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November 30, 2005

Harper in the Maritimes

Tory leader Stephen Harper gave another ten-minute open interview (skip to about the 1:18 mark) to CTV news tonight. That's two interviews, twenty full minutes, of the opposition leader answering (generally unfriendly) questions on national television. This must be a campaign policy - as much exposure as possible, especially up front - and I think it's a winner. Harper isn't the most charismatic leader - although he gets serious points for being so patient with the stumbling and hostile interviewer tonight - but the more Canadians hear him confront tough questions, the less the 'scary Conservative' label - already weak - will stick.

Most interesting in this interview was Harper's unilateral raising - and apologizing for - his past comments regarding the maritimes. This - following on his insistence, yesterday, to clarify his position on same-sex marriage - suggests another campaign policy: pre-empt, pre-empt, pre-empt. I think the plan is to get out in front of issues, and by doing so, to define them. That's a good plan.

Whether this plan works will depend in part on how much exposure Harper can succesfully get on the networks - and whether Canadians take the time (this early in the campaign) to watch. Anyone watching the campaign closely would, I think, have to conclude that Harper has come out to the stronger start - notwithstanding his supposed same-sex 'gaffe.' He is dominating the news; he is defining the agenda; and where are the ten-minute interviews with Mr. Martin?

Add to that the hints that the Tories will be unveiling some pretty dramatic policy proposals in the coming days and the Tories appear to be running a very ambitious campaign.

Jason Kenney aside, of course.

Posted by David Mader at 08:32 PM | (1) | Back to Main

Solberg on Same Sex Silliness

Here's Conservative MP Monte Solberg:

H[A reporter] asked me why Stephen Harper made this an issue and wouldn't believe me when I said that he didn't raise it. I told him that I was pretty certain that he had only responded to a question. Anyway, I was right and he was wrong, not that the facts are even remotely important.

This is how it works. The reporters asked Stephen a question on same sex marriage after a speech where Stephen never raised the issue. Then the media criticized Stephen for raising the issue again. How cool is that?

Come with me now to the room where I keep my thinking caps and let me pose this crazy, hypothetical question to you. Let's say Stephen gives a speech on about three or four issues and the reporters only wanted to report on his well known answer to a question that a journalist posed after the speech. Who would you say has a barely disguised agenda? Is it Stephen Harper? Actually no. It's my journalist friends, people for whom I have a warm affection, but on this issue they are political partisans of the first order.

I think the fact that no media outlet has made available audio or video of the allegedly 'unprompted' remark constitutes a tacit recognition of the sleight-of-hand going on here. I'd say shame, but c'mon - it's the MSM we're talking about here.

Shame is a foreign concept.

UPDATE: A very tired-sounding Stephen Harper discusses the issue with Mike Duffy in this clip at the the 8:18 mark. Note that this is a ten-minute free interview with one of the two main candidates in a national election - Americans, take note. In any case, Harper's point is that a) he was asked about party policy on gay marriage, b) his party has a policy on gay marriage, and c) he's not going to pretend that his party doesn't have a policy on gay marriage. Haper's demeanor suggests that (somehow) the Conservative campaign wasn't expecting quite this kind of push back - they may have made the mistake of assuming that just because his response was the perfectly rational thing to do, the media would recognize it as such. Harper does also note that the Supreme Court decision does not, in fact, say that gay 'marriage' is a Constitutional right - but what he fails to say is that Conservative policy is to recognize gay civil unions without extending the term 'marriage' to cover such unions. Why a press-release saying as much didn't go out yesterday or this morning mystifies me; it's too late to want to bury this issue - the party should go balls-out, if you'll pardon the expression, by stating clearly and openly what the policy is, correcting mistakes in the media and ignoring the fact that the media is all in a tizzy over it. The attention is there: use it.

Posted by David Mader at 05:06 PM | (1) | Back to Main

For My American Readers

I sometimes tell my new compatriots that one manifestation of Canada's love/hate relationship with the United States is the mania that attends any mention of Canada by American popular culture. I've pointed at the Simpson, or Triumph the Insult Comic Dog - but Americans, I think, tend not to believe me.

Well, now I present this - a story on the website of Canada's most popular national news program about how the Canadian election was a topic on last night's 'Daily Show with Jon Stewart.' The story comes with a full clip of the segment.

I'm not saying that's bad - I think the segment was funny, and it's certainly understandable that CTV (who rebroadcasts the Daily Show in Canada) would want to cross-promote programming. I'm just saying.

Posted by David Mader at 03:55 PM | (0) | Back to Main

Maybe He Is On to Something

This CBC story on Harper's proposal to create an 'office of public prosecutions' suggests that rather than being limited to politician wrongdoing, the office would be "responsible for all federal prosecutions and make final, binding decisions regarding who should be charged and when."

Paul Wells criticizes the suggestion, calling it evidence of "[Harper]'s extraordinarily tenuous grasp on the administration of Canadian criminal law."

Now, I have an admittedly tenuous grasp on the administration of Canadian criminal law, but I wonder if Harper isn't on to something here. Of course, there must be political oversight of federal prosecutions - otherwise the laws would be enforced by unaccountable bureaucrats. That's bad. But having the people who make the laws be responsible for the enforcement of those laws is also bad. What Harper's plan points towards is - wait for it - an independent executive. That's separation of powers, and that's good.

Now, I am ready to freely admit that separation of powers is foreign to 'the administration of Canadian criminal law,' or any Canadian law for that matter. But I think that's bad.

On the other hand, a half-step towards separation of powers can be worse than no step at all; I assume that's what Wells is, at root, getting at.

Posted by David Mader at 03:46 PM | (0) | Back to Main

Today's Big News

If there were any justice, this would be the big non-election news of the day. The RCMP is investigating allegations that Ralph Goodale or someone in his office leaked a plan to cut taxes on certain financial instruments (income trusts) prior to the public announcement of the plan, allowing 'certain investors' to make a handsome profit.

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


Paul Wells quotes the CP:

Jason Kenney held a news conference in which he complained — incorrectly — that Martin speechwriter Scott Feschuk had insulted ethnic minorities. Feschuk had written a humorous note on the Liberal party website referring to 'socially awkward Omni subscribers.'

Kenney thought Feschuk was talking about viewers of Omni TV, a multicultural channel based in Toronto. In fact, he was actually referring to now-defunct Omni magazine, a science and technology publication long cherished by nerds.

I actually can't find either Kenney's statement or a CP (or other) story reporting it - right now it's just Wells and Feschuk himself. I'm hoping against hope that Kenney was, you know, kidding.

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

Special Prosecutor - Importing a Bad Idea?

Stephen Harper has proposed the appointment of a special prosecutor to conduct 'federal criminal prosecutions.' It's not clear (from this story) whether the mandate would cover all federal criminal prosecutions (isn't that what the Solicitor General is for?) or simply criminal prosecutions targeting politicians and political actors.

Is this a good idea? It's certainly appealing - having politicians oversee politicians is a recipe for corruption. But a special proscutor comes with its own risks - as the American experience shows. Too often, the prosecutor spends years investigating without finding any hard evidence of the allegation which prompted the inquiry in the first place; needing to justify the whole costly exercise, the prosecutor ends up filing charges for conduct occurring during the investigation. In all, the special prosecutor's office - specifically designed to be non-partisan - becomes the focus of intense partisan disagreement.

We certainly need some sort of oversight of political misconduct; reforming the RCMP might be a better first step.

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

Comment Policy

I've just removed a comment from a post for the simple reason that it was in Chinese and I don't know what it said. I have a general policy of not restricting the contents of comments, although I reserve the right to remove any comment that I deem inappropriate. If I do remove a comment, I will make public notice of the removal. But when a comment is in a foreign language and a translation is not readily available, I will remove the comment. In this instance, the readily available translation sites suggested that the comment in question linked to three Chinese-language blogs about mechanical engineering.

(I should note that this is not meant to announce a policy of summarily deleting comments about mechanical engineering.)

Posted by David Mader at 01:06 AM | (0) | Back to Main

November 29, 2005

And Now For Something Completely Different

If you've had too much, you know, reasoned analysis of the coming election campaign, you might want to check out how popular American leftist blog Daily Kos is presenting the election to its readers. Poster "displacedyankeedemocrat" makes insightful observations like

Stephen Harper is the leader of the Conservative Party of Canada, and generally a dim-witted dolt.
The rest of Canada hates Alberta in general and Calgary specifically.
and so on.

If that kind of reasoned analysis is your thing.

Posted by David Mader at 11:18 PM | (0) | Back to Main

More Election Resources

Reader Jon A. sends a link to the Hill & Knowlton Election Predictor. Anyone who watched the BBC's coverage of the UK general election in May will be familiar with the tool: it apportions a given percentage shift in support between parties among all the ridings, and then graphically represents the different seat tallies that would result from such a popular-support shift. The tool isn't nearly perfect - most obviously because it treats all ridings equally in applying the impact of a popular-opinion shift - but it's a neat, useful and quick way to get an idea of what the varios polling firms' numbers suggest.

For instance, of all the polls currently posted at the site, not a single one projects enough seats for another Liberal/NDP coalition government. (I'm assuming that a coalition would need at least 155 seats in the 308 seat parliament to hold a majority. What would happen if two factions held 154 seats is a very interesting question, one that I'll address at some point during the campaign.)

Also, further to my earlier hope, SES is indeed reinstituting its 3-day rolling tracking poll - only they're making it bigger and better:

For the election, the enhanced CPAC-SES Nightly Tracking will comprise:

• Sample Size Doubled – The new tracking program will be comprised of a three day national random telephone sample of 1,200 Canadians 18 and over (accurate ±2.9%, 19 times out of 20);

• New Daily Regional Snapshots on Party Support– Every day of the campaign, CPAC and SES will release a daily look at regional party support as well as the national snapshot;

• New Daily Regional Snapshots on Best PM - Best PM tracking will be released nationally with a regional breakdown;

• New daily updates on which federal party leader Canadians think is the most competent, is the most trustworthy and has the best vision for the country;

• New Leader Index Score that includes a daily index performance score for each leader (using a combination of competence, trust and vision stats);

• Release of polling seven days a week (instead of five) at 2:00 pm EST
Fantastic. The SES poll was by far the best and most intersting poll last time around, and with these changes it looks to be even better this time.

Posted by David Mader at 10:40 PM | (0) | Back to Main

Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree

I don't remember this sort of thing happening last year.

Posted by David Mader at 07:00 PM | (0) | Back to Main

Nothing Personal

I'd take the Star to task for biased reporting, but this is just hilarious:

Some describe it as perfidy most heinous, that waltz across the floor of the Commons last May by Belinda Stronach from Conservative to Liberal ranks. It's certainly the view of Stephen Somerville, president of the Newmarket-Aurora Conservative riding association, once a supporter of the erstwhile Tory and now her staunchest foe in the upcoming campaign. . . .

[W]elcome to Newmarket-Aurora, where dirty takes on whole new shades of revenge, animosity, betrayal and ire. It's deep and it's personal.

"No, no, it's nothing personal," insisted Somerville, adding that he, too, felt betrayed.

Ahahaha. Emphasis is mine.

Posted by David Mader at 06:52 PM | (0) | Back to Main

Harper on Gay Marriage

That seems to be the day's big story - but does anyone have video of it? The CTV article has video of Harper addressing what appears to be a riding rally, and I didn't hear anything about gay marriage through the whole thing.

I could swear that earlier today the CTVNews blog had a post suggesting that Harper had raised the issue unprompted, but the current post makes no such suggestion. Harper appears to have made the comments directly to reporters at Parliament this morning. I'd love to see the video before I comment.

I will say, tentatively, that this may not be the misstep it seems. By stating his position up front, Harper undercuts the allegation of a 'hidden agenda' - what's hidden? Moreover, by front-ending the policy statement, he gets this storm out of the way with plenty of time for it to settle.

As for the policy itself, it seems eminently reasonable - he'll let Parliament make the law, and he'll treat the result as binding. The trick is to make clear the distinction between a whipped vote (such as the Grits had) and a free-vote, and to explain why free votes are central to the broader policy of democratic reform. But if today's comments spark a discussion about democratic reform, that's a win for the Tories.

The one problem I see is that a free vote would have to reverse not only the whipped Grit vote but the advisory opinion of the Supreme Court of Canada declaring gay marriage to be a protected constitutional right. In other words, the vote would have to be on a bill invoking the notwithstanding clause. I'm not sure if Canadians, even those who oppose gay marriage, are prepared to overrule the Supreme Court's interpretation of the constitution.

UPDATE (18:48 CST): It was this Canadian Press piece I was thinking of:

With the starting gun kicking off the eight-week race still echoing in the air, Harper went out of his way to reopen a politically noxious debate, pledging to restore the traditional definition of marriage - provided Parliament supports the idea in a free vote. . . .

He made a point of raising the thorny issue even after his handlers had cut off questions from reporters, though he later said he was addressing an earlier question he felt obliged to answer.

That last clause ("though he later said. . .") was a late edition, I'm pretty sure.

UPPERDATE (19:09 CST): CP has some audio here, but again I hear nothing about gay marriage. Anyone?

Posted by David Mader at 06:02 PM | (2) | Back to Main

Grewal Out

Check out CTV's election blog for the news that Gurmant Grewal won't seek re-election.

UPDATE: More here.

Posted by David Mader at 05:03 PM | (0) | Back to Main

Election Resources

I've added some Canadian election resource links to the blogroll on the right, but I'd love any suggestions y'all have. I do hope SES institutes a three-day roller as they did the last time around; I'm sure it was expensive, but it was invaluable.

I was also thinking that what we need in Canada is a RealClearPolitics or an ElectionProjection (or both!), but it occurred to me that we might simply not get enough polling data over the course of the campaign to make such an effort worthwhile. If anybody knows of similar efforts north of the border, please pass them on. Note that what I'm looking for is someone who aggragates public opinion polling data, not a site that aggregates what a lot of individuals think about any particular riding.

Posted by David Mader at 04:18 PM | (0) | Back to Main

This is Justice?

Apparently the penalty in Canada for shooting a cop in the face is twelve years in prison. Two questions:

  • how soon is this guy up for parole?

  • is he getting credit for time served?
I understand that outrage over this will depend on what one sees as the purpose of the criminal justice system. If the purpose is simply to rehabilitate criminals, then this sentence may be felt appropriate. If, as I believe, the purpose is primarily to punish criminals, this seems pretty grossly inadequate.

Whether this is the same as the 'retribution' principle discussed here is a question I'll reserve for the time being.

Posted by David Mader at 03:38 PM | (0) | Back to Main

Life and Prosperity, Dear Old McGill

My ma sends me this article on how fantastic McGill is.

It sounds like the administration has been doing a good job of turning things around in the past five years - although I wish the adminstration would put some attention to student relations.

On a different note, I can't decide whether this is excessive or appropriate:

McGill University has been fined $30,000 and its football team banned from having any home games televised in 2006 or 2007 after the university withdrew the Redmen from league action over a hazing incident.
On the one hand, this seems like a pretty heavy-handed response; on the other hand, I don't care about Redman football. In any case, I don't think the scandal will impact upon McGill's reputation or its ability to draw international students.

And just for kicks, here's the search page for the McGill Photo Archive. It's fun.

Posted by David Mader at 03:02 PM | (0) | Back to Main

Go Positive, Or Don't - ?

Interesting contrast between the advice profferred by David Frum in the National Post and Adam Daifallah in the Ottawa Citizen.

Daifallah pushes the 'go positive' message contained in his book:

Forget the polls and focus groups. People want a leader who will lead, someone who cares about more than just winning an election. They are ready for a statesman. With a clear, positive vision and some creative policies. Stephen Harper can be that man.
Frum seems to address Daifallah directly:
Many people are urging Stephen Harper and the Conservatives to deliver a positive message in their advertisements. And of course there is much wisdom in that advice. The only way to defeat one government is by choosing an alternative -- and Canadians will want to know what a Conservative government would do in office.

But in the end, it is important for Conservatives to remember that this election is not really about them. Canadians will vote Conservative as the best and surest way to punish a Liberal party that has abused the public trust. The job facing the Conservative party over the coming weeks is to drive home to all Canadians how gross, how unscrupulous and how extreme the abuse has been -- and how very nearly the Liberals got away with it.

But if this election is about the Liberals, then a Conservative victory will be short-lived. Frum's advice is a ticket to a Conservative minority - one doomed to fall in short order, resulting in the restoration of a 'new' Liberal Party purged of the taint of Adscam.

Daifallah's advice is a ticket to a Conservative majority - if not in this election, then in the next. I'm actually very surprised at Frum's almost total rejection of the core of Daifallah's thesis - not only in his article, but in his book. Frum is certainly right that the Liberals have offered up many opportunities for hard-hitting attack ads - but attack ads, without more, will not serve long-term Conservative - or conservative - goals.

Posted by David Mader at 01:13 PM | (2) | Back to Main


Listen to this, from CTVNews:

In deference to constitutional tradition, Martin arrived at Rideau Hall in Ottawa at about 9:30 a.m. ET, to formally inform Jean that the minority government was defeated in a non-confidence motion and to request that Parliament be dissolved.
Just simple deference to constitutional tradition, eh? Awfully nice of Mr. Paul to respect that 'constitutional tradition' thing. Lord knows he has no obligation to follow 'constitutional tradition.' He's Paul Martin, you know. 'Constitutional tradition' is something he follows at his whim.

Posted by David Mader at 09:18 AM | (0) | Back to Main

Angkor Wat

I've just wrapped up 3 days touring Angkor Wat. For those of you who haven't heard of it, Angkor Wat is a huge complex of ruined temples in the Cambodian jungle dating from the 9th to 12th centuries. It is an absolutely amazing place. First, it is huge. I spent three days here and I didn't see all the sites. You could easily spend more time, particularly becuase it is worth visiting sites at different times of day when the light is different.

I hadn't really appreciated the scale before. This area was the capital of Cambodia for several hundred years. Each successive king built at least one temple, trying to outdo the last one (think the pyramids). The capital also moved around slightly during that time, so whole new cities were constructed. The many temples and other ruins now cover quite a large area. To get around I hired a motorcyle and driver who took my between sites ($35 US for 3 days). He was quite knowledgeable, but I also had a guide book.

All in all, a wonderful few days touring one of the most amazing, unique places on earth. I'm very glad that I have now seen it.

Next, I'm off to Pnom Penh, the capital, tommorow morning. Five hour bus ride. Not bad.

Posted by Dan Mader at 06:36 AM | (0) | Back to Main

Harper Takes Risk, Goes Positive

I agree with Adam: this was a very good speech. Harper was positive, optimistic, relaxed, confident - in short, he looked like a leader. The decision to kick the campaign off with a commitment to a forward-looking perspective was a good one - and I can't help but wonder if someone in the Leader's Office hasn't been reading Adam and Tasha's new book, and specifically Chapter 12:

The message of conservatism cannot just be about reducing the size of government and cutting taxes. Though these things are important, conservatives must offer more. They must show how their ideas empower people and above all, improve their lives.
That's good advice for big-C conservatives as well, and I'm glad to see Harper taking it.

The real stroke of genius, though, was contrasting the forward-looking Conservative platform to the backward-looking Gomery report. The transcript isn't up yet (get on that, guys!), but I believe Harper's actual quote is: "Justice Gomery looked into the past: where the money went, who stole it, who benefited from it. We are looking to the future, and we want to move forward and address the real priorities of ordinary Canadians."

In a sense, this is absurd: everyone 'knows' that this election is, at root, about Gomery and the sponsorship scandal - why else would the government have fallen a year and a half after the last election? But Harper seems to be reducing Gomery to a shorthand - invoke the name and Canadians know exactly what you're talking about, and what they feel about it. There's little to be gained from talking about specifics - especially since the Prime Ministers himself was not implicated. But the fact that Martin wasn't implicated doesn't mean Canadians feel dandy about the whole thing; on the contrary. By simply mentioning Gomery and then moving on to a forward-looking platform, Harper leaves it to the Liberals to explain why Gomery isn't so bad. And what could be worse for an incumbent party than to explain to voters, during an election, why the inquiry into their party's scandalous behavior really isn't so bad? If Harper can get the Liberals to take the bait, he'll have set the tone for the campaign.

I would presume that the Liberals are smarter than that - but remember, Martin's people are running this show. It looks like it may be worth watching after all.

Posted by David Mader at 12:44 AM | (1) | Back to Main

Polling by Age Range

Dan - who, as you all know, is in south-east Asia - forwards this Pollara pre-writ poll. Dan notes that the Tories poll very well in the 25-34, 35-44, 55-64 and 65+ brackets. Aside from young people (18-24), the Conservative Party's big liability - and the Grits' big strength - is the baby boomer bracket, 45-54; in that bracket the Grits lead 40-25. Dan suggests that by identifying and addressing the concerns of that bracket, the Tories stand to gain - and perhaps win. That seems right.

Three other observations:

  • There seem to be an awful lot of undecideds - I note particularly the 17% overall number and the 20% female undecided number. I don't know if that's a normal level for this point in the campaign - it wouldn't surprise me - but it suggests there's a lot of room to make gains without needing to dip too far into other parties' bases. The presumption last time around (correct, it seems) was that undecideds would bank on the devil they know - in fact, if I recall correctly, this was the explicit theme of the last week of the Grit campaign in 2004. But if this poll (via Wudrick) is right, Canadians may well be sick of the devil they know.*

  • Why are old people so anti-separatist? There's a full ten-point drop in support for the Bloc from the 55-64 range to the 65+ range. Does Quebec not have very many people over the age of 65? It seems to me these would be the heroes of the Quiet Revolution. Or was the Quiet Revolution - like 'the Sixties' in America - really a myth that found currency with the immediately-succeeding generation?

  • Notice how quickly support for the NDP falls off once voters enter the 'earning' years - from 26% in the 18-25 range to 18% in the 25-34 range.
Interesting stuff.

* Note: I'm not sure how much I trust that poll, despite the large sample size, for the simple reason that the 68% of respondents who believe the Conservatives will form the next government seem way out of whack with other polls as well as the conventional wisdom of the moment.

Posted by David Mader at 12:05 AM | (2) | Back to Main

November 28, 2005

Registering to Vote

So there's going to be an election, and for those of you who, like me, live abroad but are eligible to vote, it's important to register for a 'special ballot.'

Only - are we eligible to vote? Here are Elections Canada's three criteria for eligibility:

1. you resided in Canada at any time before applying for registration;

2. you have resided outside Canada for less than five consecutive years since your last return to Canada (some exceptions apply); and

3. you intend to resume residence in Canada.

In my case, the first two propositions are true - I have lived in Canada, and I have lived outside of Canada for less than five consecutive years since my last return.

But number three isn't true - I don't intend to resume residence in Canada. Does this mean that I no longer have the vote? (Incidentally, this wouldn't be the first time that the government of Canada has classified me as, essentially, a non-citizen.) That's not entirely a facetious question; I can see why the Crown (are things still done in the name of the Crown?) would want to disenfranchise who have left the country with no intention of returning. But if I'm not a Canadian for voting purposes, then I must not be a Canadian for taxation purposes either, right? I mean, no taxation without representation isn't just an American concept - it's a democratic concept.

So which is it - should I register to vote or stop paying taxes?

UPDATE: If you're interested, here's Section 222 of the Canada Elections Act disenfranchising those Canadians who have lived abroad for less than five years but who do not intend to resume residence in Canada. Note that, at least according to the plain meaning of Section 2(3) of the Income Tax Act, I do not have to pay any income tax. That removes the subordinate question of whether I could be disenfranchised while still being taxed. So the question now is, is the disenfranchisement of a Canadian citizen appropriate where that citizen does not intend to resume residence in Canada but has not yet achieved any immigrant status (let alone citizenship) in another nation? Am I stateless?

(Thanks to Stern for the special ballot link.)

Posted by David Mader at 11:27 PM | (2) | Back to Main

Let's Do It, Then, And be Done

So that's that. Note that the only reason this 'historic' direct confidence motion was necessary was because Paul Martin's Liberal government made history by ignoring an implicit confidence motion in the Spring.

Like most, I anticipate yet another Liberal minority - but eight weeks is a long time in politics, and hope springs eternal.

Posted by David Mader at 07:56 PM | (0) | Back to Main

Martin Booed At the Grey Cup?

Has anyone heard audio of this? Warms the cockles of my heart.

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

November 27, 2005

This Would Be Criminal

At least, that's how it looks to me. It will be interesting to see how it plays - whether it's a 'bombshell that might wreck the Liberal Party's hopes in the upcoming election,' or whether it's 'wild accusations from the Tories.' Which of those story-lines predominates will be a marker, I think, of the public sentiment regarding the Liberal Party's capacity and willingness to break the law.

Posted by David Mader at 10:06 PM | (0) | Back to Main

Greetings from Cambodia

Another thing I never thought I'd say...

I'm sitting at an internet cafe in Siem Riep, Cambodia. The fact that I am posting this means that I am, indeed, alive, and that I have therefore survived a flight on Lao Airlines, perhaps not the world's sketchiest airline, but definitely up there. My flight from Vientiane to Bangkok passed without incident. There was even an in-flight meal on our hour long flight. We were served a nice boxed meal. And what was it? A hot dog! I then flew on to Siem Riep this morning on Bangkok Air. If you are ever in SE Asia, I highly recommend Bangkok Air. They were wonderful. All passengers can use their lounge (not just 1st class), they were all very helpful, and they served a large meal on a 35 minute flight! Wonderful. They do fly the Boeing 717, which I wasn't familiar with, though, but I was on an Airbus A320. Don't get me started on the problems with the A320 and Airbuses in general, just trust me that this flight was great.

Siem Riep is the town next to Angkor Wat. I'd heard a lot about Angkor, but I was still blown away. It is amazing. It is an absolutely huge complex of temple ruins. Its so big that I am spending 3 days here and will still not see it all. Its absolutely breathtaking. I spent the day there today and am returning in the morning to watch the sun rise. I have a great driver who is driving me around by motorcyle (the way you get around here) and I'm having a great time. I'm also taking A LOT of pictures which I will eventually be posting.

Posted by Dan Mader at 07:54 AM | (3) | Back to Main

November 25, 2005


I've had many requests to post some pictures from my trip. Don't worry - I'm taking lots and lots of pictures (almost 500 so far) and will post them all eventually. I'd like to post them as I go along, but the Internet connections I can find here, while easy to find, are rather slow. I've just uploaded a few pictures from the beginning of my trip, but I won't be able to upload any more today. I will certainly try to upload more as I go along.

For now, here are some pictures of Jim Thompson house in Bangkok. Its a beautiful oasis in the middle of a crazy city, a lovely example of old Thai architecture.

Also, can people recommend good sites for posting pictures? Imagestation and Flickr come to mind. Both are good, but have their flaws. If there is one that you use and like, please post a comment about it. Thanks!

Posted by Dan Mader at 10:07 PM | (2) | Back to Main

Tubing: A comparative review

For those of you unfamiliar with the idea, tubing means floating down a river on a rubber inner-tube. Its a wonderful way to spend a day in a sunny place with a relatively calm river. Its also a great excuse to spend the day out in the sun drinking beer. I've now been tubing in two places at opposite ends of the world: Austin, Texas and Vang Vieng, Laos, so I thought I'd post a little comparison of the two.

Similarities: The basic idea is essentially the same. You rent your tube from someone who drives you upriver and drops you off. You then spend a few hours floating downriver, drinking beer. Its a lot of fun, especially when you're with a good group of people.

There were a few key differences, however, allowing for an evaluation of the two places:

Drinking: This was a key difference. In Texas, you buy your beer in advance and rent a cooler tube, essentially a tube with cooler lashed to it. This means you drink while floating down the river. In Laos, you stop at little bars along the way to buy beer. Each bar has some sort of a jump, for entertainment. Several of these were rope swings, or just high jumps built out from the trees. They were a lot of fun. Advantage: Laos!

River: The river you tube on in Vang Vieng is rather calm. There are a few little rapids, but nothing to get too excited about. The river you tube on in Austin, in comparison, is great. There are several rapids big enough to throw you off your tube, leaving your in the water frantically trying to save your beer. Lots of fun, really. Advantage: Texas!

Scenery: The river in Texas flows through some nice woods, but the one in Laos flows by some beautiful mountains. Advantage: Laos!

So, in conclusion, they're both awesome. Tubing in Laos was great. If you're travelling in the region, definitely make a stop in Vang Vieng. And if you're in Texas, you should definitely go tubing regularly!

Posted by Dan Mader at 05:25 AM | (1) | Back to Main

Luang Prabang and Vang Vieng

I just spent a lovely few days in these two Laotian towns. Luang Prabang is the old royal capital and is a very beautiful little city, with a lot of French influence. I spent my first day there just wandering around, enjoying the city and visiting a few nice temples. The next day I went to do the two major tourist activities there. First, I took a slow boat up the river for an hour to visit a cave that is full of Budha statues. I had sworn to myself to never again set foot on a slow boat, so it was a bit difficult, but I made it.

That afternoon I went to visit a beautiful waterfall near the city. It was a wonderful place. There were a bunch of us there, and we hang up by the waterfall for a while and swam.

The next morning I took the bus to Vang Vieng. It was only about 250 kilometres, but it took 7 hours! The bus follows an extremely windy road through some beautiful mountains. The views were wonderful. There were some interesting people on the bus, and I had a good book, so the time went by pretty fast. Not a bad day.

I arrived in Vang Vieng and went in search of a guest house. Vang Vieng is a very strange place. It has the feel of a crumbling industrial town. The main street isn't paved, and the sidewalks consist of rubble. Fortunately, it is located along a wonderful stretch of river with mountains nearby. It was therefore become a huge destination for backpackers. The main street has been completely taken over by businesses catering to backpackers, including the rather strange "TV bars" where there are TVs constangly showing movies or, more likely, episodes of "Friends." There's something odd about sitting in a bar in Laos, with some people you've just met who come from all over the world, drinking a lovely (and super cheap) Beer Lao and watching friends. Actually kinda fun. Ended the night with drinks by the campfire of a little bar on an island, reached by a tiny bamboo bridge. Lovely place.

Posted by Dan Mader at 05:17 AM | (0) | Back to Main

November 24, 2005

Happy Thanksgiving

O beautiful for pilgrim feet
Whose stern, impassioned stress
A thoroughfare for freedom beat
Across the wilderness!
America! America!
God mend thine every flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law!

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

November 23, 2005

Sharon, Likud and What It All Means

Various people have asked me what I think about Ariel Sharon's decision to leave Likud and found a new party. I can't do better than point everyone to this analysis by Bret Stephens of the Wall Street Journal on the Hugh Hewitt show.

As for my own feeling, I'm pro-Sharon all the way. If the choice is between an anti-market/pro-withrdrawal Labour, a pro-market/pro-withdrawal Sharon party, and a pro-market/anti-withdrawal Likud, I go with Sharon. And it may be too much to hope that Likud would be pro-market; a number of the leadership hopefuls have been trying to chip away at front-runner Benjamin Netanyahu's lead by attacking the economic liberalization he instituted as Finance Minister.

Posted by David Mader at 11:43 PM | (0) | Back to Main

Red Russia Watch

This can't be good.

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


This article on the changing of the south is interesting, and I'm pretty sure that I have an opinion about it, but I don't have time right now to figure out what it is.

Is that a quintessential blogger's post or what?

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

November 22, 2005

More On Torture

Jeff Goldstein, apparently prompted in part by the same Kos post I remarked upon yesterday, has a solid post of his own making much the same point. This part should seem particularly familiar to Maderblog readers:

For my part, I have no trouble whatsoever with techniques like waterboarding, sleep deprivation, disorientation, extreme temperature change, etc—primarily because I don’t think promoting discomfort or fear constitute “torture.” But then this is precisely the point: when the definition of torture hinges on abstractions like “anguish” and “distress,” and on qualifications to those abstractions like “severe,” then the problem of defining torture effectively—and distinguishing it from other techniques of active interrogation—becomes context and ethos-specific.
Or, as Goldstein later puts it, "[t]he semantics ARE the issue."

I think I disagree with this, though:
[W]e should not take anything off the table, if only so that our enemies can’t get comfortable knowing that there is a limit to what we are prepared to do to protect our country and its citizens.
I think there are certain things we should take off the table - murder, dismemberment, rape, severe battery. On a practical level, refusing to disavow these practices allows simple demagoguery of the United States by our enemies in the eyes of those who might be our allies or might be swayed the other way. The same argument, of course, could be made as to other coercive interrogation techniques, but I think the distinction between practices that result in death or physical injury and those that don't is enough to sustain the difference in treatment. (That, of course, is the thrust of the whole debate.)

As reader Matt noted on an earlier post, the public declaration that prisoners will not be subjected to physical injury has the potential to undermine the effectiveness of techniques that rely on the threat of such physical injury. I'm fine with that. I recognize that it would allow a smart detainee to resist pressure to cooperate given his knowledge that threats of physical consequence will always remain threats. I think that's a necessary cost, though, of ensuring a proper application of what are, regardless of your perspective, at least troubling interrogation practices.

Moreover, I think that even the knowledge that a threat will not be realized would be hard to maintain in the face of certain of the techniques. It may be easy to laugh at the barking dogs to which one is exposed if one knows that they will never be unleashed; it would, I imagine, be much harder to giggle one's way through a waterboarding knowing that one will not in fact be killed. That's one reason I'm still on the fence about water-boarding, which I think occupies the greyest of grey areas in this debate.

Posted by David Mader at 07:10 PM | (0) | Back to Main

November 21, 2005

There It Is

Folks like Andrew Sullivan who have been tearing into the administration for its approval of torture tactics against enemy combatant detainees often express frustration at the apparent lack of interest from the right side of the blogosphere. One regular criticism is that righties spend too much time picking at the details, and thereby miss the big picture. I'm not sure this is a resolvable disagreement - those righties, myself included, think that the details are the big picture - but in any case, those who don't understand the rightie ambivalence towards the torture debate might consider this statement from Kos:

Saddam tortured, we torture.
This statement isn't actually indefensible; the thing is, it can only be defended if the debate over what is or is not 'torture' has already occurred. Most interestingly, when righties do try to engage in this debate, they are derided by the self-proclaimed opponents of torture.

Most reasonable people, I think, would not immediately accept Kos's statement. Most would draw a distinction between the torture that appears to have been common under Saddam - the direct application of physical force to a prisoner for the purpose of inflicting pain and punishment - and the torture that appears to have taken place in American jails overseas. Certainly at the extreme American captors have engaged in practices that are comparable - although even the extreme cases involve beating to death rather than dismemberment (hardly a worthy distinction, but a distinction nonetheless). But the most common of the alleged torture techniques seem, I think, qualitatively different than those practiced by Saddam. Americans are criticized for engaging in waterboarding; for depriving prisoners of sleep; for exposing prisoners to extreme temperatures; for exposing prisoners to dangerous environments (such as placing them in cages with dangerous animals). These are all, I think, qualitatively different than dismemberment and battery.

That's not to say that these practices are not torture; they may well be. But the simple assertion that "Saddam tortured, we torture" depends, I think, either on an assumption that the most common of the alleged practices constitute torture, or on the suggestion that the extreme incidents of torture by Americans are morally or logically comparable to the systemic application of the same or comparable techniques by Saddam.

I certainly don't think the second of these suggestions is true; as to the first, I'm working on a post about what might and might not be considered torture, but I've written on the subject before and my views haven't changed substantially.

Posted by David Mader at 07:26 PM | (0) | Back to Main

November 20, 2005

Greetings from Laos

I'm in Laos. That's something that I never really imagined I'd say. Nothing against Laos, its just that until a few months ago I'd never imagined that I might one day set foot in Lao PDR (People's Democratic Republic). Well, here I am.

This post is rather long, as it sums up the last few days, so I've put it in the Extended Entry area.

When I last posted, I'd arrived in Chiang Mai. I then spent three days on a tour of northern Thailand, travelling by Jeep. There were 16 of us on the trip - 2 guides, 13 Israelis, and me. Even the Thai guides spoke more Hebrew that I did, so communication was difficult at times. Still, they were all great people, and the trip was a lot of fun. We did all the things that you are supposed to do as a tourist in Thailand - rode elephants, watched a snake show, rode bamboo rafts, fed monkeys, drove through the hills and visited native villages. It was a great three days.

I then returned to Chiang Mai overnight before hopping on a bus north to the Thai-Lao border. This was not fun. It was 7 hours on a bus that was like a greyhound, but with 5 seats across instead of 4. However, I arrived in Chiang Kong (a small town on the Mekong river) and checked into a beatiful little Guest House. They had a very nice
patio overlooking the river on which they served surprisingly good Mexican food. Never in my life did I think I'd be sitting on a bamboo patio, looking out at Laos, and eating a burrito. It was kinda surreal.

The next morning I got up and walked to the Thai immigration station to get my passport stamped, then took a water taxi across the river. The process for getting a Lao visa was relatively painless. Then I changed some money. Usually, this is not such a big deal. However, they exchange rate for the Lao Kip is approximately 10,000 to the US dollar, and the biggest bill in circulation is 5,000 Kip, so counting out enough Kip for a $50 USD traveller's cheque can take some time :)

Finally, I boarded a river boat for the trip to Luang Prabang. This was a long, narrov boat, with bench seats for 4 in each row. It was packed, and held about 100 people. All day we sailed down the Mekong through beautiful scenery - rolling hills slowly giving way to mountains. The river is wide, but surprisingly fast flowing. It also has a lot of exposed rocks and small islands, which are quite nice.

That night, we stopped in a very small town for the night. I stayed in a small woodedn guesthouse without electricity (long story). It was not pleasant. However, I did have a wonderful dinner with two Danish girls I met on the boat. We ate very good Indian food. This helped make up for the terrible accomdations. No matter what else was happening, here I was, in the middle of Laos, eating great Indian food by candlelight and drinking quite good beer that cost about $1 USD for a 640 ml bottle. Not too shabby.

Back on the boat this morning for another 7 hours. A bit boring, but luckily I have a good book. Arrived in Luang Prabang this afternoon. It is a wonderful little town of approximately 20,000 people. It is the old royal capital and so is full of beautiful temples. It also quite a bit of French influence. All in all, a very nice place. And I'm staying in a much nicer guesthouse. For $8 US a night I have a nice big room with a double bed, my own bathroom with a hot shower, and a balcony overlooking the river. Looking forward to a nice relaxing couple of days here. Now - dinner time!

Posted by Dan Mader at 05:28 AM | (1) | Back to Main

You Gotta Love the Post

"Quadriplegic, draft dodger vie for mayor" - Headline.

Great to see them sum up the really important issues of the campaign.

UPDATE: In case you're intersted, the Quadriplegic won. Congratulations to Sam Sullivan. I was lucky enough to meet him early in the campaign, when I volunteered to help him win the nomination (local politics in Vancouver is by party - don't ask). He's a great man and should be an excellent mayor.

Posted by Dan Mader at 05:21 AM | (0) | Back to Main

November 17, 2005

Least Persuasive Argument Possible, Redux

Via Josh Marshall:

Murtha [see here] on Cheney: "I like guys who've never been there that criticize us who've been there. I like that. I like guys who got five deferments and never been there and send people to war, and then don't like to hear suggestions about what needs to be done."
I mean, look, I like Heinlein as much as the next guy. But I like liberal democracy better.

For an earlier response to this line of argument, see here (but note that, as Kelly says in the comments, I may have misinterpreted the statements that are the subject of that post).

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

Return of the Hat

It's about time. I thought things had been set back considerably by Ashton Kutcher; I hope the Telegraph is right.

Posted by David Mader at 03:06 PM | (1) | Back to Main

Crisis of Confidence

This should concern everyone, I think, regardless of political persuasion:

Prime Minister Paul Martin's Liberal government is plagued by rock-bottom morale, excessive spending aimed at bribing Canadians, and a string of "stupid" and "foolish" decisions that aren't in the public interest, senior federal bureaucrats were told at a private conference last week.
That's certainly been my impression.

Posted by David Mader at 02:30 PM | (0) | Back to Main

I Think I Actively Dislike This Man


Prime Minister Paul Martin warned the three opposition leaders today that they could offend religious and ethnic groups by forcing an election over the holiday season.
You know what else could offend religious and ethnic groups? The opportunistic use of their faith or ethnicity by an irreligious politician.

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

5.9 Billion?!

Turns out Alberta has some extra cash:

Thanks to record oil and gas revenues, Alberta's surplus will be $5.9 billion this year — even after paying $400 to every man, woman and child in "resource rebates." [. . .]

$1.6 billion is being put into savings and $3.4 billion will go to the capital account to help pay for schools and hospitals.

Spending on schools and hospitals is all well and good, but there's a part of me that wonders whether it wouldn't have been better to simply put that $5.9 billion into the government bank account and then arrange to collect $5.9 billion dollars fewer taxes next year.

Or do they still collect taxes in Alberta?

Posted by David Mader at 01:11 AM | (1) | Back to Main

Campbell on Cameron

Here's an interesting spectacle: former Blair PR man Alastair Campbell criticizing Tory leadership hopefull David Cameron. Not so interesting, you say? Well, consider this:

There may be those who say there is a bit of double reverse spin at play here. First, it is said I am a friend of David Davis and this article may be seen as an attempt to assist him. I suspect my help would come somewhere after bird flu in Mr Davis’s list of desires. Secondly, some may say that in attempting to present Mr Cameron as an attractive target for Labour, I am revealing deep-seated fears about him. But as a newspaper commentator said recently, just because I say something doesn ’t mean it’s not true.
It take a real spin doctor to spin the spin about his spin. Yowza.

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

'A boat, Baldric, Lord Nelson has a boat.'

Canadians, on the other hand, have a vote - but aren't crazy about casting it. Nonetheless, the opposition is planning to bring down the government by the end of the month.

Follwing my earlier post on what I saw as the ridiculousness of the criticisms of a Christmas campaign, I spoke to my mom who had an excellent observation. The problem, she said, is not a Christmas campaign per se. The problem is that no one sees any reason to vote for the Tories and everyone assumes the Liberals will win again; given that expectation, most people see another campaign as simply a waste of time and - more importantly - money.

(See? Punditry runs in the family.)

This puts the opposition in quite a bind. If, as all the opposition parties have said, the Liberals are corrupt and dishonest and unfit to govern, then the government should fall - regardless of how the public feels about an election. But if the opposition triggers an election that the people don't want, it's entirely possible that the opposition parties will pay for it at the polls.

Sticky. I'd go with principle, of course, and it looks like Harper got Layton to come around to that position in the end. Whether they go through with it despite the negative numbers will be interesting to see.

Posted by David Mader at 12:27 AM | (0) | Back to Main

Undermining the Confidentiality Canard

First it was Judith Miller; now Washington Post reporter Walter Pincus has been held in contempt for his refusal to disclose anonymous sources relating to a story he wrote about nuclear scientist Wen Ho Lee.

I first expressed my opposition to 'press privilege' on this blog more than two years ago (a year before I started law school, as it happens), and I hold by what I wrote them:

It increasingly seems to me that press privilege is simply a way to allow both sources and reporters escape consequence: a source knows that if he leaks something, and he's fingered, his career will be ruined - or worse; the reporter believes that if he surrenders a source, further stories will not be discovered, and the greater good will not be served. But if those positions are meritorious, there's no reason they should be protected by law any more than they are in the narrowest sense. If a whistleblower believes his leak is necessary, he should have the principle to go ahead with it - whatever the personal consequences. True, some people may value employment over honesty, but we shouldn't alter the law to encourage that preference - which is effectively what press privilege (and whistleblower protection) does.

Likewise, if the reporter believes a higher principle is at stake, he should have the character to suffer the consequences of his silence - even if that means being considered an accomplice to a felony. True, some reporters may have a legitimate fear that revealing a source would poorly serve their careers, employers or the media business in general - but we shouldn't alter the law to benefit one industry.

I was really rocking the italics back then, wasn't I? In any case, I applaud this latest decision as the latest in what appears to be a trend away from lower-court judicial recognition of any firm notion of reporter privilege. While a qualified privilege may well still exist where no real government interest can be demonstrated, it appears that when push comes to shove reporters have to play by the same rules we all play by. If they choose to go to jail to preserve a self-imposed notion of professional responsibility, that's up to them. Judges shouldn't - and, it seems, don't - hesitate to provide them with the opportunity to demonstrate their professional commitment.

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

November 16, 2005

Aw, Crap


Drinking decaffeinated coffee may be bad for your heart - a finding that will come as a shock to those who think ridding the beverage of its powerful stimulant might make it better for them.

A study comparing the cardiac health of 187 coffee drinkers yesterday suggested decaf versions of the world's most popular drink could help raise "bad" cholesterol, which at high levels can lead to disease of the arteries.

You can't win. Back to caffeine for me? This may be the end of my coffee-drinking days altogether.

PHEW (00:00 CST, 11/17/05): Hey, if a doctor says it it must be good advice:
Robert Eckel, MD, president of the American Heart Association and a cardiologist at the University of Colorado College of Medicine in Denver, tells WebMD that he admires the researchers for putting coffee drinking to such a rigorous scientific test. But based on this one finding, "we should not change our coffee drinking habits in America," he says.
Thanks, doc!

Posted by David Mader at 11:56 PM | (0) | Back to Main

Willie Pete

So as y'all have no doubt noticed, I haven't been blogging much of late - no time. I'm taking tonight off, though, and I'm coming across stories that I'd more or less missed. I hadn't at all followed the debate over the use of white phosphorus in Fallujah, but the BBC provides an excellent overview.

Based on the story itself, there certainly does seem to be reason for concern - although there's no indication that soldiers were using WP as a direct lethal weapon. Even if the use in Fallujah conformed to international legal norms, however, there's reason to be wary of the use of such munitions. I generally have few hangups about the use of unconventional weapons where warranted, but I wonder about the use of WP as essentially a handy incendiary to flush out enemies. Presumably combat units are provided WP ordnance for a specific purpose; I would guess that the 'shake 'n bake' tactic is outside of that purpose. If soldiers are using WP because of its handiness in doing something other than what it's supposed to be doing, that should be a strong signal to the higher-ups that a new, function-specific munition should be developed.

Should the soldiers and battlefield officers be condemned for their innovative use of a potentially-troubling weapon? No, certainly not. But it's certainly valid - indeed, important - to consider how to better control the battlefield use of grey-zone munitions like WP. There's certainly an argument for leaving discretion solely to the commanding officers; on the other hand, this may indicate a need for more on-the-scene experts?

What sorts of experts? Wait for it: lawyers. The UT Law magazine had an article a few months ago about a grad who was serving on the ground in Iraq. Although techincally a JAG (I believe), his duties went well beyond matters of military adjudication. He helped to train and inform the combat troops about rules of engagement, treatment of prisoners and so on, and because of his education he was tapped by various commanding officers to participate in negotiations and so on.

The WP debate suggests, to me at least, that the role of 'battlefield attorney' should be expanded. I don't think it would be either practical or worthwhile to have commanding officers become attorneys even in a limited sense; nor would it make sense to have law school grads become commanding officers. What would be useful, I think, would be to have a specific rank or class of battlefield lawyers who would be on hand to advise both soldiers and officers regarding the voluminous issues that arise at any given moment in wartime conditions. It should remain up to officers (and soldiers) how best to act upon the advice of the attorney, but it would be better, I think, to have an 'expert' on the scene than to second-guess after the fact.

There are obstacles, of course - the greatest being, perhaps, the risk of having a 'smarty-pants' lawyer telling officers and soldiers what they can and can't do. But I'm not sure that would offset the advantage. Thoughts?

Posted by David Mader at 11:40 PM | (4) | Back to Main

That's Rich

So someone let Saudi Arabia into the WTO, but our friends the Saudis aren't so sure about the 'no boycotts of other members' thing:

Like many other Arab states, Saudi Arabia has maintained a boycott on trade with Israel, along with a rejection of diplomatic ties. The oil-rich kingdom, home to Islam's holiest sites, has long insisted it will not establish relations with Israel until a comprehensive peace is reached with all Arab states.
Got that? Saudi Arabia won't have any relationship, economic or diplomatic, until Israel reaches a comprehensive peace agreement with all Arab states.

Arab states like Saudi Arabia.

Which doesn't have diplomatic relations with Israel.

Sort of hard to reach an agreement when you won't speak to them, no? Maybe they're just holding out for a trip to Oslo.

Posted by David Mader at 11:34 PM | (0) | Back to Main

How'd We Miss This?

Haven't seen much discussion of this in the blogosphere. A friend of mine had said last week that if a windfall profits tax were approved by Republicans, he'd give money to the Democrats. "Well," he said today, "I guess I have to give money to the Democrats."

The provision could still fail in the Senate, and even if it passes it would have to get through the House. And it's interesting to note that it passed only (apparently) with the support of a 'moderate' Republican from Maine - a state that is an exclusive (as far as I know) consumer of oil products.

Of course whether your state is a producer or consumer of oil products, there's no excuse for imposing what is, essentially, a punitive tax on oil companies. The tax would work as follows:

[T]he provision would require major "integrated" oil companies - those that do everything from drilling to running gasoline stations - to revise the way they account for the oil inventories next year. Under current law, if an oil company increases its inventories, it can book that increase as a cost against profits and value the new oil at current market prices. If oil prices shoot up, as they did this year, this approach allows big oil companies to claim increased costs and reduce their taxable income by hundreds of millions of dollars each.
You could cast this as the closing of a loophole - except that it wasn't really a loophole. And there's no correlation between the proposed measure - changing oil accounting procedures - and the 'problem' - high revenues. Well, there is one correlation - by legislating a new accounting regime, the government can take a chunk of those revenues.

When the government imposes a common tax to raise revenue, we grin and bear it as a necessary evil; when the government specifically imposes a tax on the successful in order to a) punish the successful for making money and b) 'make' more money for itself, well, that's socialism.

That or theft. Let's be kind and call it socialism.

On the other hand, calling it socialism involves a recognition of economic literacy on the part of the senators who supported the measure. This leaves me doubtful:

The panel also accepted without objection an amendment offered by Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., that would scale back a $1 billion tax break that allows oil and gas companies to deduct some expenses tied to energy exploration in the United States over two years.
Problem: gas prices are high. Solution: increase supply to decrease prices. Senate's Solution: raise costs of increasing supply.

You see the logic, right? Right? Yea, me neither. Remember: you trust these people with the regulation of the American economy.

Yea, it makes me sick too.

Posted by David Mader at 11:16 PM | (1) | Back to Main

Whoops - Did Someone Say Abortion?

This Environics poll on Canadian attitudes towards abortion may surprise you. Go have a look. This will give you a taste, though:

When Canadians are asked at what point in human development should the law protect human life, a total of six in ten say from conception on (30%), after three months of pregnancy (19%) or after six months of pregnancy (11%). One-third of Canadians (33%) think human life should receive legal protection only from the point of birth.
So fully half of all Canadians actively oppose late-term (three-plus months) abortion. There's lots more: fully a third believe that life should be protected from conception; seventy percent support 'informed consent' laws; a majority support parental consent(!) laws; and most believe that public funding should be limited to medically necessary abortions.

At current, as I understand it, Canada has no abortion law whatsoever - no statute, no legislatively-enacted guideline, nothing. Every election cycle, the Conservative Party is pilloried in the press on the abortion issue - regardless of the official Tory position. But this poll strongly suggests that the press is out of touch - extraordinarily out of touch - with mainstream Canadian opinion on abortion.

And the Tories need not run on an absolute ban; because there is no abortion law, running on various peripheral restrictions - like parental notification (or even consent) or informed consent laws - would seem to provide a solid wedge. At the very least, a late-term abortion ban would seem already to have the support of a solid majority of Canadians.

The abortion issue is often tied to the notion that the Conservatives are the 'scary' party. But scary to whom, exactly? To the CBC and the Liberal Party?

Posted by David Mader at 08:00 PM | (8) | Back to Main


Okay, we all know what an administration cheerleader I am, but this did make me raise my eyebrows. On the other hand, is the 83,000 figure an aggregate or a maximum? In other words, did the US at one point have 83,000 people in custody - or has it had, at one time or another, 83,000 different people in custory for whatever length of time since the Afghanistan campaign? Even if it's the latter (and I suspect it is), it seems a bit much; on the other hand, it's important to know just what 'detained' means. Brought in for questioning and released after a few hours or a night in jail? They can do that - even to Americans - without running afoul of habeas issues (generally speaking, to the best of my knowledge).

The troubling aspect, I think, is that we presume that those held long-term have no judicial determination of their status. Those of us who are fine with Gitmo operate under an assumption that some sort of adjudicative process results in the selection of particular individuals for long-term incarceration at certain facilities like Gitmo. But if Gitmo housed 14,000 people I think even we supporters would start to wonder. That seems to be essentially what we're seeing here. That's an issue.

Posted by David Mader at 03:33 PM | (0) | Back to Main

November 14, 2005

Let's Do This

So the Grits are calling the bluff, challenging the Opposition to trigger a Christmas election. "Families will be interrupted by candidates campaigning on their doorsteps through the Christmas holiday season," said Tony Valeri. According to the Canadian Press, "Conservative Leader Stephen Harper said Martin can avoid interfering with holiday celebrations if he accepts the opposition's alternative proposal" of a January election.

Conservative M.P. Monte Solberg has what should be the last word on this 'interrupting-the-holidays' nonsense:

If there was campaigning near Christmas it would mean that the airwaves would be flooded with advertising and we sure wouldn't want that. Here's the other thing, can you imagine people having to vote near Christmas. I mean people would have to be out and about driving around in winter weather right near Christmas. Who in their right mind drives anywhere near Christmas?

As you know Christmas is that period where we go home around the second week of December and stay there until after New Year's Day. This is the period where we turn off the TV, roast chestnuts, go tobogganing down by the old mill stream, play hockey on the pond, tell stories by the fire, and put on matching sweaters and sit by the Christmas tree drinking hot cocoa with a golden retriever by our feet.

Poor Liberal Ministers won't be able to go to Mexico this year. My heart bleeds. How about the parties stop patronizing Canadians and start trying to convince us to vote for them? Or are we too easily distracted by the two-month-long Christmas season to be trusted with, you know, the governance of our nation?

UPDATE (9:30 CST): On the other hand, this.

Posted by David Mader at 09:15 AM | (6) | Back to Main

Chang Mai

Greetings from Chang Mai. I arrive here this morning on the overnight bus from Bangkok. This 12 hours on what was basically a greyhound was not the most uncomfortable trip I've ever taken, but only because the Rotman rugby team once went to North Carolina on a party bus that was lots of fun to party on, but not so fun to sleep on. Anyway, I'm here now, though a bit tired. It was interesting to stop at the Thai rest stops though. Not exacly Wendy's and Tim Hortons! Stores selling some recognizable stuff, some stuff that is close to what you're used to, and some stuff that is completely unrecognizable. Example of the second category: Chips in flavours like "Thai Curry." They also tend to have a food stand, similar to the ones that you see on the street. These make very cheap, very good food, like a bowl of noodles for 60 cents.

I met a few people on the bus, including an Australian guy and a girl from Toronto who just happened to be sitting right behind me. Finally arrived at the guest house around 7:00 am and checked in. Very decent room that is included as party of my Jeep Trek. Bathroom actually in the room. This is luxury! And, though not air condititioned, its not an oven during the day. Double Luxury!

After dropping my stuff, I met up with the Canaidan girl I met on the bus and headed out to see Chang Mai. Ate Tofu Pad Thai (always a cheap and great breakfast), then caught a bus up to a Budhist temple on a hill overlooking the city. But bus, what I really mean is a pickup truck with two bech seats in the back and a roof over it. This is a very common mode of transportation here. The temple was breathtaking - full of beautiful statues and wonderful design. I'll try to post pictures at some point. It also had a great view of the city. After the temple, we went for a hike in a National Park next door. Really this was just a walk through the jungle. Nothing too exciting to see, but nice to go for a walk and nice to see some jungle.

Now, back at the guesthouse to meet the group I'll be going on the jeep tour with. The company is called Thana Jeep Adventure Tour and, as much as this will shock my brother, they have quite a good website. I am going on a 3 day, 2 night trip, though I'm not sure which one. You can also see a few pictures of the guesthouse.

Tonight I'm heading to the night market and also down to the river. Chang Mai is in the middle of a festival that is marked by putting candles on little rafts out onto the river. It is apparently very beautiful.

Back in a few days.

Posted by Dan Mader at 03:02 AM | (1) | Back to Main

November 12, 2005

Leaving Kanchunabri

Its now Sunday morning in Kanchunabri and I'm leaving soon to catch a bus back to Bangkok. I'll be there for a few hours before taking an overnight bus to Chang Mai in the north-west of Thailand. Yesterday was a bit more of a relaxing day. I slept in, read for a bit on the beutiful lawn at the hotel, then went for lunch. Even though this was really brunch, I couldn't resist getting curry and ate a great Massaman curry. One of the great things about this trip is getting to eat curry ever day. I love it!

After lunch, I rented a bike and biked out into the countryside to visit the Chung Kai cememtery, the other British military cemetary in the area. It is a very peaceful place in the middle of beautiful countryside. Like many othe British military cemetaries, it is actually a beautiful place - a true testament to the primacy of British landscape architecture. Biked back to the hotel then went to a place where monks raise orphaned Tigers. They raise them to be used to people, so you can actually stand with them and have your picture taken. It was a very strange place, but I did get some cool pictures.

That was pretty much it for the day. Had dinner and went for drinks with one of my Israeli friends. Relaxing morning this morning, and off to Bangkok in a few minutes.

Posted by Dan Mader at 09:46 PM | (0) | Back to Main

November 11, 2005


Greetings from Kanchanaburi. I've been here for two days now and it is fantastic. Kanchanaburi is a city of about 60,000 people, 2 hours drive east of Bangkok. It is on the edge of the hills that form the border with Myanmar.

I arrive yesterday morning from Bangkok by mini-bus and checked into my hotel. I'm paying about $2.30 a night for a single room. Its very basic - I have to use a shared bathroom - but it certainly is cheap. It is very hot here - low to mid 30s. It is unbearable to be in the room during the day, but luckily it cools down at night to the mid-20s so it is comfortable to sleep. It is still quite warm and very humid right now, though (7:30 pm).

After checking in I went to the main war cemetary. It is an impressive place, with the graves of about 6,000 allied soldiers who died while POWs of the Japanese. I walked around the entire cemetary and visited all 6 of the Jewish graves. I then went to the very good museum next door that explains the story of the prisoners and the railroad that the Japanese forced them to build, killing over 100,000 people in the process.

Last night I had dinner with some Israeli guys I met on the bus and then we went out for drinks. This morning I got up at 8 and headed out on a tour for the day. There were 9 of us in a minibus with a great tour guide. First stop was the Hellfire Pass, a particularly nasty piece of the railway constructed mainly by Australian POWs. There is a museum there set up by the Australians which is quite good. It being remembrance day, there were a lot of people there, including a group of 6 veterans who had worked on the railway as prisoners. It was a very moving place, trying to imagine sick, starving men being forced to build a railway through the jungle with no power tools. We tend to forget the terrible things that happened in Asia during the war, because we are so fixated on Europe, but it is important to remember things like this.

After that, the day got lighter. We went for a quick lunch then went to Erawan National Park. This is an absolutely beautiful park, known mainly for its waterfal. This has multiple levels, each of which has a pool in which you can swim. On such a hot day, this was great - very refreshing as well as beautiful.

We ended the trip by taking a ride on the actual railway. Part of it is still in use, so we caught an ordinary 3rd class train back to Kanchanaburi - 2 hours of sitting on a wooden bench seat lookign out a wide open windown at breathtaking scenery. It was great. Wonderful views of the hills and the river. It was also interesting, because we were on the after school train. Kids from the small villages take the train to school each day - it stops at every tiny little town and even makes a couple stops that seem to be in the absolute middle of nowhere. Very neat to see. Ended up going over the famous Bridge on the River Kwai and back into Kanchanaburi. Tommorow? Going to see some Tigers!

[NOTE: Dan originally posted this at 06:41 CST (19:41 Thailand time, I believe). I'm keeping it at the top of the page all day, because I can't think of a better Remembrance Day tribute. I'll continue to post below.]

Posted by Dan Mader at 11:59 PM | (0) | Back to Main

Dear Andrew

Two things:

1) When Lincoln said "the people," he was talking about Americans; and

2) Despite his statement, he did "abridge the liberties of the people."

I'm not saying the broader point is wrong. But 'fake but accurate' is a useless standard.

UPDATE (12:09): Sullivan addresses the criticism.

Posted by David Mader at 09:37 AM | (1) | Back to Main

November 10, 2005

Rescuing Canada's Right

In the mail the other day was my brand-spanking-new copy of Adam Daifallah and Tasha Kheiriddin's new book Rescuing Canada's Right. Daifallah and Kheriddin are two of the sharpest young conservative minds in Canada - and this book will demonstrate, I think, that you can drop 'young' from that list of adjectives and it will hold up just as well.

As we all know, I'm no expert on matters Canadian, but I don't think it's outrageous to suggest that there hasn't been a real politico-philosophic discussion in the country for at least a decade. Rescuing Canada's Right changes that - and is designed to ensure that the change is permanent. The book goes well beyond the traditional Canadian conservative practice of bemoaning the present condition. Daifallah and Kheiriddin briefly explain why capital-c Conservatism has been generally unsuccessful for so long, and then outline how small-c conservatives can reverse the historical trend.

In case the subtle hints so far haven't been enough: go buy this book! If nothing else, help two great young folks to break Amazon's top-ten sales ranking.

I'll have a review up just as soon as I finish the book.

Posted by David Mader at 11:05 PM | (3) | Back to Main

November 09, 2005

Bangkok 2

Spent a lovely day in Bangkok yesterday. Started off at the travel agency. Booked a bus ticket to Kanchanaburi for today. Also booked a bus up to Chang Mail overnight Sunday and a jeep tour starting there on Tuesday morning for 3 days. Then I wandered around the area near Khao San vaguely looking for lunch. Ate lunch at a little place that was full of THais. Very good chicken curry fried rice and a guava smoothi for about $1.75. Next, went to Jim Thompson's House - a beautiful example of old Thai architecture. It was a little oasis of calm in the middle of a crazy city. After that, stopped in at the Canadian Embassy to see a family friend and then went to MBK, a huge mall. Did a bit of half-hearted shopping before retuning to the hotel. Lay down around 6:00pm for a nap and never got up. I woke up around 9:00pm to go out but was just too tired so I slept till around 6:30 am. Feeling much more rested today, which is good. Leaving in a few minutes for Kanchanaburi!

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

Terrorist Attack in Jordan

At least three hotels have been bombed in Amman, Jordan in a terrorist attack that has the hallmarks of an al Qaida (affiliated) job. At least twelve eighteen people are said to have been killed. Latest news here.

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

November 08, 2005


So I'm here. I arrived in Bangkok late last night, but let me step back a bit and start from the beginning. I left Vancouver very early Monday morning. My first flight was to San Francisco - an uneventful couple of hours. After a stopover there the next flight was to Tokyo - 11.5 hours. This is a long time to spend on a plane, but it was fine, though it felt great when we arrived. The worst part of the trip was getting on the next plane and realizing that I had ANOTHER 7 hours of flying ahead of me. I slept for much of that flight though and arrived in Bangkok tired but fine, to step out into the craziness that is Bangkok airport. People everywhere, many of them trying to sell you cab rides or hotel rooms for terrible prices. Just waded through this sea of people and made it into a cab to get to my hotel. I'm staying at quite a nice little place called Shambara. For $15 a night I have a nice double bed and a big ceiling fan. Luckily it cools down a bit at night (to the low-mid 20s from the low 30s). I caught a few hours sleep then woke up to have tea in the garden in front of the guesthouse. Now I'm wandering around Bangkok. My rough plan is to spend today and tommorow here and then head to Kanchanabura tommorow to be there for Remembrance Day.

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


Andrew Sullivan points to this Slate article on the high degree of control exercised by Dick Cheney's office over administration foreign policy, calling it evidence of how "weird this administration has been."

I don't mean to contest the implied disagreement with the policy choices detailed in the article and the means used to achieve them. I don't think, though, that's what Sullivan means; rather, the sense of the piece, and of Sullivan's link, is that the real problem is the high degree of control over foreign policy exercised by the Vice President.

And I'm not sure it really is so weird, when you think about it. Sure, it's different; but think about it Constitutionally. The alternative to Cheney's calling the foreign-policy shots (to the degree that he does) is not the President calling the foreign-policy shots all by himself; rather, the alternative is the Secretary of State - or the Secretary of Defense - calling those shots. Working from the Constitutional presumption that the President is the chief executive, which makes more sense?

a) To have executive powers be exercised by an appointed official removed both geographically and administratively from the chief executive and assigned a professional corps of self-interested civil servants; or

b) To have executive powers be exercised by an elected member of the executive - the deputy-chief, as it happens - who is immediately accessible and responsible to the chief executive and whose office exists within, and largely as an adjunct to, the office of the chief?

Certainly there are advantages to the diffusion of power to certain specilazed loci; indeed, those advantages have driven the rise of the administrative state for the past seventy-five years. But there are also significant disadvantages - particularly institutional conservatism and counter-majoritarianism.

The alternative certainly has its own drawbacks - among which must certainly be counted the problem of lack of specialization and the politicization of executive functions. But the executive is a political branch, and separation from the specialized agency affords freedom from institutional conservatism.

Neither approach is inherently superior to the other, and I don't mean to suggest here that assigning foreign policy control to the Veep was necessarily the right choice between the two alternatives. I do mean to suggest, though, that the choice is not self-evidently, well, 'weird.'

Posted by David Mader at 12:25 AM | (0) | Back to Main

November 07, 2005

Oh, Those Stupid Little 'Civilians'

I don't have much faith in the Canadian public to reprimand the Liberal Party at the polls, but I wonder whether this is a barometer:

For several years, an exasperated Abbotsford businessman has been getting misdirected e-mails containing inside information about the Liberal government.

Bill Sadar has seen details of planned political machinations, draft press releases, an e-mail containing racial epithets and references to sex acts. He's even received such sensitive data as credit card numbers.

But the final straw, he said, was a recent e-mail outlining a scheme aimed at discrediting two of Conservative leader Stephen Harper's star candidates.

The message was from Ruth Thorkelson, a long-time senior Paul Martin adviser who recently left as deputy chief of staff, and who says she is now helping MPs and candidates as a volunteer.

Her message, to Liberal MP Judi Longfield, outlined plans to leak to "a friendly media outlet" accusations that Tory candidates Jim Flaherty and John Baird are violating the Canada Elections Act.

Says Sadar: "What pushed me over the edge was the Thorkelson thing. That was too much for me. I don't want to see that crap and I don't like it, because it sounded underhanded. . . . I don't like the way they do business that way. I guess I'm slightly influenced by the Gomery thing that's going on."

That should get the attention of top Liberals. Instead, they're saying things like this:
I can't really comment on what this guy thinks of it, but civilians have a different view of politics than we do.
Civilians? Civilians!? Jeepers. The condescending dismissal of what 'civilians' - that is, you know, Canadian voters - think about dirty politics is amazing.

Posted by David Mader at 07:37 PM | (1) | Back to Main

The New Dark Ages

Mark Steyn plugs the imperical data of the French intifada into his old theory. He's right. This isn't an aberration. This is the future.

Posted by David Mader at 08:57 AM | (0) | Back to Main

November 06, 2005

Travel Plans Continued

Further to my previous message, some people have asked me where I'll be for the holidays. I'm not sure about New Year, but, for all you Kerry fans out there, I may just spend Christmas in Cambodia. I promise you that if I do it will be seared, seared in my memory.


Posted by Dan Mader at 08:01 PM | (0) | Back to Main

Dan's Travel Blog

Hey Everyone,

As many of you know, I recently left my job as a management consultant and decided to go travelling for a couple of months before finding another job.

I've decided to blog my trip and my brother has graciously offered me the chance to share his blog. So, for the next couple of months, I'll be posting updates here. I'm not sure how often I'll be blogging. It will depend on how accessible the internet is where I am and, frankly, how often I feel like leaving the beach to sit in an internet cafe for a few minutes.

My plan? I'm flying from Vancouver to Bangkok on Monday. In early January I fly back, stopping in Tokyo for a few days on the way. I don't really have any set plans aside from that. However, I do have some thoughts about what I want to do. During the first month I want to explore some places in western and northern Thailand such as Chang Mai and Kanchanabura (where the Bridge on the River Kwai is, for any of you have have seen that movie). I also plan on making side trips to Cambodia (Angkor Wat) and Laos. The second month I plan on spending mostly on the beach, checking out a few of the islands in the south of Thailand.

So, if you're interested, check back here every few days or so for updates.

Posted by Dan Mader at 01:29 PM | (0) | Back to Main

November 04, 2005


... is nuts:

Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez, emboldened by thousands of anti-American protesters, is getting a rare chance to stand up to his adversary, George Bush, with promises to keep the president from reviving talks on a free trade area stretching from Alaska to Argentina.

The two men arrived in Argentina for the fourth Summit of the Americas on Thursday, the same day Venezuela staged a mock U.S. invasion of its own territory. The event is the latest exercise intended to prepare soldiers and civilian volunteers for what Chavez says is a possible attack by American troops.

Emphasis mine. Actually, it's wrong to suggest that Chavez is nuts; on the contrary, the demonization of the United States, including the tinfoil-hat suggestion that America is planning an invasion of Venezuela, allows Chavez to consolidate his anti-democratic grip on his nation. That's bad for Venezuela and bad for the Americas. This man will be trouble before he's gone.

Posted by David Mader at 01:25 AM | (0) | Back to Main

November 03, 2005

Nobody's Immune

CSIS reveals that an Algerian terrorist cell in Toronto has been broken.

Somebody tell the Professor.

Posted by David Mader at 11:34 AM | (0) | Back to Main

More on Prop 2

In comments to my earlier post, my brother wondered whether the text of Prop 2 might not be read to touch on heterosexual marriage itself. The AP reports that opponents of the proposition are pushing this argument in phone ads.

Posted by David Mader at 11:31 AM | (1) | Back to Main

Is Mary Cheney Married?

Isn't that the simple explanation for this? If gay marriage were everywhere illegal, I'd understand. But Cheney and Poe now have the opportunity to be married in (off the top of my head) at least two states of the Union - not to mention anywhere in the Great White North. (That's Canada.) As Sullivan himself notes, "Married couples need no "(guest)" attached to their spouse's name." But Cheney and Poe aren't married; if they'd rather not be treated like any other non-married couple, there's now a way to remedy that.

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

Comments Are Broken

I'm looking into it - sorry!

UPDATE: Well, they appear to be working for me - in both Firefox and Explorer. For good measure I'm going to rebuilt the entire site - someone please try to post a test comment on this post, and let me know by e-mail if it doesn't work. Thanks!

Posted by David Mader at 10:31 AM | (3) | Back to Main

Standing Athward Liberty, Yelling 'Stop'

Why is it that certain people react to success with anger, disdain and accusations of criminality?

[W]hen it comes to Google's Print Library Project we have much in common: We're both authors and both believe intellectual property should actually mean something. And so we find ourselves joining together to fight a $90 billion company bent on unilaterally changing copyright law to their benefit and in turn denying publishers and authors the rights granted to them by the U.S. Constitution. . . .

Google's position essentially amounts to a license to steal, so long as it returns the loot upon a formal request by their victims. This is precisely why Google's argument has no basis in U.S. intellectual property law or jurisprudence. Just because Google is huge, it should not be allowed to change the law.

Put aside, for the moment, that nagging question in the back of your mind - the question why the government should be able to take your property pending settlement while Google should not. Put aside the question of the propriety of two former Congressmen alleging criminal behavior on behalf of a private corporation - in the absence of any formal allegation, or indeed even any plan to levy such charges. Put aside, if you can, the more fundamental question of the propriety of granting to authors and other 'creators' a (temporary and limited) monopoly over the use of their creations.

When you put it all aside, the truth seems pretty clear: the position put forward by Barr and Schroeder has less to do with principle than with self-interest. Every major technological advance, I'd suggest, has resulted in the obsolescence of a certain industry; as a result, such advances have perennially been opposed by those whose economic interests were immediately threatened. The Luddites didn't hate the loom as a technological device; they hated the loom because the loom was more efficient than they were - because the loom would take their jobs.

Is Google's Print Library akin to the loom? I think it is. But the Luddites here aren't authors - because Google Print doesn't threaten the livelihood of individual authors; on the contrary, most authors don't make millions of dollars on advances and book tours and sales. Google Print will expose an author's works to an audience larger than any previously possible - and vice versa.

No, the Luddites here are those - like Schroeder - who operate an antiquated publishing industry that is about to be rendered obsolete by technological advances. We've seen a similar phenomenon in music over the past five or six years, with Napster shocking the music biz one way, the courts offering a counter-shock and iTunes (and other online stores) coming up the middle, revolutionizing the way music is marketed and purchased. The big names in the music industry continue to thrive, to the extent that they do, because of their willingness to adapt to the new reality, not because of their successes in opposing it.

Ultimately the print industry will experience the same readjustment - and an awful lot of people - like Schroeder - will feel it in the pocket. But just as Napster made the music industry once again responsive to the consumer, so will - or can - Google Print put the reader in control of the dissemination of information, rather than the industry executive. Contrary to the assertions of self-interested actors like Barr and Schroeder, that's a good thing.

But just as iTunes needed a Napster, the ultimate reorientation of the print industry requires Google Print. It's the shock to the system that will kick-start reform.

And, to judge by the histrionics of the Barr/Schroeder article, the system has successfully been shocked.

Posted by David Mader at 12:08 AM | (0) | Back to Main

November 02, 2005

Not Too Complicated

Andrew Sullivan is a terrific pundit, but he seems to run into more trouble than need be when he ventures into legal analysis:

"It is illegal for the government to hold prisoners in such isolation in secret prisons in the United States . . . . Legal experts and intelligence officials said that the CIA's internment practices also would be considered illegal under the laws of several host countries.
[. . .]
[Covert action can only be implemented through a Presidential 'finding,' and f]indings must not break U.S. law."

The assumption is that the president has authority to set up prisons that would be illegal in the U.S. and illegal in foreign countries, but legal ... according to what? No wonder Bush wants Roberts and Alito on the court.

There's a fairly straightforward - and not un-persuasive - way to explain what Sullivan sees as a contradiction: under U.S. law, the CIA could not create 'secret' prisons within the United States. U.S. law does not (it would seem, although I have my doubts) prohibit the creation of such prisons abroad. It may well be true that foreign jurisdictions in which the prisons are located would prohibit their creation. But - and this is the key point - foreign laws are not enforced by American courts. That's fundamental.

When Sullivan says that the prisons would be 'illegal in the U.S. and illegal in foreign countries,' then, he's mixing terms. U.S. law - the only law with which a presidential finding must be consistent - places no restriction (it would seem) on the creation of such secret prisons abroad. The creation might be 'illegal' with regard to the laws of the host country, but that 'illegality' has no bearing on the legality of the president's action under American law.

That's not to say that the president should lightly flaunt foreign law. But the notion that American courts should enforce foreign law - that, in Sullivan's terms, the president's breach of foreign law would contravente a requirement to act in accordance with American law - is as radical as it is unsustainable.

(I say 'it would seem' because a recent Supreme Court case extended certain protections of federal prisoners beyond the territorial limits of the United States - to reach, specifically, prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay. That suggests that the Court might read the ban on domestic 'secret prisons' to reach beyond American territorial limits. For the purposes of this post, though, I'm using Sullivan's characterization of the law as my basic legal framework.)

UPDATE (11/2/05 12:38 CST): It occurred to me as I got into bed last night that there must be a treaty somewhere under which the U.S. agrees not to violate the laws of foreign nations while acting under the jurisdiction of those nations. If that's the case, then such violations would be contrary to American law - since treaties are one of three (and a half) sources of federal law, along with the Constitution and statues (and federal common law).

Posted by David Mader at 01:26 AM | (0) | Back to Main