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January 30, 2005

Statues to This Man

All day today I've been thinking of something I wrote back in December 2003, but which I thought it would be inappropriate to post. It's this:

It ocurred to me recently that if the democratization of Iraq is even minimally successful, President Bush will become the subject of considerable admiration and celebration in the region. Over time, if the success grows, his stature will grow as well. In fact I believe that, barring a withdrawal or a catastrophe, there will be statues built to this man. Those who hate the president will see the evils of imperialism in such expressions of gratitude and admiration, but no matter: if democracy takes hold in Iraq, it will foster a beatification of Bush that will inform Iraqi notions of freedom and human rights. I think this will be healthy if it comes to pass; but regardless, I believe it will come to pass.
Well, looks like it just might come to pass:
The man replacing the mayor of Baghdad — who was assassinated for his pro-American loyalties — says he is not worried about his ties to Washington.

In fact, he'd like to erect a monument to honor President Bush in the middle of the city.

"We will build a statue for Bush," said Ali Fadel, the former provincial council chairman. "He is the symbol of freedom."

There can be no doubt that today was a momentous day in the history of human freedom, a ratification of the process of middle-eastern democratization just as the November 2 election was a ratification of the Bush Doctrine that commits America to that process. There can be no doubt that Iraqis would not have voted today, as Afghanis voted before them and as so many will vote in the years to come, if not for the man who sits in the Oval Office.

There will be statues built to this man.

Posted by David Mader at 11:19 PM | (1) | Back to Main

Sweet Land of Liberty

Today was election day in Iraq - and a marvelous day it seems to have been. Despite violence that might charitably be called sporadic, if we wanted to be charitable to the enemies of freedom, Iraqis lined up to participate in their country's first free election in decades. I can't write any words that convey the spirit of the day better than the following pictures; scroll over each for credits.

Iraqi Shi'ite women line up to participate in their country's national elections, outside a polling station in the holy city of Najaf, January 30, 2005.Photo by Stringer/Iraq/Reuters

Iraqis queuing to vote at a polling station in the centre of Az Zubayr, Southern Iraq, Sunday Jan. 30, 2005.  (AP Photo/Andrew Parsons, Pool)

Iraqi women queue at a school polling station in the At Maeel area of Basra, southern Iraq, January 30, 2005. REUTERS/Toby Melville

An Iraqi girl looks out of the womens queue at a school polling station in the At Maeel area of Basra, southern Iraq, January 30, 2005, as the country holds its first elections. REUTERS/Toby Melville

An Iraqi woman holds up her hand, and shows a purple finger, indicating she has just voted, as she leaves a polling station in the centre of Az Zubayr, southern Iraq, Sunday, Jan. 30, 2005.(AP Photo/Andrew Parsons/Pool)

With tears rolling down her eyes, a veiled Iraqi woman shows off her finger stained with blue ink and a small card reading 'Elect Iraq' after she cast her vote in a polling station in Amman, January 30, 2005. REUTERS/Ali Jarekji

Posted by David Mader at 12:10 PM | (0) | Back to Main

Meanwhile, In Another World...

Some folks aren't so happy about the apparent success of today's vote in Iraq. Topping the list: John Kerry:

It is hard to say that something is legitimate when whole portions of the country can't vote and doesn't vote.
Kerry is an expert in legitimate elections, of course, having lost one handily back in November. And, as for the substance of Kerry's complaint, I quote the Wall Street Journal's James Taranto:
Still, let's say the worst happens and a combination of terrorism and boycotts succeeds in keeping all but a few Sunni Arabs away from the polls. Would that really make the election illegitimate? Before you answer, consider a thought experiment: Suppose that, when South Africa held its first postapartheid election in 1994, Afrikaner turnout had been depressed by similar measures. Would that have made the enfranchisement of a long-oppressed majority any less a cause for celebration?
Kerry isn't alone of course; he's supported by the Loony Left:

People shout slogans during a protest in central Madrid January 30, 2005. Marchers were protesting Iraq holding national elections under what they called U.S occupation. At least 10 suicide attacks targeted polling stations and voters on Sunday, but Iraqis still voted in large numbers. REUTERS/Susana Vera

People shout slogans during a protest in central Madrid January 30, 2005. Marchers were protesting Iraq holding national elections under what they called U.S occupation. At least 10 suicide attacks targeted polling stations and voters on Sunday, but Iraqis still voted in large numbers. REUTERS/Susana Vera
This man would have been president; these people would have been his core of support. But of course he is not president, because they are not the core around which a majority can be collected. And thank goodness for that.

Posted by David Mader at 12:05 PM | (4) | Back to Main

January 29, 2005

Yesterday's Realism

Here's Peggy Noonan on the Second Inaugural, in Friday's Wall Street Journal:

Here is an unhappy fact: Certain authoritarians and tyrants whose leadership is illegitimate and unjust have functioned in history as--ugly imagery coming--garbage-can lids on their societies. They keep freedom from entering, it is true. But when they are removed, the garbage--the freelance terrorists, the grievance merchants, the ethnic nationalists--pops out all over. Yes, freedom is good and to be strived for. But cleaning up the garbage is not pretty. And it sometimes leaves the neighborhood in an even bigger mess than it had been.
Here's Mark Steyn on the same subject in this week's Spectator:
He’s not going to invade the world in his second term, or even launch four more wars — or at any rate not formal wars, requiring large tank formations and tap-dancing for UN resolutions. But he has essentially signed on to what I (if nobody else) thinks of as the Steyn line, formulated here on 7 October 2001: ‘This system of cherrypicking from a barrel-load of unsavoury potential clients was summed up in the old geopolitical realist’s line: “He may be a sonofabitch but he’s our sonofabitch.” The inverse is more to the point: he may be our sonofabitch but he’s a sonofabitch.’[...]

The roots of many of the world’s biggest problems derive from its least free region — North Africa and the Middle East. Coincidence? Could be. But what we do know, as I said here back then, is that the ‘stability’ of the Middle East — unique in the non-democratic world, where otherwise Presidents-for-Life come and go — brought us September 11. The ‘stability’ of another 25 years of the Ayatollahs, another 40 years of Syria’s Baathists, another 50 years of Mubaraks, another 70 years of Saudi Wahabism will be agreeably stable for the various despots but increasingly unstable for the rest of us.

It's rare, and therefore interesting, to see the two strains of contemporary conservative thought thrown in such relief. For the record, here's what I had to say on the subject in the spring of 2003, in the course of drafting a Statement of Principles for a student group that never materialized:
Many of the regimes that sponsor terror also deny their own citizens basic human rights; their repressive world-view drives their terrorism and tyranny alike. Other regimes whose human rights abuses were overlooked during the Cold War have been allowed to consolidate their control; their citizens remain unfree. Still other nations have seen their electoral processes subverted and their democratic systems undermined; the rights of their citizens cannot but erode.

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

I'm with Steyn, and Bush: the end of support for tyranny may ultimately mean our downfall, but it will be a better downfall than that brought about, inevitably, by our continued support for tyrants. Steyn again:
That’s where the realists are unrealistic. They’ve spent so long worshipping at the cult of stability they don’t realise it’s a total crock. The geopolitical scene is never stable, it’s always dynamic...

Nothing stands still. By 2050, the population of relatively tiny Yemen will be greater than the population of vast empty Russia. Will all those young Yemeni men stay in their cramped, crowded country and will it be able to support them? Or will they leave? And, if so, where will they go? ‘Stability’ is a surface illusion, like a frozen river: underneath, the currents are moving, and to the casual observer the ice looks equally ‘stable’ whether there’s a foot of it or just two inches. There is no status quo in world affairs: ‘stability’ is a fancy term to dignify laziness and complacency as sophistication.

Like Steyn, I'm proud to be unstable.

Posted by David Mader at 08:26 PM | (0) | Back to Main

January 28, 2005

A Quick Thought on Abortion

Ross Douthat at the American Scene writes, in passing:

Look, I think abortion should be banned in every circumstance save rape.
This is a position that's troubled me for a while. Let's put aside all other questions and adopt the assumptions behind this position - that abortion should be illegal, because it involves the comparison of a right to bodily autonomy on the one hand and a right to life on the other, and because the right to life is greater. Of course many, perhaps most, people don't believe this, and so most of my 'pro-choice' readers will find the hypothetical absurd. But go ahead and just assume it for the sake of discussion - life is created at conception, and the right of the child/foetus to life outweighs, generally speaking, the right of the mother to bodily autonomy.

My question is this: why is rape an exception? The typical answer is that we don't want to put the mother through a further terrible experience, which the birthing process, as a result of the rape, would be. To me that's always seen as punishing the child for the sins of its father. It is certainly unjust - not only in a legal but in a moral sense - that the mother have to suffer the travails of childbirth, with the correspondent reliving of the rape, while the father does not. But none of that is the fault of the child which, for better or for worse, has been created by the rape.

Any thoughts? I think I've asked this before, but I've never read a really convincing argument in favor of the rape exception. Of course at the end of the day, assuming all else, it comes down to a balancing of rights, and either you believe that the mother's right to bodily autonomy - which has already been violated, and so should be held even more sacrosanct - outweighs the right of the child to life, or you don't. But that sort of subjective basis doesn't have much power to convince. At the end of the day, I'd favor abortion in the case where the birth of the child posed a grave threat to the life and health of the mother, such that the balance of rights led to a justifiable act of self-defense on the mother's part. But rape? I'm not convinced.

UNAVOIDABLE DISCLAIMER: No, this does not mean that I want to outlaw abortion in cases of rape.

Posted by David Mader at 03:32 PM | (6) | Back to Main

January 27, 2005

Steyn Means Business

Mark Steyn is back with a column in this week's Spectator magazine, praising the new idealistic realism of the President's Second Inaugural Address.

Posted by David Mader at 02:01 PM | (0) | Back to Main

January 26, 2005

Torture and Debate

Andrew Sullivan links to this Tom Tomorrow cartoon under the headline 'Torture and the Right,' and comments: "A cartoon sums up the situation."

Here're two panels from the cartoon:

You know, it's funny, because as a reasonable person I don't remember responding to suggestions of impropriety by mocking the questioners.

And it turns out it's because I didn't. I wrote this on May 10, 2004:
The activities highlighted by the Red Cross above are not necessarily or automatically abusive in the same manner. Holding a prisoner in isolation, restricting his bathing and exercising opportunities, and even depriving him of clothes - these are neither publicly humiliating (assuming they are not public) nor unduly violent.... [I]n claiming a widespread pattern of abuse the Red Cross and other organizations are assuming as decided a debate over interrogation practices that has not occurred - and which, I submit, they would not win.
On May 16 I elaborated on what I saw as the distinction between 'maltreatment' - the acceptable but poor treatment of prisoners - and abuse.
Interrogation is nasty business - The abuse at Abu Ghraib would not be excused, of course, simply because the soldiers sought to retrieve information from their captives. We must understand, however, that harsh measures of interrogation will be necessary if we are to win victory in Iraq - and in the wider war on terror. In determining the scope of abuse at Abu Ghraib, we must distinguish acceptable interrogation procedures from unacceptable abuse. For instance, the New Yorker magazine recently published a photo showing a naked Iraqi man cowering before two leashed dogs. This scene is undoubtedly disturbing, but it is disturbing by design: psychological pressure allows interrogators to extract information without applying force. The magazine's reporter alleges, however, that he has a later photo showing the man bleeding from the leg - ostensibly as a result of a bite from one of the dogs. The threat of violence is a useful tool in obtaining the cooperation of otherwise-hostile prisoners. The realization of that threat is rightly abhorrent to us. In investigating Abu Ghraib we must distinguish between the threat and its realization, and we must determine when the latter has occurred.
I certainly acknowledge that I was wrong about a number of things - most particularly the scope of the abuse, which does indeed appear to have been systemic - but I think my basic point remains valid. In any case, I certainly did not ever respond to suggestions of impropriety with name-calling and simplistic assertions. I responded with argument. Of course I'm the smallest of small fry - but I think most conservative commentators did the same.

But now no less a man than Andrew Sullivan - who himself called, repeatedly, for an open debate on the use of torture - is endorsing as 'the situation' on 'the right' a charicature of ignorance and an unwillingness to talk.

This when Tomorrow's own cartoon uses the wonderfully Orwellian phrase "things which really should not be subject to debate." But we're hearing that sentiment an awful lot from the left these days, aren't we?

Posted by David Mader at 03:31 PM | (2) | Back to Main

January 25, 2005

Ted Turner's Great Glass House

Ted Turner has, once again, compared Fox News (and, by proxy, Rupert Murdoch) to Hitler's Germany. Or something.

At the risk of offending my patriotic Texan friends, I might point out that Rupert Murdoch has never produced and acted in a movie glorifying the Confederate States of America.

I'm just saying.

Posted by David Mader at 05:00 PM | (2) | Back to Main

Not to Nit-pick...

... but this poll presumes that victims of the Holocaust were either Jews or Poles, French, British or Russians. The Polish Jewish community was far and away the largest in Europe at the outbreak of the war, numbering - if I recall correctly - two million souls. With the forced ghettoization of Jews from neighboring countries during the war, the Jewish population of occupied Poland touched three million. An overwhelming majority of native Polish Jews were murdered in the Holocaust. Most of them would, of course, have identified primarily as Jews; but many - especially residents of Warsaw and Cracow - would have identified as readily as Poles.

Not to nit-pick.

Posted by David Mader at 01:37 AM | (0) | Back to Main

Canada, the US and Security

Paul Wells relays a question from historian Jack Granatstein:

Bush did confront Martin and used the sort of language that sets Canadians on edge. "He leaned across the table and said, 'I'm not taking this position, but some future president is going to say, 'Why are we paying to defend Canada?'"

[Asks Granatstein]: Why should the US pay for defending Canada if we won't?
Wells asked his readers for their responses, which can be found (at length) here; I haven't read nearly all of them, but I've skimmed them and they seem to fall into one of two general camps: those who think that Canada does indeed punch well below its weight, and that's too bad, and those who think Canada punches below the weight the Americans think they should be punching, and there's nothing anyone can do about it.

I think that those answers are both fair based on the question, but I think the question interprets Bush's concern a little narrowly. Missile defense is, presumably, a response to a third-party threat, and so insofar as the United States has a security interest in preventing a foreign attack on or invasion of North American soil, she will continue to fund the defense against such an eventuality, regardless of Canadian input.

But the great security threat to the United States (and Canada) right now is not from a third-party in the form of a state, operating from a remote location. The real threat is from an amorphous collection of terrorist entities, operating within the borders of sovereign states. It's quite true that Bush was speaking in the context of missile defense, but given current security concerns I think it would be a mistake not to cross-apply his remarks to the internal threat situation.

And here's how I think it cross-applies: Just as Americans have a security interest in preventing a third-party attack on Canadian soil from abroad, and so will fund and operate a continental external security apparatus to prevent such an attack, so have they a security interest in preventing a terrorist attack on Canadian (or American) soil launched from within. And just as they will independently fund and operate an external security perimeter, so will they - in the absence of Canadian funding and cooperation - begin to fund and operate an internal security apparatus - regardless of Canadian protest or involvement.

To date, and despite Canada's weakness as a military power (notwithstanding, as we should constantly point out, the fine fighting character of her soldiers), domestic security services in Canada have done a fine job, largely outside of the media spotlight, of cooperating with friendly foreign intelligence services to track, restrain and apprehend terrorist networks within Canada. And yes, there are certainly active terrorist networks within Canada. As long as Canadian security services continue to provide valuable assistance to foreign - and particularly American - security services through their counter-terrorist efforts, Americans will be content to let the Canadians do their thing.

But here's where Matt's fine analysis comes in. If, as he suggests, Canada and her government continue to resist a recognition that she is involved in a war, and if that attitude contributes over time to a lessening of security-service participation or, more likely, a restriction on the counter-terrorist activities of our domestic security services, the balance of trust and reliance with the United States will tip. If Canadians fail to secure their own domestic security affairs, Americans - for the same reasons they foot the bill for external security - will begin covertly to operate counter-terrorist networks within Canada. They will do so for all the fine reasons Wells's readers give for the unilateral operation of a missile shield. Most importantly, they will be able to do so because Canada, a nation (at this point in my hypothetical) without any significant military or domestic security power, will be unable to stop them.

Champions of Canadian sovereignty might want to think about that before using sovereignty as a justification for non-involvement in the missile-shield project.

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

January 24, 2005

You Couldn't Make This Up

Well, you probably could:

The Muslim Council of Britain are planning to boycott this week's commemoration of the Holocaust because they claim it is not racially inclusive.

The Queen, Prince Philip and Tony Blair will represent the nation at Thursday's Holocaust Memorial Day national event at Westminster Hall, to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.

More than 600 Holocaust survivors together with British soldiers who helped liberate the camps will attend.

Iqbal Sacranie, the secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain, says it will not attend because the event did not include what it described as continuing human rights abuses and genocide in the occupied territories of Palestine.

And so you have, in a single, brief article, an articulation of both the post-modern equivalence between the Holocaust and the condition in the territories, and the Islamist animosity towards Jews.

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

January 23, 2005

Baseball v. Cricket

Regular readers may recall a discussion in the comments to this post wherein my friend Saurja discoursed, briefly, on the differences between cricket and baseball, and upon what he saw as the innate superiority of the former. Well, I'm very happy to announce that Saurj has decided to turn that core proposition into the guiding philosophy of a new blog: Baseball v. Cricket. As he describes it:

This is a blog devoted to sports, especially the differences between US Sports and Rest-of-the-World Sports. Politics will be the occasional segue, and just to be clear, I bear allegiance to, in order of devotedness: Chelsea FC, Barcelona FC, the Montreal Candiens, the NY Jets, the NY Yankees, and if I must, whatever team Shaq's on. But feel free to post about any team under the sun, regardless of sport.
I look forward to great things, Saurja.

I just can't figure out where to place you in my blogroll. Maybe I need a new category for Calcutta-expatriots-living-in-Montreal.

Posted by David Mader at 10:42 PM | (1) | Back to Main

The Political Underside of the Summers Affair

Ruth Wisse, Professor of Literature at Harvard (and formerly of McGill!), has an excellent piece in today's Wall Street Journal about the political components of the outrage over Larry Summers' recent comments:

This accusation of bias, advanced by feminists and often accepted at face value by the academic community, attempts to transform guarantees of equal opportunity into a demand for equal outcome. Thus, a huge majority of female professors at Harvard recently formed a Caucus for Gender Equality to protest the drop in senior job offers to women since Mr. Summers came into office. Offering no evidence of discrimination in hiring and not a single example of a superior female applicant overlooked in favor of a less qualified male, the caucus charged the president with having reduced "diversity" by failing to hire enough female professors. Although the university denied these unsubstantiated charges, it nonetheless instituted new rules for departmental searches that now require every committee to provide quantitative proof of how many women it has considered for a position at each stage of the screening and selection process...

The slogan "gender equality" reduces diversity on campus still further by pretending that all women share the same set of views. Protesting that there are currently only 85 tenured female professors at Harvard, about one-quarter of the faculty, the Women's Caucus boasts that almost all of them agree with its politics. Meanwhile, in a country that has just elected a Republican president and a Republican Congress, one could not find, among Harvard professors, a quarter of a quarter who hold conservative views. Divergent thinkers are driven out of the universities to the think tanks where intellectual initiatives are encouraged rather than suppressed. On the campus, intimidation; beyond the campus, the democratic arena where better ideas can contend and prevail.

Read the whole thing.

Posted by David Mader at 11:22 AM | (2) | Back to Main

Sex Sanity in the Times

Someone's hijacked the op/ed page of the New York Times and published two articles full of common sense - both on the topic which Larry Summers has been so harshly criticized for mentioning.

Olivia Judson, an evolutionary biologist at Imperial College London, suggests that we recognize innate sexual differneces in other species, and that it's therefore silly - althoug understandable - that we are hesitant to discuss the possibility of such differences in humans:

there's still plenty of work to do to level the playing field; there's no reason to suppose there's something inevitable about the status quo.

All the same, it seems a shame if we can't even voice the question. Sex differences are fascinating - and entirely unlike the other biological differences that distinguish other groups of living things (like populations and species). Sex differences never arise in isolation, with females evolving on a mountaintop, say, and males evolving in a cave. Instead, most genes - and in some species, all genes - spend equal time in each sex. Many sex differences are not, therefore, the result of his having one gene while she has another. Rather, they are attributable to the way particular genes behave when they find themselves in him instead of her...

The interesting questions are, is there an average intrinsic difference? And how extensive is the variation? I would love to know if the averages are the same but the underlying variation is different - with members of one sex tending to be either superb or dreadful at particular sorts of thinking while members of the other are pretty good but rarely exceptional.

It's a hard article to excerpt, but you get the gist. Read the whole thing. Then read this piece by the AEI's Charles Murray, which contains this wonderful observation:
Some people will find the results threatening - because some people find any group differences threatening - but such fears will be misplaced. We may find that innate differences give men, as a group, an edge over women, as a group, in producing, say, terrific mathematicians. But knowing that fact about the group difference will not change another fact: that some women are terrific mathematicians. The proportions of men and women mathematicians may never be equal, but who cares? What's important is that all women with the potential to become terrific mathematicians have full opportunity to do so.
Absolutely. That's an issue separate from, although connected to, the inquiry into innate differences. We shouldn't discourage the latter simply because we feel unprepared to tackle the former.

Posted by David Mader at 01:06 AM | (2) | Back to Main

January 22, 2005

Do Me A Favor

Scroll down to the picture of the Capitol done up for the inauguration (in this post). You'll see, in the background, five flags hanging down. Am I crazy, or are the flags on either end the Betsy Ross?

Posted by David Mader at 08:36 PM | (2) | Back to Main

Hook 'Em

Blake links to this hilarious article about the different interpretations of the longhorn hand-sign. Money 'grafs:

The "Hook 'em, Horns" that Bush flashed when The Eyes of Texas was played at the Black Tie and Boots gala Wednesday was misconstrued by some in Norway as a sign of the devil used by a musical scene that terrorized the country in the late 1980s and early '90s.

Bush's gesture has more innocent roots, credited to UT head cheerleader Harley Clark in 1955. Clark, a former state district judge who retired to Dripping Springs, introduced the sign at a pep rally that November as a response to Texas A&M's "Gig 'em" sign, a thumbs-up gesture.

"Surely everybody in the world takes offense at the Aggie Gig 'em sign," Clark says. "I can't think of anything more repulsive than that hand gesture."[...]

There have been no reports so far as to any such misunderstandings about Bush's gesture in Italy, which has its own interpretation of the horns. Called the mano cornuto, when the hand is brought up to the forehead, the gesture signifies that one has been cuckolded.

"I suppose it can mean different things to different people in different parts of the world," Clark says. "I guess the Norwegians and Italians should be happy that our mascot was a longhorn and not a unicorn."


Posted by David Mader at 08:27 PM | (0) | Back to Main

January 21, 2005

Quote of the Day

We would not encourage anyone to drink more beer with the aim of preventing cancer.
Full story here, via Kaus.

Posted by David Mader at 01:57 PM | (0) | Back to Main

Thinking Big

Peggy Noonan thinks the President's speech was a bit over the top:

"We are led, by events and common sense, to one conclusion: The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands." "Across the generations we have proclaimed the imperative of self government. . . . Now it is the urgent requirement of our nation's security, and the calling of our time." "It is the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in the world."

Ending tyranny in the world? Well that's an ambition, and if you're going to have an ambition it might as well be a big one. But this declaration, which is not wrong by any means, seemed to me to land somewhere between dreamy and disturbing. Tyranny is a very bad thing and quite wicked, but one doesn't expect we're going to eradicate it any time soon. Again, this is not heaven, it's earth.

I have only one thing to say: "It is time for us to realize that we're too great a nation to limit ourselves to small dreams."

Posted by David Mader at 12:51 PM | (0) | Back to Main

The Imperial Presidency

Is there another word? And remember that I'm a strong supporter:

Posted by David Mader at 12:43 PM | (1) | Back to Main

The Eyes of Texas Are Upon You


Posted by David Mader at 12:36 PM | (5) | Back to Main

January 20, 2005

Summers, Sex, Etc.

Well that will bring in the Google hits.

More commentary on Larry Summers' comments on sex and innate difference at the Volokh Consiracy (see here, and especially here and here), and from Andrew Sullivan (kindly reproduced by the American Scene).

Posted by David Mader at 08:52 PM | (0) | Back to Main

Everbody Loves a List

And the Foggy Bottom Bunch have a great list of ideas that are both stubbornly persistent and, in their opinion, wrong. Have a read.

Just one thing: LBJ may not have had Kennedy shot, but it wouldn't particularly suprise me if he had.

Can I say that in Texas?

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

January 19, 2005

Grandescunt Aucta Labore

My old McGill chum Matt is back online after a brief absence - though he's been commenting here at Maderblog, as always, and we're the better for it. Through Matt I learn that another old McGill chum, Nick, who's spending some time teaching English in Korea, is blogging the experience. As Matt says, Nick - also a commenter here at Maderblog! - has tried the blogging thing before. As always, we hope he keeps it up - very interesting stuff from a world away.

And I can't help but say that I'm proud of McBlog, as it were, and I'm constantly fascinated by the diverse paths along which my McGill acquaintances have travelled in the brief time since we left school.

Posted by David Mader at 09:40 PM | (0) | Back to Main

Montreal: City of Culture

Reihan at the American Scene thinks so, anyway. Hey, it's a great town.

Posted by David Mader at 04:07 PM | (0) | Back to Main

Hockey Night Tonight?

There are rumors that the players and the League are about to come to an agreement that will save hockey. Click on over to hockeyrumors.blogspot.com and start scrolling. I find this post particularly fascinating:

I was told a group of players for an Eastern Conference team held a secret vote to see what they would do if the NHLPA would bring a vote on the NHL salary cap proposal, and not to anyone's surprise, a majority vote went in favor of a salary cap system.

With this information, the player rep asked Goodenow why the NHLPA hasn't provided the members with an opportunity to vote on the proposal because he's got a team full of young teammates needing to play and knows his owner is willing to budge on some issues like the age of free agency, cap threshold, pensions, and other important issues to players not in the upper end of the league.

Goodenow dispatched one of his cronies to tell the rep to act like a hockey player and be a team player in this and that they would never allow a vote in a million years that included a salary cap, no matter the cost.

I was told this got back to a few players on the rich end of that team and they gave a pretty good talking to the player executive, which of course in turn had to give the info to Trevor Linden.

Don't you just love labor unions?

Posted by David Mader at 03:46 PM | (2) | Back to Main

Pity the Poor Tories

Paul Wells brings us this story about the man who is said to be the Prime Minister of Canada:

Prime Minister Paul Martin said Tuesday that he did not accept the resignation of Judy Sgro's chief of staff two months ago because it was up to the chief of staff to make his own decision on whether to stay.
Wells makes a bigger point about the absurdity of this idea, and of its consequences on future directives from the PMO to individual ministers. My point is more basic: the Conservatives can't beat this guy? Sheesh.

Posted by David Mader at 03:42 PM | (0) | Back to Main

Summers, Sex and Scholarly Debate

You've probably heard that Harvard President Larry Summers has been criticized for his remarks at a session on the role of women in research at a symposium organized by the National Bureau of Economic Research:

"I felt I was going to be sick," said Nancy Hopkins, a biology professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who listened to part of Summers's speech Friday at a session on the progress of women in academia organized by the National Bureau of Economic Research in Cambridge, Mass. She walked out in what she described as a physical sense of disgust.

"My heart was pounding and my breath was shallow," she said. "I was extremely upset."

Other female scientists also criticized the speech, in which Summers laid out a series of possible explanations for the underrepresentation of women in the upper echelons of professional life, including upbringing, genetics and time spent on child-rearing.

Juan Non-Volokh makes the excellent point:
If it is the case that men are more predisposed to excel at math than women, this does not mean that all men are better at math that all women, that women cannot be successful mathematicians, that women should not pursue math-oriented careers, or that sexism and gender-bias are irrelevant. It would simply mean that statistical gender disparities in given fields are in part the result of genetic predispositions. Genetics provides but one possible explanation for the observed disparity in male and female participation and success in certain fields. But it may not be the whole story either. It is quite possible that certain genetic predispositions are magnified or reinforced by cultural stereotypes and bias. In the end, the reason why more men than women excel in math and science is an empirical question, and one worthy of careful examination. If genetic differences play a role -- and this is an "if" -- this is something worth knowing.

I played a mental game, after reading this story, by putting myself at such a conference where the speaker suggested that innate differences explained the (hypothetical) under-representation of Jews in the upper echelons of (say) professional life. As with Summers, my hypothetical speaker offered no moral judgment on the possibility, but simply suggested its existence. Would I feel offended? Would I feel offended to the degree that I would walk out on the lecture?

I certainly hope not, although of course I can't say. It might be more difficult if the situation is amended so that the speaker at a historical conference presents evidence that the Holocaust did not, in fact, occur. Still, I would hope to be able to keep my seat.

The reason is that academia depends, fundamentally, on the exchange and refutation of ideas. Summers may be entirely wrong. If so, however, that does not mean that his ideas should be stymied. It means they should be illuminated and disproven. That's a very scientific idea, I think, but it must go back at least to the Areopagitica:
Wholesome meats to a vitiated stomach differ little or nothing from unwholesome; and best books to a naughty mind are not unappliable to occasions of evil. Bad meats will scarce breed good nourishment in the healthiest concoction; but herein the difference is of bad books, that they to a discreet and judicious reader serve in many respects to discover, to confute, to forewarn, and to illustrate...

I cannot praise a fugitive and cloistered virtue, unexercised and unbreathed, that never sallies out and sees her adversary but slinks out of the race, where that immortal garland is to be run for, not without dust and heat. Assuredly we bring not innocence into the world, we bring impurity much rather; that which purifies us is trial, and trial is by what is contrary.

The emphasis is mine; the words are Miltons. It would be irresponsible simply to accept as received wisdom or an obvious truth, that men and women do not have innate differences that lead to differences in accomplishment. If the idea is a bad one, let it be exposed as such, and let the good ideas demonstrate their goodness in trial by what is contrary.¹

In fact, the reactions to Summers' comments by certain individuals quoted in the story suggest a troubling attitude towards academic discourse in general. First, although walking out of a lecture is a very powerful medium by which to send a message of disapproval, it also necessarily indicates an unwillingness to engage in dialogue at all. It says not only "I believe that you are wrong" but "I believe I am right and you are wrong, and I will consider no attempt to demonstrate or persuade me otherwise." That is, in a word, close-minded.

Moreover, condemnation for the raising of provocative ideas risks dissauding those who would raise such ideas in the future. Will Summers again make such envelope-pushing suggestions? Not likely, especially since his remarks were made at an ostensibly 'off the record' event. That can hardly be good for academic thought, which relies on challenges to remain fresh, and which risks becoming stagnant without constant reconsideration.

It may well be that there are no innate differences between men and women to explain differences in professional performance. If we're to know that, it will be through discussion and investigation - not through demonization and adherence to blanket statements of 'yes it is' or 'no it isn't' combined, as always, with a big 'shut up.'

¹There is a suggestion that Summers was offering theories which had in some manner been disproven earlier at the same conference (see paragraph 4). Assuming that the question could have been entirely disproven in such a venue, that might be a legitimate objection - but that doesn't seem entirely likely.

Posted by David Mader at 03:12 PM | (2) | Back to Main

Reason, Passion and Economic Free Will

Very interesting and thought-provoking article in the Economist regarding the traditional presumption of economists that individuals act rationally with regard to economic incentives.

Mr Laibson's own work tries to solve a different riddle: why people seem to apply vastly different discount rates to immediate and short-term rewards compared with rewards occurring well into the future. People tend much to prefer, say, $100 now to $115 next week, but they are indifferent between $100 a year from now and $115 in a year and a week. In one recent experiment, noted in our science section on October 30th, Mr Laibson and others found that the brain's response to short-term riches (in this case, gift certificates of $15 or $20) occurs largely in the limbic system, a region that governs emotion. By contrast, the prospect of rewards farther into the future triggers the prefrontal cortex, which is often associated with reason and calculation. Thus, choosing immediate economic gratification, by spending excessively on credit cards or not saving enough even though you “know better”, could be a sign that the limbic system is in charge. Government policies, such as forced savings or “cooling off” periods for buying property or cars, may be one remedy.
This is certainly fascinating. And yet - get ready for my knee-jerk response - the fact that passionate and dispassionate economic decisions can be traced to different parts of the brain should not, I think, lead to legislation that prohibits passionate decisionmaking.

First, the assumption is that subjective rather than objective decisionmaking is intrinsic to the classical liberal market economist. That's not quite true: he believes that the market in the aggregate operates rationally, but the aggregate will necessarily involve individuals who make non-objective decisions.

Next, a 'cooling period' meant to diminish passionate decisions would necessarily be over-broad - prohibiting the rapid purchase of goods for long-term gain (as, say, with a stock market) - unless every potential purchaser were subject to a brain scan, not at the point of purchase but at the point of decisionmaking. Aside from being outrageously dystopian, it's entirely impractical.

Finally, if individuals are prone to passionate decisions, then certainly legislators are similarly prone. Institutional blocks certainly diminish the possibility of short-term decisions and force a consideration of longer-term consequences. Nonetheless, and again, the only accurate safeguard would involve the constant monitoring of brain activity by those whose brain activity was also constantly being monitored, and so on up and up an unending chain.

So rather than trying to use social engineering and the coercive power of the state to 'correct' the impact of irrational decisions on a rational market, it would be better to correct those currently-existing models of market behavior that do not make allowances for the irrational, and to further investigate how irrational activity contributes to what is, to most observers, a wholly rational aggregate.

[Via Arts & Letters Daily]

Posted by David Mader at 11:28 AM | (0) | Back to Main

The High Priestess of the Bush Doctrine

The Daily Telegraph on Condi Rice:

Miss Rice is a realist rather than an ideologist. Yet she is not an exponent of realpolitik in the mould of Henry Kissinger, the last national security adviser to make the transition to the State Department. Unlike Kissinger and most traditional diplomatists, she believes passionately that sowing democracy and uprooting tyranny is not only right for humanity, but also the key to US security. She is now the high priestess of the Bush doctrine.
Sounds about right to me.

Posted by David Mader at 12:55 AM | (0) | Back to Main

Tort Reform

Via Instapundit comes a very interesting post on tort reform, a subject of considerable interest to conservatives - at least judging by the prominence accorded it by conservative politicians.

I've been wary of being 'corrupted' by the liberal legal-academic community here at law school, but I must say I'm coming around to the point of view laid out in the post. Statutory limits on the civil justice system such as those proposed in the name of 'tort reform' really may do far more harm than good. Rather than impose such limits, a truly 'conservative' approach would involve a) legislators creating fewer actionable torts by statute, and b) judges refusing to extend existing common-law courts beyond their current states. A little repeal in each arena might also be in order.

Great name for a blog, by the way.

Posted by David Mader at 12:48 AM | (0) | Back to Main

January 18, 2005

Dear Old Golden Rule Days

Back to school with me today. If you're in the mood, I recommend ABCNews Fun Facts about Presidential Inaugurations. I only noticed one error:

Which president said the line "I always said it would be a cold day when I got to be president of the United States," when his inauguration ceremony was forced inside by a blizzard?

William Taft's inauguration ceremony was forced inside in 1901 when a blizzard struck the nation's capital. The storm was so huge that telephone and telegraph lines were disabled, as were trains. Thousands of citizens missed the event altogether.

The difficulty, you see, is that William Howard Taft was inaugurated in 1909.

Posted by David Mader at 10:38 PM | (1) | Back to Main

January 17, 2005

That Ubiquitous Canadian Anti-Americanism

Alan Rockwell at the Shotgun and Instapundit both highlight the introduction to this week's Red Ensign Standard, a weekly digest of posts from the Canadian blogosphere. The author of the intro, Jay Jardine, cites an op/ed by Martin Masse:

[T]he real interventionists and socialists at heart are the Americans, and that the real Canadian tradition is one of rugged individualism being slowly frittered away under the overwhelming influence of American collectivism.
Masse's column deals extensively with the thesis of a book by McGill economics prof William Watson. I dearly hope that Masse's is a mischaraterization of Watson's position, because it seems to me that the above-excerpted position - which, incidentally, I think is simply incorrect - amounts to a form of anti-Americanism as unnecessary as that which informs the 'Trudeaupianism' of the Canadian establishment. I wish Canadian conservatives and classical-liberals all the best, but for goodness' sake, can't they come up with an ideology that doesn't involve elevating themselves at the cost of denigrating our American neighbors?

Posted by David Mader at 12:57 PM | (7) | Back to Main

Remarks by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., April 3, 1968

You know, several years ago, I was in New York City autographing the first book that I had written. And while sitting there autographing books, a black woman came up. The only question I heard from her was, "Are you Martin Luther King?" And I was looking down writing, and I said yes. And the next minute I felt something beating on my chest. Before I knew it I had been stabbed by this demented woman. I was rushed to Harlem Hospital. It was a dark Saturday afternoon. And that blade had gone through, and the X-rays revealed that the tip of the blade was on the edge of my aorta, the main artery. And once that's punctured, you drown in your own blood -- that's the end of you.

It came out in the New York Times the next morning, that if I had merely sneezed, I would have died. Well, about four days later, they allowed me, after the operation, after my chest had been opened, and the blade had been taken out, to move around in the wheel chair in the hospital. They allowed me to read some of the mail that came in, and from all over the states, and the world, kind letters came in. I read a few, but one of them I will never forget. I had received one from the President and the Vice-President. I've forgotten what those telegrams said. I'd received a visit and a letter from the Governor of New York, but I've forgotten what that letter said. But there was another letter that came from a little girl, a young girl who was a student at the White Plains High School. And I looked at that letter, and I'll never forget it. It said simply, "Dear Dr. King: I am a ninth-grade student at the White Plains High School." And she said, "While it should not matter, I would like to mention that I'm a white girl. I read in the paper of your misfortune, and of your suffering. And I read that if you had sneezed, you would have died. And I'm simply writing you to say that I'm so happy that you didn't sneeze."[...]

I left Atlanta this morning, and as we got started on the plane, there were six of us, the pilot said over the public address system, "We are sorry for the delay, but we have Dr. Martin Luther King on the plane. And to be sure that all of the bags were checked, and to be sure that nothing would be wrong with on the plane, we had to check out everything carefully. And we've had the plane protected and guarded all night."

And then I got into Memphis. And some began to say the threats, or talk about the threats that were out. What would happen to me from some of our sick white brothers?

Well, I don't know what will happen now. We've got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn't matter with me now. Because I've been to the mountaintop. And I don't mind.

Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land!

And so I'm happy, tonight. I'm not worried about anything. I'm not fearing any man! Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord!

Posted by David Mader at 12:36 PM | (2) | Back to Main


Via Instapundit, Andrew Sullivan brings us news that the President is backing off his earlier support for a Federal Marriage Amendment:

The Post: Do you plan to expend any political capital to aggressively lobby senators for a gay marriage amendment?

THE PRESIDENT: You know, I think that the situation in the last session -- well, first of all, I do believe it's necessary; many in the Senate didn't, because they believe DOMA [the Defense of Marriage Act] will -- is in place, but -- they know DOMA is in place, and they're waiting to see whether or not DOMA will withstand a constitutional challenge.

The Post: Do you plan on trying to -- using the White House, using the bully pulpit, and trying to --

THE PRESIDENT: The point is, is that senators have made it clear that so long as DOMA is deemed constitutional, nothing will happen. I'd take their admonition seriously.

That's good to hear. here's what I said about the FMA the day the President first announced his support for it, back in February of last year:
The easiest comment is that this is a political reaction to the weakening support for Bush among the social-conservative base. Slipping numbers have spooked the White House, and as the campaign kicks off a little early, the re-election team will be hoping to get the base firmly back in line as soon as possible. The cynical calculus will have opposition to gay marriage more of an asset among potential Republican voters than a liability, since supporters will be assumed, on the whole, not to vote Republican in any case.

Still, I can think of at least one Republican who likely won't be voting for Bush this fall, and he's likely not alone. While I understand the political considerations, I'm disappointed myself; I'd hope the President could make political hay with better issues than this.

As for the Amendment itself, it won't pass in a million years - which is part, I'm sure, of why the President is endorsing it.

But after the election, I got spooked:
Karl Rove says the President will push Congress to pass a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage...

For goodness' sake, why? When Bush proposed the FMA in the spring, I shrugged it off as politiking - crass, perhaps, but not particularly dangerous. I felt vindicated in the position when the FMA failed to even reach the Senate floor, thanks in no small part to the opposition of Republican lawmakers.

But now it seems that I was wrong. It may well be that the president, who's known to be a man of his word, feels obliged to support an amendment as an award to his social-conservative supporters. Whatever political advantages this position has - and I think it has quite considerable liabilities (cf. this post) - support for an amendment has few policy advantages, as far as I can see. Last week, eleven states passed anti-gay marriage amendments. In those areas where voters are most afraid of the imposition of gay marriage by 'activist judges,' then, the states have responded to preserve the cultural norm. What is achieved by expanding the ban beyond those states that have actively sought it?

Well, I'm glad to see that I was wrong. As a matter of fact, while I remain uncertain of my position on a restriction or recognition of gay marriage as an intellectual issue, I've come to believe that the current line of Substantive Due Process cases would have to hold, were they to be invoked, that gay marriage is already a protected Fourteenth Amendment Due Process right. Which is to say that the more proponents of gay marriage press for its recognition in the courts, the more support social conservatives will gain for amending the constitution. Sullivan counsels a far better approach - don't challenge judicially; challenge legislatively, and be patient. I think that's a policy I can support.

Posted by David Mader at 02:10 AM | (0) | Back to Main

January 16, 2005


I had intended to do a post about this NYTimes editorial noting, with some smug satisfaction, the end of the hunt for WMD in Iraq. (None were found.) But then a couple of buddies flew in from Montreal, and blog business was put on hold.

Now I find that Glenn Reynolds has addressed the spirit of the editorial, and quite well. He writes:

The biggest criticism of the Bush Administration here is that (1) it made the mistake of listening to George "slam dunk" Tenet and the CIA on this issue; and -- bigger mistake -- (2) it made the mistake of trying to go through the United Nations, which required it to make more of the WMD business than was otherwise necessary. The former mistake is more forgivable, since it wasn't just the CIA, but pretty much everyone, who thought Saddam had the stockpiles. The second mistake is less so, since it was pretty obvious that the U.N. route was a mistake. The result: Saddam was in violation, but after all the U.N. speechifying the absence of big weapons stockpiles is a major PR failure.
Yea. I've long said that going through the UN was a mistake, since it resulted in the elevation of WMD (for which there were readily exploitable outstanding resolutions) above all other issues. But as Reynolds points out, the invasion of Iraq was not really about Iraq at all; it was about remaking the middle east, as the neo-con-haters like to point out when making the point is convenient.

I think I've come to the position that going to the UN was not the wrong decision at the time, given what we knew (or thought we knew) about WMD then. But the bottom line, for me, is that we are in no better position now than we would have been had we gone into Iraq truly unilaterally, and without any attempt to get the UN on board. The only question, to my mind, is whether where we are now is any worse, and if so, by how much.

Posted by David Mader at 03:17 PM | (2) | Back to Main

January 13, 2005

One More Thing Before Bed

A blog dedicated to airing NHL rumors.

(Thanks to Brian for the pointer.)

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

That Must be a Hoax

I mean, honestly. It's a good thing I don't have any sleeping baby daughters lying around.

Incidentally, the comments at Muller's blog suggest that sweet wines are more popular among individuals of African ancesty (which is to say, in as unoffensive a manner as possible, blacks). Which is to say that apparently it isn't a hoax.

Posted by David Mader at 01:47 AM | (1) | Back to Main

Sullivan, Bush and God

Andrew Sullivan responds to suggestions that his earlier criticism of the President's remarks on the presidency and faith might have been over-wrought. It seems I wasn't the only one.

Sullivan makes his case more clearly, but I remain unconvinced. He begins by citing Bush at greater length:

"The greatest freedom we have or one of the greatest freedoms is the right to worship the way you see fit. On the other hand, I don't see how you can be president at least from my perspective, how you can be president, without a relationship with the Lord." (My italics) Now notice that Bush is explicitly qualifying his defense of religious freedom (or the freedom to have no religion at all) by saying that the presidency, in his view, should nevertheless be reserved for people with a relationship of a personal nature with "the Lord."
But nowhere in the excerpt does Bush say that those who do not share his faith outlook should be barred from the presidency. That's just not there. Even if we accept that his comment that "I don't see how you can be president..." is a qualification of his defense of freedom of religion, it does not establish a general principle upon which Bush is saying government should be run.

What it does is establish the President's point of view: according to Bush, a man of faith - a man who has 'a relationship with the Lord' - is better equipped for the office of the presidency than one who does not. Sullivan eventually recognizes this:
No, he cannot legally prevent atheists from running for president... But if an atheist were to run, Bush's position would logically be that, in his view, the man or woman would be unable to be an effective president, because they would not have the spiritual resources to withstand the pressure of the job. I do think that's over the line.
Well, okay. Sullivan is entitled to his opinion; but at the same time, isn't Bush? Apparently not:
The deeper point is: the president represents all the people, including atheists. As president, he should not be opining that people who have no faith in "the Lord" are somehow handicapped for the highest public office... Bush is not a bigot. He just sees the world through the prism of his own life. As a man, that is his right. As president, he shouldn't be sending signals that some people, because of their irreligion, are incapable of representing all the people.
If we reduce the presidency to the single function of 'representing all the people,' though, we run into a problem. Should a president stump for political candidates? Every time Bush campaigned, he indicated his belief that a Republican was better suited for office than a non-Republican; that, in other words, non-Republicans 'are somehow handicapped for... public office.' Is faith somehow intrinsically different? Or does this restriction only apply to 'highest public office?'

And on a more basic level - well, why shouldn't the President express his view? Is it better that he hold this view and not express it? (I take it Sullivan isn't suggesting that someone who espouses such a view is unfit for highest office; what a spiral that would lead us down). And again, is faith the only characteristic of a potential president upon which a sitting president should remain silent? Could Bush say "One of the greatest rights we have is the freedom of political participation; on the other hand, I don't see how you can be president without a term as state governor under your belt?"

But perhaps I'm straying too far from the point. And the point, according to Sullivan, seems to be this: it's inappropriate for an American president to express an opinion as to the importance of faith in the execution of his office since some of his constituents, who by rights have access to that office, do not share that faith. At best, this is not an open-and-shut proposition. At worst, it's unsustainable in a free society. I'm content to hold by the best. That still leads me to disagree with Sullivan.

(Oh, and one more thing, because I can't help myself. Sullivan writes: "And "the Lord" in this instance is quite obviously Jesus, not the Jewish God. So Jews and Muslims are excludable as well." But if, as Sullivan writes, the Lord is important to Bush as a "spiritual resource[] to withstand the pressure of the job," why must his reference 'quite obviously' be to Jesus; or rather, why wouldn't he accept that a Jew or a Muslim, similarly devout, could find equal spiritual comfort in their relationships with 'the Lord' as they believe in Him? Sullivan can be right only if Bush believes that the faithful of non-Christian faiths can never be as devout in their belief as a Christian. I have never seen or heard anything which would support this proposition. Has Sullivan?)

Posted by David Mader at 01:10 AM | (0) | Back to Main

No More Dave Barry

He's hanging up the skates, as they say up north - but he leaves with a strong suggestion that he'll be back, in one form or another.

Oh, and he still blogs.

Posted by David Mader at 01:08 AM | (0) | Back to Main

More on Sentencing

Those with an interest in legal affairs - those for whom my earlier post was a point of interest - will want to check out Prof. Douglas Berman's Sentencing Law and Policy blog for lots more on the Booker and Fanfan decisions. (Hat tip: Instapundit.)

I had a few general things to say about the courts 100+ page decision, but I realized that I don't know the first thing about the subject, and for some reason, in this instance, I've allowed that fact to restrain me. So that's it for now.

EXCEPT FOR THIS: If it takes nine justices more than a hundred and twenty pages to issue a decision that, far from settling an issue, raises questions as to the outcome of the case, mightn't that be a decision that the justices should reconsider? Or, as Instapundit writes: "jeez, can't the Supreme Court answer this kind of thing with a single, clear opinion?"

OH: And if you're interested, you should read this too.

Posted by David Mader at 12:07 AM | (0) | Back to Main

January 12, 2005

PoMo Apology Watch

The latest example of the modern, useless apology comes from Prince Harry, who was photographed at a fancy-dress party sporting a swastika armband:

Prince Harry has apologised for any offence or embarrassment he has caused. He realises it was a poor choice of costume.
You've all heard me say it before, but here it is again: don't apologize for the offense, apologize for the act. Apologizing for the offense makes the offendee, rather than the offendor, the wrongdoer. Although in fairness the above is a better construct than the standard 'I apologize if anyone took offense...' P.S.: Prince William, second in line to the throne, attended the party dressed as... a lion. Is that chutzpah or what? Good on him.

Posted by David Mader at 07:57 PM | (1) | Back to Main

Call It 'Public Interest Choice' Theory

The American Scene's Reihan Salam criticizes NARAL Pro-Choice America's president Nancy Keehan for giving an outlandish prediction of abortion laws in a post-Roe America. He's absolutely right, and/but it may be obvious/worthwhile to mention that Keehan has a vested interest in scare-mongering. If most Americans believed they would be quite content in a post-Roe world, as most probably would, then what use would they have for an organization committed to upholding it? For Keehan, it's scare-monger or be out of a job.

Posted by David Mader at 07:37 PM | (0) | Back to Main


What was Andrew Sullivan thinking with this blog-post:

What was Bush thinking with this statement: "President Bush said yesterday that he doesn't 'see how you can be president without a relationship with the Lord,' but that he is always mindful to protect the right of others to worship or not worship." So, out of his beneficence, he won't trample on others' religious freedom. But the White House? That's for Christians only. No Jews? Or atheists?
Um, first off, Mr. Sullivan - perhaps you'd like to sit down - Jews believe in God. Nor is 'the Lord' an explicitly Christian notion of the Deity - in fact, it is the translation of the Hebrew word 'adonai' ('my lord') which Jews use in the place of the phoenetic pronunciation of God's two-letter name.

Second, and more broadly, just where in the President's statement did he indicate that non-Christians should be kept out of the White House? Here again is the statement, in whole, which Sullivan cites: "[I don't] see how you can be president without a relationship with the Lord." The simple meaning of this statement is that Bush believes that faith is a necessary component of a good president. It does not mean that Bush believes that faith is a pre-requisite for office, or that it should be. It was simply a statement of opinion - he, personally, does not 'see how you can be president' without faith.

And as for Sullivan's statement that "this is a new level of religio-political fusion in this administration," it may be instructive to measure this administration's height of 'religio-political fusion' with, say, Lincoln's Second Inaugural. Yes, I mean that Lincoln.

Am I wrong on this one, or is Sullivan letting his animosity towards Bush get the better of him?

ADDENDUM (19:01 EST): One reason - perhaps the main reason - I don't understand Bush's comments to be exclusionary is that I can imagine myself saying something similar. For instance: a Saturday Sabbath observer might fail see how one can get through the week without taking a day of 'rest' to devote one's attention to the spiritual rather than the mundane. (No, I'm not talking about myself - sabbath observation simply seems like a very good example.) That needn't mean that he thinks all people should be like him; what it means is that, as one who operates according to a set of beliefs which he believes to be best suited to his lifestyle, he finds it exceedingly unusual that others could maintain a similar lifestyle without adopting similar beliefs. Of course it's possible to go through the week without 'taking a day off' - and most Americans, and more Canadians, do. Similarly, it's quite possible to be a president without having a relationship with the Lord. It simply strikes Bush as, in the abstract, an exceedingly difficult thing to do: with whom do you commune when confronted with the most difficult of questions? Where do you find solace when the job becomes overwhelming? There are answers, and good ones, but they are not self-evident to Bush, for whom the answer to both is God.

Posted by David Mader at 04:53 PM | (3) | Back to Main

Supreme Court Strikes Down Sentencing Guidelines

Or rather, the Court has turned binding sentencing rules into guidelines. Anyway, here's the story from the New York Times; the cases were U.S. v. Booker and U.S. v. Fanfan.

It's not quite clear yet what the decision will mean practically, as Sam Heldman writes, as appellate courts may still see the guidelines as the norm, and may continue to prevent trial judges from deviating from that norm. At least nominally, however, the decision seems - and I don't know, because I've only read the tiniest bit of coverage - to do away with mandatory minimums at the federal trial level.

That would be splendid; I've noted my opposition to mandatory minimums here and here. Giving trial judges the ability to exercise discretion is a necessary component of a true and fair justice system. I hope that's what we'll have after today.

Posted by David Mader at 01:23 PM | (0) | Back to Main

Totally Absurd and Hilarious Sentence of the Day

"The show will also include the infamous scene in which Fonzie jumps over a school of sharks on water-skis."

The best part is that you probably know excatly what it means.

Posted by David Mader at 12:58 PM | (0) | Back to Main

January 11, 2005

Klein's 'Third Way'

From CTV News:

Alberta Premier Ralph Klein says the solution to the health care crisis lies in what he calls "the third way" -- a system somewhere between a totally public system and a private one.

The "third way," Klein explained, means privately delivered but publicly funded health care.

Huttah! And it's about time. Here's what I wrote at the Western Standard's Shotgun blog on May 6, 2004:
I think that the Conservatives - or provincial parties - could be very successful by a) de-linking provision and funding in the public mind, and b) demonstrating how private provision would lead to better and cheaper services.
I mentioned the idea here on this very blog last June in noting that this set-up - private provision coupled with public financing - enjoyed a two-thirds majority in support among the Canadian public. This one is a no-brainer, and I'm both happy and relieved to see someone, anyone, propose it as a real policy option. Say what you will about Ralph, he's now taken the most realistic step towards health-care sanity in recent Canadian political memory.

Posted by David Mader at 11:59 PM | (2) | Back to Main

Let Kids be Kids Again

Drudge is fronting this story from the Times of London:

CHILDREN under the age of eight should not use mobile phones, parents were advised last night after an authoritative report linked heavy use to ear and brain tumours and concluded that the risks had been underestimated by most scientists.
Whether or not cell-phones are dangerous is a question best left to empirical science, although common sense would suggest that pressing a battery-powered radio-transmitter to your ear for regular and extended periods might not be the best idea in the world. Even if they are dangerous, which is to say cancer- or tumor-causing, that doesn't necessarily mean they should be banned or restricted, as consumers can most likely put a value to the risk (even if we as individuals might disagree with the valuation).

But there's a more simple point to be made here: what the deuce are eight-year-old children doing with cell-phones? A wonderful piece of English understatement from the Times piece: "For children aged between 8 and 14, parents had to make their own judgments about the risks and benefits. 'I can’t believe that for three to eight year-olds they can be readily justified,' he said." No kidding. I hate to sound like a grumpy old man, but honestly: there is no good reason for a child to have a cell-phone. Certainly there can be no social reason: children needn't be calling their friends at all hours or from all locations. Children are not social animals the way, say, adolescents or adults are, and I don't think that treating them as such is a positive development.

Neither is there a good safety reason to equip a child with a phone: I don't see why any child of eight should ever be put in a situation where he or she might have to make emergency use of a cell-phone. There might be the odd exception, of course. But the best example I can think of would be a child who walks to and from school, a distance of several blocks normally, alone and in an urban environment. I walked to school with my brother when I was nine or ten, I think, through the rough-and-tumble neighborhood of St. John's Wood, and on occasion I would make the walk alone. Many children have done and continue to do the same in neighborhoods more and (if possible) less dangerous around the world. The decision to equip such a child with a cell-phone seems to me to serve as an indicator of an unacceptable level of risk to the parent; in other words, if you feel that there is sufficient risk in the endeavor that your child should be equipped with a safety-device in the form of a phone, mightn't that risk be sufficiently high that the endeavor itself is not worthwhile, even given the benefit of the safety device? That's how I'd approach it, anyway.

But maybe I'm just a curmudgeon.

Incidentally, Wikipedia informs me that 'St. John's Wood' is the only tube-stop whose name has no letters in common with the word 'mackerel.' Now you know.

Posted by David Mader at 11:12 PM | (3) | Back to Main

Hockey: Sport of Populists?

Ross a the American Scene suggests a political taxonomy for professional sports:

Baseball, for instance, with its obsession with history, its quirky ballparks and strange rules, and its langorous, ideal-for-radio pace, is clearly a Burkean game -- the sport of classical conservatism. Meanwhile, football's emphasis on physical strength and brutal competition are obviously the stuff of classical liberalism, of the Manchester School and then of Spencer and the Social Darwinists... And soccer, with its universalist aspirations, air of one-worlder sanctimony, and emphasis on athletic prowess over, well, actually scoring, is clearly the perfect game for the post-1960s left.

I'm not sure where this leaves basketball -- but since it relies on teamwork yet rewards individual accomplishment, and because it thrives in an urban environment, we'll call it the sport of New Deal liberalism and leave it at that.

Explains why I detest basketball. But what about hockey? Like basketball, it 'relies on teamwork yet rewards individual accomplishment' - and yet the sports, I think, have differences. An individual player - the goalie - can have a determinative effect on the outcome of a hockey game far greater than the determinative effect of a star basketball player, I think; and yet on the best hockey teams, the goalie will hardly be tested at all. See this year's Canadian Juniors. (Pop-quiz: what was the goalie's name?) And while a star forward in either sport can change the game and carry a team (Shaq; Mario), a star hockey forward is only ever on the ice for, at best, a third of the game. (I don't know that Mario or Wayne played much more than, say, 23 minutes a game, but I doubt that on average they played less than say seventeen).

So is hockey about individual effort? Not nearly the same way as baseball. Is it about teamwork? Not nearly the same way as football. Maybe it's a grab-bag of political impulses, a sport that relies on whatever combination of individuality and collectivity is required, on any given night, to win. A populist sport, in other words. Or perhaps it's organic, valuing different political impulses on different nights according to what is needed to win - a market sport. As you can imagine, I like the sound of that.


UPDATE (23:04 EST): Ask and ye shall receive - Ross Douthat addresses the pressing hockey/politics issue. Turns out Canada's a nation of either anarchists or Randians. A) Who knew? and B) Perhaps there's hope for the country yet!

PS - Thanks for all the great comments. And if you're a Maderblog reader but don't dip into the comments, you're missing the large part of the fun.

Posted by David Mader at 10:53 AM | (12) | Back to Main

A Third Way for Judicial Conservatism

Instapundit points to a very interesting column by Harvard Law Prof. Bill Stuntz, who argues against the prevailing 'conservative' judicial doctrines - federalism, originalism and formalism - on the grounds that they are not, in fact, conservative:

The unifying theme behind this trinity is that all are things Earl Warren wasn't. Warren believed in broad Congressional power to regulate the economy and protect civil rights. Modern-day federalists believe in states' rights. Warren believed in a living Constitution that changes with the times. Originalists think the Constitution means exactly what James Madison thought it meant when he wrote it. Warren cared about the consequences of his decisions. Formalist judges follow legal forms and procedures and believe that worrying about consequences is a job for politicians.

All these theories are supposed to limit judges' power, so they can't "make law from the bench," as the President likes to say. But the holy trinity of conservative legal thought does not cabin judges' power so much as hide it. Judging, Scalia-style, is a little like a card trick: the audience's attention is drawn to one hand while the other does all the work.

While I think Stuntz might overstate his case slightly, particularly with regard to federalism, on the whole I agree strongly. The point he raises strongly influenced me - to the point of changing, significantly, my political philosophy - this past fall, my first term of law school. Reading Supreme Court decisions over the course of my Constitutional Law course, what I noticed - over and over again, it seemed - was that the Court, presented with the opportunity to reverse itself on a matter of judicial over-reach, chose to reverse substantively but not procedurally. In other words, rather than rejecting the proposition that it had earlier come to the wrong decision regarding its power, the court would decide that it had come to the wrong decision regarding the outcome of the case.

Take, as illustration, the doctrine of Substantive Due Process. In (far too) brief, the doctrine holds that the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth (and Fifth) Amendment places certain 'fundamental liberty interests' beyond the government's power to regulate. The doctrine is premised in the belief that there are certain rights which are not explicit in the Constitution but are protected by it; that, in other words, the Constitution extends beyond its words to act as a guard against incroachment upon the fundamental natural rights of man.

The problem, of course, is that since those 'rights' are unenumerated, it falls upon the judges of the Court to 'recognize' them. In 1905, the Supreme Court found a fundamental right to contract, and thereby struck down a New York law regulating the maximum number of hours employees could work in bakeries. That sounds very nice to conservatives, who believe (or should) in a fundamental right to contract. But the power to give is the power to take away, and that's what the Supreme Court did, in a number of decisions culminating in 1955. At that point, the court nominally rejected the doctrine of Substantive Due Process, saying that it was up to the legislature, not the courts, to make subjective decisions as to what was and wasn't beyond legislative control. Very quickly, however, the court came to reassert the doctrine, particularly in the field of civil rights. It became clear that, rather that overturning the 1905 decision on doctrinal grounds, the Court had rejected it on subjective grounds: it was not that the court did not have the power to define the set of unenumerated rights; it was simply that 'economic rights' were not among that set.

The rise of civil right Substantive Due Process jurisprudence does not dovetail neatly into Stuntz' analysis, since it was facilitated by 'liberal' rather than 'conservative' justices; nonetheless, I'd argue that, at least in this field, there is no appreciable doctrinal difference between modern judicial conservatives and liberals. The modern conservative approach is not to throw out the power to define rights entirely, but merely to reverse, on subjective (or, if you prefer, substantive) grounds, individual decisions. And so: it's not that the Court cannot find a fundamental right to abortion, it's that they can but don't. But that's just as subjective as the first decision, and just as undemocratic.

Democracy, ultimately, is the answer. Stuntz again: "When there is a choice between deciding an issue in the courts and deciding it elsewhere, elsewhere is usually the right choice." Partisans of both sides will have difficulty accepting this, however, as it requires a recognition that a political power exists to come to a conclusion with which one does not agree. It has become the norm in politics - perhaps it ever was - to assume that those with whom one disagrees are, because of their contrary opinions, unfit for office. That's simply not true, especially in a political order defined by a written constitution. It also requires a recognition that when injustices are done, recourse should not be made to the courts - for allowing the courts to say a thing is wrong implies a power to say that it is right.

A final thought. Stuntz equivocates a tad: "Of course, some questions aren't hard. Sometimes, minority rights have to be protected by the courts, because they won't find protection anywhere else." To me, this question is the hardest of all. How do we identify such instances, and with what doctrine do we justify them? Doesn't the judicial power to 'recognize' civil rights imply the power not to recognize them? (Note that I'm a proponent of an expansive interpretation of the Equal Protection clause, which, believe it or not, has not been the central facet of civil rights jurisprudence since 1954). To say that there are some self-evident instances when judicial discretion is necessary seems, to me, to be an exercise of the same subjective judgment which we are told is unwelcome at the Court. It is. If there's a reason why we should allow subjective judgment in certain instances, it should be more persuasive than the simple statement that the necessity is self-evident.

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

January 10, 2005

401 Blog

Let's have a big blogosphere welcome for Charles Benoit, an old friend and regular Maderblog commenter, who's started his own blog at 401blog.blogspot.com. Charles is a fellow graduate of Lisgar Collegiate in Ottawa, and is finishing up at the University of Western Ontario. I hope he won't mind me telling you that he's an officer in the Canadian army reserve. He's also one of the truest Canadians I know, a guy who is at once critical and laudatory, a guy who has a keen eye for what's wrong about Canada because he loves everything that's right. His blog is now over in the 'Canadiana' section of my blogroll; swing on by and check it out.

Posted by David Mader at 09:07 PM | (1) | Back to Main

Is the War Lost?

Two interesting pieces on the Iraqi campaign this morning, one from Andrew Sullivan and one from Oxblog's David Adesnik. The common theme is the suggestion that failures in planning have led to a situation in which it will be impossible for coalition forces to 'defeat' Iraqi insurgents. The Americans, it seems, have not only lost the peace, but have in a certain sense failed to win the war.

Certainly it seems true that the Administration failed to properly establish even guidelines, not to say a set plan, for post-Saddam Iraqi occupation. (Whether this is in fact true, or is simply the CW, is an interesting question, but, I think, ultimately academic). I wonder, though, how much the perceived degree of failure is correlated to the individual's pre-war assumptions. If one believed that, with proper planning and follow-through, the coalition could have isolated and defeated any Saddamite and terrorist remnants within two years, allowing a transfer of power to a representative Iraqi government and a withdrawal of troops by the end of that time period, then certainly the current state of affairs represents a tremendous failure. But as you step down, piece by piece, from that original belief, the failure diminishes in step. At the other extreme, one who believed that the coalition would never be able to isolate Saddamite elements or foster and establish a representative government in Iraq would see no failure - or rather, he would see a failure not of post-war administration but of imagination in the original impetus for war.

I think I fall somewhere between the extremes. The first situation - a defeated insurgency and a complete transfer to a representative government within two years - might have been possible, but it was probably as unlikely, if not more unlikely, than the possibility of achieving substantial military victory by 'decapatating' Iraqi forces with a precision strike on Saddam Hussein in March 2003. If failures of planning prevented the utter destruction of insurgent forces in late 2003/early 2004, that would seem, from my point of view, to be regrettable (very regrettable, in fact) but not fatal to the overall mission.

I've long believed (and, I think, written) that American forces would be in Iraq for many years. It would have been better if the insurgency had been crushed and our troops brought home from a free and stable Iraq, and the failure to achieve that circumstance deserves investigation and consequence. But that circumstance having been missed, we are left in the same place many anticipated we'd be in - supporting by force the newly-created free Iraqi government.

Sullivan speaks of the 'inevitable civil war.' Surely he would be among the first to say that such a war was entirely foreseeable. But I see no reason why, failing to avert it, we should be passive in its conduct. Rather, we should stand beside the forces of the new, free Iraq and against those who would destroy the hope of freedom and representative government.

Which, as best I can tell, is exactly what we're doing.

Posted by David Mader at 04:11 PM | (2) | Back to Main


Back in Texas, back online. I have this thing about flying to and from Austin - I like departing early in the morning (between six and seven), because it allows me to arrive shortly after mid-day, and I get a kick out of flying halfway across the continent without wasting a day. Unfortunately, yesterday's 7:15 departure (meaning a 5:00 wake-up), on top of maybe three hours of sleep, meant that even though I did get in by two local, the day was more or less wasted.

Wow, was that ever not interesting. Guess I'm rusty. Anyway, point is, I'm back.

Posted by David Mader at 04:08 PM | (0) | Back to Main

January 03, 2005

Reading Too Much Into Things

I went by the public library today to drop a book off; it was closed. I shrugged at a woman who had arrived at the same time.

"It must be because of New Year's," she said.

"I suppose so," I agreed. "I think it's a government holiday today."

"It is," she said, shaking her head. "Who else would get so much holiday?"

There's hope for this country yet.

Posted by David Mader at 10:41 PM | (0) | Back to Main

Texas Fight!

Adam calls me out (in the comments to this post) for my silence on the College Football front. Well, I didn't want to brag, but...


I've been wearing my Longhorn toque ever since. (Well, I've been wearing it since I stepped off the airplane, but I've been wearing it with particular pride since Saturday.) (A toque [pronounced 'toook'] is a knitted hat, amigos.)

As for that school in College Station, I don't want to fan the flames of an age old rivalry - after all, I'm a uniter, not a divider - so it would be entirely inappropriate for me to point out that while most losers simply slink off at the end of the season, a real first-class loser sticks around just long enough to be blown out at the also-ran bowl. 'Gig' that, fellas.

Hook 'em.

Posted by David Mader at 10:19 PM | (1) | Back to Main

Some U2 Stuff to Tide You Over

Via Stuart Buck, an interesting interview with the band, including a healthy respect for commercialism:

Q: Speaking of which: U2 in the Apple iPod ad?

[Larry]:It was a very clear idea. They make products that we like, also they have single-handedly saved the music industry, they have developed the technology to download the music and for it to be paid for. Record companies couldn't do that -- they were faffing around suing people. We are big fans of Apple, we're happy to stand up and say that, "yes, these guys design the best stuff." When it came to the single, "Vertigo," they were going "can we use that song" and we were thinking, we want to get that riff out there. They wanted to make an ad and we told them we would be in it...

Ninety per cent of people will pay for downloads. Apple and Steve Jobs are saving music for the future. It won't be Universal, EMI or Sony running record companies in 10 years' time -- it will be Apple and telephone companies.

Maybe it's because I love iTunes too, and think that it has, indeed, saved the music biz, but I get the feeling the oft-overlooked Larry is no slouch in the brains department.

And one school of fans, at least, will appreciate this:

Q: You can only tour one U2 album. Which one?

Bono: Our most complete album in terms of beginning, middle and end is Achtung Baby.

Indeed it is. But don't tell that to the Boy/October/War crowd.

Posted by David Mader at 12:24 PM | (3) | Back to Main