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December 31, 2004

It's Over; or, The Ukraine is Orange Tonight

Victor Yanukovich has resigned from office as Prime Minister of Ukraine, clearing the way for Viktor Yushchenko to form a new government in the new year. Yanukovitch's efforts to contest the new ballot, which international observers declared to be generally free and fair and which delivered Yushchenko a wide popular majority, have been rejected by the electoral commission and the Supreme Court, although certain avenues of appeal are said to remain open. Given the power politics at work, however, the creation of a new Orange government was to have been difficult as long as Yanukovitch and the blue allies of President Kuchma remained unwilling to recognize the Orange victory. Yanukovitch continues to contest the result, but his resignation will speak louder than his ongoing complaints. It is not as valuable as a full-fledged recognition of his defeat, but for the moment at least it will do.

Posted by David Mader at 02:44 PM | (0) | Back to Main

December 30, 2004

Earthquake Relief

There are many, many ways to donate towards the relief efforts in South Asia. Perhaps the easiest is to donate to the American Red Cross through Amazon.com. All moneys donated go directly to the ARC - and readers should note that the ARC is distinct from the International Committee of the Red Cross, which is perhaps a less deserving organization. For a list of other agencies and ways to donate, click here and/or here.

By the way, donations through the Amazon link above have now topped $5.5 million.

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

Common Law and Prosperity

Dan forwards me a very interesting piece from the next edition of Legal Affairs dicussing the theory that common law countries are institutionally better fit to encourage financial growth and prosperity (relative to civil law countries). The whole article is worth a read, as even the critics of the theory seem to acknowledge that common law countries are more prosperous, debating simply whether it's the common law that makes them so. Viz:

Common law countries tend to speak English (a big advantage in the latter half of the 20th century, given American economic dominance) and tend to be Protestant (scholars dating back to Max Weber have connected Protestantism with hard work). Many historians also believe that the British did a much better job than the French of finding economically viable locations to set up colonies. "What LLSV has done is a very clever relabeling of things," said Zingales. "We all know that Anglo-American countries are different. You can call it the English language, the English tradition, and you can code it in all sorts of ways."
So thank your lucky stars you speak English.

If the LLSV scholars are right about the tie between common law and financial success, however, that should not give us in the US reason to pat ourselves on the back. The fundamental aspect of common law - that which differentiates it from the civil law - is the discretion it affords judges and courts to interpret tradition in applying prior decisions to current circumstances. And yet the trend in the United States (I can't speak for Canada) over the past several decades has been towards a codification of the law. Take, for example, the Uniform Commercial Code. In an attempt to create a common set of rules for the growing American commercial market, legal academics drafted, and the various states adopted, a code of commercial law. The UCC is now the basis of the law governing the sale of goods in the United States - quite a large field of jurisprudence, as you can imagine.

Obviously the creation of a uniform set of rules was tremendously beneficial to merchants and businessmen seeking to expand beyond their home state. Yet the advantage of the common law, based in case law rather than statute, was that it allowed a judge, within limits, to tailor the legal tradition of the jurisdiction to the circumstances at hand. That's hugely important in a country - or a market - as large and diverse as the United States. While the law was in the hands of the courts, it could reflect regional variation within the rubrick of a common tradition. The move to a uniform statutory approach meant necessarily that a single approach, codified by a set of academics with a particular outlook, came to govern all transactions in all jurisdictions that adopted the code (being most all of them in the US).

The UCC may not be the best example, because it isn't such a bad law, really - at least as far as this 1L understands it. But the principle is sound, I think, and applies to other statutory restraints on common law application - think of mandatory minimum sentencing, which removes from the trial judge the ability to use broad discretion in sentencing a felon. Or think of the exploding field of administrative law - the volumes upon volumes of codes written by executive agencies.

What I'm saying is this: in many fields of law, 'common law' countries seem to be moving ever closer to a new sort of civil law, as statute piles upon statute and courts are given ever less discretion in interpreting and applying caselaw and legal tradition. This may be a difficult idea for many of my classically-liberal friends to swallow, because at the root of my complaint is an argument that legislatures defer to courts in the application of law. Liberal democracy has long been founded in the notion of parliamentary supremacy. But many a true liberal will recognize, I think, that after a certain point a legislature may, through its actions, become destructive of liberty and democracy; and that the courts can never be an effective check on the other branches of government when they are drowning in a flood of statute.

Posted by David Mader at 02:53 PM | (1) | Back to Main

December 27, 2004

Democracy on the March

The Orange Revolution appears to have swept Viktor Yushschenko to power in Ukraine, where international monitors and the country's election commission have indicated that a generally free and fair election has given him a 52%-44% victory. Apparent loser Victor Yanukovitch has, however, refused to concede, and is vowing to challenge the election result in the Supreme Court. That is his right, of course, but it is quite clear that Yanukovich hopes to use the dressing of the Orange Revolution itself to maintain his loose hold on power. It was quite extraordinary that the Orange Revolution never turned violent despite the mass rallies staged by Yushchenko supporters in Kiev. If Yanukovich attempts the same, will his followers be similarly peaceful?

And speaking of violence, Heorhiy Kirpa, the transportation minister, was found dead in his home of a gunshot wound. Speculation points to suicide, which may therefore be an indicator of the pending discovery of corruption by the incoming Orange administration.

Posted by David Mader at 05:17 PM | (0) | Back to Main

Prejean on Bush, Gonzales and Death in the NYReview

Sister Helen Prejean has a long and interesting article in the latest edition of the New York Review of Books which bitterly criticizes both President Bush and Alberto Gonzales for their roles relating to the execution of murderers in Texas during Bush's governorship. The article is, in many ways, an extension of Alan Berlow's increasingly-famous article in the July/August 2003 edition of the Atlantic Monthly which investigated the clemency memos prepared by Gonzales for Bush and found them severely wanting.

I still haven't been able to get my hands on a free copy of Berlow's article, and I expect I'll end up buying the article online. The extracts and comments I've read have given me pause, however, and Prejean's article brings forward the very same problems which I found in Berlow's piece.

Here is the paragraph that I believe to be the core of Prejean's critique (but follow the link and decide for yourself):

To distance himself from his legal and moral responsibility for executions, Bush often cited a Texas statute that says a governor may do nothing more than grant a thirty-day reprieve to an inmate unless the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles has recommended a broader grant of clemency. But any time he wanted to, Bush could have commuted a sentence or stopped an execution. By the end of his governorship Bush had appointed all eighteen members of the board of pardons. He could easily have ordered a thirty-day reprieve and gotten word to the board that he had doubts about the fairness of a case and wanted an investigation and hearings. But the Texas pardons board has been a farce. In my home state the Louisiana Board of Pardons and Paroles meets and holds hearings. True, they routinely deny clemency, but they at least give the appearance of being a real, working board. The full Texas pardons board never meets to consider a death sentence. A few of them talk to one another on the phone. Sometimes. No one knows whether the clemency appeals are even read. As governor, Bush did nothing to reform the board's procedures.
Let's break that down:

To distance himself from his legal and moral responsibility for executions, Bush often cited a Texas statute that says a governor may do nothing more than grant a thirty-day reprieve to an inmate unless the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles has recommended a broader grant of clemency.
In that first sentence we have the seeds of a troubling disregard for the legislative will. For indeed whatever the Governor's motives for pointing to statute, yet still and ultimately his actions are bound by statute. If the legislature says that the Governor may not grant clemency, then the governor may not grant clemency - because that is the law. But following the law simply because it is the law is, as we shall see, unduly formalistic for Sister Prejean.

But any time he wanted to, Bush could have commuted a sentence or stopped an execution.
Oh? And yet we've just been told that statute removes his power to grant clemency. So how, exactly, will he stop an execution?

By the end of his governorship Bush had appointed all eighteen members of the board of pardons. He could easily have ordered a thirty-day reprieve and gotten word to the board that he had doubts about the fairness of a case and wanted an investigation and hearings.
The emphasis is mine. Here is the crux of the Berlow/Prejean argument, and its weakest point. For what Prejean presents as the Governor's duty - a duty which must have been breached if the Governor's actions are to be said to have been negligent - is nothing but the exercise of a political and extra-legal pressure upon an independent agency. This raises at least two distinct and important issues. First, it raises a challenge to the separation of powers. If the parole board is a purely judicial body, then the Governor's exercise of political pressure upon it would be a danger to the republican order of government. It probably is not a judicial body, however, since the Court of Criminal Appeals is the highest court (for criminal matters) in Texas, and a grant of clemency by the board would necessarily reverse, in a certain sense, that court's judgment. So the board is probably an executive agency; and yet the power it exercises has been explicitly removed from the Governor. There must be a reason for this - otherwise, why create such a board, and why vest that board with a power which is explicitly denied to the Governor? And yet Prejean would have the board be nothing more than a multi-member, state-funded rubber stamp for the absolute discretion of the executive office-holder.

The second issue raised by Prejean's criticism is the fundamentally political nature of her analysis. The power she wishes Bush to exercise is political. That means it is subject to discretion. Presumably Bush exercised a certain discretion in deciding not to pressure the parole board to grant clemency. Yet Prejean remains critical. That can only mean that the Governor's failure, in Prejean's eyes, is not in failing to exercise a political discretion, but in failing to exercise it as she would have had it exercised. Taking a step back, we might say that Prejean criticizes Bush for holding political positions different from her own. This might seem self evident - but I maintain that in the context of her overall argument, it is tremendously important and revealing. For her overall argument is that the Governor's failure to exercise his political discretion so as to procure a grant of clemency was negligent - that it was a breach of a duty of office.¹ Prejean's criticism is only rational as a criticism if it is founded upon the notion that a governor who did not similarly breach this duty would be beyond this criticism. In sum: Governor Bush, for failing to exercise his political discretion as Prejean would have liked, is criticized in institutional terms - he failed to properly exercise his office. Disagreeing with Prejean over how to best exercise political discretion therefore makes one unfit, in a limited sense, to exercise that discretion - to hold that office - at all.

But the Texas pardons board has been a farce. In my home state the Louisiana Board of Pardons and Paroles meets and holds hearings. True, they routinely deny clemency, but they at least give the appearance of being a real, working board. The full Texas pardons board never meets to consider a death sentence. A few of them talk to one another on the phone. Sometimes. No one knows whether the clemency appeals are even read.
I can't comment much on this, of course, for it's little but a rhetorical broadside - or a cannonade, at least; it's impossible to know whether it strikes home, for we have no sourcing and no support. But it's not meant to strike home; it's meant simply as a flourish for the closing assertion:

As governor, Bush did nothing to reform the board's procedures.
And we close with another political argument - this with perhaps even less logical support, since - as Prejean has already noted - the board is at least in part a statutory construction, meaning reform would have to come from that place whence all statute comes: the legislature.

The core ideas contained in that one paragraph of Prejean's are expanded upon throughout the rest of the article. Perhaps anticipating the counter-argument that a governor could only ever exercise political discretion in achieving clemency for a capital convict, she points out that Bush did in fact exercise such discretion in the case of Henry Lee Lucas:

[Bush] intervened with the Texas pardons board before they had a chance to make a recommendation, and after his intervention, the board handed him the decision he wanted: a 17–1 vote for commutation of Lucas's death sentence. The Henry Lee Lucas case gained national attention when it came to light that Lucas had been condemned to death for a Texas murder he couldn't possibly have committed, since he wasn't in the state at the time. Additionally, it was clear that Lucas would never be a threat to society because he was already serving six life sentences for other murders, which he may or may not have committed, since on a fairly regular basis he confessed falsely to hundreds of murders. Bush pointed out that jurors at his trial "did not know" certain facts that later came to light.
Prejean makes much out of this basic survey of the facts, most particularly that 1) Bush had recognized the availability of this political route to clemency, but 2) only exercised it when it was politically expedient, and 3) never exercised it again, clearly demonstrating (to Prejean) his moral and institutional failure. It isn't clear to me, as it seems to be clear to Prejean, that the parole board recommended clemency because Bush pressured them, rather than because they were persuaded by the same compelling evidence that persuaded Bush. In any case, however, Prejean seems not to draw any distinction between the 'new fact' uncovered in the Lucas case and the 'new fact' allegedly ignored in, say, the Baker case. Again, the 'new fact' in Lucas was that the man convicted of the murder could be show to be physically incapable of doing the murder. His guilt was an impossibility. Here's how Prejean herself describes the 'new fact' in the Baker case:

If the jury that sentenced Karla Faye Tucker—another Texan whose death warrant Bush signed—had known of her drug-ridden childhood prostitution, would they have found mitigating circumstances to spare her life? And if, as her jury considered "future dangerousness," they could have been made aware of the potential for good in her character that would later make her such an exemplary prisoner, would they still have voted to kill her?
To Prejean, then, the discovery that a man could not, physically, have performed the murder for which he was to be executed is the same as the 'discovery' that a murderer who did in fact commit the murder for which she was to be executed was the product of a tragic childhood who had repented, on earth, for her sins.² Even the 'new fact' in the case of Terry Washington, who was tried before a jury that was never properly appraised of his mental handicap, is clearly distinguishable from the 'new fact' in Lucas. In Lucas, there could be no doubt, no argument, no discretion: the 'new fact' established beyond any doubt, beyond any argument, that the convicted was innocent of the crime. The 'new facts' in Baker and Washington are of a different order entirely: they present new issues which are not in any sense definitive, but which rather allow reasonable minds to come to a certain conclusion - or not.

And in such cases Bush refused to substitute his own discretion - his political discretion - for the judicial discretion of the juries and courts of the State of Texas. At the end of the day we come back to the basic argument of Prejean and Barlow that the Texas judicial system was presented with the 'new evidence' and came up with the wrong decision, and that the Governor should therefore substitute his own decision for that of the judicial branch. I've thought hard about an appropriate word for this, and I fear there is only one: tyranny. It is executive tyranny, because it suggests that the judicial branch is not in fact free to consider issues upon which reasonable people may differ, since a decision that does not find favor with the executive will be overturned; and it is political tyranny, because it suggests that, in those matters where reasonable people might otherwise differ, there can be only one acceptable decision by the holder of executive office. This is not a tyranny of brownshirts and night-marches and internment camps; but it is a tyranny of the mind, and it can only result in an all-or-nothing politics, and a refusal to discuss, or negotiate, or compromise.

¹(As an aside, we might note that the duty which Bush breached was not a legal duty, for we have seen a) that the Governor has no power to grant clemency on his own and b) that Prejean recognizes the necessity of recourse to a political discretion, not a statutory or constitutional mechanism. It was, rather, a moral duty. As a classical liberal, I have very little trouble cautioning against governing on the basis of a conception of morality, unless that morality can be given a parallel logical support. But such a warning has traditionally come from the mouths of those who would now follow Prejean's banner. It's a point worth mentioning.)

²(I also find interesting, from a theological point of view, Sister Prejean's insistence that Tammy Faye Baker's repentence ought to have an impact upon the administration of temporal justice. I know little about the Catholic faith, but it would seem to me that as murder is a sin before the Heavenly court, repentance is an affirmative defense, in a manner of speaking, before God alone. But surely murder is also a temporal crime, and surely God has given to man the ability to establish, within certain guidelines, temporal courts to administer human justice. Repentance is considered by our earthly courts at a certain level - but always it is a gamble, since our judges, unlike our God, cannot peer into a man's soul and judge his sorrow and his dedication. At a capital level, the gamble is extraordinary. Prejean would have us substitute this gamble for consequence.

And it is this dismissal of consequence that I find extraordinary coming from a woman of God. Prejean spills considerable ink on Tammy Faye Baker's tragic life and her turn to God in prison - considerably less ink on the tragedy of the two women she murdered - and argues that her repentance, as she judges it, ought to spare her from the temporally-ordained consequence of her action. Again we return to the basic fact that murder is both a temporal and a spiritual crime. To forgive Baker her temporal crime on the basis of her spiritual repentance - a repentance only God can properly judge - would at once undermine the temporal justice system and shunt God to the margins of His own court. For if Prejean is convinced of Baker's repentance, oughtn't she be confident that God will receive the executed woman into His arms as a beloved soul? It is not impossible, of course, to love both life and God. We must be careful not to love the first more than the last.)

Posted by David Mader at 02:32 PM | (3) | Back to Main

December 26, 2004

Quake Rocks South Asia

There has been a terrible earthquake in the Indian Ocean, causing tidal waves that have flooded Sri Lanka, Indonesia and much of the Indian Ocean Rim, killing thousands upon thousands. Here are the latest stories from the AP and Reuters, which has the death toll topping 11,300.

Posted by David Mader at 03:58 PM | (1) | Back to Main

Yuschenko Leads Exit Polls

With voting completed in Ukraine, Viktor Yuschenko is said to lead exit polls by a substantial margin. Here are stories from the AP and Reuters. The polls are cause for cautious optimism - as my father remarked to me just now, Yuschenko won the exit polls last time, too. (And, for that matter, so did John Kerry). A Yuschenko victory will be final when Yanukovich concedes, and not before. Let's hope that happens tomorrow, and not later.

Posted by David Mader at 02:33 PM | (0) | Back to Main

December 24, 2004

Virginia's Everlasting Question

One last thing, for my legally-inclined friends. UPI brings us this great piece on that age-old question:

Dear UPI:

I am 8 years old.

Some of my little friends say there is no Supreme Court.

Papa says, "If you see it on United Press International, it has at least an even shot of being true."

Please tell me the truth, is there a Supreme Court?


Virginia O'Hanlon
115 West Ninety-fifth Street

The response, from UPI, is reproduced in the extended entry.

"Virginia, your little friends are dead bogus. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see it on TV. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds.

All minds, Virginia, whether they be men's or children's, are little when compared to the mind of a Supreme Court justice. In this great universe of ours, man is merely the grubbiest chambers clerk, an insect, in his intellect as compared with the highest court in the land, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Supreme Court (one that may include Supreme Court Justice William Rehnquist, still fighting thyroid cancer, sometime in January). It exists as certainly as laches and stare decisis and vacatur exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy.

Alas! How dreary would be the world if there were no Supreme Court! It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no childlike faith in reversing the 9th Circuit then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The external light with which lawyerhood fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in the Supreme Court! You might as well not believe the cops read Terry vs. Ohio before they hit drunks over the head with their nightsticks, or read the Constitution before they arrest protesters at a Bush rally.

You might get your papa to hire men to watch all the televisions on Christmas Eve to catch the Supreme Court, but even if they did not see the Supreme Court on cable news, what would that prove? Nobody sees the Supreme Court because they don't allow cameras in the courtroom, but that is no sign that the Supreme Court is not on Capitol Hill working to make this country behave itself.

The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see seven old men and two women of a "certain age" in black robes dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that's no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world. Just clap your hands and believe.

You can tear apart the baby's rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering some of the Supreme Court's most obscure decisions that not even the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart.

Only faith, poetry, love, romance, and, oh yes, a good appellate lawyer, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in all this litigious world there is nothing else so real and abiding.

No Supreme Court! Thank God! It lives and lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay 10 times 10,000 years from now, it will continue to make glad the heart of law school graduates.


(Mike Kirkland is UPI's senior legal affairs correspondent. He has covered the Supreme Court and other parts of the legal community since 1993.)"

Posted by David Mader at 03:43 PM | (0) | Back to Main

Happy Christmas

... as they say in the old country.

Posted by David Mader at 03:36 PM | (0) | Back to Main

Where Have All the Cowboys Gone?

There's been considerable speculation - and not a little glee, frankly - around the left and center-left of the blogosphere over the apparent discovery that, for the first time, a majority of Americans say the Iraq war was a mistake. For some thoughtful discussion, see here and here.

I'm a little surprised that so many are so willing to put so much stock in one poll so soon after America's pollsters fumbled, so to speak, in the runup to November's election. Still, even if we accept arguendo (as they say in law school) that the numbers are correct, mightn't there be a more simple explanation than those put forward in the links above? Mightn't it be that for the duration of the campaign season, or at the very least from early summer on, criticism and poor media coverage of the Iraq war was met and countered by strong (read: Administration and BC'04) positive spin - and that, since the election, the Administration has gone back to administering, and BC'04 has simply gone, and no-one is pushing back against what would appear to be a systemic media bias against the war as conducted by this president?

Now certainly the Bush White House should be providing a counter-balance, but communication has ever been this administration's weakest point. That being said, it's quite possible that there has in fact been counter-balance, and that I - preoccupied with activities that do not involve following the news - have simply missed. If there hasn't been the same push-back as during the campaign, though, the difference might both explain the unusual poll numbers and indicate, yet again, a systemic or fundamental bias among the mainstream media. In any case, here's a study I think we'd all be interested to see: in light of these new poll numbers, has FoxNews viewership increased or decreased relative to the market since November 2?

Posted by David Mader at 10:17 AM | (0) | Back to Main

December 21, 2004

Schiavo, Cruzan, the Court and Death

UPI has an interesting overview of Florida Gov. Jeb Bush's petition before the Supreme Court. Bush is trying to bring a Due Process claim in the case of Terry Schiavo who's - well, read the story.

I'm tempted to say that the Court won't hear the case, but if it's still just a rule of four, I think it might be hard to avoid. If it does get heard, I don't expect a close hearing, unless the matter is decided on something other than the Due Process claim (which also seems rather unlikely). Although Cruzan found no 'right to die' and explicitly recognized a state interest in protecting citizens who had not made a clear expression of a desire to die, it also - and I'm working of some fading memories here - recognized that it was up to the State to establish a rubrick by which to judge appropriate evidence indicating such a desire.

If that's the case, it might be hard for the Court to strike down the Florida ruling on Due Process grounds. There seem to have been a number of fair opportunities for the parties, in open court, to present evidence regarding Schiavo's desires. There may be an issue - and I couldn't say one way or the other - in the conflict between the Florida Court and the Legislature, but as I say that hasn't been raised (it seems, based on press reports) by the parties.

And one last thing:

The four justices from the Cruzan court have no reason to change their opinion over the last 14 years. The fifth vote would come from Justice Clarence Thomas, who often votes with Scalia.
Arrrrggggghhhhh. No, no he doesn't. Not relative to the votes of other pairs on the court. Thomas votes with Thomas. Here, I dug this up:

Justice Thomas has been undergoing a liberal rehabilitation of sorts recently and might face an easier confirmation fight than Mr. Scalia. He was the subject of a favorable series in the Washington Post in September, and last month an article by David Garrow in the New Republic offered a positive appraisal of his record on the Court. Most notably, it took aim at the idea that Justice Thomas is a lackey of Justice Scalia. "During the court's 2003-2004 term," Mr. Garrow wrote, "Scalia and Thomas voted together in only 73% of cases, and six other pairs of justice agreed with each other more often than Scalia and Thomas.
The original TNR piece is available here, but it's behind a subscriber wall. When the Wall Street Journal's James Taranto began suggesting that much criticism of Scalia was racially motivated, I was tremendously skeptical. But these criticisms are so irrational that I'm wondering if he might not be on to something after all.

Posted by David Mader at 11:07 PM | (0) | Back to Main

December 19, 2004

And Another Thing

Yes, it really is that cold here. Seventeen below zero - centigrade - as I type. According to Weather.com it feels like -31°, and I'm not arguing. For reference, that's -3°F, feeling like -25°.

It's 63° in Austin right now - that's 17°C. I love being here, but already I look forward to going back - or should I call it home?

Posted by David Mader at 05:07 PM | (2) | Back to Main

Back in the Great White North

So I get to Canadian customs, and I hand over my customs declaration with my Ottawa address listed as my 'home address' because it's, well, my 'home address.' What was the purpose of my trip? Well, I'm at school in Austin. Ah, says the nice woman guarding the border. You have to list that as your home address.

So get this: for the purpose of border control and customs, I am a resident of the United States. Let me put that another way: I am not currently in Canada as a Canadian citizen returning home; I am in Canada as an American resident on a visit.

I am a visitor to Canada.

Well, this is it then. I mean, really - I think we've all reached that point towards which we've been heading for some time. It's one thing to consider one's self an Americanophile. It's not so outlandish to study American history. I'm not the first Canadian to travel south of the border for education.

But now I'm a foreigner - an American, no less - in the eyes of my own government.

Well, then. I guess there's just one thing to say:


Posted by David Mader at 05:03 PM | (2) | Back to Main

December 18, 2004

Taking Up the Gipper's Work

Milton Friedman points out that while the rhetoric of the free market has triumphed over socialism, the economic reality is not quite so clear.

The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989 delivered the final blow to the belief in socialism. Hardly anyone today, from the far Left to the far Right, regards socialism in the traditional sense of government ownership and operation of the means of production as either feasible or desirable. Those who profess socialism today mean by it a welfare state.

Over the same period, the actual role of government in the US also changed drastically -- but in precisely the opposite direction. In the first post-war decade, 1945 to 1955, government non-defence spending, federal, state and local, equalled 11.5 per cent of national income, varying from a high of 16 per cent in 1949 to a low of 8.5 per cent in 1952. From then on, spending rose rapidly. By 1983, government non-defence spending reached 30 per cent of national income, nearly triple the average amount in the first postwar decade.

Reagan arrested this growth, but it remains at thirty percent. A long-overdue turn-around would be a domestic achievement to rival this President's first-term foreign achievements. Is it to be? I highly doubt it, alas.

[Via Instapundit]

Posted by David Mader at 08:04 PM | (2) | Back to Main

December 17, 2004


Just a quick note about my maderblog.com e-mail account: it hasn't been working for four months. Sorry! Outlook told me it was checking the account, but lo and behold, the mail was just piling up on the server, eating up space and not getting read. I've changed the account to a forwarding service, so I'm now receiving it. Unfortunately, I 'inadvertantly' deleted the old mail while I was cleaning up my webspace. If you've sent me mail in the past four months and I haven't responded, that's why. Please continue to do so! I'm getting mail now, and I'll do my best to respond.

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

December 16, 2004


So that was the first semester of law school, huh? Hmm. Still standing. Not horribly exhausted. Only been living off of junk food for the past two weeks. Didn't hate my profs or my classmates. Actually kinda really enjoyed the subjects. None of this sounds right - aren't I supposed to be horribly jaded and cynical after my first semester?

Uh oh... this can only mean bad things for my marks.

Kidding (I hope). All's well, and I'm done, and the pace of blogging will once again pick up as I begin to, well, read the news again. I have some catching up to do. (So don't tell me who won the presidential election).

But I'm going to start slow. As in, with a nap. And then I received an e-mail suggesting that a downtown address had a supply of '$2 wells.' I'm not entirely sure what these mystical creatures are, but I plan on doing considerable field research. I'll let you know the results right now: limited blogging tomorrow.

But keep coming back. I'm bound to start being interesting at some point. I mean, just based on odds.

Posted by David Mader at 05:13 PM | (0) | Back to Main

December 14, 2004

Problem (Being) Solved

Sorry 'bout that. Turns out I'd run up against my space limit on the server. I'm looking into expanding. Exams end Thursday. Back soon.

Posted by David Mader at 07:30 PM | (2) | Back to Main

December 13, 2004

It's Not a Problem, I Swear

I can stop whenever I want.


Posted by David Mader at 11:39 PM | (0) | Back to Main


Problems with the blog - it appears and disappears for no apparent reason. Not sure if it's just a local problem - if you've noted a disappearance - not just a prolonged silence but the site just not being here - please let me know.

Posted by David Mader at 09:52 PM | (6) | Back to Main

December 12, 2004

Taking Back Their Homes

Also in the Telegraph today: two pieces of interest for those following the campaign to restore the rights of the home to embattled Britons. The lead editorial celebrates - with qualification - Tony Blair's apparent reversal on the campaign to liberalize the laws constraining the actions of home owners during violent home invasions.

Tony Blair has indeed changed his posture from one of opposition to one of support for a change in the law, as Patrick Mercer, who is introducing a Private Member's Bill to change the law, notes opposite. We hope that Mr Blair's conversion to our cause is sincere. But like Patrick Mercer, we have serious doubts as to whether it is. The Prime Minister has too long a record of talking rather than acting tough on crime for anyone to feel confident that he will follow through on this one.
Hardly an approach designed to change minds, fellas. And MP Patrick Mercer himself has a piece in support of his Private Member's Bill:

My Private Member's Bill will abolish the present statute's requirement that a home owner act with "reasonable force" when tackling an intruder. It will replace it with the requirement that the home owner's use of force be "not grossly disproportionate" to the circumstances in which he finds himself. Although it came top of the ballot for Parliamentary time, my Bill will almost certainly fail unless the Prime Minister explicitly supports it.
Two quibbles. The first is with Mercer, who apparently feels it politically expedient to engage in a little anti-Americanism by noting that "[m]y Bill is not a licence to commit murder – it is not an English version of the Oklahoma law that indemnifies home-owners from prosecution no matter what they do to an intruder." Oklahomans, you see, have legalized murder. Weak.

More broadly, though, these two pieces, though making a single important point, sound like the product of a bunch of political losers. What I mean is this: the interest seems overwhelmingly to be not the passage of the bill but the embarrassment of Tony Blair. If the interest is simply to protect Britons, why harp on Blair's U-Turn, making it more politically difficult for him to support the change?

The answer, of course, is that there's a general election coming up, and there seems to be a feeling (certainly among the Tories, and possibly at the Telegraph as well) that a defeat of the home safey bill would be worthwhile if it results in a political liability for Blair at the polls.

Now it may be true that a general election victory will provide the opportunity to pass many such bills, and that there's no reason to hand Blair a feather to stick in his re-election cap. But it seems to me - and what do I know - that playing politics with a right which so many Britons feel very strongly about is hardly the way to go about winning the confidence of the people in advance of a popular election. It may just be that creating bipartisan support for a Tory member's bill will show far more of a readiness to govern than petty politics leading to the bill's defeat.

Magnanimity, folks. It's not a sacrifice - it's an investment. And it pays off.

Posted by David Mader at 01:03 PM | (0) | Back to Main

Break Out the Shirt-Sleeves

It's unseasonably warm in Austin today (or so they tell me; it always feels unseasonably warm to me, and I'm not complaining). Apparently anticipating the inevitable invocations of global warming, Bjorn Lomberg - the world's lone sane voice on the matter - gives us this piece in today's Sunday Telegraph.

So action on global warming is basically a very costly way of doing very little for much richer people far into the future. We need to ask ourselves if this indeed should be our first priority.

Of course, in the best of all worlds, we would not need to prioritise. We could do all good things. We could win the war against hunger, end conflicts, stop communicable diseases, provide clean drinking, step up education and halt climate change. But we don't. And we have to ask the hard question: If we don't do it all, what should we do first?

Some of the world's top economists – including three Nobel Laureates – answered this question at the Copenhagen Consensus last May, prioritising all the major requirements for improving the world. They found that dealing with HIV/Aids, hunger, free trade and malaria were the world's top priorities. This was where we could do the most good for our dollar. Equally, the experts rated urgent responses to climate change at the bottom. In fact, the panel called these ventures – including Kyoto – "bad projects", simply because they cost more than the good they do.

Yuppers. Global-warming and environmental projects may not be bad per se - I'm all for reducing through re-using, for example - but they are often inefficient, and when the stated goal of the various projects is to sustain the world's resources, inefficiency is unforgivable. And if efficiency is to be our guide, there are, as Lomberg points out, a whole lot of areas where we can get much more bang for our buck than the various crusades to do the impossible and 'end' global warming.

Posted by David Mader at 12:55 PM | (5) | Back to Main

December 11, 2004

Better Than the Alternative

Paul Wells calls Donald Rumsfeld - that's the American Secretary of Defense - an armchair warrior.

Let's ignore, for the moment, the fact that Rumsfeld's visit with the troops may have been something less than hostile (fourth item). I'm intruiged by the suggestion - implicit in Wells' epithet - that the Secretary of Defense should be a military man, a man at arms himself. After all, won't a civilian Defense Secretary only ever be an 'armchair warrior' when the troops he oversees go to war? Keep in mind that civilian oversight of the armed forces has been understood to be central to free government in the English-speaking world since the mid-seventeenth century, and for good reason. When the army isn't responsible to the civilian government, it isn't responsible to anyone. See Cromwell, Oliver.

So two questions for Wells:

1) Do you really mean to suggest that the Department of Defense should be run by a member of the military?

2) If so - um, really?

Oh, okay, a third: you don't really mean anything of the sort. So it was just a cheap shot, and an unfounded one at that, wasn't it?

Posted by David Mader at 08:40 PM | (4) | Back to Main

Armed Jews Week

I like the sound of that.

Posted by David Mader at 07:53 PM | (6) | Back to Main

December 10, 2004


... continue into next week. I'd apologize for the continued lack of posting, except I'm not really sorry about it; after all, unless I pass school, I won't really be able to keep blogging. It's a give and take thing.

Back soon.

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

December 07, 2004


Sorry folks, I don't mean, consciously, to turn this into a blawg. It's just, you know, law school. It's the borg. One day you're a nice, well-rounded person, and the next day you're joking about the fact that Justice Stevens was Second Vice President of the Chicago Bar Association in 1970. (It's listed on his official court biography).

Anyway, I do hope that this stuff will come to augment rather than replace my other interests; but with any change in tone, I suspect that certain readers will be turned off. If you're one of those: sorry! Keep checking back every little while; the truth is, you never know what I'll be talking about.

Posted by David Mader at 05:48 PM | (7) | Back to Main


The Washington Post has an editorial (hat tip: Howard Bashman) on the case of John Miller-El, whose conviction and appeal were the focus of the New York Times article I discussed here. The Post writes:

The Supreme Court should not have had to hear the case of Thomas Joe Miller-El once, let alone twice. But yesterday the court for the second time held oral arguments in a capital case that ought to embarrass even Texas, with its unrivaled enthusiasm for executions. The question is simple: How overtly discriminatory must jury selection be before it becomes unconstitutional?
The editorial outlines the nature of the discrimination, which appears rather clear-cut. I've really been going to bat for Texas recently - what can I say, the state's subsidizing my legal education - and I'm going to do it again.

Don't worry, don't worry, I'm not going to defend jury discrimination. Well, not as such. My argument is simply this: is the Miller-El case really the best place to be having this argument? No one has suggested, as far as I know, that Miller-El's conviction was itself improper. That is to say, no one has argued that if Miller-El had a non-discriminated jury, he would have avoided conviction on the merits. To argue that point would be to suggest that the jury-in-fact in this case - a predominantly white jury - was somehow intrinsically incapable of passing judgment on Miller-El, presumably because he is black. The flip side of that argument is that a more diverse jury would be able to pass a judgment that is somehow more valid, again presumably because it contains more blacks in the context of trying a black man.

If the conviction by the jury-in-fact was wrong, it could be overturned by a higher court. No higher court has, as far as I know, questioned the conviction. Rather, the question is centered upon discrimination in jury selection in the abstract. (Of course if jury discrimination is argued to lead to more convictions and sentences, the same counter-arguments apply; but surely all would condemn jury discrimination on civil rights grounds). This is not, then, John Miller-El's case. This is the case of those jurors who were discriminated against, historically, in Texas. But they're not the ones bringing suit; instead, Miller-El's lawyers are. And in doing so, they're stretching out his stay on death row.

Now that may well be the point, and perhaps the Supreme Court is happy to assist in postponing his execution. But if the conviction and the sentence themselves are beyond reproach in this instance, notwithstanding the discrimination in jury selection, it seems to me that neither justice nor the man's interests are served by dragging out a legal fight that cannot, in any event, lead to his exoneration.

Posted by David Mader at 05:30 PM | (1) | Back to Main

The Wine Cases

The wine cases went before the Court today. Here are the Reuters and the AP wrap. (A more technical background from SCOTUSBlog's Mike Abate is available here).

In brief, the lawsuit challenges the constitutionality of state bans on direct shipment of wine (and spirits) from out-of-state suppliers to in-state consumers. Currently, in about half the states, an out-of-state supplier must sell to a clearinghouse wholesaler who then sells to in-state consumers - at marked-up prices.

Goldstein & Howe's Lloyd Denniston writes that the States seem unlikely to prevail, based on today's oral argument. Predicting decisions based on oral arguments is, as I understand it, a sort of delicate form of Kremlinology, but Denniston is a leading court watcher, so read him closely. The decision is expected early next summer.

Posted by David Mader at 05:17 PM | (3) | Back to Main

And Both

Paying attention in your legal research and writing class? You should be:

Mr. Pabon's defense team filed an appeal, calling the sentence cruel and unusual. Now a federal appeals court has handed the lawyers a stunning victory, but not for the reasons they cited. Instead, the court ruled that the sentence was invalid because the document signed into law by President Bill Clinton contained a phrase that was illogical.

The law said that defendants like Mr. Pabon, who was convicted two years ago of advertising to receive or distribute child pornography over the Internet, should be fined or receive a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years "and both."

The appeals court said this language "makes no sense."

It's actually not entirely clear what Congress meant - while the bill was in conference it contained the usual 'or both' language, but the prosecution continues to argue that Congress meant to impose a mandatory ten-year minimum sentence. If that's true, in my opinion, the case deserves to be remanded simply on the basis of poor drafting. If it's not the case - if a scrivener's error turned 'or' into 'and' - then the judge and jury were misinformed in applying the law, and there should be remand.

I'm tempted to take this opportunity to once again express my opposition to mandatory minimums, but I think I'll just leave it at this: the interest in 'levelling' sentence disparity between courts is outweighed, in my mind, by the interest in allowing judges broad discretion in applying the law to each individual case as justice requires.

Posted by David Mader at 05:12 PM | (0) | Back to Main


In looking back to last year's Pearl Harbor post - which, as you can see below, I've decided to make an annual tradition - I came across this post from December 8, 2003. As I said below, this has been a long time coming.

UPDATE (16:21 EST): Okay, the truth is that I just can't pass up a link to the Stasi peanuts.

Posted by David Mader at 04:15 PM | (0) | Back to Main


Yesterday, December 7th, 1941 - a date which will live in infamy - the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.
The United States was at peace with that nation and, at the solicitation of Japan, was still in conversation with the government and its emperor looking toward the maintenance of peace in the Pacific.

Indeed, one hour after Japanese air squadrons had commenced bombing in Oahu, the Japanese ambassador to the United States and his colleagues delivered to our Secretary of State a formal reply to a recent American message. While this reply stated that it seemed useless to continue the existing diplomatic negotiations, it contained no threat or hint of war or armed attack.

It will be recorded that the distance of Hawaii from Japan makes it obvious that the attack was deliberately planned many days or even weeks ago. During the intervening time, the Japanese government has deliberately sought to deceive the United States by false statements and expressions of hope for continued peace.

The attack yesterday on the Hawaiian islands has caused severe damage to American naval and military forces. I regret to tell you that very many American lives have been lost. In addition, American ships have been reported torpedoed on the high seas between San Francisco and Honolulu.

Yesterday, the Japanese government also launched an attack against Malaya.

Last night, Japanese forces attacked Hong Kong.

Last night, Japanese forces attacked Guam.

Last night, Japanese forces attacked the Philippine Islands.

Last night, the Japanese attacked Wake Island.

And this morning, the Japanese attacked Midway Island.

Japan has, therefore, undertaken a surprise offensive extending throughout the Pacific area. The facts of yesterday and today speak for themselves. The people of the United States have already formed their opinions and well understand the implications to the very life and safety of our nation.

As commander in chief of the Army and Navy, I have directed that all measures be taken for our defense.

But always will our whole nation remember the character of the onslaught against us.

No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory.

I believe that I interpret the will of the Congress and of the people when I assert that we will not only defend ourselves to the uttermost, but will make it very certain that this form of treachery shall never endanger us again.

Hostilities exist. There is no blinking at the fact that our people, our territory and our interests are in grave danger.

With confidence in our armed forces - with the unbounding determination of our people - we will gain the inevitable triumph - so help us God.

I ask that the Congress declare that since the unprovoked and dastardly attack by Japan on Sunday, December 7th, 1941 a state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese empire.

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

December 06, 2004

Some Light Reading for Exam Week

Need a break from the books? Have a look at the two first posts from the new Becker-Posner Blog, a blog written by economist and Nobel Laureate Gary Becker and professor and Seventh Circuit Judge Richard Posner. Every Monday they'll jointly tackle an issue of interest; today they look at preventive war. (Here are the direct links to Becker's and Posner's responses).

My law student readers may be interested to find in Posner's approach a sort of modified B-PL approach to preventive war - weighing the costs of such a war (burden) agains the product of the probability of attack and the cost of attack by the potential target.

Of course, if my law-school readers are taking the time out of studying to read Maderblog, they probably don't want to be thinking about torts. But everyone else might find it interesting.

Posted by David Mader at 05:30 PM | (0) | Back to Main

Bush in Canada on the World

Somehow I missed the President's speech in Halifax last week. It's terrific, and the intimate knowledge of Canadiana - and specifically Canadian political sensitivities - that it displays suggests strongly to me that the White House received input from Canadian sources. The jokes struck a little too true to be the product of the political attache in Ottawa; but the most likely candidate seems at once unlikely.

In any case, read it. I don't know how Trudeaupians will receive it, but to this Americanophile, dismayed by what I see as a rabid and societal anti-American bias in Canada, the very notion of close friendship was enough to warm my heart.

Posted by David Mader at 10:33 AM | (0) | Back to Main

December 05, 2004

Sgro: Representing Canada to the World

I haven't been following the Strippergate/Judy Sgro scandal. But it's now caught the attention of the Times of London:

It turns out that among several schemes for recruiting overseas workers who have skills where Ottawa believes that it has shortages, is one for “foreign exotic dancers”. In 2003, some 661 work permits (of which a large number went to Romanians) were issued for this purpose. This was but a mere 900 fewer than the total of university professors recruited. Canadian immigration officials plainly know their priorities.

This fascinating effort, alas now suspended because of this scandal, raises two questions. The first is why there is a dearth of domestic naked dancers in Canada. The best guess is that it may be caused by the extremely low temperatures endured by most of the country in winter (and summer). The other is how exotic dancers from Romania come to realise that they should be flocking to Toronto. The maple leaf on the national flag may be being mistaken for a symbol of their profession.

It is said that Dean Martin once saw the slogan “Drink Canada Dry” on a poster and took it as a personal challenge. He might have stayed longer if told of its liberal stance on migration.

Heh. For self-loathing Canadians like me (kidding), this is all fun and games. But the more humourless among us might wonder whether a minister who turns the nation into the butt of international jokes is a minister worthy of a portfolio - regardless of the accuracy of the scandalous accusations. There comes a time when a politician must measure personal ambition against governmental - and national - interest. It's time for Sgro to go.

Posted by David Mader at 07:04 PM | (1) | Back to Main

Texas, Death and the Law

The New York Times has what appears to be a front-page article on Texas death penalty cases, which may be of interest to some Maderblog readers. The article discusses the tension between the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals and the Federal Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, on the one hand, and the US Supreme Court, on the other.

I don't know anything about criminal law in general, or death penalty law in particular, but it certainly sounds like there's something rotten in the system. One complaint: the article emphasizes the fact that Texas is the far-away leader among the states in executions per year. There is at least an implicit suggestion that the tremendous disparity is itself evidence of impropriety - a sort of res ipsa loquiter argument. The disparity may be a manifestation of due process or procedural problems - the Supreme Court seems to think it is, while the Court of Criminal Appeals and the Fifth Circuit seem to disagree - but the disparity itself doesn't prove anything. Keep in mind that in the overwhelming majority of cases, the argument is not over guilt but over sentencing; the alternative to the death penalty is not freedom but, usually, a life sentence.

That's a tremendously important distinction, of course, and certainly worth fighting for; moreover, any problem in procedure undermines the entire justice system, and should be corrected. But I think it's important not to let the passionate or emotional side of the death penalty debate overwhelm what is, at the last, a procedural rather than a policy question.

Posted by David Mader at 01:29 AM | (2) | Back to Main

Orange is Meant to be Burnt

Glenn Reynolds suggests that, to demonstrate his support for Ukrainian democracy, the President should wear orange. Apparently Reynolds forgets where the President is from.

Posted by David Mader at 12:39 AM | (0) | Back to Main

December 04, 2004

'It Shook My House'

An explosion at a chemical factory warehouse in Houston yesterday has made the news, and thankfully no-one was injured in the blast, which sounds to have been tremendous. I wouldn't normally highlight something like this, but I couldn't keep the following passage to myself:

Danny Perez, who works for the Precinct 6 constable's office, was playing a video game at home in Pearland, near Beltway 8 and Texas 288, when he heard and felt the blast.

"I was playing Grand Theft Auto, blowing up people, and all of a sudden, boom," Perez said. "It shook my house. It sounded like it was the next block over."

Works for the constable's office. Was playing GTA. 'Blowing people up.' Priceless.

Posted by David Mader at 09:51 PM | (0) | Back to Main

Bringing the Castle Home

Britain's Conservative Party has thrown its support behind a Private Member's Bill that would allow homeowners to use any force necessary to repel a home invader, provided such force is not 'grossly disproportionate.'

It is incredible that such a bill is needed - but, as Dominic Lawson writes in tomorrow's Sunday Telegraph, it is. As the law now stands, a homeowner who exercises deadly force in the defense of his home is subject to criminal murder charges. The threat of criminal prosecution for protection of criminal invasion is absurd, of course, but it also acts both to discourage defense and to encourage home invasion - all too often with tragic results.

The full support of the Tory Party, together with support from the government benches, means that the bill will likely pass, ending this terrible state of affairs. But there is a possibility that the Cabinet will force Labour Party members to oppose the bill (by making it a confidence motion, I assume). That would create a stark division between the parties on the crime issue leading up to next Spring's general election. I can't imagine Tony Blair wants to fight this point in the polls, and I very much hope that he doesn't. It is to his and his party's shame that they have let this travesty of law survive for so long. It's long past time that it be corrected.

Posted by David Mader at 09:42 PM | (0) | Back to Main

Our Ukraine

Missed this yesterday: Viktor Yushchenko had an editorial in yesterday's Wall Street Journal. He makes some very interesting points about the effect of the Orange Revolution on the world's perception of the Ukraine. I'm fascinated, as well, by the very idea of the editorial: this man is leading a democratic revolution half a world away, and he avails himself of the opportunity to write for America's most widely read daily newspaper. That speaks volumes about America, and democracy, and about how much Yushchenko understands both.

Posted by David Mader at 09:39 PM | (0) | Back to Main

Out of Touch with Middle Earth

No, this isn't about Lord of the Rings. Read this fascinating column from the Lebanon Daily Star, written by an American teaching English in Damascus, Syria. Turns out there's a strong current of support for President Bush in the capital of a terrorist-sponsoring state:

One afternoon I was explaining the passive tense of verbs, and I used an example that came to mind from American culture. I asked them if they knew who was nominated by the two main parties to run for president. "John Kerry was nominated by the Democratic Party, and George Bush was nominated by the Republicans," replied one of the brightest in the class, a veiled Muslim engineering student named Rahaf. "Very good," I said. "Now, who do you think will be elected?" "Bush," cried several of the students at once, smiling. Abandoning my lesson plan for the moment, but curious at this sudden display of interest in the election, I ventured: "Who do you want to win?" "Bush," said Rahaf, while a number of others nodded in solid agreement. I pressed them further for a few minutes, asking individual students why they liked Bush. The same ideas came up again and again: he is a strong leader, an honest man, and, most of all, a believer. Like the winning margin of American voters this year, these Middle Easterners related to Bush's sense of religious conviction and his confident steering of a nation and culture they admired.
The author lays on a bit thick regarding religious belief - the column has a strong strain of anti-religious bigotry that is applied equally to Muslims and Christians - but he seems to grasp the larger point. People across the world tend, invariably, to be remarkably similar, motivated by similar desires and beliefs and ideas. That means, of course, that many Syrians agree with Democratic foreign - and domestic - policy as well. The point is that there's a significant range of opinion.

Now remind me why the Mid-East is not fit for democracy?

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

December 03, 2004

It's Over

Rapprochement between the United States and Russia is over, and the two nations are once again explicit strategic opponents of one another, following a strong speech by Vladamir Putin in India:

Russian President Vladimir Putin accused the United States on Friday of pursuing a dictatorial foreign policy and said mounting violence could derail progress toward bringing peace and democracy to Iraq.

Putin also criticized the West for setting double-standards on terrorism, pursuing Islamic fundamentalists in Afghanistan (news - web sites) and Iraq while giving refuge to "terrorists" demanding Chechnya's independence from Russia.

"Even if dictatorship is packaged in beautiful pseudo-democratic phraseology, it will not be able to solve systemic problems," Putin said. "It may even make them worse."

Putin did not name the United States, but clearly had the administration of President Bush in mind when he said policies "based on the barrack-room principles of a unipolar world appear to be extremely dangerous."

Putin certainly knows something about dictatorship. Is this just sour grapes following Russia's apparent loss of the Ukraine? Could be. But in any case it's unfortunate and destructive. As the brutal Beslan massacre illustrated, Islamist terrorism draws no line between east and west, only between Islamist and infidel. Following Beslan, I suspect many in the west re-evaluated their knee-jerk support for the Chechen 'separatists,' but Putin seems to be saying 'if you slag my war, I'll slag yours.' If he's committed to defeating Islamist terrorism in Chechnya, he should be committed to suppressing Islamist terrorism in Iraq, as well.

Instead, Putin has drawn lines. His is not the language of cooperation; it is the language of confrontation. The re-emergence of an anti-American Russia (in the geopolitical rather than ideological sense) has been a long time coming, and for many it will be no suprise. In the past month, however, it has become more immediately apparent; now, I think, it's impossible to ignore.

Posted by David Mader at 04:02 PM | (1) | Back to Main

Orange Ukraine

The Ukrainian Supreme Court has invalidated last month's election results, citing widespread problems in polling, and have called for a run-off election. This is a tremendous victory for the Ukrainian people, and particularly the supporters of Viktor Yushchenko, and a tremendous defeat for the government of outgoing president Leonid Kuchma and Viktor Yanukovich.

On a related note, Charles Krauthammer has an excellent piece in the Washington Post comparing European support for democracy in Europe with European ambivalence regarding democracy elsewhere.

But this struggle is less about democracy than about geopolitics. Europe makes clear once again that it is a full-throated supporter of democracy -- in its neighborhood. Just as it is a forthright opponent of ethnic cleansing in its neighborhood (Yugoslavia) even as it lifts not a finger elsewhere (Rwanda, southern Sudan, now Darfur)...

Hence the Bush-Blair doctrine of bringing some modicum of democracy to the Middle East by establishing one country as a beachhead is ridiculed as naive and messianic.

The excerpt doesn't do justice - read the whole thing.

Posted by David Mader at 03:17 PM | (1) | Back to Main

George Tenet: Big Government Man

George Tenet, former Director of Central Intelligence, makes clear - if it wasn't already - where he comes out on the tension between freedom and security:

"I know that these actions will be controversial in this age when we still think the Internet is a free and open society with no control or accountability," he told an information-technology security conference in Washington, "but ultimately the Wild West must give way to governance and control."
Apparently Tenet has never been to New Hampshire.

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

December 02, 2004

MSN Spaces

Microsoft is trying to break into the blogging game with MSN Spaces. I've taken it for a test-drive here. In brief: it's no competition for blogger, and it fails in its stated aim of being a 'simpler' or 'easier to use' alternative. But click through for a more detailed (sort of) analysis.

Posted by David Mader at 01:12 PM | (0) | Back to Main