula on 19 May 2003, in which three civilians were killed and over 70 wounded; and the attack on 30 March 2003, in which a suicide bomber detonated his explosives at a café in Netanya, wounding 58 civilians.

The encouragement, safe harbour, training facilities, funding and logistical support offered by Syria to a variety of notorious terrorist organizations is a matter of public knowledge. Among the many terrorists group that operate and benefit from the auspices of the Syrian dictatorship are Islamic Jihad, Hamas, Hizbollah, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. It is well known that the Secretary General of Islamic Jihad, Ramadan Abdallah Shallah, is one of several terrorist leaders who operate freely in Damascus and receive immunity and support from the Assad regime.

Allow me to briefly detail, for the benefit of Council, the extent of support that Syria, as well as the regime in Iran, afford to terrorist organizations such as Islamic Jihad, which are engaged in the deliberate massacre of innocent civilians.

Safe harbour and training facilities are provided throughout Syria for terrorist organizations such as Islamic Jihad, Hamas and Hizbollah, both in separate facilities and in Syrian army bases. The Ein Saheb base, which was targeted in Israel’s measured defensive operation today, is just one of those facilities sponsored by Syria and Iran. Recruits at camps such as Ein Saheb come from Islamic Jihad, Hamas and other terrorist groups. They are taught how to assemble bombs, conduct kidnapping, prepare suicide belts, gather intelligence and establish terrorist cells. Some have also received aviation instruction. Recruits training at those camps are slated to return to Palestinian Authority territory and other areas to set up cells and conduct terrorist operations.

Syria has itself facilitated and directed acts of terrorism by coordination and briefings via phone and Internet and by calling activists to Damascus for consultations and briefings. Three such operatives — Tarek Az Aldin, Ali Saffuri and Taabat Mardawi — have been identified under investigation as specifically designated liaisons for relaying instructions between officials in Damascus and terrorist cells in the West Bank and Gaza. Mr. Mardawi himself has admitted involvement in many attacks, including a bus bombing in Haifa in May 2001, a suicide attack at a restaurant in Kiryat Motzkin in August of that year and an attack on a bus near Nazareth in March 2002.

Another example comes from an intelligence report provided by the Head of the Palestinian Preventative Security Apparatus on 31 October 2001, which asserts that Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Hizbollah were meeting in Damascus “in order to increase their joint acitivity ... with the aid of Iranian money”. Instructions are also given to halt terrorist activity when it suits Syrian or Iranian interests to avoid the spotlight, such as following the terrorist attacks of 11 September in the United States. It is very strange that Syria decided to be in the spotlight today and actually put itself in the dock on this very day, after these actions.

Iran, through the use of the Syrian and Palestinian banking systems, sustains a systematic money transfer system, and large sums of money have been transferred to Islamic Jihad as well as other terrorists organizations through Damascus for the planning and perpetration of attacks. Mr. Shallah himself, the Secretary-General of Islamic Jihad, is known to have transferred funds in the hundreds of thousands of dollars from Damascus to the individual accounts of Islamic Jihad operatives such as Bassani ak-Saadi, who is responsible for Islamic Jihad financing in Jenin.

Syria uses its State-run media and official institutions to glorify and encourage suicide bombings against civilians in restaurants, schools, commuter buses and shopping malls. To mention but a few examples, Radio Damascus — far from being a free radio — in a broadcast on 9 May 2002 lauded “the wonderful and special suicide attacks which were executed by some of the sons of the Palestinian nation”. In another State-run announcement on 1 January 2002, Damascus Radio declared “The entire world knows that Syria, its political leadership and its Arab people...have turned Syrian Arab soil into a training camp, a safe haven and an arms depot for the Palestinian revolutionaries.” And on 13 May 2002, President Bashar Assad himself announced in reference to so-called acts of resistance “If I was not President of Syria I wouldn’t hesitate to participate in them.” This was not said by Osama bin Laden or by Saddam Hussain, but by a President of a State that is a member of this Council. Syria has also played host to a number of conferences in which senior terrorist operatives from Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other organizations meet.

Syria has facilitated the transfer of arms to Palestinian terrorist organizations such as Islamic Jihad by allowing the transfer of sophisticated weapons from Iran to Hizbollah through Syrian territory. Hizbollah, itself a vicious terrorist organization, has then sought to smuggle those arms to Palestinian terrorist groups, as was evidenced in the Karine A arms shipment and similar incidents.

These are just a few examples of the extent and nature of the involvement of the Syrian regime in the deliberate murder of innocent civilians. Each and every one of these acts constitutes a grave violation of international law and Security Council resolutions, as well as a threat to international peace and security. There are few better exhibits of State sponsorship of terrorism than the one provided by the Syrian regime. Security Council resolution 1373 (2001), adopted under Chapter VII of the Charter — which in act of the highest hypocrisy Syria itself voted for — makes absolutely clear that States must prevent acts of terrorism and refrain from any form of financing, support, safe harbour for or toleration of terrorist groups. Syrian complicity in and responsibility for suicide bombings are as blatant as they are repugnant.

The membership of this arch-sponsor of terrorism in the Council is an unbearable contradiction and an embarrassment to the United Nations. For Syria to ask for a Council debate is comparable only to the Taliban calling for such a debate. It would be laughable, if it was not so sad.

And yet, members of the Council and the United Nations can hardly be surprised at this shameless act of hypocrisy by the Syrian regime. This is the same regime that speaks so often of occupation while it brutally occupies the neighbouring territory of Lebanon. It is the same regime that speaks of international law and human rights while it subjugates its people under a repressive and primitive dictatorship, violating countless international obligations. It is the same regime that supported the Saddam Hussain regime in Iraq in violation of Security Council resolutions and that to this day facilitates the infiltration of terrorists to attack civilian and military targets in Iraqi territory. And it is this same despotic regime that speaks so freely of double standards at the United Nations. Syria would do well to take a hard look at the mirror and count itself fortunate that it has not yet, for unfortunate reasons, been the subject of concerted international action as part of the global campaign against terrorism — not yet.

The Syrian delegate speaks a great deal about socalled resistance. Perhaps he can tell us precisely, without his familiar diplomatic word games and misrepresentations, how exactly the murder of children and babies in a restaurant is an act of legitimate resistance. Or perhaps he could tell us how the Syrians themselves have dealt with resistance, such as in the case of Hama, in which some 10,000 Syrian civilians were murdered by the Syrian armed forces.

Israel’s measured defensive response to the horrific suicide bombings against a terrorist training facility in Syria is a clear act of self-defence in accordance with Article 51 of the Charter. Those actions come after Israel has exercised tremendous restraint despite countless acts of terrorism that have claimed hundreds of innocent lives, for which Syria bears direct and criminal responsibility. It comes after Israel and the international community as a whole have repeatedly called on Syria to end its support of terrorism and finally comply with international law. And it is designed to prevent further armed attacks against Israeli civilians in which Syria is complicit, with a view to encouraging Syria to resolve its dispute through bilateral negotiations in accordance with Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973), as it is legally required to do. This is not a hypothetical question. Many States members of the Organization and of the Council have been faced with terrorism of far less intensity and have responded with far less restraint and far less concern for human life.

And yet the Security Council has not seen fit to scrutinize their conduct. Indeed, on certain occasions the Council has specifically endorsed such defensive measures.

If there is a double standard in this Organization, it is that while some States are afforded the right to protect their citizens, Israel too often is sent the message that its citizens are not worthy of protection. If there is a double standard, it is that some States are able to support terrorism with impunity, while those defending against it are called to account. If there is a double standard, it is Syria sitting at the Council table and raising one hand to vote against terror and the other to perpetrate and initiate terror around the world. For the sake of peace and the reputation of the Council, let there be no such double standard today.

In the face of the rejectionism, aggression and terrorist sponsorship of the Syrian regime, together with Iran and the Palestinian Authority, what would the international community have us do? Like any State faced with such a critical and prolonged threat, Israel must exercise its inherent right and obligation to defend its citizens. What can we tell the Arab and Israeli mothers of children murdered in this weekend’s attack in Haifa? Should we say, “We could have prevented the death of your son or daughter. We could have stopped a terrorist from walking into your town, your school, your home, your bedroom — but our hands were tied”? Israel remains committed to a peaceful solution to the Middle East conflict and is ready to make painful compromises to that end. But no peace can come while terrorism prospers. No negotiations can bring progress, while our citizens die on the streets.

Today, on the very eve of the Day of Atonement and the thirtieth anniversary of the Egyptian-Syrian aggression that initiated the Yom Kippur War, we call on members of the Council to come to the aid of the victims of terrorism, not of its sponsors. Syria deserves no support for its complicity in murder, and the Council would commit an unforgivable act of moral blindness were it to act otherwise. The time has come for the Council, which adopted resolution 1373 (2002), and which has been at the forefront of the global counter-terrorism campaign, to hold to account a brutal dictatorship that is world-renowned for adopting terrorism as its primary tool. The world is watching. And today, more than on any other day, God is watching too.

Posted by David Mader at 11:41 PM | (0) | Back to Main

End of the Two-Party System?

Roger Simon says we're seeing it, and it's starting in California tonight.

I doubt this will be the end of the two-party system per se, since that system has existed more or less since Jefferson, and certainly since Jackson. But the two parties have changed at certain momentous points in the nation's history. Can the Democrats or the GOP - or both - be knocked from the perch they have reinforced (by law) over the years? Hard to imagine. But perhaps we'll see the ramifications of this apparent popluar movement in the future policies and attitudes of those two major parties themselves.

Or will it take another People's Party to redefine the political landscape?

Posted by David Mader at 11:28 PM | (2) | Back to Main


Check this out:

They're calling it with 0%, none reporting. That's confidence.

Drudge, of course, has been reporting it all afternoon. It's too early to say whether it will be a good thing - Shwarznegger may crash and burn, 'proving' all the anti-recall folks right. But with high turnout and the democratic transfer of power in one of the world's largest autonomous governments, I don't think we can do anything but applaud the recall tonight.

Posted by David Mader at 11:21 PM | (0) | Back to Main

Olympic Double Standard?

The Leipzig bid for the 2012 Olympic games have apprently been sunk by the revelation that a number of the organizers were members of the Stasi - the notorious East German secret police.

But since when has being a fascist been an obstacle to Olympic success?

Posted by David Mader at 10:30 PM | (0) | Back to Main


James Taranto notes a kefuffle at Gonzaga University, where a Young America's Foundation flyer has been banned because it contained the word "hate":

The flyer in question featured the topic of guest speaker Dan Flynn's speech, "Why the Left Hates America," which is also the title of his book. The administration first approved the flyer then rescinded the approval after some professors and students complained of the use of the word "hate." . . .

The director has so far refused to give Schafer the names of the people who tore down the flyers, which is a violation of Gonzaga's posting policy. He then compared the speech title "Why the Left Hates America" to an imaginary Caucasian club talking about how it hates black people.

I'm surprised Taranto didn't comment on the fact that this is a completely false analogy. Since Flynn's lecture is sponsored by the conservative YAF, we can safely assume that Flynn himself is not a 'leftist' by his own definition, and therefore does not 'hate America'. The proper analogy is not therefore "an imaginary Caucasian club talking about how it hates black people," but rather an imaginary African-American club talking about how Caucasians hate them.

It should be emphasized that Flynn's talk isn't on "hating the leftists who hate America." Hate is not the object of the lecture, but the subject. One can debate the validity of Flynn's thesis, but surely one cannot substantiate the banning of that thesis on the basis that it promotes hatred itself.

Posted by David Mader at 03:52 PM | (0) | Back to Main

October 06, 2003

Israel & Syria

Shortly before heading off to synagogue yesterday, I managed to catch part of the proceedings of the Security Council on CNN. Israeli Permanent Representative Dan Gillerman's address was fantastic. I haven't been able to find a true transcript, and the Council's own summary is lacking.

Gillerman focused on the links between Syria and the various Palestinian and Islamist terrorist organizations, and his explicit point was the hypocrisy of Syria demanding any sort of action - and indeed, the absurdity of Syria sitting on the Security Council at all. But the subtext of his speech was more important. Since the Iraqi campaign, the Americans have been leaning heavily on Syria; indeed, the changing attitude in Damascus is one of the positive outcomes of the Iraqi war in terms of the greater War on Terror.

But the Assad regime hasn't changed its tune entirely, and both the Israelis and the Americans know this. As Gillerman reminded the Security Council, thousands of terrorists and others have crossed the Syrian/Iraqi border to take up arms against US and coalition forces. Syria remains a hub of activity between the west and the Islamist centres in Iran and Saudi Arabia. In short, Syria is doing what it can to keep the US pacified, without capitulating.

The most poignant point of Gillerman's speech, therefore, was the warning he gave. "Due to an unfortnate set of circumstances," he said (and I paraphrase), "Syria has not felt the collective pressure of the international community as have some other countries." 'Collective pressure,' of course, meant regime change, and 'other countries' meant Iraq. Gillerman then turned from his prepared statement and looked across the Council table to the Syrian representative.

"Not yet," he said.

UPDATE: The entire text of the speech is now posted here. The remarks which I paraphrased above appear as follows:

Syria would do well to take a hard look at the mirror and count itself fortunate that it has not yet, for unfortunate reasons, been the subject of concerted international action as part of the global campaign against terrorism — not yet.

Posted by David Mader at 11:35 PM | (1) | Back to Main

Press Privilege II

Glenn Reynolds is all over this question, with posts here, here and here.

And while you're over there you might also want to check out this post on the apparent correlation between gun control and gun crime. Certainly throws a wrench in the anti-gun argument, doesn't it?

Posted by David Mader at 11:12 PM | (2) | Back to Main

October 03, 2003

Vast Right Wing Conspiracy

I have a bumper sticker declaring my proud membership in the VRWC, but I never really thought I'd made it until I followed a link in my referrals and found myself at the blog of a Corpus Christi, Texas, talk radio host.

The inestimable Winds of Change seems to have been discussed on today's show. Alas, I can't find a live feed link on the net.

In any case: Maderblog and talk-radio: the link is established.

Posted by David Mader at 01:56 PM | (8) | Back to Main

Stuck in a Moment

Earlier I suggested that the administration shouldn't have gone to the UN in making its case for a war on Iraq. Andrew Sullivan, reviewing excerpts from the Kay report, points out that the UN route provided solid international-law justifications for the invasion which still stand:

Saddam was lying to the U.N. as late as 2002. He was required by the U.N. to fully cooperate. He didn't. The war was justified on those grounds alone. Case closed.

Such arguments still fail to sway opponents of the war, however. There are many reasons, and I wouldn't presume to group all opponents together, but it seems to me the root of continued opposition isn't simply Bush-antipathy or Saddam-sympathy or even high-handed Franco-European manoevering. The root is a continued unwillingness to recognize the war being waged against us.

Those of us who supported an invasion of Iraq back in 2001, who supported the 'build-up' to war and who continue to support the decision to invade months after the fact generally see the invasion in the context of what it's accomplished. Since the invasion, all of Iraq's Arab neighbors have become much more willing to 'assist' the United States in its war on terror. It's not something we see on the news nightly - or very often at all - but it's happening. There are clearer signs, such as the government reforms in Saudi Arabia and Syria, but most of the effect happens at the highest and lowest levels.

When proponents of the invasion said that a free Iraq would lead to a freer region, this is a large part of what they meant. Yes, the long term goal is the democratization of the entire area, but this is the short term manifestation of that process.

Opponents of the war, however, are dismissive of such justifications. On one level they have a point: though these arguments were central prior to the war, the interests of diplomacy and politicking assigned them a back-seat to WMD and the UN route; as a consequence, while the President made these arguments, most of the leg-work was done by 'neoconservative' commentators, and therefore (paradoxically) not associated with White House thinking. And yet even if such a motive were conceded, opponents would still argue that an invasion of Iraq would not be justified based on the consequences it would have in other countries.

One would hope, of course, that even opponents of the war would recognize the brutality of the Saddamite regime, and would support any effort that removed it and brought even a marginally higher degree of freedom to the Iraqi people. Objections that the US isn't getting involved in humanitarian crises elsewhere are disingenuous: many proponents of the war would support US intervention on humanitarian grounds elsewhere, and such objections do not speak to the merit of freeing the Iraqi people.

But the bottom line is that opponents of the war continue to see Saddamite Iraq as a sovereign nation separated in every sense from the larger Islamist threat to the West. Largely this seems to result from a perception of that Islamist threat as an abstraction. Yes, some concede, al Qaida is a threat, but Iraq isn't al Qaida; there's no connection; Saddam was a secularist; it turns out he didn't have WMD; your justification was false.

To the proponent this all seems bewildering: victory in war is achieved by destroying the enemy's capacity to make war. Toppling Saddam has severly restricted our enemy's capacity to make war against us by putting considerable pressure on those regimes that do actively support al Qaida. Saddam was not an illegitimate target in this wider war, though his removal was not in fact the end or ultimate purpose of the invasion. At the very least he was a tyrant worthy of removal; and if one is not moved by tyranny and oppression, one may turn to international law and the UN as justification, though to do so is unusually callous.

In short, Saddam Hussein had no right to continue in power; he was as worthy of removal as any tyrant ever was, and perhaps moreso; and his removal, though laudable as an end in itself, served a greater purpose of diminishing an enemy that seeks our destruction. To reject this hypothesis, unless one were to cast Hussein as something less than the tyrant he was, one must reject the reality of the war being waged against us. One must trivialize Islamism as an ideology; one must dismiss the goal of this ideology to subjugate or destroy the free west; one must instead frame terrorism as a consequence of social factors carried out by actors without free agency.

These are not, proponents of the war would argue, realistic propositions. They once were common, but the September 11 attacks on America forced a reevaluation that led many to abandon them in favor of a realization of the immediacy of the threat. September 11 destroyed the illusion under which we had lived for so long, that the West was somehow both separate and safe from the dangers of the world. We learned that terrible day that history continues, and that we continue with it. But if that terrible event failed to fundamentally shift the general assumptions of such a significant part of the political spectrum, what will?

Posted by David Mader at 12:31 PM | (0) | Back to Main

Grandescunt Aucta Labore

The quiz is over; the lines are closed. Earlier in the week I asked you to identify the location in the banner above. It was a bit unfair, not only because the picture was pretty heavily distorted but also because quite a few of my readers have no point of reference. A certain few of them do, though, and those who realized why they might have an advantage could quickly have figured out the right answer.

The right answer is, of course, the Arts Building of McGill Universty - in 1945. Here's the original picture:

In the end, I received two correct responses, from McGill readers Matthew Fletcher and Adam O'Brian. Congratulations to them both - though the fact that they're room-mates suggests to me the potential for collaboration. Tsk tsk!

An honorable mention must go out to Elana Setton, who almost had the right answer but didn't submit it in an appropriate manner.

Thanks to all who played, and rest assured, a new (or old?) banner will be up by next week.

[The picture, by the way, is from McGill's great photo archives. If you're a student or an alumn, check it out! Lots of great shots of the school over the years - back to the mid-19th century.]

UPDATE (13:44 EST): The aforementioned Matt reminds me that he in fact specified a date as well as a time: "circa 1940". That's certainly worthy of a little extra, um, reward. The cars were a general giveaway, of course, though a couple of people thought they seemed more 1950s. The car in the bottom left corner particularly caught my eye for it's 'modern' design that seemed much more 50s-esque:

I don't know anything about old cars, and I think my readership is generally my age, give or take fifteen years. But that doesn't mean we don't have old-car buffs. Can anyone shed any light?

Posted by David Mader at 12:23 AM | (5) | Back to Main

Just Do It

Can we all now agree that the decision to go to the UN was a mistake? A year ago President Bush was said to have capitulated to his Secretary of State and his friend the Prime Minister of the UK, acceding to their combined request to go to the UN in order to achieve a 'multilateral coalition' on Iraq. In order to do so, the administration had to frame the Iraqi conflict in the terms of the organization's existing beef: WMD.

How's that worked out? The hoped-for multilateralism fell apart with the French veto. Blair swayed Westminster, but he invested considerable capital in order to win the House's trust. The continuing failure to find WMD has laid the PM low, though; in the long term, going to the UN - and therefore making WMD the centrepiece of the argument - may have hurt Blair more than it helped.

Did the benefits of going to the UN outweigh the costs? I guess that depends on whether you believe the US could have staged a successful invasion on their own. All things considered, I think it's fair to assume the affirmative: though the British participation was important and well appreciated, battle plans could have been altered; a quicker 'rush to war' might have allowed passage through Turkey; and without going to the UN, the US could have framed the war in its own terms - no outstanding UN resolutions to enforce, no wild-goose chases to be had.

Things may not have turned out any better - perhaps the current questions over the propriety of the invasion would have appeared in another form. But it's hard to imagine things turning out any worse. The world would be angered at US unilateralism? Done that. Our closest allies would be divided and undermined by the war? Ask Tone. The left would call the war illegitimate? Uhuh. Is there any counterfactual that would be worse than what we have?

That's extreme, I suppose; perhaps the French are in worse shape than they would otherwise be; perhaps Security Council intransigence undermined the UN in the eyes of Americans in a manner that will be beneficial over time. But I'm increasingly of the opinion that going to the UN was the basis of the administration's current Iraq policy woes.

Posted by David Mader at 12:13 AM | (1) | Back to Main

October 02, 2003


The hits keep coming with allegations Arnold once praised Hitler for "being a little man with almost no formal education, [moving] up to power" coming hard on the heels of accusations the Republican candidate had groped a number of women.

I'm not sure how to react. Don't get me wrong: my first instinct is to dismiss these 'revelations' as base political manoevering. The 'Hitler' allegations - noat the first - are, if true, thirty years old, and there's no indication that he was ever attracted in anything but a superficial sense to Nazism; indeed, his association with the Simon Wiesenthal center is much remarked upon, and there's no reason to think it is insincere.

As for the 'groping' scandal, the allegations aren't new - and the instances also don't seem recent. The press reports don't give dates, but they seem also to date from the 1970s and early 1980. Again, there's every indication Arnold has reformed.

I say I'm not sure how to react, because I can't escape the feeling that if Arnold were a Democrat I'd be raising all hell. The easy comparison is to Bill Clinton, with the single and important difference that there's no indication Arnold still engages in these improprieties, let alone regularly. But nonetheless, while I believe my current position to be rational and entirely legitimate, I can't escape the feeling I'd react differently in difference circumstances.

I wasn't old enough to be active in the political debates of the 1990s, and so I'm not sure I'd have associated with the rabid anti-Clintonism that was ascendant on the political right. I hope that I can parry my current uncertainty over the Schwarzennegger 'scandals' into a more reasonable approach to future revelations of impropriety. Ultimately there are distinctions to be made, and I don't mean to compare Arnold to any other politician, past or present. Again, I believe that he's reformed and ready for the job. But when I jump all over revelations of past Democratic impropriety, someone call me on it.

Posted by David Mader at 11:30 PM | (1) | Back to Main


The Ontario Tories got smoked. Tony Clement's loss seems particularly unfortunate, but an all round rough night.

Hope it leads to something better in the long run.

Posted by David Mader at 10:12 PM | (2) | Back to Main

Is He Serious?

It's so often hard to tell with Harry Potter reviews. Hard to ignore the, uh, evidence though.

And for the record, I think the books are about magic.

Posted by David Mader at 09:34 PM | (0) | Back to Main

That Kuwaiti WMD Story

I noticed this one yesterday, but have held off to see what would happen with it. What's happened is that a lot of people are talking about it - some of the guys in my class this morning were going to Drudge to check it out (ah, the wonders of wireless).

Instapundit was the first to notice the story, and he's got a piece of correspondence that bears repeating:

I don't know what this means, if anything ... but that story you link to is bylined Associated Press.

It's not on our wire.

I also can't find any other version of that story on Google News, either.

The way I see it, the story is either a) a fraud or b) being repressed by some pretty powerful people. That way lies tin-hatsville, though; still, one shouldn't discount the possibility that the rumour was based on some sort of seizure that we'll learn more about months from now.

As a side note, that Hindustan Times piece is taking a looooong time to load, although it eventually does; not sure if that means the whole world is trying to access it or what.

Posted by David Mader at 02:41 PM | (0) | Back to Main

Banner Contest

I'm still accepting submissions for the banner quiz. I've received a number of answers so far - I won't say whether I've received any right answers - and I'll be accepting submissions until the wee hours of Friday morning. Again, there's nothing to win, and some readers are much better suited to place the picture, but it's open to all.

Posted by David Mader at 12:04 PM | (0) | Back to Main


I've taken to updating individual posts, rather than posting a new item commenting on an old item. I find it adds a little meat to the individual posts. My suggestion, then, is this: if you bring up Maderblog and see that the top item hasn't changed, don't assume I haven't added anything new. Scroll down a few posts; you never know what you might find.

Posted by David Mader at 12:02 PM | (0) | Back to Main

New to the Blogosphere?

Luckily there are a number of kind people to show you around.

Posted by David Mader at 11:58 AM | (0) | Back to Main

Long Man, Short History

British scientists have suggested that the Long Man, one of the largest chalk carvings in Britain and presumed to date at least to the Roman occupation, may in fact be less than five hundred years old:

Carved into a steep slope on the South Downs in Sussex, the imposing figure has been claimed as an Anglo Saxon warrior, a Roman folly and an Iron Age fertility symbol.

But according to a team of researchers, the Long Man may be a relatively recent addition to the landscape. Tests carried out this summer have produced compelling evidence that it dates from the mid-16th century...

"I didn't expect this date at all," Prof Bell told The Daily Telegraph yesterday. "I expected it to be no later than Anglo Saxon."

Prof Bell's conclusions come from an analysis of chalk fragments washed down the slope over the past few thousand years.

The analysis revealed little activity on the hillside during the Iron Age, Roman occupation or Medieval times. But about 500 years ago there was a sudden change when a layer of chalk rubble swept down the slope. Prof Bell believes that the chalk debris may have been come from the freshly cut Long Man.


Posted by David Mader at 09:03 AM | (0) | Back to Main

October 01, 2003

Press Privilege

I've been thinking about the 'right' of the press to shield its sources, initially because of the Plame affair but also encouraged by tonight's episode of Law & Order. I understand the basic protection afforded the press from state harrasment as outlined by Eugene Volokh, but this isn't the justification one often hears from champions of the media. The emphasis is more often on the reporter's requirement of trust -- particularly the trust of sources, who would otherwise not come forward.

This creates a sense of reporter/source privilege akin to lawyer/client or doctor/patient privilege, and the estimable legal sources at the aforementioned Law & Order suggest that certain courts have recognized the protected nature of such relationships.

I can't quite decide if this is a good thing, though. I know I shouldn't be taking my philosophic cues from a TV show, but I haven't had time to look further into it, so bear with me: the fictional reporter character invokes Woodward and Bernstein to suggest that without protection, Deep Throat wouldn't have come forward. This seems disingenuous to me, for it basically absolves both sources and reporters of any responsibility for their actions. Certainly protection in the form of a court-recognized privilege might encourage the divulsion of information that otherwise wouldn't come out (whistle-blower laws seem more or less designed around this theory), and that may be a good thing. But even so, is it proper to alter the law - that is, to impose the state's coercive power - in order to achieve it? Doesn't it essentially involve the state, through its courts, in the advancement of the press' private business?

As you can see, I'm still mulling this over, and I would appreciate any thoughts on the subject. Should reporter/source discussions be privileged? If so, to what degree - and to what end? What are the various benefits - both to reporters and sources and to the public at large? What are the negative consequences?

MORE (10/2/03 9:09 EST): The Professor has been having similar thoughts (though apparently not provoked by Law & Order), and recommends a subpoena of the players involved. He also more or less dismisses the standard journalistic defense of its supposed privilege:

It’s true, of course, that reporters should, in ordinary circumstances, keep promises of confidentiality to their sources, just as people should keep promises in general. But promises not to talk about crimes in which one is, in a sense, a participant aren’t the ordinary sort of promises. (We lawyers call promises like that “conspiracies,” sometimes). If the worst that people claim is actually true, then the reporters who are keeping their sources secret are covering up a crime, in a matter of national security, in wartime. The notion that exposing the leaker would make such leaks less likely doesn’t seem like much of an argument: presumably, we want such leaks to be less likely, which is why they’re a felony.

Yea. It increasingly seems to me that press privilege is simply a way to allow both sources and reporters escape consequence: a source knows that if he leaks something, and he's fingered, his career will be ruined - or worse; the reporter believes that if he surrenders a source, further stories will not be discovered, and the greater good will not be served. But if those positions are meritorious, there's no reason they should be protected by law any more than they are in the narrowest sense. If a whistleblower believes his leak is necessary, he should have the principle to go ahead with it - whatever the personal consequences. True, some people may value employment over honesty, but we shouldn't alter the law to encourage that preference - which is effectively what press privilege (and whistleblower protection) does.

Likewise, if the reporter believes a higher principle is at stake, he should have the character to suffer the consequences of his silence - even if that means being considered an accomplice to a felony. True, some reporters may have a legitimate fear that revealing a source would poorly serve their careers, employers or the media business in general - but we shouldn't alter the law to benefit one industry.

Off the top of my head, I can't think of another industry - with the possible exceptions of medicine, law and law enforcement - which receives a court-mandated exception to the notions of action and consequence which apply to everyone else. Medicine is exempt, to the degree that it is, because it involves private exchanges that remain private; law because it either involves such private exchanges, or involves the excercise of power by the state; and law enforcement because it is the excercise of authority by the state. Reporting meets neither of those criteria - it involves private exchanges that are made public; and it does not involve the excercise of any state authority. It is, ultimately, a business, and to repeat my earlier point: the courts ought not grant an exemption to the law to benefit any one industry.

Many would argue, of course, that the press serves a state function - that it is a 'Fifth Estate'. I think that's largely nonsense, but I'll have to address the point in due time.

Posted by David Mader at 11:47 PM | (0) | Back to Main

What Would Roaming Animals Do Without Studies?

Study: Roaming Animals Not Good in Zoos.

I've been off zoos for a good few years now; they're really Victorian throwbacks, little different - or elevated - from Barnum-esque houses of wonder. I'm sure some good science is done at modern zoos, which have (one presumes) moved more towards research and the like, but the very notion of urban enclosed spaces wherein people might peruse the treasures of the animal kingdom for their edification and improvement is, well, wacky and dated.

Except for the monkey house. I can't get enough of monkeys.

[With apologies to James Taranto.]

Posted by David Mader at 02:09 PM | (0) | Back to Main

Liberia Redux

In mid-August, a 3,500-strong West African army moved into Liberia to enforce a peace agreement between government and rebel forces. Since then the country has been relatively quiet. On Wednesday, official command of the international force shifted to the United Nations, and the West African soldiers donned the famed blue helmets.

Today, the battle was rejoined, as government soldiers and rebels traded gunfire in the capital, Monrovia.

Is there a connection? It's certainly impossible to tell from my vantage, and there's good reason to believe that the understandable tensions within the divided capital were simply exacerbated by the entrance of a rebel leader and his motorcade. But one can't help but wonder whether the shift to UN auspices involved a restriction in the rules of engagement for the West African soldiers who had successfully created and maintained an armed peace. Is it possible the rebels and government forces realized (or came to believe) that blue-helmeted soldiers are simply less likely to get involved? It wouldn't be the first time.

Posted by David Mader at 02:04 PM | (0) | Back to Main

Slow China Watch

According to the CIA, the population of the People's Republic of China is approximately 1,286,975,468.

Maybe someone should tell the Associated Press:

A laid-off Chinese worker set himself on fire in Tiananmen Square in central Beijing early Wednesday on China's National Day and was hospitalized with injuries, the official Xinhua News Agency said. The report said his motive was unknown.

Yang Peiquan, 49, set fire to himself at about 7:45 a.m., Xinhua said. It said police put out the flames and that Yang suffered only unspecified minor injuries.

This is the most pressing news out of a nation of 1.3 billion people?

UPDATE (13:49 EST): Reader Jordan comments: "The news isn't that someone set himself on fire. The news is that Xinhua reported that someone set himself on fire in Tiananmen Square." (Emphasis added.) That's a good call, and I hadn't thought of it like that.

MORE (14:12 EST): In the comments, Matt mentions the easing of certain social restrictions. Here's the AP story, which has another example of possible Xinhua openness:

Like many official functions, permission for marriage became a source of corruption for authorities who demanded bribes in exchange for approving a wedding.

The official Xinhua News Agency acknowledged that this week, saying the old regulations were "just a formality or moneymaking procedure in some areas."


A LITTLE MORE (14:15 EST): And check this out:

President Hu Jintao called for a bigger public role in government and "democratic election," the government's official news outlet said Wednesday.

The report by the Xinhua News Agency didn't give any details of what Hu, who it said spoke Tuesday night in a speech to fellow Communist Party leaders, meant by the reference to elections or whether it might include allowing true opposition parties.

I know I said this before, but what the heck: Interesting.

WHY STOP NOW? (14:22 EST): Here's the English-language Xinhua article on Hu's 'democracy' speech mentioned above. It's full of enough obscurist language to delight any Kremlinologist, but the theme of general reform is unavoidable.

Posted by David Mader at 12:52 AM | (4) | Back to Main