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August 17, 2005

Worth It

I don't know what made him confide in me. Maybe it was the Texas Longhorns ballcap. Maybe it was the tip. Maybe it was just the logical next step in a friendly conversation. Smalltalk about Air Canada had led to a discussion of the taxi industry in Ottawa. He'd been driving for thirteen years. Some good years, some bad; this year hadn't been great.

But he hadn't always been a cabbie. He had taught; still taught, weekends, for the Catholic board. Taught Arabic. Missed opportunities, New York, the Detroit - he'd wanted to go to Detroit, but a broken leg kept him from traveling, and the window of opportunity closed.

I don't know what made him confide in me. I was paid up; cab was in my driveway. "Did you hear about that Canadian killed in Iraq this week?" I hadn't. "He was my brother in law."

He'd been tortured by Saddam himself, my cabbie. He'd refused to join the party, and was arrested and questioned. Why hadn't he joined? He was an independent. Besides, he knew that they were really after other family members - his brother had been in jail for years, and they were after another brother still. He had his legs lashed down, and his feet were caned. The first few strokes hurt, he said, hurt bad, but after that he couldn't feel it. But then they made him get up and walk. When the blood flows back, he said, that's when it really hurts. They took him to a room, the size of the cab, he said; no bed, no chair, no light, no water. They left him there.

He got out; he managed to get across the border before anybody could stop him. "They didn't have computers, then." The border guards didn't know he was unfavorable. He got to Morocco; they kicked him out. He hopped around. Finally he arrived in Canada. For the past thirteen years he's been driving cabs. And teaching Arabic. "And now, thanks God, everyone knows what Saddam did."

I couldn't help but ask. "So was it worth it? The war?"

"Oh, it was worth it. But they made a mistake, the Americans. They didn't let the Iraqi people control things. Now," he said, "they are."

So will things get better?

"Things will get better."

"Will you go back?"

"Yes," he said, eyes flashing. "I'll go back. The interior minister? He is a friend of mine."

- - - - - - - - - -

Post-script: I don't believe in politics-by-anecdote. I believe in and continue to support the Iraqi campaign, as I always have, because I believe that the spread of democracy offers the last and best hope of defeating Islamist terrorism and realizing some sort of lasting peace for the world.

But in a summer saturated by Cindy Sheehan and the defeatism of the mainstream media, it's important to remember that in a certain sense the liberation of Iraq is not, at the end of the day, about American soldiers, or global geopolitics, or ideological agendas.

It's about Iraqis. Everywhere.

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

He Lives!

But really, Mr. Coyne, tell us how you feel.

Posted by David Mader at 10:47 PM | (0) | Back to Main

August 16, 2005

Dropping the Ball, and Hard

This is pretty outrageous:

ITV News has obtained secret documents and photographs that detail why police shot Jean Charles De Menezes dead on the tube....

The documents and photographs confirm that Jean Charles was not carrying any bags, and was wearing a denim jacket, not a bulky winter coat, as had previously been claimed.

He was behaving normally, and did not vault the barriers, even stopping to pick up a free newspaper.

He started running when we saw a tube at the platform. Police had agreed they would shoot a suspect if he ran.

A shoot-to-kill policy is one thing; this is something else. The report makes it sound as though absolutely no effort was made to confront Menezes; rather, the suspect having crossed a pre-ordained red-line - albeit with obvious and reasonable justification - the police simply shot him dead.

Careers must end over this, and criminal charges do not seem inappropriate. Undisciplined gangsterism on the part of the security forces will not win the war on terror.

Posted by David Mader at 06:36 PM | (0) | Back to Main

August 15, 2005

Is It August?

AP: Father, Son Win French Pig Squeal-Off

Posted by David Mader at 11:46 AM | (1) | Back to Main

August 08, 2005


About a month ago, one of my buddy Matt's readers dismissed my blog as 'unintelligent,' and offered as evidence the fact that I was "now predicting UK civil war."


Intelligence chiefs are warning Tony Blair that Britain faces a full-blown Islamist insurgency, sustained by thousands of young Muslim men with military training now resident in this country....

As police and the security services work to prevent another cell murdering civilians, attention is focusing on the pool of migrants to this country from the Horn of Africa and central Asia. MI5 is working to an estimate that more than 10,000 young men from these regions have had at least basic training in light weapons and military explosives....

"There has been a debate on whether we are facing an insurgency or terrorism," said the source, "and the verdict is on the side of an insurgency."

Maderblog: As unintelligent as British intelligence since 2005!

Posted by David Mader at 05:14 PM | (0) | Back to Main

August 05, 2005

Missing the Point

A propos my eariler post about blogging, AndrewSullivan.com guestblogger Frank Foer, senior editor at TNR, chimes in on the same story. Under the headline "You Can Stop Patting Yourselves on the Back" he writes:

[L]et’s not get too excited about the blogosphere’s political and social importance just yet. As this study shows, the audience for blogs is comparatively small for now. Therefore, I’m not so ready to say that this medium will revivify American democracy. True, it allows many people to rant, blowing off steam that might otherwise turn into dangerous passions. But, if we're speaking calmly, it seems the blogs greatest contribution is to slightly expand the elite political discussion.
If the bloggers' line on the blogosphere is that it is in the process of revolutionizing American democracy by making each individual citizen more engaged in the public debate, then I'd say Foer would be right. But I don't think that's the argument; rather, I think the argument is that the blogosphere is revolutionizing American democracy by allowing any one citizen to influence 'elite political discussion' in a manner never before possible - and in a manner that can have a ripple effect that reaches well beyond the political 'elite.' The fact that Foer, an 'old media' editor, is a) using a blog to b) comment on the influence of blogs is itself evidence of the disproportionate influence blogs already do have.

Posted by David Mader at 04:10 PM | (0) | Back to Main

August 04, 2005

I Think They Mean 'Nation' Torn Apart

This month's Western Standard publishes a poll showing not-inconsiderable support for the notion of Western separation among, uh, Westerners. (Especially Albertans). From Kevin Steel's story:

Remarkably, notes pollster Ellis, the greatest support for separation existed among young people, not the stereo-typical embittered Albertan codger. Thirty-seven per cent of those between the ages of 18 and 29 were open to the notion of breaking away from Canada. “Interestingly enough, in that age group, they haven’t had the major constitutional or federal touchstones like previous generations,” Ellis says. “Their psyche hasn’t been ingrained by major constitutional crises, such as the previous generations.” Thirty- and forty-year-olds witnessed the constitutional crises that were the Charlottetown and Meech Lake accords, and older groups will remember the NEP. “But with 10 years of relative constitutional peace, to have high numbers in that [youngest] generation . . . those youth numbers are surprising,” he adds.
Not surprising to anybody between the ages of 18 and 29, I think. I have to be careful not to project my own values onto my peers, but the very fact that I have had calm and reasoned discussions with friends and acquaintances about various separation schemes, and indeed about the ultimate viability of Canada as a nation, suggests that the idea of dis-federation (or whatever the Canadian equivalent of disunion is) is much less anathema to people my age than it is to those of an older generation.

And I don't think this has to do with experience with previous constitutional crises; rather, I think it's because whereas older Canadians still have some sense of Canadian identity founded in the pre-Trudeau era, younger Canadians (in the 18-29 bracket) have only ever experienced Trudeaupia (the youngest having lived exclusively under the Charter). I've long believed that the Trudeaupian emphasis on multiculturalism to the active detriment of traditional Canadian institutions - the Crown, the military, Parliament, the flag, even history itself - has weakened the traditional bonds of nationhood while offering nothing as substitute.

Or, to put it more pithily: when all that unites a British Columbian and a Nova Scotian is universally poor access to healthcare, is it any wonder that the young are less concerned over the survival of Confederation?

Posted by David Mader at 06:59 PM | (0) | Back to Main

Man Bites Dog

Well, sort of. Earlier today a Jewish man who had deserted from the Israeli army boarded a bus while dressed in his IDF uniform and opened fire, killing four Israeli Arabs - Michel Bahus, 56, Nader Hayak, 55, Hazar Turki, 23 and Dina Turki, 21. The murdered were all apparently Christian Druze. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon called the attack "a sinful act by a bloodthirsty terrorist."

The terrorist, whom Ha'aretz identifies as Eden Natan-Zada and the JPost identifies as Eden Tzuberi, was a 19-year old who had recently become religious. He was part of the outlawed 'Kach' movement and was known to police for his political extremism. During his brief tenure in the army he had been imprisoned twice. His family has said that they had begged authorities to take his army-issued gun away from him.

Tzuberi was motivated by opposition to Ariel Sharon's Gaza disengagement plan. There is speculation that his target was chosen in order to divert police away from the disengagement, which is expected to provoke active resistence. The attack was therefore particularly nefarious: by targetting Israeli Arabs, the murderer hoped to incite anti-government (and anti-Jewish) rage from one segment of the population even as the government is challenged by anti-government rage from another. The 'use' of Israeli Arabs in such a manner is despicable. Moreover, the attempt to increase active resistence to law and order within Israel invites accusations that certain of the anti-disengagement forces are, in a certain sense, anti-Zionist - in that they are more concerned in maintaining a presence in Gaza than they are concerned for the welfare of the government of the State of Israel.

Today's attack was contrary to notions of liberal democracy, contrary to notions of religious Judaism and contrary to the interests of peace, both foreign and domestic. It should be condemned unreservedly and in the strongest terms. It is only fitting that the murderer was himself beaten to death by a mob of Druze.

The ongoing reaction of the Israeli Arab community, while understandable, does present cause for concern. It is tempting, although perhaps inappropriate, to note that their Jewish compatriots do not riot and strike at every instance of terrorism. Such action is certainly appropriate as a condemnation of terrorism; when it becomes a condemnation of the government, however, it becomes counter-productive. It is vitally important therefore that the government of the State of Israel and all of its supporters make absolutely clear that Tzuberi did not act for them or in their general interests; that they condemn the attack in the strongest and most unreserved of terms; and that they will do everything possible to ensure that similar attacks do not happen in the future.

Posted by David Mader at 06:29 PM | (4) | Back to Main

The Thing About Blogging

The Boston Herald has two interesting articles on blogging that seem to talk past one another, but that in fact are entirely complimentary.

Wednesday's story notes that the American blog audience is astoundingly small - not just among the general population but among internet users:

Cambridge-based Forrester Research reported yesterday that fewer than 2 percent of Americans who go online read blogs once a week or more. Even among tech-savvy pioneers - those with laptops and WiFi networks in their homes - just 4 percent say they read blogs. . . . Blog readership looks paltry against the 70 percent of Americans who watch ABC, 65 percent who read their local paper - or even the 18 percent who watch Home & Garden's HGTV.
It's certainly true that most blogs have very, very few readers (in an absolute as well as a relative sense). But what's most important about the blogosphere is not how many people are reading but who's reading. Enter today's story:
More bloggers – who love to shine a light and heap scorn on the mainstream media's foibles – are increasingly crossing over mainstream lines, writing opinion pieces for newspapers and media Web sites while cutting partnership deals or even selling their sites to traditional news outlets. It isn't a case of bloggers "selling out" and losing their feisty character and independence, local and national bloggers say. It's more a case of a natural convergence in which bloggers break into the mainstream media due to their online popularity."
In light of the first story, that should probably read 'popularity.' But the point is that blogs are disproportionately popular among a certain segment of the web-using population: the media. The blogosphere is, in essence, a massive quasi-organic news-aggragator. When your job is to find the news and report it - or find the news and sell an opinion about it - the blogosphere becomes a wonderful resource. Because blogs aggregate primarily from media sources, the relationship becomes symbiotic. The result is that although the overwhelming majority of web-users don't read blogs regularly, the folks who give them their news do. The blogosphere may not directly influence the average (or even the unaverage) American, but it does directly influence the resource from which that American gets his news. That's the power of the blogosphere, and that's why media focus on blogs is anything but 'hype.'

Posted by David Mader at 06:17 PM | (0) | Back to Main

The Political Economy of Trash

The Fraser Institute has released a new study making the eminently reasonable point that because trash costs tend to be hidden in municipal tax bills (and often aren't tied to actual use), Canadians tend to throw away too much garbage. Tying costs to use, the study argues, would lead to increased re-use and decreased garbage. Sounds good.

But the press-release says something curious:

[M]ost Canadian communities send unnecessarily large quantities of waste to landfills; residents would be better off if they produced less garbage and recycled more of it.
This might not necessarily be wrong - it could be that depressed garbage costs artificially raise recycling costs. But the above-quoted passage seems to suggest that Canadians would turn to recycling as a less-costly alternative method of disposal.

Problem is, it probably isn't a less costly alternative, at least not always. Recycling is a costly process - from the costs of collection (equipment, labor, fuel, administration) to the costs of processing to the costs of redistribution, recylcing consumes a significant amount of resources. It is only truly effective and worthwhile when it 'saves' more resources than it expends. A good measure of whether recycling of a given product in a given area is effective and worthwile is whether a private recycling enterprise exists: if recycling can 'produce' more resources than it costs, it will be profitable and a profit-seeker will have an incentive to provide recycling services. If it does not produce a net-positive quantity of resources, there will be no incentive to provide the service. Political pressure will often result in public funding of recycling services, which distorts the market and makes it very difficult to determine whether or not recycling is worthwile - but the very fact that the service is provided publicly suggests that it would not otherwise be provided, which in turn suggests inefficiency.

Just a thought.

Posted by David Mader at 12:04 PM | (4) | Back to Main

August 03, 2005

How Depressing

Reuters: "Democrats celebrate narrow U.S. House loss in Ohio"

Look, I'm not saying that there are no lessons to be learned from this by-election. I'm just saying that a loss is a loss. The fact that Democrats are celebrating a 'close' loss just gives you an idea of the electoral fortunes of today's Democratic Party.

UPDATE (8/4/05 11:11 CST): In the comments below, Dan S. takes me to task for 'partisan mudslinging.' I think I was sloppy with my language, so I want to make sure I'm not misunderstood. My post wasn't meant as a cheap shot at the Democratic Party, but rather as an objective observation of a simple fact: the Democrats are celebrating a loss. That's either true or it's not, and, well, it's true.

When I wrote "I'm not saying that there are no lessons to be learned from this by-election," what I meant was "I'm not saying that there are no lessons to be learned from this by-election." There may well be (although the main lesson may be that in order to give Republicans a run for their money, the Democrats will have to put up an awful lot of Iraq-vet Marines). And I certainly agree that the 2006 mid-terms are the Democrats' to lose (in a relative sense, since winning back either house seems unlikely - another simple indicator of the current electoral fortunes of the Democracy). In fact I've been saying quite regularly that I expect the Democrats to have a good year next year, and I have only myself and my lack of blogging to blame for seeming to suggest otherwise.

All that being said, though, it remains an indisputable fact that the Democrats have been reduced to an electoral position wherein a close defeat is cause for celebration. What, one wonders, would have left them disappointed? It does neither the party nor the country any favors to pretend that the Democrats have not dug themselves into a considerable hole, nor that their exit from that hole is inevitable.

And I would think that, less than a year after an election replete with examples on both sides of the aisle, simple observations regarding a party can hardly be seen as 'partisan mudslinging.'

Posted by David Mader at 02:56 PM | (5) | Back to Main