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January 31, 2004

Classic Steyn

If any of you don't check Mark Steyn's website on a regular basis (I recommend daily), then you really should. He is, in my humble opinion, the world's best columnist. As well as posting his latest work, he also takes requests to re-post old columns. This week's choice is a true classis, summing up all that is wrong with so-called "soft power." Plus, who else could find a way, in a serious, sober column, to use a line like:

Whether or not Mr. Mugabe has no penis, M. Chretien certainly has no balls.

Confused? As they say, read it all.

Posted by David Mader at 10:48 PM | (0) | Back to Main

On the Payroll - ?

Former weapons inspector Scott Ritter had quite a bit of blogosphere attention about a year ago when he very prominently changed his tune on Iraq, arguing not only that the WMD capacity was being overstated, but that the Saddamite regime was being overly demonized.

Now Winds of Change blogger Armed Liberal has found a connection between Ritter and the recently released list of individuals on Saddam's pay.

Posted by David Mader at 10:28 PM | (0) | Back to Main

January 30, 2004

Can There Be Peace?

Reading the details, one is tempted to call the latest terrorist attack in Jerusalem an act of barbarism. And yet to use the term is to suggest that little more should be expected from the perpetrators of these attacks and those who support them. It is only right to assert that the Palestinian terrorist organizations are made up of and supported by people who are not barbarians, and who must therefore be expected to demonstrate some humanity. Unfortunately, too many in the west are contented to view these people as oriental automatons. If we both deny humanity and condone inhumanity, what incentive is there to assert that one is human after all?

But in the wake of these seemingly mindless attacks, it's easy to wonder whether a negotiated peace is even possible. To the Palestinian perpetrators of these attacks, of course, they are anything but mindless; this latest was in response to an altercation in Gaza that left a number of Palestinians dead. The argument put forward is that if only Israel would withdraw from the occupied territories, the cycle of violence could be ended. It's a tempting proposition; and yet it ignores the recent history of the region. Until Operation Defensive Shield, and the start of the 'al Aqsa Intifada' more generally, the majority of Palestinian territories were in fact unoccupied; Barak's peace proposal at Camp David would have resulted in the substantial withdrawal of Israeli forces from the vast majority of Palestinian lands. That intifada began, then, not under a situation of Israeli occupation, but under a substantially-Palestinian controlling authority in the West Bank and much of the Gaza Strip. Perhaps in the coming years an Israeli leader will again bite the bullet and substantially withdraw; for now, though, there's every reason to believe that a withdrawal would lead not to less violence but to more.

In fact, I can't help but wonder if the more likely coming Israeli reaction is not capitulation but assertion of the type Israel is now so often said to exhibit. I was recently told by a friend that moral equivalence was justified, even necessary, because while Palestinian terrorists targetted Israeli civilians on buses, Israel had 'Jenin'. God help us all if Israel were to actually act as they're so often accused of acting. What would happen if an Israeli Sherman arose, a man who believed or recognized that war demands destruction, and that peace can only be achieved by destroying the capacity to continue making war? What would happen if, rather than risking Israeli lives by conducting house to house searches in UN-operated 'refugee camps', Israel simply began unrestricted bombing runs to reduce centres of terrorist activity? What would happen if Israel decided to brace itself and liquidate terrorist leaders regardless of the consequence? What, in short, if the Israelis began to treat this conflict as an all-or-nothing war, the way Palestinian terrorists and their apologists do?

It would be the end of Israel, I expect, both because of the unrestrained battle which would erupt throughout the country, and because international animosity towards Israel would likely result in an intervention force.

But read that piece on reaction to yesterday's bombing one more time. For now, Israel - her leaders and her people - recognize the precariousness of their situation, the necessity for a softly, softly response, the impossibility of unrestrained anger. For now there is sorrow and hope beyond hope, hope even in the face of destruction.

How long will hope last before it turns into impatience and despair? What happens when Israelis decide that life under constant siege is no life, that a state without security is no state?

FOR THE RECORD (11:48 EST): I continue to believe that the best policy for Israel would be the completion of a proper border barrier (along a line drawn to minimize both the displacement of Palestinians and the compromise of Israeli security), the withdrawal of forces behind that barrier and the declaration of a Palestinian state. The Jordan River valley presents a problem as it is central to Israeli security concerns, but American-backed Jordanian guarantess might help to alleviate those particular concerns (though probably not). This might not bring peace, but it could well 'regularize' the situation, to the degree that inter-state conflict continues to be regarded as 'regular'.

Posted by David Mader at 11:34 AM | (1) | Back to Main

Keeping Us Safe

The Washington Times:

Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts said during last night's Democratic presidential debate that the threat of terrorism has been exaggerated.

"I think there has been an exaggeration," Mr. Kerry said when asked whether President Bush has overstated the threat of terrorism. "They are misleading all Americans in a profound way."

The front-runner for the Democratic nomination said he would engage other nations in a more cooperative fashion to quell terrorism.

"This administration's arrogant and ideological policy is taking America down a more dangerous path," Mr. Kerry said. "I will make America safer than they are."

Interesting. Presumably Mr Kerry would agree that the terrorist threat was very real and immediate back on, say, oh heck I dunno, September 10, 2001. Perhaps he would even agree that the terrorist threat remained relatively high for some months afterwards. If he's right that the terrorist threat is now 'exaggerated', it follows that it has been lessened in the months since September 11. Kerry's argument must logically be, then, that George Bush has successfully lessened the terrorist threat since September 11 through his policies, but that a Kerry presidency would lessen that threat even more by being more 'cooperative' and therefore less assertive in the international arena.

'George Bush did the right thing, but in the wrong way, and I'll do it the right way, but it's not as much of a problem anymore' - is that a winning position on national security?

Well, does it make you feel safe?

Posted by David Mader at 10:44 AM | (0) | Back to Main

January 29, 2004

Rest in Peace

Eddie Clontz, editor of the Weekly World News, has died. If, like me, you absolutely love the WWN (thanks in my case go to DJS for introducing me to the wonderful tabloid), you'll want to check the story out.

[Via Dave Barry]

Posted by David Mader at 11:42 PM | (0) | Back to Main

The Mother of All Parliaments

Andrew Coyne has thoughts on Westminster which compliment something I said a couple of days ago.

Posted by David Mader at 09:58 PM | (0) | Back to Main

Useless but fun fact of the day

Who did the Union Leader (New Hampshire major newspaper) endorse in the 1984 New Hampshire Democratic primary?

Ronald Reagan, as a write in.

Call me a political geek if you will, but I find that pretty amusing.

(Thanks to Jacob Levy for this fine piece of trivia)

Posted by David Mader at 07:01 PM | (2) | Back to Main

Lileks Radio

James Lileks is guest-hosting the Hugh Hewitt show today, 6-9 PM Eastern. Listen here.

Posted by David Mader at 06:09 PM | (0) | Back to Main

A place to live, a place to grow...

(Thanks to Ryan's Rantin' for the link)

Ahhh, Ontario.

Posted by David Mader at 02:28 PM | (0) | Back to Main

What He Said

Iain Murray:

Making common cause with the far left is not the way to engender a tory revival.


Posted by David Mader at 01:19 PM | (0) | Back to Main

January 28, 2004

In Memorium

Today is the 18th anniversary of the Challenger disaster. The most striking thing about reading Reagan's great speech from that terrible day is the reference to the Apollo 1 fire. Between Apollo 1 and Challenger 19 years had past, in which time we had reached the moon, given up on the moon, created the space shuttle program, and grown bored of it. In the 18 years since Challenger, we've achieved what in space? Not nearly enough.

Still, you can't pass this anniversary without reading the speech again.

"Nineteen years ago, almost to the day, we lost three astronauts in a terrible accident on the ground. But, we've never lost an astronaut in flight; we've never had a tragedy like this. And perhaps we've forgotten the courage it took for the crew of the shuttle; but they, the Challenger Seven, were aware of the dangers, but overcame them and did their jobs brilliantly. We mourn seven heroes: Michael Smith, Dick Scobee, Judith Resnik, Ronald McNair, Ellison Onizuka, Gregory Jarvis, and Christa McAuliffe. We mourn their loss as a nation together. "

"For the families of the seven, we cannot bear, as you do, the full impact of this tragedy. But we feel the loss, and we're thinking about you so very much. Your loved ones were daring and brave, and they had that special grace, that special spirit that says, 'Give me a challenge and I'll meet it with joy.' They had a hunger to explore the universe and discover its truths. They wished to serve, and they did. They served all of us.

We've grown used to wonders in this century. It's hard to dazzle us. But for twenty-five years the United States space program has been doing just that. We've grown used to the idea of space, and perhaps we forget that we've only just begun. We're still pioneers. They, the members of the Challenger crew, were pioneers.

And I want to say something to the schoolchildren of America who were watching the live coverage of the shuttle's takeoff. I know it is hard to understand, but sometimes painful things like this happen. It's all part of the process of exploration and discovery. It's all part of taking a chance and expanding man's horizons. The future doesn't belong to the fainthearted; it belongs to the brave. The Challenger crew was pulling us into the future, and we'll continue to follow them...

There's a coincidence today. On this day 390 years ago, the great explorer Sir Francis Drake died aboard ship off the coast of Panama. In his lifetime the great frontiers were the oceans, and a historian later said, 'He lived by the sea, died on it, and was buried in it.' Well, today we can say of the Challenger crew: Their dedication was, like Drake's, complete.

The crew of the space shuttle Challenger honoured us by the manner in which they lived their lives. We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for the journey and waved goodbye and 'slipped the surly bonds of earth' to 'touch the face of God.'"

-Ronald Reagan, Oval Office of the White House, January 28, 1986

Posted by David Mader at 09:41 PM | (0) | Back to Main

Big Mistake

Jonah Goldberg says something I've been saying for ages:

The emphasis on WMDs was largely the result of lawyers at the State Dept. thinking that was the only "legal" reason we could go to war... to the extent the post-Iraq failure to find WMDs is a disaster for the United States in terms of its credibility, its relationships with allies etc. one could argue that the fault lies in the fact that George W. Bush listened too much to Colin Powell and the State Department instead of the hawks, since it was the Wolfowitz crowd which wanted to emphasize freedom, democracy, stability and the war on terror. Now that no WMDs have been found that rhetoric seems self-serving when in fact those were co-equal priorities all along. If George Bush had talked before the war about bringing freedom and democracy to Iraq as eloquently as he did afterwards, he would be in a lot better shape politically and in the history books.

Yup. Of course many folks would argue that the failure to find WMD should make Bush and his successors even more beholden to the UN in the future; if Goldberg is right, though, the real lesson may be that in future, Bush should stand on principle, and the UN be damned.

Bad politics for Bush either way, I think.

[Via Instapundit]

Posted by David Mader at 06:23 PM | (3) | Back to Main

Yes, No, and Huh?

Paul Tuns of Sobering Thoughts takes issue with my pre-Hampshire analysis of Joe Lieberman's chances. He writes:

The problem with this conventional wisdom view is that the primaries in the red states are for the blue party. Regardless of how the state leans, Democrats are Democrats and Democratic voters lean left regardless of where they live. As I noted yesterday, Democrats in Arizona and Oklahoma generally give poor favourable and relatively high unfavourable ratings to Lieberman. And, by the way, wasn't New Hampshire a red state in 2000.

Tuns is right in this respect: the red state/blue state thing is just sloppy punditry, and slopping thinking as well. Because presidential electoral politics combines first-past-the-post and winner-takes-all mechanisms, there's a tendency to presume that a state's character is what the electoral map suggests it is. That's just not true; an awful lot of California is rather conservative, both socially and politically, but the cities aren't - which is why it's a 'blue' state. The same could be said of any traditional 'red' state, where the rural and suburban generally conservative vote tends to outweigh the urban generally liberal vote. The rural-suburban/urban vote division is probably as sloppy as the red/blue division, but the point is that painting a state one color ignores the significant presence of the other color.

But I'm not sure I fully agree with Tuns' assertion that "Democrats are Democrats and Democratic voters lean left regardless of where they live." This is probably true on a relative scale - Democratic voters in any one locale tend to lean to the left of Republican (and possibly, though not necessarily, independent) voters in that same locale. But I don't think it's true on an absolute scale. I'm not sure how comfortable a Washington State-born Deaniac would feel at a meeting of, say, the Tom Green County (Texas) Democratic Party. (And no, I'm not making that up: there really is a Tom Green County. Although I can't vouch for the precise leaning of its Democracy. Just an example.)

Certainly this has been true in the past; for all the talk about the desertion of Dixiecrats to the GOP in the 1960s, the fact is that Southern Democracy remains a very real, and substantially conservative, political force. Moreover, I think it's a mistake to presume that all Democratic voters across states tilt left to the same degree on the same issues. I imagine, again for the sake of example, that the Texas Democracy puts a different priority on, and has a different attitude about, the President's amnesty program than, say, the Massachusetts Democracy. Maybe all Democrats lean the same way on wedge issues - affirmative action, abortion and so on - but I'm not so sure. In any case, I think there are new issues arising - such as outsourcing - which could displace the traditional wedges as the pre-eminent electoral concerns for either party.

So, yes it's a mistake to suggest that Lieberman will necessarily have greater successes in 'red states', since Democratic voters in those states are themselves blue. At the same time, no it's not the case that a Democrat is a Democrat, and it's not inconcievable that states with, say, more military presence will be home to Democrats who lean further to the right on certain issues than Democrats in other states.

And here's the 'huh?' Tuns starts his post like this: "David Merder (whose Maderblog, with his brother Dan, is one of only two Canadian blogs I check daily)..." Now, I'm flattered - quite a lot, actually - and I've long been told not to look a gift horse in the mouth. But I've been trying to figure out the 'David Merder' bit. Is it a sort of compliment, a cool nom-de-plume with its phonetic evocation of romanticized criminality? Is it a Canadian put-down, with its Franco-scatalogical reference? I guess the basic question is this: if my name was Merder, why would I call my site Maderblog?

I'm just kidding around: Tuns makes a very good point in response to something I wrote, and for that I'm willing to be called more or less anything.

[Thanks to Adam for the pointer.]

Posted by David Mader at 02:44 PM | (2) | Back to Main


Those trying to spin the Hutton Report as fundamentally bad news for Tony Blair have an up-hill battle before them. It's particularly disappointing to see Tory leader Michael Howard suggest that a further inquiry is needed into the causes of the Iraq war. Certainly there needs to be an investigation of the pre-war intelligence; that's an imperative not just in Britain and the United States but among every western nation, all of whose services concurred with the popular assessment of Iraqi WMD capabilities. But to suggest - as Howardseems to do - that Britain was led unwillingly into a war that ought not have been fought smacks of nothing more than crass political opportunism. No doubt it represents a sort of political triangulation: Howard knows that there's a substantial anti-war constituency fed up with Blair who would otherwise swing to Kennedy's LibDems. If that constituency is so strongly anti-war, though, are they really desirable Tory voters? It raises a further question: is the Conservative Party's current poll-lead simply a result of tacking to the left of the Blair Labourites on national security? If so, and if that support is translated into electoral success, Howard will have to decide whether to remain a popular government leader - or a principled Tory.

But what do I know; I'm thousands of miles away. For a great look at both Westminster politics and the Hutton Report, you could do worse than to watch Blair's statement to the House. I mentioned the other day that, unlike Ottawa, Westminster still enjoyed a real Parliamentary democracy. I've ever had mixed feelings about Blair, but there can be no doubt that he's a real Parliamentarian.

Posted by David Mader at 02:17 PM | (0) | Back to Main

January 27, 2004

My Involvement in the Federal Campaign

As I was writing the previous post, I realized that I haven't yet talked about my involvement in the Conservative party leadership race. I've been waiting to do so, because it hasn't been formally announced, but I think its important for anyone reading my posts to know.

I'm supporting Tony for the leadership. I think he has the experience and ability to debate Paul Martin in both official languages and to take the message of conservatism to all parts of Canada.

I'm organizing youth nationally for Tony's campaign.

So if you're interested in helping Tony, drop me a line.

Posted by David Mader at 10:03 PM | (4) | Back to Main

More on the Policy Conference

Of course, all that most people wanted to talk about last weekend was the federal Conservative party leadership.

Belinda and Harper arrived on Friday night. Belinda arrived in two identical SUVs and paraded around with a large entourage including a couple of rather obnoxious security guards. She threw a great suite, but was described as rather distant and aloof by those who talked to her. She hung around for a while on Saturday and seemed to be much better, walking around the conference centre seemingly alone, and talking to delegates. She also met with youth on Saturday morning, to generally negative reviews. She looked uninformed when asked about the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Harper had a small but packed suite on Friday night. I spoke to him briefly and can say that he gets better every time I see him. He's actually starting to get good at being a politician. Still, he didn't have a lot of supporters there this weekend.

Clement arrived on Saturday morning. He got a standing ovation from about 2/3 of the room when he arrived for lunch. This was clearly Tony's crowd. His stickers were the most visible of any campaign's symbols. The Clement suite was large and well received.

The reaction from many people I spoke to was that the more people see Belinda, the less they liker her. The more people see Clement and Harper, the more they like them. Interesting.

Posted by David Mader at 09:58 PM | (0) | Back to Main

Ontario PC Policy Conference

I spent last weekend at the Ontario PC Policy Conference in Niagara Falls. It was a great weekend, with tons going on - both provincially and federally.

First, of course, this was the Ontario PC Party's first conference after losing office last fall. People were very worried at first that attendance would be very poor, with some predicting only 200 attendees. There ended up being 600 people there, which was very impressive. The one nice thing about being at a convention of a party that is out of power is that only the real activists bother to show up, rather than those who are just attracted to power. This weekend showed that the party still has a strong core of activists.

Still, the main focus of the weekend was leadership, with both provincial and federal leadership campaigns hard at work.

Provincially, both Jim Flaherty and Frank Klees had suites. Both men were very visible, working on shoring up support. I'd say that Klees had a terrible weekend. He rather lamely called for Jim Flaherty's co-chairs to be forced to resign from their caucus posts. He also made an extremely embarrasing speech to the party's youth wing on Friday night. Apparently, Klees felt the need to address a rumour that he was homophobic. Unfortunately, he decided to do so in the middle of a roast of the outgoing youth president. It left all attendees questioning his judgement.

Flaherty, on the other hand, made it through the weekend in good shape. He has, rather amazingly, managed to appropriate the Ontario flag as his symbol. His supporters were wearing Ontario flag pins, very subtely signaling their support for him. A lot of people were wearing them this past weekend.

John Tory was also there this past weekend. He didn't have a suite, but was very visible, working the room and talking to delegates. It sure looks like he's running. This will squeeze out Klees and set up an all-out red-blue fight between him and Flaherty. It should be quite the race.

Posted by David Mader at 09:51 PM | (2) | Back to Main

Throne Speech Speculation

Paul Martin's first throne speech is on Monday, so its time to start the serious speculation.

Paul Wells weighs in with an extremely interesting little post. He thinks that if Martin wants to show that he can actually make a decision he might move to cut corporate welfare.

This would free up $4 billion a year which he could throw into healthcare, not too shabby going into an election. It would also have the nice effect of taking the wind out of the sails of both major opposition parties. The NDP would have a much harder time arguing that Maritn only cares about his corporate buddies. The Tories have been calling for an end to corporate welfare for so long that they'd have a lot more trouble positioning themselves to the right of Martin without going off the scale.

So, as a Conservative activist, am I worried? No, because I can't imagin Martin (who I think is an unreconstructed statist) doing anything so rational.

I guess we'll see on Monday, though.

Posted by David Mader at 09:30 PM | (0) | Back to Main

Early Returns

CNN is projecting a Kerry win in New Hampshire, which is no big surprise. As of 20:36 EST they have Kerry 39% Dean 25% Edwards 13% Clark 12%.

I don't know how much I'll be able to blog the results tonight, but some basic thoughts:

If Lieberman can break double digits (he's at 9% at present), he'll stay in the race. His strength is in the south and the red states, and Democratic voters there and are going to want a right-tilting candidate to vote for. Clark has squandered that role with his lame pandering to the crazy-left.

Speaking of Clark, if he loses to Edwards, it's lights out. Think Edwards got a press boost after Iowa? He's from the Carolinas. As Super Tuesday approaches, he's going to become a very prominent side story, getting press time close, if not equal, to Kerry and Dean. Clark has nothing left to offer. But he'll stay in, because he has big money and a bigger ego.

Dean will portray any second-place finish as a 'comeback', given his poor showing in Iowa.

Looking ahead, I think both Kerry and Dean have put themselves at a disadvantage moving south and west. Dean's elitism and condescension in the fall won't be forgotten (just as his mania won't be easily overlooked), and Kerry's most recent gaffe will be fresh. Edwards will be the man to watch.

Alright, that's all I've got for now. The numbers may move around considerably, but I'm working on 32% reporting.

UPDATE (20:53 EST): Looking back over the predictions, it seems that Kerry is exceeding expectations by quite a margin, which Dean is about as expected and Edwards is underperforming. Approaching 40% may well make tonight a Kerry blow-out.

Posted by David Mader at 08:44 PM | (0) | Back to Main

Laissez-Faire in Unlikely Places

Like, say, in the locker room after our hockey game. Discussion turned to a proposed student fee for the expansion of the school's fitness facilities. One of the fellows had, it seems, been on an interested committee this year or last, and was explaining why the fee had been proposed and why it was a good idea. And to my surprise, a whole bunch of the other guys started coming down on him - arguing that they oughtn't be made to pay for a service they didn't use. The proponent argued that many, perhaps most students used the facilities in question; the opponents countered that, if this were true, those students should simply pay a higher annual fee for those services.

I'm always harping on about the basic market orientation among college-aged kids nowadays, and I think this is a legitimate example of that. I eventually spoke up, if only to defend the poor proponent who was really getting rhetorically beaten on, by saying that until Canadian students were made to pay something approximating the actual market costs of tuition and related services, schools would never have enough money to develop 'adequate' facilities and would have to continually go to students in lame referenda.

The fact is, though, that such an argument basically dodges the issue, which might be said to have public sector ramifications. Another guy pointed out that if every student in every 4-year cycle took the same user-pay attitude, the existing facilities would never have been built. Of course, it's quite possible that those facilities ought not to have been built in the first place, though undoubtedly proponents would argue that the availability of facilities contributes to the attractiveness of the school to future consumers students. I think that line of thinking eventually gets us back to my 'basic' problem of tuition-subsidization, which ultimately leaves less money available for any sort of investment in facilities and expansion - or whatever else students might want in the aggregate.

As you can see, I'm still thinking this one over, and I'm interested to know what my readers, students or others, think of the question. I should point out that I do know how I'll vote, or rather I know that I won't vote, since as a soon-to-be-graduate I won't be enjoying the benefits or paying the costs of the expansion. But if you all can convince me that I'd be doing future cohorts of students a favor by investing their money in a facility they might not use, I'm quite willing to change my mind.

Posted by David Mader at 08:07 PM | (1) | Back to Main

Blair Passes First Hurdle

The House of Commons has passed Tony Blair's proposed top-up fee bill 316-311 reducing the Labour Party's 161-seat majority to a margin of five votes. The last-minute endorsement of erstwhile rebel Nick Brown was said to have swayed about 30 MPs to the government lobby.

Though the margin was slim, party whips had played up the (very real, I think) possibility of an outright defeat, and a victory puts Blair in good standing to receive the results of the Hutton Enquiry. In fact, I think Oxblogger Josh Chafetz called this one right:

If Blair wins the university fees vote and takes only a few glancing blows from the Hutton Report, he'll come out of all of this strengthened. If he loses the fees vote and gets smacked by Lord Hutton, he may well have to resign. My prediction: he'll win the fees vote by a tiny margin and come out okay but not great from Hutton's Report. He won't have to resign.

We'll have to wait for Hutton, but it looks like that's about right.

Posted by David Mader at 03:10 PM | (0) | Back to Main

More Hampshire Predictions

Andrew Sullivan clocks in: "Kerry 35, Dean 28, Edwards 17. Percent, that is. All three survive."

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

The Emerging Moderate Majority

Newsweek finds that young Americans are more conservative in their ideals, and more moderate in their politics, than might be expected:

Fifty-four percent of young voters say they approve of the president’s handling of economic issues (with 44 percent saying they disapprove) and 57 percent approve of his handling of foreign policy (42 percent disapprove). The approval ratings don’t necessarily translate into vote for Bush, however: 37 percent said they would definitely vote to reelect the president while 34% they would definitely vote to elect someone else.

Young voters who participated in the poll had a range of political affiliations with 47 percent identified as Democrats and 40 percent identified as Republican. A clear majority of young voters also seems to support the Bush administration’s policies in Iraq. Fully 60 percent say the White House made the right decision when it invaded Iraq and only 37 percent call the war a mistake.

And so on. Newsweek calls the findings 'surprising'. Only surprising if you're an out of touch boomer, alas.

Posted by David Mader at 01:55 PM | (0) | Back to Main

Stifling of Dissent

Is it me, or does Al Franken have an, uh, interesting understanding of the principle of free speech?

Posted by David Mader at 01:48 PM | (0) | Back to Main

The Internet is a Big Place

[Or, Welcome to Maderblog]

Every so often I like to poke around in my referrer logs, and since Maderblog has experienced a bit of a bump recently [that's no bump - that's an upward trend! -- ed. Oi, you, none of that here] I thought I'd highlight some visitors as a way of saying thanks.

Of course displaying my ability to watch back, as it were, might prove something of a disincentive to keep visiting, but hey, blogs are all about a back-and-forth.

First, thanks to all the visitors from academic institutions. McGill tops the list, understandably, but thanks to readers at Yale, Texas Tech, North Florida, Waterloo, Western Ontario and Yeshiva University.

Thanks to my interesting-institutional visitors, including you good folks at the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Southam, AmGen (huzzah for biotech!) and ThinkNordic (huzzah for electrical cars!).

Thanks to visitors from Ontario and Quebec and the prairies, thanks to visitors from California and Washington State and New York and Florida and the Great State of Texas, thanks to visitors from Great Britain and France and Spain and Japan.

Thanks to everybody who's come by and had a look. Dan and I have a blast doing this thing, and we hope you enjoy it just as much - and that you keep coming back.

Posted by David Mader at 12:32 AM | (0) | Back to Main

January 26, 2004

Watching, Ottawa?

Something extraordinary will happen at Westminster tomorrow evening. The British House of Commons will hold a vote.

Yes, it's true: Parliament - both Commons and Lords - votes regularly. But tomorrow's vote is widely recognized to be among the most important of Prime Minister Tony Blair's political career. But that's not the extraordinary part.

The extraordinary part is that nobody knows how the vote will turn out.

The vote is on a seemingly marginal issue, a government plan to introduce variable 'top up fees' allowing British universities to charge students a tax above tuition based on income in order to expand school coffers. Various groups of rebel labor MPs have, however, promised to oppose the government motion which comes on the very same day that Lord Hutton will release his findings on the suicide of scientist David Kelly¹.

High drama indeed. Much could be written about each component - about the Hutton inquiry, about British universities, about anti-Blair Labour MPs - but what interests me is the prospect of a hugely important government motion which might very well fail.

Compare this circumstance to the state of affairs at the Canadian Houses of Parliament in Ottawa. Canada has long enjoyed only an echo of the greatness of Westminster, which itself has matured over hundreds of years. At present, because of the power the Canadian Prime Minister holds over his party, and because of the cronyism and graft available to that same Prime Minister, the idea of a back-bench rebellion is absurd. It would be remarkable indeed for a vote as important as tomorrow's to approach with the same level of uncertainty. It might not be impossible, but to occur Canada would need to have the same depth of political intruige and character.

But Ottawa is no Westminster. Those of us who long for the restoration of real representative government in Canada would do well to watch the news from Britain tomorrow. We'll see no less than true Parliamentary democracy in action.

¹Edited 01/27/04 00:50 EST. You know, as I was writing I consciously thought to myself, "I'd better not mix up Kelly and Kay."

Posted by David Mader at 11:34 PM | (1) | Back to Main

Never Again Means Action Now

Lord Molyneaux:

My mind has often gone back to our arrival in Belsen as I stood beside my commanding officer, a First World War pilot and a man of great integrity. Before us was a huge mound of bodies near the Jewish quarter of the dreadful huts. My CO asked: "Molyneaux, did you ever think you would see such an example of what one group of human beings could do to another set of human beings?" I innocently replied: "Perhaps this evidence will ensure that it doesn't happen again."

Shaking his head, my CO said: "I hate to think you may be mistaken."

I now admit that I was wrong because I didn't realise that the rewards of tyranny and terrorism would be so great, and that therefore authorities and governments would lack the courage and resolution to stamp out such evils.

Now, the usual response of governments is mere condemnation of an atrocity, describing an outrage as "unacceptable". Next come a string of concessions to the offender, leading to a craven suggestion that the victims must share some of the blame, and then concessions to the demands of the perpetrators.

Opinion formers appear to have forgotten Kipling, who warned of the outcome.

"It is always a temptation
To a rich and lazy nation,
To puff and look important and to say:
'Though we know we should defeat you,
We have not the time to meet you,
We will therefore pay you cash to go away.'
And that is called paying the Dane-geld;
But we've proved it again and again,
That, if once you have paid him the Dane-geld,
You never get rid of the Dane."

Increasingly, the general public weakens in its resolve. Under the label of moderation, it is fashionable to plead for understanding; to do a Chamberlain and settle for a piece of crumpled paper in the mistaken belief that the word of dictators and terrorists can be trusted. Today, we should reflect on our responsibilities, and those of our governments, to stand up to the prejudice and tyranny that can still, today, lead to genocide. These events happened in my lifetime. They are not lost in the past; they could still happen again today.

Posted by David Mader at 10:24 PM | (0) | Back to Main

Steyn on Hampshire

From tomorrow's Telegraph:

Sen John Edwards, the pretty-boy southern lawyer, does a much better job of this sort of thing. I caught him at Gorham Town Hall way up in the mountains on Saturday morning. It was a brutally cold morning – 40 degrees below freezing – but the place was packed and we all came away enthused, unlike at a Kerry rally where you come away trying not to think about why you're not enthused. Next to the groggy, haggard Kerry, Edwards has a fabulous, glowing complexion. In Gorham, surrounded by leathery weatherbeaten chapped blotched Yankee faces on all sides, the North Carolina trial lawyer looked like a star. If he'd taken my question, I'd have asked him for the name of his moisturiser. True, his stump speech often sounds less like a political platform and more like a laundry list of class-action suits he'd like to get a piece of – we need to act against credit card companies that charge excessive interest etc – and he has nothing of interest to say about the war. But his qualified support – or qualified lack of support – seems to suit a Democratic electorate that recoils from Joe Lieberman's full-throated backing of the Iraq liberation and isn't quite suicidal enough to nail its colours to the mast of the fruitcake anti-war Left.

Steyn, ever obliging, also makes some predictions:

1) Senator John Kerry 29 per cent
2) Governor Howard Dean 28 per cent
3) Senator John Edwards 19 per cent
4) Senator Joe Lieberman 12 per cent
5) General Wesley Clark 10 per cent
6) Everybody else 2 per cent

Time will tell.

Posted by David Mader at 09:49 PM | (0) | Back to Main

Rethinking 'Bird Brained'

This is pretty incredible:

The finding of a parrot with an almost unparalleled power to communicate with people has brought scientists up short.

The bird, a captive African grey called N'kisi, has a vocabulary of 950 words, and shows signs of a sense of humour...

He uses words in context, with past, present and future tenses, and is often inventive.

One N'kisi-ism was "flied" for "flew", and another "pretty smell medicine" to describe the aromatherapy oils used by his owner, an artist based in New York.

When he first met Dr Jane Goodall, the renowned chimpanzee expert, after seeing her in a picture with apes, N'kisi said: "Got a chimp?"

He appears to fancy himself as a humourist. When another parrot hung upside down from its perch, he commented: "You got to put this bird on the camera."

Sounds too good to be true; if true, it's certainly amazing.

Posted by David Mader at 02:18 PM | (0) | Back to Main

Updates From New Hampshire

No, I'm not talking about Josh Marshall, I'm talking about Dave Barry:

So anyway, when I arrived at the bowling alley, about 15 minutes before North Carolina's Sen. Edwards, trouble was brewing. It was like The Perfect Storm, with two powerful opposing forces on a deadly collision course:

• On the one hand, you had hundreds of people there to see the candidate, including a large, aggressive press corps that was not wearing appropriate bowling footwear.

• On the other hand, you had league bowlers, who were there to bowl, dammit.
Into this festive scene surged Sen. Edwards, whose campaign theme is that he is going to bring America together. He stood on a platform and gave a speech, surrounded by a dense crowd of media and applauding supporters. About 25 feet away, outside the crowd, the bowlers offered their rebuttal. It was a weird kind of stereo: In one ear, I'd hear Sen. Edwards explaining how he would provide economic opportunity to all Americans; in the other ear, I'd hear: "OUR WHOLE NIGHT IS RUINED! YOU DON'T GIVE A (bad word) ABOUT US!''
As the crowd dispersed, I overheard this exchange between an Edwards volunteer and a bowler:

Bowler: Go Bush. You guys suck.

Volunteer: You shouldn't generalize. We don't ALL suck.

Bowler: Yeah, you do.

That's what's so great about the primaries: people talking about issues.


Posted by David Mader at 11:23 AM | (0) | Back to Main

The Emerging Conservative Majority

As part of my effort to highlight the emergent conservatism of the 'millenial' generation - folks my age, and especially college students - I point to this report from the USA Today:

Still, modern kids' political engagement pales next to that of the freshmen class of 1966, the survey's first subjects, 60% of whom said it was "essential or very important" to keep up with politics.

Since then, the survey shows, students' political views also have shifted to the right. Liberals still outnumber conservatives, but just barely: 24% say they hold liberal political views; 21% call themselves conservatives.

The percentage of liberals has nose-dived from its high of 38% in 1971. The percentage of conservative students, as low as 14% after Richard Nixon's second presidential inauguration in 1973, has hovered near the 20% mark since 1981 and Ronald Reagan's first term. Then, as now, the largest group by far remained students who call their their political views "middle-of-the-road."

Studies like this have their limits, of course. It seems to me an awful lot of politically-conscious university students would describe themselves as liberal regardless of their partisan political preference. Heck, I'd call myself a liberal - and I'd qualify it by adding the prefixes 'classical', 'whig' or 'neo'. Self labelling therefore has its drawbacks, and I'd wager that the 21% of college 'conservatives' significantly understates the percentage of students who hold economically 'conservative' (which is to say basically free-market) views. Because 'conservative' also has strong social-policy connotations, I think studies like this also miss the political transformation currently underway towards a more laissez-faire attitude among younger Americans.

Posted by David Mader at 11:06 AM | (0) | Back to Main


David Frum expands upon the issue of John Edwards' youth (scroll down to the second item):

Isn’t there too something fatally unready about John Edwards? Commentators keep calling him “young.” Edwards will be 50 in November. Ten other US presidents (Polk, Fillmore, Pierce, Grant, Garfield, Arthur, Cleveland, Theodore Roosevelt, Kennedy, and Clinton) were Edwards’s age or younger on coming into office. Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the most politically adept of them all, was only one year older. What the critics mean is not that Edwards is too young, but that he seems too callow.

If that's true on an absolute scale - if Edwards appears callow on a stump by himself - imagine how he'll look on a scale relative to President Bush.

Posted by David Mader at 10:49 AM | (0) | Back to Main

Being Wrong, Being Right

Andrew Sullivan has a must read post on David Kay's resignation, the lack of Iraqi WMDs and the importance of the global war on terror.

I've always put less of an emphasis on WMD than even Sullivan, and I've written before that putting WMD at the fore of the arguments for the Iraqi operation was a mistake. Still, Sullivan is absolutely right to say that, as Kay himself has said, there seem to have been no significant stockpiles of WMD (as opposed to WMD-producing programs, of which there were quite a few) in Iraq prior to the war. It's important to figure out how virtually every intelligence agency in the world was fooled into believing - nay, confirming - the pre-war reports.

Posted by David Mader at 10:04 AM | (1) | Back to Main

January 25, 2004

Howard Dean...

... is off of his [censored]-damned tree:

"You can say that it's great that Saddam is gone and I'm sure that a lot of Iraqis feel it is great that Saddam is gone," said the former Vermont governor, an unflinching critic of the war against Iraq. "But a lot of them gave their lives. And their living standard is a whole lot worse now than it was before."

And the Cubans enjoy universal health-care. Honestly, is this anything but a 'trains-run-on-time' defense of totalitarianism?

Yes, a defense. Later in the same article Dean suggests that through the UN there might have been found a 'better' way of removing Hussein. Presumably the UN route would have been preferable because it would have involved a 'peaceful' removal of the most egregious elements of the ruling regime. Presumably the US-led war has resulted in a 'lower standard of living' because it involved the violent removal of the entire regime. If those are indeed the assumptions behind Dean's statement - and I think it's most reasonable to conclude that they are - then Dean can only be suggesting that Iraqis would now enjoy a better life if the Ba'athist bureaucracy, and not the Coalition Provisional Authority, were now running Iraq.

But perhaps I'm over-analyzing; and besides, I've been told numerous times recently that rational objectivism is an insufficient standard. So tell me, then, Governor: just how does the fear of police-statism factor into the 'standard of living'? How do you measure the fear one feels upon leaving one's house? How much value can you place on the grief for lost loved ones?

Or do you regret the unemployment caused by a sudden reduction in the demand for mass-grave diggers?

Shameful; despicable: these words have long lost their rhetorical power. Howard Dean's comments are not just unsustainable, they're unbelievable.

Posted by David Mader at 06:50 PM | (0) | Back to Main

Have You Seen...

... the new Samizdata.Net? Man, does it look good. I've long held the Dissident Frogman to have the nicest-looking blog on my blogroll, but now he's gone and designed one that trumps his own.

Posted by David Mader at 04:51 PM | (0) | Back to Main

Bush '04

Glenn Reynolds:

As for those Bush/Churchill analogies, remember what happened to Churchill the minute people felt safe.


Some thoughts: I think that's true not only of the war, but of the economy as well; Bush has been saying since January '01 that his program of tax cuts would help turn the economy around. Now that the economy's turning around, the economists and policy wonks have begun to debate whether Bush's tax cuts helped or hindered. But most folks don't care; they see the economy getting better, they feel the economy getting better, and they start looking forward rather than backward. If the tax cuts weren't responsible, the 'recession' is over anyway; if they were, they've had their effect. The question now is what to do with the improved economic situation. Bush's tax-cutting agenda has, I think, played out its political usefulness (although this year's tax preparation may prove a helpful reminder as folks realize how much more they get to keep).

On both the war and the economy, then, Bush's successes will be hard to turn into electoral capital. Folks will be looking ahead, and will be less inclinded, I think, to give Bush another four years because of what he did in his first term.

I had some fun horrifying some friends last week by arguing (not very well, thanks to the free flowing brewskies) that Bush was the best president since Lincoln. It's an absurd claim, of course, if only because comparing presidencies is impossible. It gets even more tenuous when I freely admit that on domestic policy Bush has been underwhelming (to be charitable). In part that reflects my own interest in foreign affairs, and in part it represents the importance I place on the war which I believe is currently being waged. My point was, and is, that Bush displays a vision and direction on matters foreign which I believe is as important to the future of the United States - and the free world - as the New Deal, the Truman Doctrine or any other program or policy since Reconstruction.

I'm not sure how much the election of a Democrat would alter the prosecution of the war on terror; many institutional changes are already underway or complete which will ensure a continued campaign regardless of the partisan color of the White House. Nonetheless, I believe that Bush displays a far greater understanding of the stakes, and a far greater degree of leadership, than any of the Democrats.

But, as Reynolds points out, that leadership means little when the nation sees no more immediate threat - no reason to be led. The Bush campaign may well concentrate on reminding or convincing people of the continued threat. It would be more effective - and more welcome - for them to rather display the same leadership and vision on the domestic front as they've displayed abroad. Yes, the war goes on, despite our great successes. Yes, the economy must be bolstered even as it grows at an astounding pace. These are signs not only of past success, but of future opportunity. How will President Bush exploit these opportunities in his second term? He's worked hard to bring the promise of America - and humanity - to formerly terrorized regions of the world. How will he help America to fulfill her own promise?

Posted by David Mader at 04:36 PM | (0) | Back to Main

Red Paris Watch


Posted by David Mader at 01:30 AM | (0) | Back to Main

January 24, 2004

Hey! I Know That Guy!

Today Forbes; tomorrow the world:

Not that long ago, the best and brightest of Canada's business school graduates were passing up investment banking or management consulting jobs and jumping into the high-tech industry with the promise of big salaries, lavish stock options and the chance to be on the cutting edge.

But in Canada, as in the United States, these jobs became scarce after the tech bubble burst. Some companies that were recruiting aggressively on business school campuses in the late 1990s have disappeared, while others focused on slashing costs. The number of tech workers in Canada is down 15 percent from three years ago.

Now another shift is apparently under way. Tech companies that survived the downswing are again starting to recruit candidates for master's degrees in business administration, albeit modestly...

Venture capitalists in Canada have retrenched after bankrolling too many companies in the late 1990s, but Seguin envisions a 50 percent jump in venture capital spending on Canadian companies this year to about C$1.5 billion. Still, that is far below 2000 levels of C$5 billion.

Recruitment on campus seems to reflect that situation.

The Rotman School is still not getting hordes of tech companies, said Dan Mader, a second-year student.

"I think that we're still going to have more people getting jobs in areas like finance than we are in tech," said Mader, 25. "But we're starting to see posts again from companies like IBM, and ATI, and companies like that, which just were not happening at all last year."

You tell 'em, Dan. But wait - your perspective wouldn't be shaped by your own professional movement from the tech to the finance sector, would it?

I'm just askin'.

Posted by David Mader at 05:41 PM | (0) | Back to Main

January 23, 2004

I Have a Scream

Traffic on Maderblog has experienced a bit of a bump in recent days, and much of it is coming from search engine hits for the terms 'Dean Shriek' and 'Dean Screech'. Interesting that I'm high on the returns for both of those; I suppose mainstream media is using the term 'yell'.

What's really interesting, though, is the sudden burst in interest in Dean's performance. Thanks to James Lileks and others, it's already become a cultural event; I wonder whether the obvious increase in internet interest is drawing the sort of web-based attention that Howard Dean would rather not have.

Or maybe it doesn't mean anything.

Posted by David Mader at 02:00 PM | (0) | Back to Main

January 22, 2004

Belinda on Drugs

No, I mean she's elaborated on her anti-legalization stance.

The 37-year-old billionaire businesswoman told an offbeat Vancouver radio show that liberalizing pot use would lead to increased searches and delays in the flow of goods at the U.S. border.

"I think it's a bigger issue than we're willing to admit if we were to decriminalize marijuana," she told JACK-FM on the popular morning Larry and Willy show.

"If we were to decriminalize marijuana I think our great neighbour to the south would have a lot of problems with that and I think it would very much affect the Canadian economy."

Just in case you thought I was overstating the case.

Posted by David Mader at 06:27 PM | (6) | Back to Main

I Have a Scream

It's been dubbed the "I Have a Scream" speech, delivered on — of all days — the Martin Luther King holiday.
Three guesses which speech they're referring to...

Posted by David Mader at 02:08 PM | (0) | Back to Main

This Is Where Dan Forgot to Put a Title

But at the moment, all we know for certain this morning is that this much-watched campaign was off the rails less than a day after it began.

"There are reports," the station weatherman broke in, "that conditions are starting to improve." For the Belinda Stronach campaign, they can't improve fast enough.


Posted by David Mader at 02:01 PM | (1) | Back to Main

Doing More for Less

My buddy and reader Charles, who's a reservist, sends along this clip from Rick Mercer's new show.

Posted by David Mader at 01:55 PM | (0) | Back to Main

Growth is by What is Contrary

David Frum puts a brave face on the Iowa results and the Democratic turn towards sanity by arguing that a real competition will force the President to develop and enunciate his policy positions going into a second turn. One would hope that would happen in any case, but I imagine Frum is right to say that more vigorous competition will prompt more vigorous policy enunciation. Is it worth it, though, to have a fully enunciated plan and an election loss rather than a safe election win and a more vague agenda?

Probably, yes. But in political terms the choice might not be so clear.

Posted by David Mader at 01:45 PM | (0) | Back to Main

Join the Club

Mark Steyn:

I’d say the big winner from Iowa was the number two guy: John Edwards, the pretty-boy trial lawyer from North Carolina. He made by far the best speech and he’s a poor boy who pulled himself up from hardscrabble roots. Self-made is an easier sell than John Kerry and his Swiss finishing school. He’s from the south, which makes him more appealing than Kerry in electoral-college terms, and he’s likeable, which neutralises one of George W. Bush’s biggest advantages. Right about now, the mainstream media will be figuring that out and deciding he’s their new dreamboat, now that Dean’s gone bananas and Clark’s kinda weird.

I wonder whether Kerry's 'fatigue', which Steyn sees as a liability, might actually be an asset in a competition with Bush - whose own fatigue denotes hard work and experience. Anyway, he's Mark Steyn and I'm not, though on Edwards we sound the same - and the same as pretty much everybody else. Read the whole thing.

Posted by David Mader at 01:40 PM | (0) | Back to Main


This kind of stipulation is technically known in legal circles as stupid.

Seriously, though, Paul Cooper and Yaakov Roth are friends of mine so I know a lot about what going on here. It really is an example of the worst of student politics. A group of "outsiders" works hard and wins an election, just to have the establishment refuse to hand over power. Pathetic.

Posted by David Mader at 10:16 AM | (0) | Back to Main

January 21, 2004

One Blogger to Another

Joe Katzman is giving Belinda Stronach blogging advice. Click here and scroll down a little. So Joe - is that an endorsement? Or just some friendly advice?

Posted by David Mader at 10:58 PM | (0) | Back to Main

All Belinda, All the Time

So the Belinda campaign has come out with some tentative policy positions, which can now be contrasted with the policy positions of the other major candidates. Tony Clement's policy positions are... um... well ,so far they're not entirely enunciated. And Stephen Harper's are... well... I suppose they're the status quo, but since he doesn't even have a campaign website yet, I can't really tell.

Look, I don't mean to overstate the case, but the fact is that Belinda is now playing the game, and while the other candidates bide their time, only she is going to look like she's actually running for the leadership.

So anyway, Belinda's framing her self - as more or less every conservative for the past ten years has done - as a fiscal conservative and a social liberal. The terms are preposterous for a number of reasons - not least because 'fiscal conservatism' really means 'economic liberalism' - but in any case the best judgement of the claim will come from an evaluation of the policy proposals.

So here they are, as presented in the National Post, and with my take on them. They're obviously entirely vague at this point, but they're more than anybody else is saying, and since we pundits can't bring ourselves to just shut our mouths, I'll take a crack at them.

Making mortgage interest payments partially tax deductible and Allowing students and parents to deduct tuition fees from income tax: These are political no-brainers. As attempts to affect consumer behaviour through the manipulation of the tax code I'm not crazy about them; as letting Canadians keep their money while encouraging home ownership and education, I think they're the easiest sell a politician could hope for.

Giving Canada the world's most competitive tax structure, which would include scrapping the capital tax: This seems to be a perennial promise from both major parties, and I'll believe it when I see it. Of course international tax structure comparison involves the aggregation of all jurisdictional levies, and unless the provinces play ball this would require a substantial reduction in all federal taxes. It's a great sentiment, and I'm interested to see how Belinda and her team propose to turn it into policy.

Placing Canada inside a North American-wide security perimeter, as the United States has promoted: Yes. This might not be a political no-brainer, but it should sure be a policy no-brainer. A security perimeter will involve the harmonization of certain border policies, which in practice will mean adopting US practices and policies. The challenge will be to counter the inevitable leftist caterwauling about 'sovereignty' by emphasizing not only security but the importance of an open US-Canada border. More on that in a second.

Boosting funding to the military: I'd be surprised if even Jack Layton weren't promising to do this. The question is, by how much? And to what end? Defense policy is about more than just money, and just throwing cash at the Forces will do little to restore Canada's military capacity and her credibility.

Putting more federal money into medicare: Insofar as this means the Feds under a Stronach government would continue to meet their shared responsibility with the provinces on health-care funding, fine. Insofar as it means boosting funding without a fundamental reevaluation of that funding mechanism, not fine. All the money in the world won't fix a command-and-control system in health care, and more money threatens simply to encourage the centralized manipulation of a system that should be freed of bureaucratic tinkering.

Scrapping the federal gun registry, but stiffening punishment for gun crimes: Part A is dandy, but is also more or less a sine qua non of a Conservative leadership bid. Part B is a little baffling. It's obviously a sop to the anti-gun crowd and an attempt to soften the 'blow' of scrapping the registry, but it sounds an awful lot like mandatory minimums, which are an affront to a liberal democracy. You'd think that a basic Conservative tenet would be that crime is crime, and that justice is blind. Murder with a knife is just as abhorrent as murder with a gun, and both should fall under the same criminal law.

Abandoning any thought of decriminalize marijuana possession: [sarcasm]Ah, yes, this must be the social liberalism Ms Stronach professes[/sarcasm]. This is all about the United States. The Stronach camp is a business team and they understand the importance - the paramount importance - of cross-border trade. Anything which jeopardizes the flow of goods and services across that border threatens the livelihood of all Canadians. Forget trees, forget mines, forget farms: Canadians live on the US market. If the Americans told Canadian politicians they could improve border flow by appearing in public without pants on, Canadian polticians would be well advised to tone their legs. The Americans are obviously and publicly unhappy with drug legalization. Canadians have quite quickly come to take pride in their supposed social liberalism relative to the US, and scrapping legalization can quite easily be portrayed by critics as a cave-in to Washington. Trying to sell the move as a necessary policy to keep the border open - and Canadians employed - won't be easy. Keeping drugs illegal has its own significant problems as well.

This state of affairs presents something of a quandry for a libertarian-leaning conservative like me. I'm as tempted as anyone to tell Washington to get stuffed on this one, since I think the US war on drugs is a wrong-headed and failed policy. But the fact is that the US border is Canada's everything. No, really, it might as well be the singular interest of Canadian parliamentarians. It's just possible that by conceding this and other issues to Washington in return for a freer border (perhaps through an expanded security perimeter approaching a customs union), Canada would gain a new influence south of the border. An expanded Canadian trade might lead to the geographic concentration of Canada-interested US voters - and consequently to Canada-interested lawmakers. Those lawmakers could then press for drug policy liberalization, making Canada's own liberalizing efforts easier.

Or maybe that's all pipe dreaming. And maybe it doesn't matter: marijuana crimalization is, at least on the Montreal streets, a running gag. But the police resources wasted on this ridiculous policy is no joke, and it's hard to support the policy's perpetuation. Still, as I say, the border is all. If it closes, legalization will be a moot point: none of us will have the money to buy.

All in all, then, Belinda's tentative policy positions aren't that bad, considering. There's obviously been some thought put into them. They're far from complete or comprehensive, however, and it will be interesting to watch them get flushed out in the coming weeks. It will also be interesting to learn where the other candidates stand on these, or indeed any, issues.

UPDATE (22:49 EST): Maybe Belinda's on to something.

Posted by David Mader at 07:33 PM | (1) | Back to Main

The Nice Factor

The Christian Science Monitor has an interesting piece investigating its limits.

Posted by David Mader at 03:37 PM | (0) | Back to Main


I have a feeling that Paul Wells may be unimpressed by Belinda Stronach. Just a hunch, though.

Posted by David Mader at 10:22 AM | (0) | Back to Main

January 20, 2004

Dean's Shriek

Is it just me, or does his wierd oral exclamation sound faintly like Coach Z's 'jeoarb'?

Maybe it's just me.

Posted by David Mader at 11:13 PM | (2) | Back to Main


More influential than you thought.

Posted by David Mader at 11:00 PM | (0) | Back to Main

The State of the Union

As long as the Middle East remains a place of tyranny, despair, and anger, it will continue to produce men and movements that threaten the safety of America and our friends. So America is pursuing a forward strategy of freedom in the greater Middle East. We will challenge the enemies of reform, confront the allies of terror, and expect a higher standard from our friends...

America is a Nation with a mission - and that mission comes from our most basic beliefs. We have no desire to dominate, no ambitions of empire. Our aim is a democratic peace - a peace founded upon the dignity and rights of every man and woman. America acts in this cause with friends and allies at our side, yet we understand our special calling: This great Republic will lead the cause of freedom.

Read the whole thing (as prepared) here.

Posted by David Mader at 10:31 PM | (0) | Back to Main

Quote of the Day

With all the attention on Belinda today, it may surprise you that this post isn't about her. Actually, its about her father. Answering the allegation that his daughter was born with a silver spoon in her mouth, Frank Stronach protested that this wasn't the case. His example? When she was young, he didn't yet have his own pool, so she had to swim in a public swimming pool. You know, with ordinary, non-rich folks. Wow. Doesn't that just scream woman of the people.

I know, I know, I'm being petty. Still, it was pretty funny, wasn't it?

Posted by David Mader at 10:14 PM | (0) | Back to Main

Belinda on the Net

Two posts on Canadian politics in one day - what's going on? Must be something I ate.

Whoever is running Belinda Stronach's campaign deserves some healthy credit. I had the TV on during dinner, and in a clip of her announcement I noticed that she spoke against a background emblazoned with her campaign URL, www.belinda.ca. Well, over I went, and lo and behold - it's a professional looking, snazzy site. It sure puts Tony Clement's site to shame. Heck, it even has a blog (sort of - more on that in a second).

The site looked somehow familiar, though the color scheme is - um - untraditional, and I realized where I'd seen the template before. It looks a whole lot like the old Dean for America site, which seems to have been toned down somewhat in recent weeks. The big buttons; the dual sidebars; the flash-style newsfeed: it's all more or less standard south of the border, and it's all there.

What's not there, alas, is much substance. I mentioned the blog. It right now has two posts, which is perhaps understandable since the campaign is so young. But compare those two posts (here and here) with her On the Issues page.

It's the same stuff.

And that stuff, while it might be appropriate for a blog if it were only published on the blog, is certainly inadequate in terms of policy positions.

All that being said, Stronach - and her campaign - deserve full marks for their snazzy website. It's not yet clear how much influence the web can have in Canadian politics, but as a blogger and a believer I'm inclined to say that it's an unrealized potential. At the very least it can't hurt. If Stronach really want's to capitalize on the web, she needs to get more substance up there - and she needs to use the blog as more than just an outlet for pre-packaged soundbites. To be fair, she and the campaign seem to be trying to do just that. Belinda.ca will be a site to watch in the coming weeks and months.

And Messrs. Harper and Clement - I hope you fellows are taking notes.

Posted by David Mader at 06:53 PM | (0) | Back to Main

Steyn to Buy the Spectator?

I'm not sure how else to decipher this cryptic passage in his latest Telegraph piece:

Suppose he demanded to know from the Messrs Barclay whether they proposed to carry on running certain columnists, and whether, say, Barbara Amiel and Mark Steyn mightn't benefit from a course in Islamophobic electrotherapy treatment. This isn't entirely theoretical on my part, since a couple of pals and I had been mulling over a bid for The Spectator. It comes as a shock to discover that the entire British newspaper industry is now sorta semi-nationalised.

Emphasis added. Maybe Steyn, in Steynean fashion, is just cracking wise. Anyone know anything more?

Posted by David Mader at 06:32 PM | (0) | Back to Main


I usually leave the Canadian punditry to Dan, but I couldn't pass this by. Belinda Stronach has announced her candidacy for the Conservative Party leadership, and she's received a ringing endorsement from CTV political reporter Craig Oliver:

"Frankly, she's way out of her league. I felt she was answering with memorized answers, her speech... was read in a very flat way. It was generalities, cliches, and one doubted she had the understanding of what she was saying.

"She kept saying she's not a professional politician. Someone should have told her that politics -- especially at the national level -- is not a game for amateurs.

"I wish she'd back out. I think she's going to be embarrassed and humiliated by the time this is over."

Ouch. Just from the article it sounds as though Stronach's campaign is taking its rhetorical cues from old (as in mid-1990s) Republican handbooks. That's a mistake in all sorts of ways. Stronach's got money and she's managed to get some big-name backers, so she's probably not going anywhere soon. Whether those backers will stick with her when her amateurism starts to embarrass her - and them - or whether she'll surprise us all by proving her competence remains to be seen.

Posted by David Mader at 03:20 PM | (0) | Back to Main


I've listened to the Dean screech twice now, and I don't think I can bring myself to listen again. On first hearing it I considered it a sort of latter-day Huey Long schtick. But while Long was a demagogue, he was also a masterful politician (in the context of his contemporary politics). Dean honestly sounds like a demagogue unhinged. I'm all for passionate politicians, but to say that such a display is unpresidential is a tremendous understatement.

NRO's Byron York has more, and pseudonymous blogger Armed Liberal presents some cultural evidence of the repurcussions of the shriek.

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


Me, last night: "I think the big winner tonight, though, is John Edwards."

Dan, last night: "If I was a betting man, my money would be on Edwards."

Andrew Sullivan, last night: "For me, the big winner is Edwards."

Paul Wells, last night: "I'm kind of hot on John Edwards right now."

Despite the lesson that Iowa seems to have taught pundits about predictions, I came very, very close last night to posting a prediction that John Edwards would be the Democratic presidential nominee.

The reason can be framed as a response to Neal Starkman, who 'explained' President Bush's popularity by pointing to the 'S-factor': "Some people -- sometimes through no fault of their own -- are just not very bright." Well, I was ready to go way out on a limb last night and predict Edwards because of what might as well be called the 'nice factor'.

Iowa is now being said to have (possibly) marked the end of the angry-left insurgency as mainstream (even leftist) Democrats in the state chose more 'viable' candidates over the insurgent Dean and alter-insurgent Clark. If Kerry and Edwards remain the frontrunners, Democrats nationwide will face a choice between two styles of politics. Kerry offers the pessimistic critique: here's everything that Bush is doing wrong, so elect me. Edwards offers the optimistic alternative: here's what we can do right; give me a chance. Side by side Kerry may well have a better and more powerful rhetorical style, but Edwards - if my analysis is correct - will still come across as the more attractive candidate.

But the 'nice factor' isn't just about aesthetics. It's a very real and very important political force, both in history and at present. Ronald Reagan owned the 'nice factor' for more or less his entire life; he was dubbed the 'Teflon president' by frustrated critics who couldn't understand why their criticism - on the deficit, on Iran-Contra, on many other things - wouldn't stick. What they didn't recognize was that people always believed that Reagan was, fundamentally as well as superficially, a nice guy. Sure, he screwed up, but he wasn't malicious, and while his opponents were screaming doom and gloom, he was looking forward. (It helped, of course, that his optimism brought results).

President Bush has a strong command of the 'nice factor.' His weakness is a capacity for arrogance; but in a debate with an angry Democratic opponent the 'nice gap' would be immediately evident. 'Niceness' exceeds simple civility, however; in fact civility, which Edwards plays up a bit too much for it to appear totally genuine, is the most superficial component of the 'nice factor'. Civility is properly a consequence of the more fundamental components - optimism and hope. President Bush has hope in humanity, and in America, and he frames his message - accurately or not - in such language. A Democrat who is unceasingly critical without basing his criticism on a similar fundamental optimism can never hope to match the poise of the President.

As it stands, Edwards seems to enjoy a huge 'nice gap' over Kerry, and while this could change as Kerry shifts gears to take on Edwards, I suspect that - assuming these two are the real deal - it won't. But in the end I've decided not to destroy any hope of credibility by making my Edwards prediction. There were three main reasons.

First, despite his advantage in 'niceness', Edwards suffers from what Reagan once so devastatingly called 'youth and inexperience'. Edwards is a one-term Senator who still enjoys dark hair and an appearance of youthfulness. Vigor can be a political asset, of course, especially when the electorate is looking for a changing of the guard (see Clinton, William J). In 2004, however, the electorate is more likely (I think) to be looking for competence in the office of the Presidency. Man to man Bush has a huge advantage here. The juxtaposition of the youthful senator with the now-grey-haired and slightly haggared Bush will remind voters of the trials the President has gone through - and the successes he has had. His very appearance will suggest competence in the job he's done for (almost) four years. Kerry, who's older and who appears older still, therefore has an 'experience' card to play on Edwards, since in a juxtaposition I'd wager that the President would come across as more youthful and vigorous than the Massachusetts senator.

The second reason I hesitate to predict Edwards is that I've never actually seen the man. I don't mean in person; I've never seen any of the candidates in person. I mean I've never seen footage of a live-action John Edwards. I've never seen him on television; I've never seen him deliver a speech or engage in a debate. A large part of that has to do with my own news-consumption habits (as I don't watch TV news on principle), though I think part has to do with Edwards' own relative obscurity to date. I have no idea whether - as many seem to say - Edwards comes across calm and reasoned or as an empty Gore-bot.

And third, and perhaps most importantly, I'm not going to make any prediction based on the freakin' Iowa Caucuses. Reader Steve helps to explain why in the comments to Dan's post. After New Hamphsire we can start talking, maybe, about trends. Until then we know no more, and perhaps less, than we did last weekend.

(By the way, I recognize the superficiality of my political analysis here. I think it has two roots: first, the fact that I've been taught much of my US political history by a man who is really a social historian; and second, my belief that most voters decide late and based on feeling and perception rather than policy and analysis. Maybe I'm wrong, but that's where I'm coming from with this post. Whether these are the 'right' choices for the Democratic Party from some sort of objective standpoint is another matter entirely, and one I expect I'll address in the near future.)

Posted by David Mader at 01:30 PM | (0) | Back to Main


Belinda Stronach will launch her campaign for Conservative leader later this morning. Contrary to initial reports, her launch will not be held on the Magna campus in Aurora. Instead, it will be held a few blocks away.

Belinda's been in media training for the last week with John Laschinger and Jamie Watt - two of the best, so look for her to be polished and on message. Also, look for a flashy event. She's trying to make herself look like a "real" candidate.

The real test, though, is how well she can handle questions. Can she perform when she doesn't have a script. Tony Clement answered questions for an hour when he announced last week. If Belinda ducks the questions or only answers a few then we know she isn't ready for prime time.

Posted by David Mader at 12:52 AM | (2) | Back to Main

Stick a Fork in Him...?

Is Dean done like dinner? After hearing the results tonight, I thought so. And after seeing his atrocious speech, I'm pretty well convinced.

My brother makes a good point in the post immediately beneath this one: Dean's "non-traditional" support is less likely to move the numbers in a caucus than in a primary. Still, Dean needs to jump to the party's mainstream in order to win the nomination. He still doesn't look like he gets it.

I say its now a Kerry/Edwards battle and if I was a betting man, my money would be on Edwards.

Posted by David Mader at 12:50 AM | (1) | Back to Main

January 19, 2004


A slow internet connection prevented me from posting earlier on the Iowa caucuses, which appear to have dealt former favorite Howard Dean a significant blow. It's a bit hard to forecast caucuses, which work differently than primary elections, but CNN is putting the returns at 38% Kerry, 32% Edwards, and only 18% Dean. Dick Gephardt, who polled only 11%, is said to be seriously considering dropping out of the race before New Hampshire.

Dean's been the story for months, so the lead tomorrow will probably be 'The Dean Setback - Is It Terminal?" Dean gets a second chance in New Hampshire; if he rebounds, he's the comeback kid; if he falters, it's curtains for the angry insurgent.

I think the big winner tonight, though, is John Edwards, who's received good pundit reviews but who has garnered much less popular attention than front-runner John Kerry. All of a sudden Edward's isn't just 'one of nine', but one of two - as both he and Kerry far outpolled the rest of the crowd.

It would be a mistake, of course, to treat Iowa as the end of the contest. Joe Lieberman opted to forego the contest entirely, focusing his hopes on the New Hampshire and (more especially) South Carolina primaries; moreover, New Hampshire is a separate and entirely different contest. That's not to deny the importance of Iowa; it's just to say that nothing is settled.

ONE MORE THING (22:20 EST): Could Dean's poor showing have been predicted? Hindsight is 20/20, but if Dean really is the insurgent he claims to be, his support will be concentrated among folks who haven't been traditional members of what you might call the 'Democratic Party tradition" - the sorts of folks who might be expected to vote in the Iowa Caucuses. My understanding of the caucuses is somewhat restricted, but it seems to me Dean's core wouldn't include the strength at the community level needed to sway individual caucuses and through them state delegates. Dean's challenge has been to make the leap from elitist insurgent to broadly-appealing candidate, and Iowa may well demonstrate his failure to do that. New Hampshire will be the test.

Posted by David Mader at 10:18 PM | (0) | Back to Main

All You Need to Know About the Mars Mission

This post by Dana at Canadian Comment just about sums it up, I think.

Posted by David Mader at 08:40 PM | (0) | Back to Main

Stalwart Citizens and Allies

Read this tribute to those murdered in Sunday's terrorist attack in Baghdad, issued by the Coalition Provisional Authority and published by pseudonymous CPA blogger John Galt.

Many of the victims who bore the brunt of Sunday’s vicious crime are the brave Iraqi men and women who work side-by-side with us on a daily basis, coming into harm’s way for no other reason than they seek to build a way of life rather than destroy one.

They are the translators, interpreters, and technical experts who share their laughter, ideas, knowledge and friendship with us freely.

They are the drivers and guides who escort us in forays into the Red Zone and beyond.

They are the local shop-keepers on “Souvenir Alley” who provide us with memorabilia and distractions from the daily grind.

They are the ordinary workers who toil inside and outside of the palace so that the important missions of CPA can proceed apace, even while our living conditions are steadily made more comfortable.

They are the fabric of the society we are seeking to weave stronger. They not only share our dangers, they face others we can only imagine...

After Ambassador Bremer returns from his important mission to the U.S. and United Nations, there will be an appropriate memorial for the brave souls we lost on Sunday, a ceremony recognizing the valor and honor displayed by our Iraqi colleagues each and every day. You are our heroes.

Until that time, all of us on the American and Coalition team extend our sincere condolences to our Iraqi friends and the families who lost loved ones or suffered deeply as a result of the attack at “Assassins’ Gate.” May God give you strength in your time of need.

Posted by David Mader at 08:19 PM | (0) | Back to Main

"This is not Jihad. This is terrorism."

A very encouraging piece out of Baghdad:

When the raid was over, three men were dead, a Syrian and two Yemenis. Two of the men were shot trying to escape; the other blew himself up in the front yard. Inside the house, U.S. troops found a weapons cache...

"Had I known who they were, I would have turned them in myself," said Almas Zia Youssef, 24, standing with curious onlookers outside the house where her neighbors were killed at dawn.

"This is terrorism," she said of foreigners who sneak across Iraq's desert borders to join the anti-American insurgency...

Many Iraqis are growing angry with the insurgents because of the increasing number of innocent Iraqis killed or injured in attacks. On Sunday, 31 people were killed and about 120 wounded in a suicide car bombing near coalition headquarters...

We were liberated from oppression that lasted for 35 years," said a neighbor, Bilal Ibrahim, 20, referring to the ouster of Saddam. "No jihad (holy war) or resistance is needed at all."

"This is not jihad. This is terrorism," another neighbor, Fadi Jamal, 18, said. "They are killing Iraqis. We don't need Arabs in our midst."

Not only is this encouraging from a Coalition-strategic standpoint, it refutes the anti-war cant about the 'Arab street' and the notion that Iraqis somehow value peace and security for themselves and their families less than Americans do.

As an aside, I'm guessing the article was written by a relatively young and non-British reporter, because I can't imagine an old-timer would use the phrase "Two of the men were shot while trying to escape" unless he meant something else entirely.

Posted by David Mader at 04:20 PM | (0) | Back to Main

Red Sun Rising

The Japanese are going to war for the first time since 1945. Well, that's not strictly true: Japanese forces have participated in UN peacekeeping missions since the early 1990s, and Iraq has moved beyond 'major combat operations'. Still, more or less everyone - in Japan and out - recognizes that the deployment of troops to Iraq marks a significant moment in Japanese history. Many in Japan have argued that the troop deployment violates the country's post-war constitution, which restricts the military to purely defensive activities; on the other hand, support for the deployment appears to be rising.

There's certainly support for Japanese deployment in Samawa, where the troops will be stationed:

"Everyone is thinking that they would like to work for a big Japanese company, like Hitachi," said Ahmed Kassim, a young man running a street stall.

"The Japanese will give us lots of jobs."

Well, I certainly hope so.

I must admit that while I welcome the participation of Japan in Iraqi military operations, and while I recognize that Japan remains much more of an ally to the US than many NATO countries, something about remilitarization makes me just the slightest bit nervous. Pacifist protest within the country coincides with some more disturbing trends, such as the recent decision to restore the Imperial naval ensign, as well as the lingering Japanese nationalism which compels politicians to make visits to war shrines. I understand, as well, that Japanese curricula have very little to say about Japanese atrocities during the war, though I can't back that up with a link.

All that being said, I think it's much better that Japan be involved. Nationalism will once again become a factor, and nationalist wars will break out anew, but the immediate threat faced by Japan as well as the 'west' transcends national boundaries. Japan is a valued partner and ally, and an active if limited role in building a peaceful Iraq will demonstrate the partnership. Finally, as Prime Minister Koizumi himself said, Japan has a responsibility as any other nation to bear the burden of peacekeeping.

One way or the other, and press hyperboly aside, the deployment of Japanese troops to Iraq really is historic. Which is neat.

Posted by David Mader at 02:19 PM | (0) | Back to Main

This is a Cheap Shot

So let me get this straight. Says Howard Dean of his wife: "I do not intend to drag her around because I think I need her as a prop on the campaign trail."

Until, at least, he thinks he needs her as a prop on the campaign trail.


Posted by David Mader at 10:29 AM | (5) | Back to Main

January 16, 2004

Fixing a Bad Idea

Although a couple of days old, this Nick Kristof piece in the New York Times makes a point similar to mine regarding international labor standards such as a uniform (or real-dollar constant) minimum wage:

One of the most unfortunate trends in the Democratic presidential race has been the way nearly all of the candidates, including Howard Dean, the front-runner, have been flirting with anti-trade positions by putting the emphasis on labor, environmental and human rights standards in international agreements.

While Mr. Gephardt calls for an international minimum wage, Mr. Dean was quoted in USA Today in October as saying, "I believe that trade also requires human rights and labor standards and environmental standards that are concurrent around the world."

Perhaps the candidates are simply pandering to unions, or bashing President Bush. But my guess is that they sincerely believe that such trade policies would help poor people abroad — and that's why they should all traipse through a Cambodian garbage dump to see how economically naïve these schemes would be.

The article's emphasis on individual cases is more of a romantic approach than my own 'cold' rationality, but the point is the same. International standards would hurt the poor for the sake of the rich - precisely the opposite of their claimed effect, and precisely identical to the supposed effect of globalism as claimed by its critics.

The political question is the degree to which each of the candidates is motivated in these calls by Big Labor pressure and pandering. (It's not strictly a Democratic issue, by the way, as the President's outrageous steel tariff demonstrated).

The economic question - and the humanitarian question - is this: to the degree that these calls are genuinely motivated by a concern for the improvement of the lot of the world's poorest, how best can we move forward in achieving such an improvement?

I think there are three main streams of approach. The 'market capitalist' approach recognizes that the fastest way to improve the lot of developing-world laborers is to allow 'industrialization' and market penetration to proceed unhindered. In the short term this would have little effect on the appearance of deprivation in the developing world, as wages would remain low relative to the developed world and stories of abuse (both human and environmental) would continue. The advantage is that there would be only a short term; the transfer to interim-developed nation status would be much quicker than might be hoped under an interventionist approach.

The second stream might be called the 'mixed-market' stream. Mixed-market schemes would seek to alter the behaviour of the global market for the benefit of developing-world producers. The Fair Trade movement is a good example: by artificially raising prices in the developed world, Fair Trade theoretically raises wages for developing-world producers, allowing them to both improve their immediate lot and, more importantly, provide for their children to move into a higher-income service. The problem with such an approach is that it cannot be maintained in the long-run; it cannot hope to alter the global market in any good (meaning that it will ultimately simply impoverish the producers in one region rather than another); and it does not address the basic problem of developing-world economic growth. This last point is the most important: Fair Trade does nothing to ensure that the children of developing-world producers will have a more lucrative service to go into.

The third stream is the most enigmatic, and might be called simply 'charity'. By disassociating aid from market mechanisms, developed-world donors can at least theoretically improve the immediate lot of developing-world producers without distorting the market in the manner of a mixed-market initiative. Charity,at least in the traditional sense, nonetheless suffers from similar problems: it may create a disincentive to market development by providing an immediate reward which is not contingent on any economic activity. At the same time, IMF and other governmental aid programs which seek to tie aid to market reforms have proven less than fully successful.

There remains, I think, another approach to aid which may provide a more hopeful approach. As Hernando de Soto has argued, one of the greatest obstacles to the amelioration of the world's poor is the lack of available capital by which they might create new commerce and new wealth. In the long run developed nations should be assisting developing nations to bring their large extra-legal sectors into a uniform property system. In the short run, developed-world citizens should consider assuming the risk for the loans which developing-world citizens cannot acquire. There have alreading been projects in Latin America in which poor women in rural areas were given risk-free loans with which they were able to improve their lot; defaults on these loans were (if I remember correctly) relatively small. The assumption of risk on these unsecured loans would be a form of charity, measured by the cost of the risk. The advantage of such a system is that it would provide a required but yet unavailabkle market mechanism without distorting the larger market process. It would bring immediate advantage to developing-world producers (and others) while acting as a spur, rather than a disincentive, to economic growth.

Developing-world laborers want money; but more importantly, they want opportunity. If we can give them that, it would be worth the cost.

Posted by David Mader at 01:27 PM | (7) | Back to Main

January 15, 2004

That was fast

Stephen Harper has only had a serious challenger for a matter of hours, and already the race to lead the Conservative Party of Canada is getting ugly.

In a press release sent out by his campaign today, Harper takes a thinly veiled swipe at Clement:

I knew that there would be risks to my leadership when I formed this new party, but I put this merger together to encourage people like Tony to get involved in the party again after a long absence.

Makes you gag, doesn't it? Last time I checked, the formation of the Conservative Party of Canada wasn't exactly a single-handed effort. The party was "formed" by the MPs of both parties, and by thousands of party members across Canada. Its nice to see that Harper thinks that he's the only one that matters. Even if he were referring to the agreement that led to the merger, he seems to be forgetting the person he made a deal with: Peter Mackay. Oh well, I guess when you're as important as Stephen Harper, nobody else matters.

The really offensive party of the press release, though, is the implication that Tony is getting involved in the party again after a long absence. Tony was heavily involved in founding the Canadian Alliance. This was during the period when Stephen Harper had quit politics and was sulking in Alberta. It didn't look likely that he could become leader, so instead he spent his time writing pessimistic articles about building a firewall around Alberta. When Stockwell Day was forced out, the situation suddenly changed, and Harper came rushing back to federal politics to win the leadership. Meanwhile, Tony Clement worked hard to support the Alliance during the 2000 federal election and then stayed involved with the party as much as his job as a senior Ontario cabinet minister allowed him. So the idea of Stephen Harper critiscizing Tony Clement for being absent from federal politics is, quite frankly, ridiculous.

You'd almost think Harper saw Clement as a serious threat.

Posted by David Mader at 07:15 PM | (3) | Back to Main


Tony Clement announced his candidacy for leader of Conservative Party at a press conference in Ottawa this morning. He went on to answer questions for quite a while demontrating several things that make him such a great candidate. First, he has significant government experience. Second, he has deep public policy knowledge. Third, he is used to dealing with the press. Fourth, he is bilingual.

There are a lot of rumours going around right now as to who is supporting Tony. First, people are reporting that Jim Flaherty and Frank Klees, the two semi-declared candidates for leader of the Ontario PC Party, are supporting Tony. I've even heard a further rumour that John Tory, runner-up in the recent Toronto mayoral election and potential Ontario PC leadership candidate, will join them as Tony's Ontario co-chairs. Having all three of the front-runners in the Ontario race as his backers would send a clear message that Tony is the serious Ontario candidate.

There is also a rumour that Chuck Strahl, who everyone now expects will drop out of the Conservative Party leadership race, will endorse Tony.

Of course, these are just rumours. We'll see in the coming days how things turn out. For now what's important is that Tony is in the race and his campaign is off and running.

Posted by David Mader at 06:53 PM | (0) | Back to Main

January 14, 2004

Maybe They Should Send Her a Card

There's something terribly wrong with this article from the Scotsman:

Young Mother Achieves her Ambition to Be A Suicide Bomber

A 22-year-old Palestinian mother of two became militant group Hamas’s first woman suicide bomber today after boasting with a smile she wanted to attack “where parts of my body can fly all over.”

Reem Raiyshi achieved her ambition at the major crossing point between the Gaza Strip and Israel where she blew herself up, taking her own life and that of four Israelis.

In a video made before the bombing, she is wearing the traditional hijab covering, holding an assault rifle and standing before two green Hamas flags as she declares her lifelong dream of becoming a suicide bomber.

“I always wanted to be the first woman to carry out a martyr attack, where parts of my body can fly all over. That is the only wish I can ask God for,” said the Gaza resident with a smile.

I can only hope that the barbarity of the story, and the disgust it evokes, is so obvious that the Scotsman felt it unnecessary to make the point explicit. And yet the repitition of the notion of 'achieving ambition' suggests a degree - even a high degree - of sympathy with the murderess. A clarification is in order.

Posted by David Mader at 02:18 PM | (1) | Back to Main

A Lesson in Spin

It's interesting to see how the meeting between Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin and US President George Bush is being spun on either side of the border.

In Canada, the deterioration of the continental relationship has been pretty big news, and while there was substantial anger at being shut out of Iraqi reconstruction contracts, many observers recognized that - rightly or wrongly - the decision was in part a consequence of the anti-Americanism latent in the Chretien ministry. The new Prime Minister would likely be content with this interpretation, because it allows him to cast any improvement in the relationship as the result of his own diplomatic efforts. That seems to be the thrust of this piece from the London (Ontario) Free Press.

Prime Minister Paul Martin's first official meeting with U.S. President George W. Bush yesterday marked a significant thaw in Canada-U.S. relations, yielding breakthroughs on two key cross-border issues. Sitting comfortably side-by-side after their breakfast meeting, held during a special Summit of the Americas, Martin and Bush lauded a new agreement ensuring the United States will notify Canada about any plans to deport Canadians to third countries.

And Bush announced Canada will be allowed into a second round of bidding for contracts to rebuild Iraq. Hours later, Canadian officials said two Canadian companies have procured contracts and 18 others will be making bids next week.

Bush spent close to a half-hour in private with Martin and another 45 minutes with him at a breakfast with officials -- in total, half an hour more than the allotted time.

Both leaders appeared pleased by the rapport they established.

"As far as I'm concerned, I thought that the vibes were very, very good on both sides," Martin said.

Bush praised Martin as a leader and highlighted the importance of Canada to U.S. interests.

"He's a straightforward fellow who's easy to talk to," he said.

Compare that to the coverage in the Washington Post, which cast the agreement as a 'concession' by Bush, part of an attempt to "help defuse rising anti-Americanism and criticism of his policies in the region."

In private, administration officials immediately recognized that the tone and timing of the directive, which had the effect of accusing some traditional U.S. allies of being security risks, had been a mistake. An administration official said the White House knew the summit was approaching and decided that making the announcement about Canada here was the most graceful way to correct the blunder.

Bush did not explain his reversal, but said he had told Martin in a telephone conversation last month that "Canada would be given serious consideration for contracting." Administration officials pointed to the more than $200 million in aid pledged by Canada, including about $80 million at a conference in Madrid for donors to postwar Iraq.

"They want Iraq to succeed; they want Iraq to be free," Bush said. "They understand the stakes with having a free country in the midst of the Middle East."

Martin, who was sworn in to replace Jean Chretien on Dec. 12, said the outcome "actually does show that working together you can arrive at a reasonable solution."

In part this has to do with the biases and myopia of the national press. Canadian media are more likely to approach bilateral issues from a Canadian perspective, and to stress a Canadian interpretation, while American media are likely to do the opposite. Still, the juxtaposition of the two stories shows, I think, the agendas served by national press outlets. In Canada, where Martin is generally quite popular among both press and citizenry, a story touting the Prime Minister's successes in Mexico is a sure thing. In the states, where the media's relationship with the President is a) divorced from the public relationship, and b) generally confrontational, a story dwelling on an Administration mistake (through the emphasis of its correction) is similarly an easy call for an editor.

Just interesting to see in practice, I think.

Posted by David Mader at 02:15 PM | (0) | Back to Main

Slightly Less Fast and Furious

It's amazing what people can do given large amounts of free time.

Thanks to Charles for the pointer.

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

January 13, 2004

A Monumentally Bad Idea

Dick Gephardt addressed the Council of Foreign Relations today, and proposed an international minimum wage.

The minimum wage is an issue that often separates sentimentalist leftists from rationalist conservatives. The minimum wage discourages employment for both employers and employees, but is maintained as a 'hearts-and-minds' issue easily portrayed as a type of charity. The same is not true on an international scale. Forcing developing countries to institute a minimum wage at a level determined by developed-world governments would rob those developing countries of their absolute advantage in labor costs - and so steal from them the only opportunity they would have for long-term capital accumulation and income increase. The result of an international minimum wage would not be higher nominal wages in the developing country, but fewer jobs there. That such a policy would retard global economic growth should be a secondary matter to sentamentalists, who instead should recognize it as death knell for developing-world industries - and, tragically, workers.

Of course an international minimum wage wouldn't hurt everybody; developed world labor would benefit quite nicely if it were made impossible for developing-world producers to compete. But - wait a moment - doesn't Dick Gephardt have something to do with developed-world labor? Well, how about that.

Of course, more or less everything you need to know about Dick Gephardt's approach to workers is summed up by this remark, again from today's speech:

when trade is really just a way of averaging out the world's wages and shedding jobs for the sake of cheap consumer goods... then I don't see how that trade is especially "free," and it's certainly not fair.

Let's think about that for a minute. Trade will average out world wages, and Dick thinks that's a bad thing. Trade will lower the wages of the highest earners - developed-world labor - and Dick thinks that's a bad thing. Trade will increase the wages of the world's poor, and Dick thinks that's a bad thing.

So much for 'one world' socialism. If we're really interested in ending slave labor and abuse - as we ought to be - let's concentrate on addressing those issues. When Gephardt pledges to keep America from 'competing' with sweat, slave and child labor, one can't help but conclude that for him it's not about the abuse, but the competition.

Posted by David Mader at 08:54 PM | (3) | Back to Main

As An Aside

Did you know that Iranian President Mohammad Khatami's nominally-reformist political party is called the "League of Combatant Clerics"? I didn't know that.

Posted by David Mader at 08:25 PM | (2) | Back to Main

One Step Back, Two Steps Forward

More details are trickling out about the President's space plan, which he will formally announce tomorrow. Two points of interest:

Officials said he would set a goal of returning to the moon by the middle of the next decade and establishing a human presence there as a stepping stone to an eventual manned mission to Mars.

My emphasis. When the first news of the announcement broke last week, the fifteen-year timeframe was applied to the Mars mission, while the moon-shot was scheduled within the decade. Whether that was mistaken or there has been a retooling isn't clear, but in any case a manned Mars mission - which is grabbing all of the headlines - seems quite certainly to be a long-term goal.

[The President] would urge Congress to approve development of a new capsule-type spacecraft, called a crew exploration vehicle, capable of performing a variety of missions, including trips to the moon and the International Space Station.

It would be launched using conventional rockets much like the Apollo capsules of the 1960s and 1970s and would have an escape system that the shuttle does not have.

The new spacecraft would replace a planned orbital space plane that had been expected to follow the space shuttle.

I haven't been following the 'space plane' issue closely but my impression is that folks in the know saw it as something of a lemon. I may be mixing things up, though, and I imagine many folks will see a return to Apollo-style capsule craft as a step backwards. And yet I don't know that any alternative would be better suited to the task of landing on the moon - something a capsule craft has already achieved.

Let me say again, in advance of tomorrow's announcement, that while I support the goals of the mission in principle, I remain concerned about funding. I believe that the exploration of space will be - and ought to be - a basically private endeavour. If the Bush plan involves substantial outlays, hidden outlays or tremendous costs passed on to future generations, I will have trouble giving it my unconditional support. That will likely mean that tomorrow I'll be back withdrawing the support I've given already. Still, I holding off, pending the announcement, and I hope to be pleasantly surprised.

UPDATE (21:05 EST): Reader Adam has some interesting thoughts in the comments, including a question about the efficiency of rocket-propelled capsule craft. It's a good question, too - I'd assumed that a switch back to rockets would have been driven at least in part by cost considerations - reusing rockets might in fact be cheaper than whatever the best fuel option for a shuttle craft currently is - but I don't know.

Posted by David Mader at 08:20 PM | (2) | Back to Main

Want to Lose Your Lunch?

Read this. And yes, I too presumed as I read that the various personalities were in fact frothing at the mouth as they raved.

We on the 'right' often make the "if he had been a Republican/conservative..." argument, to the point that it's getting tired. But please just imagine for a moment the 'right-wing' parallel to this lunacy. It's a Klan rally. And it's also the voice of the Angry Left - the predominant constituency in today's Democratic Party. For the sake of that great party - and I mean this in all seriousness - the other constitutencies had better take notice. Fast.

Posted by David Mader at 08:10 PM | (1) | Back to Main

Lost in the Cross Talk

O'Neill's tell-all may in fact have some important insights, as Andrew Sullivan notes:

The supremacy of politics over everything accounts, of course, for some spectacular coups - like the immigration proposal - and some hideous errors - like the steel tariffs. But it remains one of the most illuminating prisms through which to understand this administration.

The accusation that a White House is obsessed with politics seems to come out every few years - it happened under both Reagan and Clinton, I think. Maybe the accusation is always correct. Maybe the accuser is simply shocked by the aggresiveness of a political system with which he is not familiar (though O'Neill's years at the OMB presumably proved acculturating). Sullivan's examples show, though, that the accusation can't simply be dismissed. The ongoing war on terror has given this White House something of a trump to justify any policy decision: steel tariffs were necessary to keep the steel states, without whom Bush would lose in '04 and the war effort would be undermined; deficits are necessary to fight the war, and will cost less - even in the long run - than capitulation; etc. Bcause the cost of losing the war is infinite, the trump affords an infinite level of discretion.

The problem - aside from the fact that assigning value to relative policy options involves a degree of subjectivity - is that reliance on the trump precludes a consideration of alternate methods of achieving the same goals. It is assumed that we must keep up domestic spending while fighting the war, lest cuts lead to unpopularity, electoral loss and - so - defeat. But do we really need to run a guns-and-butter economy? And is government spending a necessary component of that economy? These are questions that need asking. If the White House is not willing to listen - and Sullivan suggests that they are not - then there truly is a problem.

Posted by David Mader at 02:15 PM | (0) | Back to Main

O'Neill's Bombshell

The spin on O'Neill's book and interview has been, of course, that Bush had been looking for a way to invade Iraq since the first days of his administration. All he needed, according to the spin, was a pretext.

There was an article written in the Washington post in October or November of 2001 called "Ten Days in September" which chronicled the activities of the White House from September 11 to the address to Congress on September 20. It notes that at the very first meeting of upper-level advisors after the attacks - on either the eleventh or the twelfth - Iraq was discussed as the target for a retaliatory invasion.

The point is not that they were looking for an excuse to invade Iraq. The point is that they had an excuse - and yet they didn't invade. Even if it were true that the Bush administration had been harbouring some secret desire to topple Saddam from day one, they nonetheless did not exploit opportunities but enacted that plan in a manner consistent with American national security interestes. The invasion of Iraq - following months of diplomatic manoevering - served to further the American war on terror by fundamentally altering the geopolitical dynamic in the Middle East. Either you look around the world at the developments of the past six months and you buy that argument, or you don't. One way or the other we get back to the debate over the war. If Bush really did secretly want to depose a murderous dictator Before Things Changed, and if that really is - as the logic of the criticism suggests - a bad thing, it still wouldn't detract from the benefit the invasion brought to American security interests.

Of course the whole supposition - that Bush harboured some secret desire - is false, as Glenn Reynolds is so ably demonstrating. (So, in fact, is Paul O'Neill). The truth, of course, is that Iraqi regime change had long been a desire - and from 1998 a policy - of the American government, both legislature and executive. Again, even if logistic preparations for an invasion had started after January 20, 2001, President Bush's only sin would have been a desire to make good on stated policy. All of a sudden criticism of Bush becomes criticism of an Iraqi war - in any form, mind you, since those early plans were certainly not identical to the supposedly-unilateralist plan finally enacted.

I'm going to dwell on this point for a second, because I think I might be on to something. The complaint seems to be that the President harboured a desire to remove Saddam Hussein long before September 11 gave him an 'excuse'. Critics can't know, however, what sort of form such a plan of invasion would have taken. One could argue, I suppose, that from his first days in office Bush had displayed a 'unilateralism' in world affairs that suggested an Iraqi operation without UN sanction. And yet we can't say that for certain. Since the plan predated September 11 and the consequent rethinking of American security priorities, it's quite possible that the President's plan would have involved a much longer period of weapons inspection, a higher degree of international organization involvement, and even perhaps a more peaceful transition of power within Iraq - assuming Hussein would have been willing to play ball given time, which is a fundamental assumption of the anti-war set. To criticize the President for having some war plans is to criticize him for having any war plans. Hawks will see such uniform opposition to war as nothing new. It might be worthwhile for doves to consider the point more closely, however: would they really be opposed to the removal of Saddam Hussein through any form of armed conflict? And if so, what does that say about the anti-war crowd's professed interest in human rights?

(The point about the plans may be worth emphasizing. As some bloggers have noted, it would have been the responsibility of the executive to have some sort of plans for the execution of policy - even potential policy - at the ready. And yet the Pentagon had hardly prepared minute-by-minute orders for the invasion of Iraq; while a number of 'scenarios' undoubtedly were drafted, precise execution plans would have been drawn up much further down the line. Early plans would - I imagine - have been along the lines of detailed but relatively general estimates of required force, points of entry, targets of interest, anticipated resistence, possible catastrophe, and other such tactical considerations, as well as larger questions of strategy including international support and resistence such as economic consequence from an oil embargo.

But in the end even the final and most intricately detailed plans were shelved due to opportunity (and Turkish opportunism). I would be prepared to put money on the fact that the earliest 'plans' for an Iraq war didn't envision, let alone plan, a one-night bombing campaign followed by a single-entry invasion and a complete lack of protracted military conflict at Baghdad.)

Posted by David Mader at 01:47 PM | (0) | Back to Main


I'm amazed at how quickly the President's critics have reverted to form with the publication of Paul O'Neill's new tell-all book. You'd think that the experiences of the past two years would have made them somewhat less likely to call Bush stupid, to assume that Bush is stupid and to build a political strategy around those assertions and assumptions. And yet as soon as O'Neill hauls out the old lines - Bush is uninterested in policy and passive at Cabinet meetings, run by a sinister cadre of advisors interested only in political gain - critics forget themselves, and it's 2000 all over again. Iraq and Afghanistan? Tax cuts? The 2002 mid-terms? All lessons in underestimating this man. All forgotten in an instant.

In fact the critics are so elastic one could be forgiving for thinking they're being played. How convenient, after all, that this devastating critique of Bush appears at the start of the Presidential election cycle? All of a sudden Democrats are once again confident in their ability to beat the buffoon, while Big Media vamps up its behind-the-hand deprecations of the Commander in Chief. As in 2000, all Bush has to do is show up for the debates and he'll exceed expectations. Unlike in 2000, though, he has three years of experience and a record to show for his time in office.

It used to bug me when critics called the President some form of stupid. It doesn't anymore. Political opponents underestimate Bush at their peril, as the past three years ought to have taught them. But they haven't learned.

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

January 12, 2004

The Globe and Mullah?

The slanted headline of the day today comes from the Globe and Mail. It was reporting on the recent events in Iran. The hardliners there have banned over 2,000 "reformist" candidates from running in the upcoming elections, basically insuring that the Mullahs keep their tight control on the country. In response, reformist members of parliament staged a sit-in.

The National Post, a more reputable paper, gets the story right, headlining its story, "Mullah's Ban Rivals in Iran 'Coup'."

So, what was the Globe and Mail"s spin? "Iranian MPs Hold Sit-In to Protest Elections." If you just read the Globe headline, it would be easy for you to get the idea that its the reformist MPs who are in the wrong, protesting because they don't want to face an election. Pathetic. Truly Pathetic. Is the Globe so left wing that they want to help keep the Mullahs in power? Or are they just bad writers?

Posted by David Mader at 11:49 PM | (0) | Back to Main

An Interim Phase

Mark Steyn has an eye-opening column on 'multiculturalism' and Islam.

When Catholic groups complain about things like Terrence McNally's Broadway play Corpus Christi (in which a gay Jesus enjoys anal sex with Judas), the arts crowd says a healthy society has to have "artists" with the "courage" to "explore" "transgressive" "ideas", etc. But, when Cincinnati Muslims complained about the local theatre's new play about a Palestinian suicide bomber, the production was immediately cancelled: the courageous transgressive arts guys folded like a Bedouin tent. The play was almost laughably pro-Palestinian, but that wasn't the point: the Muslim community leaders didn't care whether the play was pro- or anti-Islam: for them, Islam was beyond discussion. End of subject. And so it was.

Fifteen years ago, when the fatwa against Salman Rushdie was declared and both his defenders and detractors managed to miss what the business was really about, the Times's Clifford Longley nailed it very well. Surveying the threats from British Muslim groups, he wrote that certain Muslim beliefs "are not compatible with a plural society: Islam does not know how to exist as a minority culture. For it is not just a set of private individual principles and beliefs. Islam is a social creed above all, a radically different way of organising society as a whole."

Since then, societal organisation-wise, things seem to be going Islam's way swimmingly - literally in the case of the French municipal pool which bowed to Muslim requests to institute single-sex bathing, but also in more important ways. Thus, I see the French interior minister flew to Egypt to seek the blessing for his new religious legislation of the big-time imam at the al-Azhar theological institute. Rather odd, don't you think? After all, Egypt isn't in the French interior. But, if Egypt doesn't fall within the interior minister's jurisdiction, France apparently falls within the imam's.

Read the whole thing. I believe that Islam can peacefully co-exist within a pluralist society. But not 'really existing Islam' - the Islam being practiced in the most forthright sense around the world today. It's time for peacefully coexisting Islam to start getting forthright.

Otherwise, we might very well be looking at the clash of civilizations we all deplore.

(Wait - don't tell me you didn't read the whole thing.)

Posted by David Mader at 10:23 PM | (1) | Back to Main


In a comment on my Belinda post below, Dave wonders what I think about the withdrawal of Jim Prentice from the race to lead the Conservative Party of Canada.

I think that its a good thing - not on its face, but because of what it signals. Prentice's only real hope was to become the de facto Anyone But Harper candidate. I ended up supporting him on the final ballot of the PC leadership last year as the Anyone But McKay candidate, and would have done the same this time if it had been just him and Harper.

To me, his exit from the race is a signal that other candidates are going to get in. I never believe reports that someone is running till they actually get in the race (and longer if the candidate's name is Frank Klees). I don't think that it is a sure thing that Clement and Stronach will run. There's even a chance that neither will. Prentice's withdrawal is, to me, a signal that he seriously believes that at least one of them will run. And that is a good thing.

Posted by David Mader at 06:02 PM | (0) | Back to Main


Okay, now, federal politics. Time for my much-delayed post on Belinda Stronach. I started writing this about a week ago, but then things got rather busy for a few days.

A couple weeks ago the race to lead the new Conservative Party of Canada looked set to be a real sleeper. With Bernard Lord wimping out, it looked like Stephen Harper had it locked up. Since then, though, its started to look more competitive.

First, Tony Clement's advisers let it be known that he was thinking seriously about running. This was great news. Tony was a great cabinet minister in Ontario. He is well-known for ably handling the SARS outbreak last spring. He is a very smart, bilingual fiscal conservative who would make a great leader. I signed up for his campaing immediately, and started working on assembling a youth team.

Then came the next announcement: Belinda Stronach was seriously thinking of running.

For those of you who don't know who Stronach is, I don't blame you. Until recently, she wasn't exactly a well-known figure on the political stage. The head of car-parts maker Magna, Stronach started to get a lot of media attention around the time of the merger of the Alliance and PC Parties last fall. There was speculation that she had played a key role in bringing the two parties together. At the time, I dismissed this as PR. Stronach has a very politically astute adviser, and I figured that he was just getting her some free publicity. When rumours started going around that she was thinking about running for leader, I thought the same thing. It seems that I was wrong.

So, what qualifies Belinda Stronach to lead the Conservative Part of Canada? Well, she's young and good looking. She's got great business experience. The one thing she's lacking, of course, is any kind of political experience at all. Some would make the comparison to Brian Mulroney or Tom Long. Mulroney, though, had been a party activist all his life, and was a prominent public figure due to his work on a government commission. Long had been a senior political strategist. Neither had been elected politicians, but, crucially, they knew how the game was played. Belinda Stronach doesn't.

Federal politics is the big leagues. It may not seem that way to those who are used to watching US politics, but it is. As the example of Stockwell Day shows, a new politician faces extremely intense scrutiny. To make things worse for Stronach, the next election will almost certainly be called soon after the new leader is chosen.

There's also the little matter of what she stands for. Call me old fashioned, but I like to vote for leaders who stand for something.

Am I ruling her out. No way. She may turn out to be a natural politican with some great policies. I'm just saying that it won't be easy for her. She has a lot of negatives that Tony Clement doesn't have. My choice was easy - I'm with Tony.

That being said, if Stronach is serious about getting into the race, I should have a chance to meet her pretty soon. If so, I'll let maderblog readers know what I think.

Posted by David Mader at 05:07 PM | (1) | Back to Main

Trending Republican

The New York Daily News has an eye-catching story proclaiming "U.S. Jews would overwhelmingly support any major Democratic candidate over President Bush if the election were held today."

Joseph Lieberman, the only Jewish candidate, would defeat Republican Bush by the largest margin, 71% to 24%, the poll by the New York-based [American Jewish Committee] found.

In a one-on-one matchup, Howard Dean, Wesley Clark, John Kerry and Dick Gephardt would each receive about 60% of the vote, compared with about 30% for Bush. The poll omitted Democrats Carol Moseley Braun, John Edwards, Dennis Kucinich and Al Sharpton.

Jews tend to vote Democratic, and 66% said they backed Al Gore in the 2000 race. But the poll did find a slight increase in the percentage of those who considered themselves Republican, to 16% in 2004 from 9% in 2000.

This sounds like bad news for the Republicans, whose ardent stance on terrorism - in contrast to the prevarications of certain Democratic constituencies and lawmakers - might have been expected to sway Jewish Americans. But it turns out there's more to this story than meets the eye - as Volokh Conspirator David Bernstein explains:

30% would be about double Bush's total in 2000 among Jews (the article says that only 66% of those surveyed supported Gore in 2000, but retrospective polling is notoriously unreliable, polls done at the time showed 80%+ figures)...

Also, the articles notes a "slight" increase in Jewish identification as Republicans from 9 to 16%. That's not slight, that's almost double!

Baby steps, perhaps - although a doubling of Republican identification hardly seems infantile - but it certainly suggests a trend. It would be interesting to see exit-poll data for the 2002 midt-terms, compared to the 2000 and upcoming 2004 elections.

Posted by David Mader at 04:53 PM | (2) | Back to Main

January 11, 2004

Outlawing Domestic Peace

Iran's ruling clerics have banned hundreds of reformists from standing for parliamentary election. The group of banned Iranians includes dozens of sitting MPs.

The Telegraph notes that if the mullahs hoped to capitalize on discontent with the reformists led by Mohammed Khatami, their effort is likely to backfire. Discontent was driven by the slow pace of reform. By removing the possibility of a reformist parliament, the clerics destroy not only any current reform but the promise of future legislative successes. Without a hope of parliamentary reform, Iran's reformist-minded people will have recourse only to extra-legal methods.

If a violent revolution does come to the streets of Tehran, the mullahs will have only themselves to blame. They seem to have outlawed any peaceful atlernative.

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

January 10, 2004

Suicide Bombers

They're coming to the West, and are perhaps closer than we imagine.

What will be the response to such attacks? Rightly or wrongly, another September 11-style attack would raise questions about security measures and the effectiveness of post-eleventh security procedures. I don't think the same reaction would greet suicide bombings. Most folks would recognize that you just can't stop an individual from strapping explosives to him- or herself and detonating in a public place. Security in those public places can be stepped up, of course, and perhaps will be, as has ocurred in Israel.

If anything, though, I'd expect suicide bombings to embolden rather than aggreive Western populations (or at least the American public). Suicide attacks transform the enemy from a vague organization to a deplorable individual. They illustrate with brutal clarity the depravity of the ideology which motivates Islamist terrorism, and they make clear that the aim of those terrorists is not merely political and abstract (as would be achieved through grand and symbolic attacks) but involves the murder of 'heathens' simply for the sake of murder.

But, as I say, they're coming. We'll know our reaction soon enough, alas.

Posted by David Mader at 06:43 PM | (2) | Back to Main

January 09, 2004

The Frontiers Still Before Us

The renewal of space exploration is exciting because it offers the opportunity for America to return to its natural condition on a frontier.

The importance of the frontier in American history has long been recognized. The original colonies were marginal, in the sense that they existed on the margins of European society at the point of confrontation with the unknown wilds. In fact the colonies themselves existed in a state of liminality, neither of Europe nor of America. They looked at once towards the wealth and traditions of the Old World and the promise and opportunity of the new.

The desire to move westward across the Appalachians was an important point of contention between the colonists and the British, and with Independence there began a significant westward expansion. By in large this was undertaken by individuals rather than by the States - although the resultant conflict with Indian tribes eventually became a state concern. The eflux of opportunity-seeking Americans led to the Texan rebellion, independence and eventual statehood. Conflicts between Southern and Northern pioneers, especially in Kansas, precipitated the Civil War. The settlement of California by pioneers seeking to drive ever further westward had a lasting effect on the character of that republic. Liminality - the state of transition, of being neither one thing nor the next - was part of the American experience from the first.

The closing of the frontier and the consolidation of settlement at the end of the 19th century brought about a change in the American character. Frederick Jackson Turner's 'Closing of the American Frontier', published in 1892, argued that without a frontier America would be without purpose, and the country soon began to look beyond its geographic bounds to find a new frontier. The Spanish-American War at the turn of the century is most often interpreted as an attempt to maintain the outward push of 'manifest destiny' once the continent had been filled.

While that war was successful in increasing American land holdings through the addition of territories in the Caribbean and Pacific, the frontier mentality faded and attentions turned to internal reform and improvement. This was a welcome development, allowing for modernization and liberalization which would otherwise have been much harder to achieve. For much of the twentieth century American policy has been domestically oriented, from the progressive reforms of the 1910s and 1920s through the Civil Rights and Great Society reforms of the 1960s. While popular history has seen America's foreign policy in the twentieth century as imperialist, it has in fact been much more subdued than before at least in terms of territorial ambition. The isolationism of the 1930s, and again after about 1970, would have been inconceivable in the 19th century - not because earlier Americans were more 'hawkish', but because the underlying assumptions about America and the world had changed markedly.

The biggest change, though, had to do not with government policy but with private activity. With the closing of the American frontier, Americans stopped moving beyond their borders. Even during the periods of tremendous immigration in the 19th century, there had been continuous expansion and movement beyond the nominal bounds of government control. After about 1900 that seems to have stopped. Immigration was restricted, and America became a much more insular society. Rather than looking outwards, Americans began to look inwards, and while this allowed the aforementioned society benefits of reform, it also led to a certain societal stasis.

The hokey Star Trek line about space being the 'final frontier' is, in fact, a remarkably prescient statement of American hopes and character subsumed under the stasis of the twentieth century. But space, while the final frontier, is not the only frontier. The end to territorial conquest and domination by American forces is a welcome development, but it does not have to mean an end to the exploration of earthly frontiers. North American insularity has hidden the fact that there remain great frontiers - between order and anarchy; between democracy and tyranny. For a hundred years - except for very limited exceptions - America has absented itself from these frontiers. There remains in the American psyche, however, an understanding of the promise of frontiers which even the colonial British did not share. If we can rediscover that understanding, and recover the excitement, promise and opportunity of the frontier, America can not only revitalize its own character but begin the process of closing the world's frontiers, allowing a global reform and liberalization - and a harmonized voyage to the stars.

Posted by David Mader at 02:37 PM | (0) | Back to Main

To Infinity and Beyond

The President is set to propose manned missions to the moon and, eventually, to Mars, according to press reports. The lunar mission will be aimed towards permanent settlement, while the Mars mission will be a decade-long goal.

Some folks aren't impressed. The Volokh Conspiracy's David Bernstein calls the Mars mission a "government boondoggle," while Rand Simberg - the blogosphere's resident space expert, fears a simple return to Apollo.

I was hoping for a vision, rather than a destination, and one that included the American people. This is just picking up where Apollo left off, and that was a very expensive way to go. It seems to continue the philosophy that, as Trix are for kids, space is for NASA astronauts, who the rest of us get to watch on teevee.

It will be very interesting to see just what Bush will propose. Simberg is no doubt right to argue that ultimately NASA will have little to do with the opening of space. Incorporating Bernstein's critique, we can fairly say that money would be better spent - if it must be spent - on the encouragement of private space exploration ventures.

I'm not sure, though, that the President's proposal won't include a component of vision - and of encouragement for private exploration and involvement. Bush has demonstrated time and again his belief in the promise of mankind, even as he's overseen a lamentable expansion in the size of government. While he may see the space program as an entirely isolated project, I can't help but wonder whether his interest in exploration has quite a lot to do with his ideas of American opportunity and exceptionalism - as he understands it. He seems to understand exceptionalism, in terms of democracy, as a temporary condition creating a responsibility to assist in the spread of democratic ideas and institutions.

It's just possible, then, that Bush recognizes the capacity of the American government to revitalize space exploration - in order that private explorers (and other nations) can take the eventual initiative in expanding human settlement. I'm not sure my libertarian instincts can condone this sort of Keynesian policy, but my liberal self certainly recognizes its appeal.

Posted by David Mader at 02:09 PM | (1) | Back to Main

The Good News...

... is that it only feels like -32º. It's really only -23.

Posted by David Mader at 11:45 AM | (1) | Back to Main

January 08, 2004


I think I share Instapundit's reaction to the President's proposed illegal immigrant amnesty program.

On the one hand, illegal immigration is, well, illegal, and a proper reform should involve expanding the availability of legal paths of entry. Sactioning law-breaking after the fact may be the right thing to do in the circumstance, but it threatens to - as the kids say - give the shaft to those folks who've gone through the legal routes to gain entry to the US. One way around this point of conflict might be to expand the available number of green-cards simultaneous to the amnesty.

Moreover, pardoning line-skipping creates an incentive to skip the line; potential immigrants will consider the shaft received by the law-abiding and the amnesty granted to the illegals and will anticipate the possibility of yet another amnesty; they'll become more likely to try to skip the line.

The plan seems to try to address these problems in one way or another. But just as there are hidden costs, there may be substantial hidden benefits. As is often pointed out, illegal immigrants are already in the country, generally working and living within American society. Their illegal status, however, prevents them from engaging in that society in a fully efficient manner. It seems to me that illegals exist in something akin to Hernando de Soto's extralegal world. Allowing them access to the full range of legal services will open up a world of economic and social possibility. Perhaps most importantly, it will allow these immigrants to settle and begin the process of upward social mobility that can only have a positive effect on the nation as a whole. Yes, this means allowing illegal immigrants to settle permanently in America. As it is, though, they're likely here to stay. Keeping them illegal only keeps them poor.

Posted by David Mader at 10:54 PM | (0) | Back to Main

January 07, 2004

Taking Back the Streets

Glenn Reynolds links to a story about a teenaged girl who helped apprehend a thief:

Morgan Ruppert spotted a purse snatch suspect running in her direction, being chased by a group of residents, when she instinctively ran toward him. She reached out and grabbed at the purse strings of the stolen purse, and gave the running man a hefty kick in the shins.

It caused him to trip, and he fell to the ground, where the men chasing him pinned him down and held him until police arrived...

"This sends a message to the criminal that citizens are fed up with crime," said Maj. John DiPietro, deputy police chief of Miami Twp. "I applaud all those people. Especially this young lady who took heroic action."

There's more to the story, though, that Reynold's doesn't quote:

DiPietro said a woman was loading packages from a cart into her van in the parking lot of the store when a young man swept by her, grabbed her purse and took off running.

"She began screaming loudly that her purse was stolen," DiPietro said. "About six men in the area took off in pursuit."[...]

DiPietro said he recognizes the action of the residents involved as a "result of the terrible tragedy of Sept. 11, 2001.

"When those folks took over in that airplane and stopped the hijackers, I think it triggered something in a lot of good people," DiPietro said. "I think there is a feeling now that criminals are not going to be tolerated. People are fed up and feel they are not going to let this happen."

I think the straight-talking deputy is right. The Good Professor places the story in the 'bellicose women' meme, but it seems to me it's just as much a story of 'a pack, not a herd'.

Posted by David Mader at 11:33 PM | (0) | Back to Main


David Adesnik:

To be sure, being fired or outsourced or downsized isn't a pleasant experience. But if there is tremendous demand for programmers, then $150,000-a-year programmers shouldn't have a hard time finding a new job.

In contrast, if a factory worker loses his or her job, that's probably it. Economies the world over (including China) are losing manufacturing jobs because of techonological advances.

Thus, the basic message of free-trade advocates is still right on target: acquire high-tech skills and you can expect to have a good job. Can you expect $150,000 per year? I don't know.

One thing you certainly shouldn't expect is security. Critics like Schumer and Herbert seem to be mired in an old-economy model of lifetime employment. (Which still seems to apply to senators and NYT columnists.)

Heh. Indeed.

I'm taking a course on trade policy with Bill Watson, and we're starting right back at the beginning with Ricardo and comparative advantage. The interesting thing about this most basic argument for the benefit of free trade is that it assumes persistent obstacles to the free movement of capital and (perhaps more importantly) labor. Comparative advantage certainly helpst to overcome these obstacles, but it seems to me the ultimate goal should be their removal, not their avoidance. Free movement of labor sounds very 'one-world' - and very socialist - but it is, I think, a truly liberal idea. Obviously it's not immediately politically viable; but for Canada, at least, the idea of unfettered access to the American labor and capital markets should be very, very attractive. Of course, Canadian's don't even enjoy free movement of labor within Confederation, and Americans may be less eager to create a common market. Still, as we move towards ever freer trade, let's not forget the real goal - freedom for individuals, not just state-associated enterprises.

Posted by David Mader at 11:06 PM | (0) | Back to Main

Let's get serious here folks

Wow. Lots to talk about. I'm back - after a very nice vacation. And lots has happened since I've been gone.

Let's start with Ontario politics. Jim Flaherty continues to be the definite front runner. Lots of interesting gossip about who is going to run against him. I hear conflicting things about Witmer - one day someone says that she's in, the next day someone else tells me she's out. We'll see. I predict that she'll run if John Tory doesn't.

Today's Star (which you really need to read if you're into Canadian politics, just like you need to read the NYT if you're into US politics) has an interesting article about the John Tory rumours today.

The credibility of the article is somewhat weakened, though, by this ridiculous statement:

Other potential provincial candidates include Oak Ridges MPP Frank Klees and Burlington MPP Cam Jackson.
Okay, now. Let's get serous. Cam Jackson was kicked out of Cabinet in scandal. He's not a serious candidate. Come on now, folks.

Posted by David Mader at 08:57 PM | (1) | Back to Main

Income and Influence

Glenn Reynolds has a TechCentralStation piece on income inequality and its potential political and legal ramifications.

As Reynolds notes, in the West today and certainly in Canada and the United States, 'income inequality' has become a measure of relative rather than absolute wealth; everybody is getting richer in a real sense, but the rich are getting richer faster than the poor (and, well, everybody else) are getting richer. The result has been a defining-down (or up, really) of poverty to include those who enjoy a real wealth on par with the middle class of even forty years ago; and consequently to trivialize the remaining (and persistent) absolute poverty in our society.

The neoclassical approach to relative inequality is to dismiss it: If you're richer than you were in a real sense, complaining that the rich are richer still seems little more than envy, and hardly the basis for political activity (Reynolds calls it an 'aesthetic objection'). But the Professor goes on to note a very real potential consequence of continued income inequality over time. He suggests that as the rich grow ever more wealthy, their capacity for power - including political power - over the rest of us will grow to a dangerous point.

This is an important and intruiging argument, and worth serious consideration. My initial reaction is to say that in a democratic republic, the 'rest' will always have a veto over the machinations of the 'rich'. Wealth will translate into dangerous political power only when the wealth is used not simply to affect but to change the political process. The most egregious example would have a super-rich individual avoid prosecution for a crime through the corruption of the justice system. A more likely example would have the super-rich achieving a favorable change in the governmental order through the influencing of lawmakers.

As an aside: In a sense this happens already, although it is not at all limited to the 'rich'; special interests, as a collection of 'other' Americans, can have an equal or greater influence on government policy; and as Republicans often point out, during the recount debacle in Florida, the Bush team raised a greater amount from relative small donations (less than $500 each, if I remember correctly) than the Gore team raised from bigger doners (many of whom donated many thousands of dollars).

But this more limited area of potential influence requires the assent of the 'rest' through the election of his preferred candidate (or candidates, as he would likely seek to sway all possible candidates) or a passivity towards his activities. In fact, the simple discussion of the potential ramifications of income inequality represents a democratic check on its excesses. The point is that change must occur at an instant, and that the 'rest' of the people control the mechanisms of political change up to that instant. They retain the ability to reject the change.

Reynolds loses me, unfortunately, when he invokes George Soros as an example and a warning of the potentially dangerous effects of super wealth. Soros can spend his billions on advertising which will no doubt have a statistically significant effect on the outcome of an election. He cannot, however, spend his billions to bar citizens from the polls, nor to disqualify certain candidates or partisans. It may be that the super-exposure of ideas allowed by his contribution will sway the electorate, but can this really be condemned as dangerous? After all, the final decision still rests with the electorate. To condemn them for agreeing with George Soros is to accept and proclaim the S-Factor.

Taxing CEOs because George Soros is a Democrat ultimately isn't a sustainable position, and in his conclusion Reynolds acknowledges with a wink the implicit bias. Income inequality may well have serious political and legal repercussions. Let's talk about those.

Posted by David Mader at 09:56 AM | (1) | Back to Main

January 06, 2004

The Western Standard

I'm excited to learn that Canadian conservatism will soon have a new voice in the form of the Western Standard. With the demise of the Alberta Report and the exodus of talent from the National Post, Canada has been missing a print platform dedicated to the debate and enunciation of conservative ideas and policies.

In a sense the new Standard may be better able to serve those goals than either of the aforementioned publications, thanks to the character of its publisher. If Ezra Levant has one political skill - and he has many more - it's an ability to get noticed. As a staffer on Parliament Hill he routinely drew more press coverage than most MPs - on either side of the aisle. His brief campaing for a seat in Calgary was also said to have been noteworthy for its confident expressions of policy and its effective use of political advertising. With Ezra at the helm the Standard may well become a dynamic and influential addition to the Canadian political landscape. I'm looking forward to it.

[Via canadiancomment]

LATER (00:04 EST 1/7/04): I realize I inadvertantly came down pretty hard on the Post, which still serves as an expression of the Conservative voice in Canada; my point was only that the departure of a group of writers has diminished what one might call the conservative zest of the paper.

Posted by David Mader at 11:53 PM | (0) | Back to Main

Celebrity and Survival

But enough undergraduate philosophizing; let's talk about celebrities.

Six years after her death Diana Spencer is back in the news as the British government launches a coroner's inquiry into the car crash that killed the former Princess of Wales and her partner Dodi Fayed. Although the delay in launching the inquest has formally been attributed to the importance of allowing the French authorities to conduct their own investigation in order to collect pertinent information, it is widely understood that neither the Palace nor Whitehall wished to cave into the claims of conspiracy-theorists by admitting that the couple may have died in something other than an unfortunate car accident.

These claims have resurfaced in the past weeks through allegations that Diana was pregnant and that she suspected Prince Charles was plotting to have her killed. The theories are being peddled most actively by Mohamed Fayed, the mildly eccentric owner of Harrod's store who at one point was said to have sought Scottish citizenship in order to prompt an inquiry through the assembly at Edinburgh.

Diana's death prompted a nation-wide mania that can rightly, I think, be labelled dangerous. The teeth-gnashing and public displays of grief were not only unseemly but absurd and unjustifiable, and the demands made by the publci on the royal family seemed at the time to typify the indulgence and egotism of the 1990s in the West. That a car accident and the death of a former-royal who was, at the last, as fallible as any human despite her celebrity could be turned through mass hysteria into a national tragedy illustrated the emergent myopia of the post-Cold-War world.

Will the inquiry spark a similar bout of hysteria? The coverage of the Sun suggests otherwise, although as a Murdoch paper it tilts quite heavily tory; the Mirror may be more typical of the yellow press in its sensational coverage. A proper evaluation of the national temper would require first-hand observation, and I'd welcome any insight.

And if there were another round of beatification and indulgence, what would it mean? If the initial reaction was indeed a dangerous bout of sentimentalism, a repeat would seem to be necessarily dangerous, distracting the national attention away from the more pressing matters of security at hand. At the same time, though, a less-pronounced interest in these sensational affairs might not be entirely destructive; indeed, some might argue that they mark a 'return to normalcy'. While I've argued before that we're at the new normal, I'm not entirely sure that any echo of the pre-9/11 world is necessarily bad.

What's important, I think, is how we react to it. Back stateside, a similar celebrity scandal has been provided by the ever-obliging Wacko Jacko. I don't watch television news, so I can't say for sure, but based on my reading of online news sources, including TV network sources, I'd suggest that the Jackson story - while not going anywhere - is hardly garnering the attention it might have won five years ago. Ditto the latest contribution of Britney Spears. I don't mean to suggest that these sotries aren't getting a substantial amount of air-time; only that they may not be capturing the attention of the public as they once might have done.

That's Britain's test. The Diana inquest will be in the news for months to come, thanks to its immediate postponement until 2005. A Britain that recognizes the realities of a 9/12 world will take the hype in stride, and will not lose focus. A Britain that once again becomes mired in indulgent sentimentality will show itself to be unserious and unable to maintain its current and important role in the war on terror.

Posted by David Mader at 11:27 PM | (0) | Back to Main

Liberty and Reason

Some weeks ago a friend charged, in the course of a discussion, that I was intellectually stubborn - in that I never changed my mind. When I protested that I was always willing to consider an argument on its merits and to concede a point if it could be rationally demonstrated, she suggested that this was in fact the core of my problem. I was unwilling, she said, to consider the possibility of other forms of evaluation. Becuase I evaluated arguments according to rationality, I could only ever reach a certain type of conclusion.

She was perfectly right, of course, and I've been thinking quite a lot about the consequences of her criticism. My feeling at the time of our discussion was that reason was the best possible form of evaluation, but I couldn't say why, nor what faults disqualified the alternatives.

I find, though, that I'm far from the first to struggle with this question. My first reading of this school term is an excerpt from Dialectic of Enlightenment by Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno, who make precisely the same point made so astutely by my friend. They write:

Every spiritual resistence [the Enlightenment] encounters serves merely to increase its strength... Whatever myths [critics] may appeal to, by virtue of the very fact that they become arguments in the process of opposition, they acknowledge the principle of dissolvent rationality for which they reproach the Enlightenment. Enlightenment is totalitarian.

The authors use the term 'totalitarian' advisedly, as they go on to associate the Enlightenment with Nazism. The argument as presented above, in any case, seems sound: the Enlightenment does indeed demand that challenges be considered according to a definitive standard - reason. Insofar as Enlightenment seeks to place all knowledge within its rubrick of evaluation and denies the legitimacy of anything else it can indeed be styled 'totalitarian'.

And yet it is precisely this totalitarianism - I would prefer the term totalism - that not only prevents intellectual tyranny but makes Enlightened reason the most democratic of intellectual frameworks. The key to the Enlightened approach, going back to Bacon, is accessibility: by establishing reason as the basis of all evaluation, every Enlightened idea can be idependently considered, tested and verified by any individual. Reason and logic provide universal tools which open every aspect of the Enlightenment project - the reevaluation of received wisdom and the establishment of some form of global knowledge - to scrutiny. None can hold a monopoly over human intellectual development, because that development is automatically decentralized. Even if innovation is concentrated geographically - or ethnically or by any other distinction - it can only be accepted as a true development if it can be independently confirmed by any observer using the basic tools of logic and reason.

Consider the alternative. Anyone can proclaim a truth, but if that truth cannot be independently verified - if it is not evident through a reasoning out from the most basic demonstrable principle (I am, because I think) - then its status as a truth depends wholly on the assertion of the individual making the proclamation. That individual holds total control over that truth; he establishes himself as the sole and therefore priviledged keeper of that truth. There is no possibility of independent assessment, of verification, of concurrance or rejection. Subjective standards of judgement - as opposed to rational standards of judgement - are therefore tyrannical.

The most apparant counter-argument would center on logic as a tool of judgement. The benefits of logic are its accessibility and its demonstrability. Logic is the mechanism that makes reason democratic and universal. There is no other system of thought or argumentation - at least that I'm aware of - which allows for independent verification through the recreation and reevaluation of ideas.

So yes, I do demand logical consistency in the discussion of ideas, and (now), I believe, with good reason. Reason liberates, and it perpetuates liberty. No matter how attractive irrational argumentation may be - and subjective sentimentalism is often extremely attractive - it ultimately depends on assertions of truth which can only ever be assertions, accepted or rejected but never properly considered.

And yes, I realize that once again, despite recognizing the validity of criticism, I have refused to change my mind. Stubborn indeed.

Posted by David Mader at 10:52 PM | (4) | Back to Main

Overheard in the Coffee Shop

"I think everybody has a tendency to generalize."

Posted by David Mader at 10:11 PM | (2) | Back to Main

January 02, 2004


I'm starting to get verbal (well, textual) abuse about my prolongued absence. Patience, good readers. Enjoy this last holiday weekend (for those like myself still on holiday); the term starts on Monday, and Maderblog will most likely kick back into gear then.

Posted by David Mader at 02:23 PM | (1) | Back to Main

January 01, 2004

Happy New Year

In transit once more.

Posted by David Mader at 11:02 AM | (0) | Back to Main