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October 31, 2005

Where the Rubber Meets the Road

If you're a Texan and you have the franchise, I urge you to vote against proposed constitutional amendment two on the November ballot.

Prop. 2 reads as follows:

The constitutional amendment providing that marriage in this state consists only of the union of one man and one woman and prohibiting this state or a political subdivision of this state from creating or recognizing any legal status identical or similar to marriage.
A friend expressed surpise at my opposition to the amendment, and I freely acknowledge that if the question were simply of defining marriage as being the union of one man and one woman I would very probably be in favor - at the very least, I would not be opposed.

But the amendment, as written, is a no-brainer. The kicker is the second clause - "prohibiting this state or a political subdivision of this state from creating or recognizing any legal status identical or similar to marriage." This language would not only prohibit any sort of 'civil union' status for gay couples in Texas - as well as, quite possibly, undermine publicly-backed insurance schemes that afford benefits to gay spouses - but would prohibit any recognition by Texas agencies of 'civil union'-type status granted by other states.

Let us assume, for the sake of discussion, that this provision would not raise any federal Constitutional issues vis-a-vis the rights of homosexual individuals (as proponents of the amendment must surely argue); let us also assume that the recognition of some legal status in one state does not raise Full Faith and Credit Clause issues (as proponents of legal status recognition have argued).

Even if these two things are true, the amendment is nonetheless still worthy of defeat. The reason is that by reaching beyond the basic cultural question of marriage itself, and by attempting to prohibit gay couples from enjoying even the most basic incidents of common living, the amendment betrays a profoundly illiberal motive.

Keep in mind that I use the term 'liberal' in the most classical sense - pertaining to, or involving, individual liberty. From my classically-liberal perspective, 'illiberal' is perhaps the most damning label one can apply to a proposed policy.

And I apply it without hesitation to Prop. 2. I believe that the debate over the definition of 'marriage' is an understandable, human and honest debate, motivated - on both sides - not by animus but by principle. I am less sure about the debate over 'civil union.' But none who hold liberty to be the fundamental tenet of American - and democratic - government should have any doubt about the fundamentally liberal principle of equality before the law. Prohibiting the recognition of 'any legal status identical or similar to marriage' serves only, ultimately, to deny homosexual individuals certain benefits - benefits that are enjoyed in the course of, and that implicate, the most human, personal and laudatory types of human relationships - solely on the basis of sexual orientation.

Such discrimination might be morally necessary. It is democratically untenable - at least, it is untenable in a democracy founded upon the principle of individual liberty, with its corresponding requirement of equality before the law.

I don't know what effect the recognition of gay relationships will have on our society. No one does. Maybe it will encourage stability among gays and lesbians and will further the principles of family life. Maybe it will undermine family life and speed the decline of western society - including that most important of western contributions, liberal government.

Liberal government, however, is not - ought not to be, I believe - results-oriented. Liberal government is liberty-oriented. Opponents of national law-making often suggest that they would oppose a particular law at the state level, but that the federal government has no place to say one way or the other. This is such a case. Prop. 2 is illiberal. Those who love liberty should work to ensure its defeat.

Posted by David Mader at 11:46 PM | (2) | Back to Main

I Love Texas

The forecast for tomorrow is - I'm not making this up - 'Sunshine and delightful.'

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


It's good; more later.

Posted by David Mader at 04:48 PM | (0) | Back to Main

October 28, 2005

Bottom Story of the Day

Journalist doesn't win lottery.

Honestly, what is it about journalists?

Posted by David Mader at 03:33 PM | (1) | Back to Main

Of Canadians and Ambition

Paul Wells: "anyone who sticks his head up, tries something new or different, is to be put down as hard and as quickly as possible." Wells is talking in the context of news industry, but it's an attitude that I certainly felt to be relatively pervasive up north - the notion that things were fine, and that therefore anything that 'pushed the envelope' or 'rocked the boat' was to be suppressed. It's a choice, of course, and best of luck to Canada for choosing it.

Me, I'll take the risks.

Posted by David Mader at 11:05 AM | (0) | Back to Main

To the Editor

Alan Freeman’s article of October 28 on the Harriet Miers nomination is a striking example of preconceived bias undermining otherwise-informed commentary. According to Freeman, the ‘Christian right’ waged a successful campaign to sink the nomination because of uncertainty over Miers’ position on ‘hot-button’ issues such as abortion. In fact, leading Christian conservatives including Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson were among the few prominent conservatives to express support for the Miers’ nomination.

Organized opposition came not from the ‘Christian right’ – favorite bogeyman of reporters on either side of the border – but from those within the Republican Party committed to excellence on the high court. Perhaps the most prominent critic of the nomination was Canada’s own David Frum, who was instrumental in organizing Americans for Better Justice – an organization representing the entire spectrum of opinion within the American conservative movement which publicly urged Miers to withdraw. Frum was among the many ideological conservatives who demanded that intellectual rigor and accomplishment, and not partisan ties and evangelical faith, be the standard for appointment to the Supreme Court.

Mr. Freeman’s mistake, no doubt, was to assume – as so many Canadians assume – that Republicans are all of a stripe, that to be a Republican is to be a ‘Christian conservative.’ The organized opposition of the conservative counter-intelligentsia to a Republican president’s Supreme Court nominee presented a perfect opportunity to correct the assumption. Globe and Mail readers – and their compatriots – are disserved by the perpetuation of this error.

Posted by David Mader at 10:51 AM | (0) | Back to Main

October 27, 2005

Miers Withdraws

Withdrawal letter here; commentary here.

I'm actually not so sure that the president is in a position of weakness with regard to the next nominee. He's constrained insofar as he can't well put up another generally-unqualified nominee (think Gonzales); indeed, since qualifications were the basis of opposition to Miers, any mre qualified candidate will be operating on a presumption of acceptability.

The wild card here is the Democratic caucus. Because the Democrats weren't instrumental in bringing about the withdrawal, they haven't yet spent the political capital that it takes to block a presidential nominee. (The current unpopularity of the president makes that capital go further than it otherwise would.) I can't help but wonder if comments like this are part of a strategy: suggest that you'd have confirmed Miers, and you're much more able to oppose the replacement nominee without looking partisanly obstructionist.

Posted by David Mader at 11:51 AM | (1) | Back to Main

October 26, 2005

Firing the Veep

I'm no constitutional scholar, but I'm pretty sure you can't do that. Something to do with, you know, being elected. Not that I disagree with the proposal to elevate Condi.

Posted by David Mader at 11:35 PM | (2) | Back to Main

October 17, 2005

Just On the Other Side?

The Secretary of State visits Canada, and is heckled by university students.

No, not Condi - she's coming next week. I'm talking about Madeleine Albright:

A small group of protesters briefly interrupted a speech by former U.S. secretary of state Madeleine Albright at the University of Winnipeg on Sunday....

"We oppose her because of her record in Yugoslavia and her record of sanctions in Iraq, and the things she's been quoted as saying," said Andriy Michalchyshyn, vice-president of the university's student union.

The things she's been quoted as saying! You can see the logic: she's said things with which we don't agree in the past; therefore, we must hinder her ability to say things in the future.

The two 'specific' grievances are telling. The protesters opposed Albright's 'record in Yugoslavia' - presumably her record, as part of the Clinton administration, of attempting years and years of negotiations before losing patience with a dictatorial strongman with genocidal tendencies and bombing the yoo-hoo out of him. And you can see a principled opposition to such a course of action: instead of jumping from negotiation to war, Albright and the Clinton administration ought to have adopted non-violent means of indicating displeasure. Like, say, sanctions.

Aha! But sanctions are no good: the protesters specifically noted among Albright's vague sins her 'record of sanctions in Iraq.' So: no sanctions, and no bombing. There are probably a number of ways to interpret this pattern, but I think it's fair to say that the easiest is this: don't be mean to bad guys. Don't be mean! It's not nice.

As I say, it's not necessarily the case that the student government of the University of Winnipeg, as an institution, hates Arabs and Slavs and supports governments which oppress them, or even that they simply support dictatorship in the abstract; maybe they just don't care about them and don't want to waste money trying to free them from oppression.

But when the list of sins includes opposing a dictator with bombs and opposing a dictator with sanctions, you wonder how - if at all - these folks would oppose a dicator.

Opposing a dictator with chocolate cake and kisses, perhaps.

Posted by David Mader at 02:34 PM | (1) | Back to Main

How 'Bout "No"

It's stories like this that remind you that you live (or, in my case, no longer live) in the Twilight Zone:

CBC President Robert Rabinovitch says he's sorry fans of the public broadcaster were without their regular services while employees were locked out for eight weeks, but he says he has no intention of stepping down....

There have been calls for Rabinovitch to resign because of how the lockout was conducted. Some have come from federal politicians, some from irate CBC fans and some from locked-out workers.

A less charitable person might see "federal politicians, CBC fans and locked-out workers" and read "fools, socialists and socialists." Luckily I'm more charitable. But really, what legitimate basis can there be behind calls for Rabinovitch's resignation? Leaving aside all questions of the merit of the CBC and its existence, the lock-out occured during the course of a labo(u)r dispute. The message behind calls for the president's resignation is that when management refuses to budge in the face of union demands, management is unfit to manage.

The bottom line, of course, would disagree. Had Rabinovitch budged the way those calling for his resignation appear to have desired, it's quite possible that soaring costs would have left not only the president but all those unionized workers out of a job too.

Or it would have been, if the CBC's budget didn't consist of half of whatever you can make under a punitive tax system, less whatever the government decides to spend on sex changes for transsexual prisoners.

Posted by David Mader at 12:53 PM | (0) | Back to Main

It's Good to be Shameless

You've got to respect Jack Layton. The NDP leader is threatening to topple Paul Martin's Liberal 'government' unless Martin can... well, I'll let Jack Jack tell you:

Layton said unless the PM moves to protect medicare, settles the softwood lumber dispute and improves the environment, the NDP will stop propping up his minority government and help the Conservatives topple it during a mid-November confidence vote.
Oh, so it's easy, then. Paul Martin could do that in his sleep.

< /sarcasm >

First consider the demand that Martin settle the softwood lumber dispute. Layton is demanding, upon threat of bringing down the government, that the most incompetent and incapable prime minister in twenty years solve a trade dispute that's been festering for twenty years and that far more domestically-competent leaders on both sides of the border have been unable to solve. And by Christmas! Thanksgiving, in fact.

Next, consider the demand that Martin 'moves to protect medicare.' What can this possibly mean? The Liberals are different from the NDP in their commitment to medicare only in the degree of entirely cosmetic procedure they're willing to publicly fund. For prison inmates. Constitutionally, the only 'act' the prime minister could take would be to introduce legislation outlawing any private involvement in health care. (Maybe Layton would demand a rider proclaiming himself 'dear leader' at the same time.) But, in my entirely inadequate understanding of Canadian law, it's unclear that such legislation itself would be constitutional in light of the Supreme Court's recent holding that such a ban can contravene the right to access to health care.

The health care demand shares another interesting characteristic with the demand to 'improve the environment': it's entirely meaningless. What would constitute an 'improvement' of the environment according to Jack? Who knows! That's the beauty of it. Imagine, if you will, that Martin and Bush meet (unlikely step one) and discuss softwood (unlikely step two) and Bush decides that Canadian-American relations are more important than protectionism (unlikely step three) and the two manage to come to an agreement (unlikely step four) and Martin is able to explain what the agreement said (unlikeliest of the steps); imagine that the Supreme Court decides that its health care holding was limited to French doctors litigating their own appeals, and that Martin introduces legislation sentencing anybody who sells tylenol to death; imagine that Martin not only approves Kyoto but appends it to the Constitution Act (1982), bars any corporation doing business in the United States from doing business in Canada, and outlaws cars. Imagine there's no heaven. Yet still, Jack could uphold his pledge and still bring down the government by pointing out the prime minister's outrageous failure to buy bicycles for every man, woman and lesser mammalian in Alert, Nunavut.

And that's why you've got to respect Jack. That takes chutzpah. And for chutzpah, read "complete lack of shame."

Posted by David Mader at 12:09 PM | (0) | Back to Main

Don't Cross the Streams!

Exhibit A:

Exhibit B:

I'm just saying.

Posted by David Mader at 08:37 AM | (1) | Back to Main

Miers Opposes Roe?

Will this be enough to sink the Miers nomination - between Democratic opposition on the abortion question and Republican opposition on everything else?

Consider, incidentally, that this might be a machiavellian move on the part of conservatives opposed to the nomination who know that the surest way to sink a Republican nominee is to provide credible assurances that she would overturn Roe. Just something to ponder.

Posted by David Mader at 12:15 AM | (0) | Back to Main

October 16, 2005

Those Wily Sons of a Gun

Apple has figured out a new way to a) make me part with my money and b) make me happy about it. Presumably to correspond with the release of the video i-pod, iTunes is now selling music videos of all your favorite artists. (Well, probably not, but a lot of artists anyway.) The videos sell at $1.99 a pop. Having previously released the complete publicly-released works of U2, I feel an obligation to purchase every subsequently-released work in order to keep the collection 'truly complete'; as a result, I'm now a few dollars poorer, and a few videos richer, than I was this morning.

And yes, yes, I know I could download the videos. But that would, apparently, be illegal. In any case, I now own the videos, or at least an instance of the videos. And that's cool.

Say what you want about Bill Gates, but I think Steve Jobs is winning.

Posted by David Mader at 05:43 PM | (2) | Back to Main

October 14, 2005

Mader Pretends to Know Cinematography

The new Harry Potter trailer has been out for a while, I believe, but it was recently made available as part of apple's revamping of its trailers site to include more HD content.

Being a huge nerd, I of course watched the trailer a certain number of times through at regular speed, and then pushed the bar frame-by-frame to catch all of the little details hidden in the corner of the picture.

Here's something that I found. The scene seems to involve Professor McGonagall (I'm going to assume that if you've read this far you know Potter, so I'm not going to explain characters) showing the students how to dance in preparation for the Christmas ball. She calls Ron to act as her dummy for the demonstration. Here's the first screen-capture (I'm too lazy to thumbnail for now, but you can maximize your browzer to increase the size of the image, or right-click and 'view image' to see the full sized pic)(unless you're on a mac, in which case you probably know some sort of apple magic that lets you do the same thingUPDATE: Click on the pic for a popup of the full image):

This is a very neat frame, as all sorts of components come together to drag attention to the left - despite the fact that students line either side of the room and despite the fact that the action takes place in the middle. First, the perspective is from where Ron has come from - and the camera motion tracks his move to the center from the right - that is, in a leftward direction. Second, there's a big space to the right of the frame where nothing's going on, a space filled by the inanimate door. The mirror is nifty in that it creates certain action on the right side of the frame - but, being a mirror, the action is in fact occurring on the left. Most importantly, though, there's a big honking gramaphone that's just pretty cool.

But there's something else going on, something very subtle. Notice that of the students on the left side of the room - the side towards which the viewer's eye is drawn - all but two are either dark-skinned or in shadow (or both). One is some chump in the back row. The other is that young lady on the far left. Now who could that be? The next frame will give us a better look:

Why yes, I do believe that's Miss Hermione Granger. Notice again how she is sitting beside a student who is both dark-skinned and in shadow; the students behind her are similarly 'toned down.' And notice, as well, that her face is right beside Ron's shoulder - the shoulder towards which McGonnagal gestures as she instructs him.

Here's the last frame in the trailer scene:

At this point Hermione is not the only sun-lit student; the three at the far end of her row are similarly high-lit. (Notice that the two sunlit students in the back row are of a darker skin-tone, serving to blend them into the general darkness of the shot). But Hermione's dark-skinned and shadowed neighbor serves to set her apart, so that she becomes the only stand-alone bright-lit character in the background - which, together with her positioning right over Ron's shoulder, serves to draw the eye to her of all the students along the wall.

Now, this isn't something you'd notice on a first viewing (although you might get a funny 'hey, did I see Hermione back there?' thought popping up). Rather, it's the sort of thing a dedicated (hey, it sounds better than nerd-core) viewer would notice on a second viewing. I was going to write in the abstract, but I'll fess up: when I love a movie, I watch it a second or subsequent time and intentionally refuse to focus on the center of the frame; instead, I look to the margins to catch all the fun stuff that the director and the production designer throw in to give the movie depth.

That's what this little detail is - and what's wonderful about it is that it's precisely the kind of detail that will delight the sort of fans who would find it. Those are the fans who know that Ron and Hermione are emotionally invested in one another more than either realizes at this point in the story. Putting Ron in the awkward situation of dancing with his teacher - and putting his love interest over his shoulder - are very astute directorial touches, the sort of touches that evince a true understanding of the Potter story.

And yes, I am rather excited about this movie. Why do you ask?

(And tell me Filch doesn't use that thing to rock out to NIN on late nights...)

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

October 11, 2005

'Hopes of Finding Cheese Are Sunk'

Adam O'B. forwards this outstanding and astounding story. I can't do it justice, so just go read it.

Here's a thought though: I'm no Sherlock, but the solution seems clear to me. Somebody obviously walked off with fifty thousand dollars worth of cheese. Think about that for a second, and tell me that isn't almost as astounding as the rest of the story.

Posted by David Mader at 06:25 PM | (2) | Back to Main

College Bombs

Is this a new pattern or phenomenon, or are we just noticing it more now?

See this and this.

UPDATE (13:23): Reynolds points to another disturbing incident and remarks: "I'm going with "chain of coincidences" for the moment, pending some reason to think there's a connection, as a lot of readers seem to." I'd call that 'cautious optimism,' with the emphasis on 'cautious.'

Posted by David Mader at 08:28 AM | (0) | Back to Main

October 03, 2005

Shanah Tova

Happy new year to all. If I had time, I'd right a post about how disenchantment over Miers shouldn't obscure the fact that George W. Bush was precisely the right man to vote for in 2004, and that anyone serious about the War on Terror should feel absolutely no remorse over supporting him, notwithstanding any disappointment on the domestic front. Some things are just more important.

But I don't have time, so that post'll have to wait until later. Shanah Tova.

Posted by David Mader at 05:52 PM | (0) | Back to Main


Well, at least I was right about Texas.

I'm really not sure what thisa means. My knee-jerk reaction is that it's Bush cronyism of the worst sort and in the worst place. Miers is not a known judicial quantity, and her background in the law seems to be largely managerial (although quite successful). She is not a well-respected judge; she is not a widely-published professor; she is not a renowned advocate. She was managing partner at Locke, she was president of the Dallas Bar Association, she was deputy chief of staff in the White House and she was Bush's lawyer at one point. That does not strike me as making her supremely qualified to sit on the nation's highest court.

Some have suggested that her non-judicial background is a bonus. It's true that only recently have Supreme Court justices been nominated from lower federal courts as a rule, and many are pointing out that William Rehnquist was nominated without any bench experience. But nominations from non-bench sources smack of croneyism much more than ideologically-driven nominations from the bench: in the latter instance, the nominee at least has pertinent experience.

Still, it could be that Miers will turn out to be a marvellous justice. Perhaps an outside perspective is precisely what the Court needs at this moment in its history. And while Miers certainly is the anti-Roberts, she's no dummy - on the contrary, she is, by all accounts, a very intelligent and able woman. Based on my own advise and consent standard, I think she should be confirmed.

But will she be? I'm actually not so sure. The left, having declared their opposition to her before she was even nominated, will have to go after whatever they can get on her - and (unless this pans out), the best they'll get on her will probably be her lack of experience. On the other hand, conservatives who are desparate for a conservative nominee but who were constrained by the paramount excellence of Judge Roberts will be under no such constraint this time around. When you take into account the fact that a) Bush isn't particularly popular at this point in time (at least in the CW) and b) the President doesn't have coat-tails anymore, a Senate-Republican revolt isn't outside of the realm of possibility.

Ok, get your tinfoil hats in place: is Bush counting on such a revolt? Are we lookign at yet another elaborate game of rope-a-dope? Bush puts up a nominee who can only be shot down on the basis of her qualifications (or lack thereof); in the wake of her rejection by the Senate, Bush puts up a nominee who addresses those concerns by being supremely qualified - and, as it happens, very judicially conservative.

Hey, I said it was tinfoil-hat. Maybe it's just the best gloss I can put on a slightly bewildering morning. Or maybe Miers will turn out to occupy a judicial position somewhere to the libertarian side of Justice Thomas, thereby becoming my new favorite justice. You never know, really.

Posted by David Mader at 09:57 AM | (0) | Back to Main

October 01, 2005

Just One Thing

Andrew Sullivan has recently instituted a new 'award', the Yglesias Award, which he bestows on "people who tell their own political side truths they don't really want to hear." Today he nominated Illinois Democrat Barack Obama for saying:

... Americans are suspicious of labels and suspicious of jargon. They don't think George Bush is mean-spirited or prejudiced, but have become aware that his administration is irresponsible and often incompetent. They don't think that corporations are inherently evil (a lot of them work in corporations), but they recognize that big business, unchecked, can fix the game to the detriment of working people and small entrepreneurs. They don't think America is an imperialist brute, but are angry that the case to invade Iraq was exaggerated, are worried that we have unnecessarily alienated existing and potential allies around the world, and are ashamed by events like those at Abu Ghraib which violate our ideals as a country.

It's this non-ideological lens through which much of the country viewed Judge Roberts' confirmation hearings. A majority of folks, including a number of Democrats and Independents, don't think that John Roberts is an ideologue bent on overturning every vestige of civil rights and civil liberties protections in our possession. Instead, they have good reason to believe he is a conservative judge who is (like it or not) within the mainstream of American jurisprudence, a judge appointed by a conservative president who could have done much worse (and probably, I fear, may do worse with the next nominee).

Sullivan characterizes this as Obama "taking on the moonbats at DailyKos." Just one problem: Obama voted against Roberts. Obama is certainly right that "much of the country" believes Roberts to be within the mainstream of American society, but Obama doesn't think this entitles him to sit on the court. You might not find the same dissebling language at DailyKos, but the dogmatic end result is just the same.

Posted by David Mader at 09:19 PM | (1) | Back to Main