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February 21, 2006

Whither the Law Review?

My law-school-attending readership might find this piece interesting. Key point:

Twenty years ago, little outside of the occasional book or magazine article deflected attention from law reviews. Today, legal blogs are siphoning away the attention of law professors and lawyers on issues of the day.
I'd add one point, which I'll introduce with an anecdote of sorts. For a class today, I read two 70+ page law review articles. One, which ran well over a hundred pages, was published in 81 Texas Law Review, the 2002 volume. I don't think it would have been published in this year's volume. But while shorter is often better, it's really only better when longer is worse.

Thank you, captain obvious.

What I mean is, where articles have ballooned because student editors push for more and more explanatory material, shorter is better. But where articles are long simply because length is necessary to serve a broad focus or an ambitious thesis, shorter might be a distinct disservice to the cause of legal scholarship. It may be true that fewer and fewer people are willing to sit down with an 80-page article, but is the answer really to pander to those who don't have the will? I can't say I know what the proper balance is, but it seems to me there's still something to be said for the stodgy, boring old law review.

(On top of which, citation to blogs must be a nightmare.)

Posted by David Mader at 07:55 PM | (2) | Back to Main

February 20, 2006

Reporters Versus Editors?

Meanwhile, what to make of this poll, suggesting that a strong majority of Canadian journalists would have preferred the publication of the cartoons? If so many reporters really did favor the publication, why has the Standard been the only mainstream publication to publish them (outside of Quebec)? Either the thirty-odd percent of respondents who agreed with the general decision not to publish represent those making the editorial decisions, or we're actually talking about two different groups: news reporters, who generally favor publication, and news editors, who apparently generally don't. The decision not to publish would therefore seem to be either counter-majoritarian or - for lack of a better word - elitist.

Posted by David Mader at 02:24 PM | (0) | Back to Main

Getting it Right

Two cheers for the National Post, which is standing up for the Western Standard. The third cheer is withheld because the Post still made the wrong editorial decision: if a newspaper isn't to report the news, what's it for? But they get the core issue right: whether or not to publish the cartoons is an editorial decision - and either choice is legally and politically legitimate.

Posted by David Mader at 02:22 PM | (0) | Back to Main


Been under the weather, and busy. Hope to be back on the wagon, or whatever the saying is, soon.

Posted by David Mader at 02:21 PM | (1) | Back to Main

February 15, 2006

Standing Up for Freedom

The Economist gets it exactly right:

In this newspaper's view, the fewer constraints that are placed on free speech the better. Limits designed to protect people (from libel and murder, for example) are easier to justify than those that aim in some way to control thinking (such as laws on blasphemy, obscenity and Holocaust-denial). Denying the Holocaust should certainly not be outlawed: far better to let those who deny well-documented facts expose themselves to ridicule than pose as martyrs. But the Muhammad cartoons were lawful in all the European countries where they were published. And when western newspapers lawfully publish words or pictures that cause offence—be they ever so unnecessary, insensitive or disrespectful—western governments should think very carefully before denouncing them.

Freedom of expression, including the freedom to poke fun at religion, is not just a hard-won human right but the defining freedom of liberal societies. When such a freedom comes under threat of violence, the job of governments should be to defend it without reservation.

Read the whole thing.

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

Oh, Stop Pretending

This is getting out of control:

Colleen Klein is said to be "devastated" by a magazine article that quotes an unnamed Conservative source as saying that when her husband retires as Alberta premier, she'll be "just another Indian."[...]

Muriel Stanley Venne, president of the Institute for the Advancement of Aboriginal Women, said the reference to Colleen Klein, who is Metis, is appalling and racist.

"We do believe in freedom of the press and all those kinds of things, but it's the ... racist statements that offend us," said Stanley Venne.

"And all those kinds of things." If you can think of a more dismissive way to refer to our most fundamental liberties, I'll be happy to hear it.

But here's the thing: the sorts of folks who say things like this obviously don't believe in the freedom of the press "and all those kinds of things." If they did, they'd be targetting their objections to the right place: the source who made the comment - a comment that is appalling in its casual racism.

Consider the counterfactual: would these folks really be happy if the Standard hadn't published the remark? In other words, do they honestly believe that if the Standard hadn't published the remark, the source wouldn't have thought what he said? In fact, isn't it better to know that some well-placed Alberta Tory harbors these racist sentiments?

This sort of 'out-of-sight-out-of-mind' approach to discomforting ideas and expressions is - as I find myself saying more and more and more - illiberal. Well, fine - folks can be illiberal, although the more they are the less free their society becomes. But at least they could have the decency to stop pretending. It's obvious that these people don't believe in a free press. They only demean the very notion by invoking it as they do. They should own up to their illiberality, and stop.

Posted by David Mader at 05:56 PM | (0) | Back to Main

What Part of A Free Press Don't These People Understand?

I'm sorry, I do my best not to descend in to ad hominem, which I recognize is an illegitimate style of argument, but Canada appears to be undergoing a rash of stupid:

Aboriginal groups are railing against a magazine article that they claim makes offensive and racist references to the premier's wife.

The groups say they are outraged by the article in the Feb. 13 issue of the Western Standard that quotes an unnamed source suggesting that when Premier Ralph Klein retires his wife Colleen will be "just another Indian."

They're holding a press conference at City Hall today to condemn magazine publisher Ezra Levant and Ric Dolphin, the author of the article.

Folks, they're reporters. They report. In this case, they've reported the comments of someone else. What has happened to the distinction between reporter and subject? Since when did context disappear?

Or is this simply an attempt to jump on the anti-Standard bandwagon, and to demonize a prominent conservative voice?

The tragedy is that free speech and the free press shouldn't be left-right issues. For goodness' sake.

Posted by David Mader at 11:07 AM | (1) | Back to Main

More Abu Ghraib Pictures

It's not clear to me that all of this is torture, strictly defined. It is clear that some of it is. It's also clear that most of it constitutes some kind of mistreatment.

We shouldn't be doing that. The pictures are, now, a couple of years old. Can we be sure this sort of thing isn't still going on?

Posted by David Mader at 11:05 AM | (2) | Back to Main

February 14, 2006

Quote of the Day

Just because it's ever-so-timely:

[T]he price of freedmon of religion or of speech or of the press is that we must put up with, and even pay for, a good deal of rubbish.
- U.S. v. Ballard, 322 U.S. 78, 95 (1944) (Jackson, J., dissenting)

Posted by David Mader at 08:39 PM | (0) | Back to Main

Why I'm Doing This

I'm sure I'm boring a lot of folks by harping on the cartoon controversy; I'm sure a lot of folks have just stopped reading my long posts on the subject. I'm sorry that some of you feel that way. But I'm not going to stop. As I wrote last week, this is a litmus test on liberty. It goes right to the heart of what it means to be a free, democratic society. For those of us who believe, as I believe and have for some years, that we are currently engaged in a global conflict between the principles of free government and the principles of tyranny, the question is, if possible, even more important. We say our troops are in Afghanistan to help foster democracy. What do we mean by that? We say that while we will not send troops, we support the American mission to stabilize Iraq and foster democracy there. But what do we mean by that? Do we really mean - as both the Prime Minister and the Minister of Defense have at least hinted - a democracy that does not hold fundamental a strong freedom of expression? Do we really mean a democracy wherein otherwise-fundamental values are sacrificed to a prevailing obligation not to give offense?

Eugene Volokh explains where that leads. I can't sign on. I won't sign on. I am deeply troubled by the reaction of Canadian institutions, particularly the government and the mainstream media, to the cartoon controversy. Perhaps the worst part is that there has been so little acknowledgement, by those who champion 'respect', of the consequences of their position. But at least that offers some comfort: if they did make the acknowledgement, and nonetheless stuck to their guns, my faith in Canada as a truly liberal society would be severely undermined.

Posted by David Mader at 07:41 PM | (1) | Back to Main

Wrong Again

Meanwhile, the Editor-in-Chief of CBC News has defended his decision not to publish the cartoons. I want to make something clear: whether or not to publish the cartoons is a matter of editorial discretion. When I criticize the CBC for failing to publish the cartoons - as I'm about to do - I'm not at all suggesting that they operate under some democratic obligation to do so. (It occurs to me, actually, that such a democratic obligation would arise under those philosophies that see the press as some 'fourth estate' necessary to the functioning of a free government; I don't hold that view, but I'd imagine no few CBC reporters do.) When I criticize the CBC and other institutions for failing to publish the cartoons, it's because I think they made the objectively wrong choice. But it's absolutely their right to do so.

Burman's statement is the most comprehensive and coherent defense of the non-publication that I've see, and there are three specific statements that I want to address.

Islam forbids depictions not only of their Prophet but of all Deities, whether of the Christian or Jewish faiths. To do otherwise is to mock and ridicule the faith.
This statement is troubling in one respect, and extremely troubling in another. It's troubling insofar as it's false. Islam, generally speaking, does not forbid depiction of Mohammed or other prophets (not deities, of which Islam recognizes only one as far as I'm aware). That's not my claim; that's the well-sourced claim of Amir Taheri.

It's extremely troubling insofar as the CBC appears to accept a Muslim standard of behavior, stating as true the fact that to depict Mohammed is necessarily to mock and ridicule. Of course one can depict Mohammed with the intent of being reverent; if images are necessarily mocking and ridiculing, it must be because of the message received rather than the message conveyed. The Editor-in-Chief of the CBC is saying, quite clearly, that the CBC is adopting the approach of those Muslims who perceive depictions of Mohammed to be necessarily insulting. Perhaps CBC presenters will from now on wear veils.
Shouldn’t the media be part of the solution, not the problem?
I won't dwell too long on this, since I've bored everyone with this before and I sort of doubt anybody is reading this anyway, but the notion that republication of the cartoons by new outlets 'adds to the fire' or makes those news outlets 'part of the problem' requires a complete disregard for the question of intent. In essence, this line of thought accepts an interpretation of Islam that makes the depiction of Mohammed a strict-liablity offense for all people, Muslim or otherwise. Moreover, the statement that the CBC intends to be 'part of the solution' suggests a normative commitment to a certain set of values that the CBC determines to be the 'solution' to a subjectively-defined 'problem.' As a taxpayer, you might be forgiven for thinking that the role of the CBC is to report the news. Apparently you'd be mistaken.
During the debate that led to [the decision of some to re-publish the cartoons], I suspect there was a lot of talk about “freedom of speech” and “the public’s right to know,” and about the threat of “self-censorship.”

Had I been there, I would have reminded this crowd that the multibillion-dollar company that owns their news organization muzzles stories from entire parts of the world, such as South America and Africa, each and every night of the year by not having any journalists posted there. When will they get around to discussing that form of media “censorship”?

This is a sententious argument. Even assuming that the failure to commit resources to a particular type of news constitutes self-censorship, isn't there a pretty fundamental distinction between a failure to report news where one hasn't committed resources, and a failure to report news where one has? The cartoons aren't in some hard-to-reach locale, and they don't address some sort of subject-matter that the CBC has decided not to cover; on the contrary, the CBC has covered the story extensively. But they've covered it incompletely. Assuming Burman to be right about 'self-censorship,' don't those media organizations still have a professional obligation - perhaps even a greater professional obligation - to report fully on those stories that they do commit resources towards covering?

Posted by David Mader at 07:27 PM | (0) | Back to Main


Canada's Conservative prime minister has made a most disappointing statement regarding the publication of the Danish cartoons by the Western Standard magazine. The prime minister's website is currently down, but the statement is excerpted by CBC News:

"Free speech is a right that all Canadians enjoy; Canadians also have the right to voice their opinion on the free speech of others," Harper said in a statement, his first comments on the controversy.

"I regret the publication of this material in several media outlets. While we understand this issue is divisive, our government wishes that people be respectful of the beliefs of others. I commend the Canadian Muslim community for voicing its opinion peacefully, respectfully and democratically."

So Muslims expressing their opinions peacefully, respectfully and democratically are to be commended, while the Western Standard expressing its opinions - if it was even doing that - peacefully, respectfully and democratically is to be regretted?

It's absurd, of course. And of course, that's not what the prime minister means. The obvious implication is that by publishing the cartoons, the Standard is not being respectful. Put aside the question of context and intent - the fact that the cartoons were published as the subject of a news story and not as the opinion of the editors of the magazine. Consider, again, the comparison the PM appears to be making: Muslims expressing their opinions peacefully, respectfully and democratically are to be commended, while the Standard expressing its 'opinions' peacefully and democratically is to be regretted.

One more time now: the Standard expressing its 'opinions' democratically is to be regretted.

That's the position of the prime minister of Canada, the leader of the Conservative Party. Great.

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

Kinsella Stands on his Rights

The funniest thing about this is the part where Kinsella alleges that the poor guy engaged in 'vindictive tactics' by altering Kinsella's wikipedia entry. Kinsella is suing a PhD student for hundreds of thousands of dollars becuase of something he wrote on a blog with an audience of - what - a thousand hits a day? And yet the other guy is engaging in vindictive tactics.

Not that I'm at all suggesting that Kinsella is being vindictive, of course, I'd hate to put him to the inconvenience of serving process on me in Texas.

Posted by David Mader at 02:27 PM | (0) | Back to Main

Getting it Backwards

On a point related to my last post, today's Daily Texas leads with a story on local reaction to the cartoon controversy:

Hedi BenAicha, a professor and librarian at Curry College in Milton, Mass., said that although Islam does not explicitly prohibit replications of Muhammad's image, it is traditionally frowned upon because it could lead to idolatry and distract the focus of worshipping God.

"To touch the very founder of Islam and link it to terrorism defaces the whole culture," BenAicha said.

Quick note: by reporting the fact that Islam does not, in fact, categorically ban representations of Mohammed, the Daily Texan has out-classed Reuters, the AP, and the rest of the main-stream media, who are willing to admit, at best, that 'Islam is interpreted' to ban such representations. Anyway,
BenAicha said his main problem was with the editors, who failed to stop the cartoons before they were printed.
This seems to me to have it precisely backwards, for the many of the reasons explained below. The main problem should be with the cartoonists, since the cartoons are manifestations of their expressions about Islam.

Editors would be equally complicit, of course, if they published the cartoons for the purpose of endorsing the messages therein - if, for instance, one of the truly objectionable cartoons had been published on the daily op/ed page. But none of the cartoons was published in that manner; rather, they were published as the subjects of an article on the ambivalence of European cartoonists towards the task of protraying Mohammed. The paper offered no endorsement of the cartoons; it published them as a topic of inquiry. If the editors are really the 'main problem,' it must therefore be becuase they allow discussion of the issue, not because they take a position on the issue. I hope the illiberality of that approach is obvious.

That being said, I want to note that the Daily Texan highlights some important reaction among Muslim students:
Naaima Khan, spokeswoman for the UT Muslim Student Association, said the reason behind the public outcry cannot be determined by looking at the face value of the cartoons. A vast, complex history coupled with the West's relationship with Muslim nations only adds complexity to an already sensitive, multi-layered issue, she said.

Though Khan agreed the Danish paper had the freedom to print the cartoon, she believed they didn't think about the consequences. "Liberty doesn't mean license, and they took license to make a very sensitive attack."

Khan said this is a big eye-opener for local Muslim-Americans.

"This makes them rethink the solidarity of their own community and question the appropriate response," she said....

This seems to me to be an almost perfect response: those who published the cartoons had an unquestioned right to do so, but were nonetheless wrong to do so insofar as they were wrong in substance; nevertheless, the appropriate response is opposition in words and ideas, not violence and illiberality, and the rapidity with which opposition turned to illiberality ought to give freedom-loving Muslims pause. I have a feeling that Ms Khan and I would disagree about a lot of things; about this we seem to agree entirely.

UPDATE (11:24 CST): ... unless I'm misunderstanding Khan. When she talks about solidarity, is she talking about the wider Muslim community - and the fact that the violent reaction has exposed a threat to the liberties that Muslim Americans enjoy - or is she talking about the American community - and the fact that defenses of free speech expose a potential gulf between Islam and democracy? I may have been too optimistic in my first reading.

Posted by David Mader at 11:09 AM | (0) | Back to Main


Meanwhile, at least one Canadian Muslim organization is trying to bring hate-crime charges against Ezra Levant and the Western Standard for publishing the cartoons:

The Canadian Islamic Congress has vowed to seek hate-crimes charges against the magazine on the grounds that the cartoons incite hatred and portray Muslims in a negative fashion.

"I think there is a fine line between freedom of the press and freedom to incite hate. These cartoons cross that line," said Mohamed Elmasry, the CIC's national president. "Canada has a hate literature law and we will be able to test it to see indeed if the law protects the well-being of minorities."

Time for some legal analysis. Let's assume, for the moment, the prorpiety of hate-crime laws. The question becomes whether those laws should be 'strict-liability' laws or whether they should operate like any other laws.

A 'strict-liability' law is one that looks only to the action taken, and gives no regard to the context. For instance, traffic laws tend to be strict-liability: if you speed, or jaywalk, or fail to buckle up, you're liable at law. (You may not be punished, but that's a question of discretionary non-enforcement; there's no question that you're liable for the penalty.)

Most laws, however, do not impose strict liability. It's not enough that you do an action; it's necessary that you do an action with a particular state of mind. For instance, in order to be liable for larceny, it's necessary that one have the intent to permanently deprive the owner of property. If you don't have that intent, you won't be liable for larceny - and you probably won't be criminally liable for anything at all.

So let's consider a hate-crime prosecution of Levant and the Standard. Assume, again, that hate-crime laws are legitimate, and assume, for the purpose of this discussion, that the cartoons represent the sort of expression that would be held 'hateful' for the purposes of the statute.

The question is then whether simply by publishing the cartoons Levant and the Standard, as the publishers, are automatically liable under hate-crimes legislation. Is it enough simply to publish a hateful cartoon? Or must one publish a hateful cartoon in order to promote hatred?

The question isn't academic; in fact, it goes to the heart of the (secondary) controversy here. As Levant says, he runs a news-magazine, and the cartoons are undoubtedly news. There's at least a strong argument that the obvious motivation in publishing the cartoons was to report on the news. Some have suggested alternative motivations. Let's assume that Levant and the Standard have any of these motivations, but not hate. Should they be liable? Take a step back from the law, now, and think about liberty: if hate-crime legislation makes liable anyone who publishes material that would be considered hateful, how can we have a rational discussion about hateful material? How would we know to identify it? How would we be able to denounce it?

I don't know whether Canada's hate-crimes legislation is strict-liability, and I imagine that at least some will allege that Levant has a hateful motivation. Maybe that'll be a question for the courts. But simply publishing hateful material shouldn't be presumptive evidence of hateful intent, particularly where there's an obvious legitimate alternative motivation. It certainly should't be, on its own, enough to subject the publisher to criminal liability. That would be illiberal. We still believe in liberty, don't we?

Posted by David Mader at 10:32 AM | (0) | Back to Main

Better, but Still Bad

The Minister of Defense gets some points for recognizing the freedom of expression:

Mr. O'Connor said there's little that can be done to prevent the Western Standard from reproducing the cartoons.

"I have a bit of concern but it's freedom of the press. Just like Denmark, we can't control what's in the press. If people do it, we have to live with the consequences," he said.

But this is a little perplexing:
Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor warned the latest edition of the Calgary-based Western Standard, which features cartoons that have sparked riots and protests worldwide, will put Canadian troops in Afghanistan at greater risk.

"It doesn't help. Radicals in Syria and Lebanon, Afghanistan and Iraq, they get people roused up because their religion's being offended," Mr. O'Connor said in an interview. "We don't need any more risk in the area than we have."

Now I understand that, in an objective sense, this may be true - although terrorists in Afghanistan don't seem to have needed provocation in the past in order to target, attack and kill Canadian soldiers. But O'Connor's comments raise the question: just whatm, exactly, are we fighting for? Are we in Afghanistan simply because it's the post-modern mutlinational thing to do? Or are we in Afghanistan in order to help foster democracy, to ensure that Afghans can enjoy the same blessings that we enjoy - and to ensure that, by replacing tyranny with democracy in Afghanistan, we'll be more secure in our own democratic rights here at home?

That's certainly why I believe we're in Afghanistan. I would hope that the Conservative defense minister agrees. I'm only further disappointed in the total institutional failure of Canadian civil society by the fact that he seems not to.

Posted by David Mader at 10:21 AM | (0) | Back to Main

February 12, 2006

On Lincoln's Birthday

"If we could first know where we are, and whither we are tending, we could better judge what to do, and how to do it.

"We are now far into the fifty year since a policy was initiated with the avowed object and confident promise of putting and end to slavery agitation. Under the operation of that policy, that agitation has not only not ceased, but has constantly augmented. In my opinion, it will not cease until a crises shall have been reached and passed

"'A house divided against itself cannot stand.' I believe this government cannot endure permanently half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved -- I do not expect the house to fall -- but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing, or all the other. Either the opponents of slavery will arrest the further spread of it, and place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in the course of ultimate extinction; or its advocates will push it forward till it shall become alike lawful in all the States, old as well as new, North as well as South."

- June 16, 1858

Posted by David Mader at 12:30 AM | (0) | Back to Main

February 11, 2006

Pop Quiz

A court in Turkey has ruled against a school-teacher who wore a head-scarf. Secular Turkish law prohibits the wearing of head-scarves by teachers for fear of setting a bad example.

The Turkish embassy in Damascus will not be burned down in the next week. Is this because:

a) While it's not ok to insult Mohammed, it is ok to pass or enforce secular laws that punish Islamic practices;

b) While the rioters who burned the Danish embassy were able to act with the tacit approval of the Syrian regime, international pressure will force Assad to keep a lid on any further protests; or

c) While the Danish are infidels, the Turks are Muslims?

Meanwhile, as governments and media-elites breath a sigh of relief in the belief that the worst of the crisis has passed, the president of Iran reminds us that the worst is most certainly yet to come:
Iran's hard-line president on Saturday accused the United States and Europe of being "hostages of Zionism" and said they should pay a heavy price for the publication of caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad that have triggered worldwide protests....

"Now in the West insulting the prophet is allowed, but questioning the Holocaust is considered a crime," [Ahmadinejad] said. "We ask, why do you insult the prophet? The response is that it is a matter of freedom, while in fact they (who insult the founder of Islam) are hostages of the Zionists. And the people of the U.S. and Europe should pay a heavy price for becoming hostages to Zionists."

For some reason I doubt the 'heavy price' Ahmadinejad has in mind is an abject apology at the United Nations. And it isn't just the radicals:
Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said the caricatures were damaging attempts to blend the Muslim faith with democracy.

"It sends a conflicting message to the Muslim community: that in a democracy it is permissible to offend Islam," the U.S.-educated leader wrote in a commentary that appeared Saturday in the International Herald Tribune.

Here's the thing: in a democracy it is permissible to offend Islam. It's wonderful that Yudhoyono is speaking the language of reconciliation between Islam and democracy, but the project will not succeed as long as the preeminent interpretation of Islam demands secular punishment for the violation of religious taboos.

UPDATE (00:12 CST 2/12/06): Here is Yudhoyono's entire op-ed. After condemning the suggestion that democracy might permit offense to Islam, he writes:
This message damages efforts to prove that democracy and Islam go together. The average Muslim who prays five times a day needs to be convinced that the democracy he is embracing, and is expected to defend, also protects and respects Islam's sacred symbols. Otherwise, democracy will not be of much interest to him.
The rest of Yudhoyono's article is a paean to international cooperation and understanding, but the two statements I've quoted highlight his fundamental message. That message is simply this: in order for Muslims to embrace democracy, democracy will have to surrender some of those things that make it democratic and adopt some of those things that will make it Islamic.

The question I'll be thinking about over the next few days is whether it makes me a radical to suggest that while a reconciliation between Islam and democracy is worthwhile, and even necessary, there are some tenets of democracy that cannot be surrendered, and some tenets of Islam that cannot be adopted.

UPDATE (00:33 CST 2/12/06): Having highlighted so much illiberal protest in the Muslim world, it's important that I highlight liberal protest:
Organisers of the rally said it was intended to show that moderate Muslims believed in peaceful protest. Coaches brought protesters from Bradford, Oldham, Luton, Leicester, Birmingham, Cardiff and Glasgow and imams had appealed for the avoidance of behaviour that would "shame Islam".

Thousands of official placards bore the slogans "United against Incitement", "United against Islamaphobia" and "Mohammed - Symbol of Freedom and Honour"....

Habibur Rahman, the president of the Islamic Forum Europe, told extremists: "When you burn the Union Jack what are you burning but the flag of your home?"


Posted by David Mader at 11:57 PM | (0) | Back to Main

February 10, 2006

They May Cry 'Peace, Peace' - But There Is No Peace

Andrew Sullivan nails it:

People keep talking about avoiding conflict. They are in denial. The conflict is already here. It is outrageous to be informed by a crowd of hundreds of thousands that the West must give up its freedoms in order to avoid violence.
Yes. As he later writes: "It's amazing how quickly the Jihadists have succeeded in intimidating the West into giving up critical freedoms in a matter of days. Now, wait till they have a nuke."

Posted by David Mader at 04:23 PM | (1) | Back to Main

Give 'Em Hell, Sir

Garth Turner did the right thing. If the party leadership had half an ounce of sense, they'd take the opportunity to use caucus criticism to backtrack.

By all accounts, sense has been in short supply at the PMO this past week.

Posted by David Mader at 12:10 AM | (9) | Back to Main

February 09, 2006

Canadian Institutions are Dropping the Ball

The Cartoon Controversy has come to Canada. In Halifax, a professor is chastized by his university for posting the cartoons on his door. In Charlottetown, the University of PEI has suppressed the student newspaper, and the student government has withdrawn its support for the editorial board, after the paper published the cartoons.

I understand that the political media are caught up in the floor-crossing and croneyism cabinet issues - and I'm as upset as the next guy - but this is a far, far bigger story. At worst, the decisions of the St. Mary's University and the University of PEI have been admittedly motivated by a fear of violence. At best, the decisions have been motivated by a desire not to give offense.

I choose the phrase carefully: I don't think there's any suggestion that either the prof or the paper intended to specifically and actively offend anyone; rather, in both cases the desire appears to have been to encourage discussion. (The professor admittedly sounds like a bit of an idiot, and it should be noted that he justified himself in class by arguing that all religion was pernicious - Islam as well as Christianity and Hinduism.) But in each case the university decided that the interest in free expression was outweighed by the interest in avoiding the possibility that others might be offended, and at least potentially the fear that such offense would result in violence.

Andrew Sullivan explains, succinctly, why suppressing speech because of fear of violence is so odious. But what if it's not out of a fear of present or pending violence? Does that make it better - because it doesn't represent a capitulation to bullies - or worse - because it represents a capitulation to the threat of even non-violent bullying?

Obviously, I think this is a lose-lose situation for Canadian institutions. From the foreign ministry to the universities (and American readers should note that there's no functional distinction between public and private universities in Canada) to the Canadian Jewish Congress to, perhaps most importantly, the press, Canadian institutions have almost invariably criticized any decision to publish the cartoons in any context, and have equated the publication of the cartoons with the reactions they have provoked.

This is a litmus test on liberty. I've made clear here before that I believe some of the cartoons to be incorrect and overbroad in their message. Nonetheless, the notion that non-Muslims should refrain from expressing their views about Islam because of threats of violence from Muslims is illiberal. The notion that non-Muslims should refrain from expressing their views about Islam because those views are inconsistent with the tenets of Islam is illiberal. The notion that non-Muslims should be prohibited from expressing their views about Islam because those views might cause Muslims offense is illiberal.

This is a litmus test on liberty. Canada is dropping the ball.

Posted by David Mader at 07:41 PM | (3) | Back to Main

February 08, 2006

More Thoughts on the Cartoon Controversy

The Wall Street Journal has an interesting story detailing the concerted effort to turn the cartoon row into an international controversy. This wasn't spontaneous.

Also in the Journal, Amir Taheri debunks two of the common allegations on the part of those who protest the cartoons: that Islam prohibits characterizations of the prophet, and that Islam is not accustomed to laughing at the prophet.

The Brussels Journal blog reprints an interesting letter from a Canadian Muslim who justifies outrage at the cartoons on what appears to be a secular, democratic ground. He identifies only two of the cartoons as particularly problematic - this one and this one - and suggests, at least in part, that the problem is that they incite hatred:

The [Canadian] criminal statute outlawing hate propaganda bars the WILLFUL promotion of hatred, which is defined as “communicating statements, other than in private conversation, wilfully promotes hatred against any identifiable group.” The law allows for certain defences. A person cannot, for example, be convicted “if he establishes that the statements communicated were true” or “if the statements were relevant to any subject of public interest, the discussion of which was for the public benefit [thus unlikely to cause public disorder], and if on reasonable grounds he believed them to be true.” Furthermore, no conviction can be obtained if the statement was to express in good faith an opinon on a religious matter, UNLESS that expression contravenes the blasphemous libel statute.
So the problem is some combination of the subject matter and the intent: these cartoons are problematic because they express a particular point of view in a manner intended to promote hatred. Let's assume that's true. The writer then goes on to say:
[P]eople can still argue against and criticize religious beliefs and persons but only with tact and circumspection. The [blasphemous libel] statute says that “No person shall be convicted of an offence under this section for expressing in good faith and in decent language, or attempting to establish by argument used in good faith and conveyed in decent language, an opinion on a religious subject.”
If that's the writer's preferred standard, the problem would not then be the combination of subject matter and intent, but rather style. Consider the application of this standard to this comment string. Where 'p. in windsor' says
Muslims are killing people all over the globe in the name of Muhammed, literally strapping bombs to themselves, walking into coffee shops and killing innocent men, women and children - and you're worried about racism? Racism is the least of my concerns. Hell, I'll be a downright bigot towards Muslims if it saves innocent lives...
that would be criminal, but where I say
I certainly understand the argument of those who believe that Islam is doctrinally incapable of adopting peaceful coexistence...
that would not be. (I put intent aside, because I think it's no more obvious that p. intends to promote hatred through his comments than that I do.) The problem, it seems to me, is that my comments came in reaction to his; but for his comments, I would not have made mine, and we wouldn't have come to the resolution we did.

But in any case, it seems to me that the Muslim writer I've been quoting doesn't ultimately adopt this standard. After detailing the ins and outs of the Canadian statute, he writes:
[T]he cartoons were not published in a vacuum. They were published against the backdrop of widespread anti-Muslim prejudice and of incendiary statements likely to provoke hate against Muslims in Denmark. The decision to publish them came only a few months after Her Majesty Queen Margrethe II of Denmark was quoted in the London Telegraph as saying: “We have to show our opposition to Islam and we have to, at times, run the risk of having unflattering labels placed on us because there are some things for which we should display no tolerance.”

The Queen of Denmark (who is also titular Head of the State Lutheran Chruch) has called on her subjects to oppose Islam and to display intolerance even in the face of public criticism.

Now if tone, rather than substance, is the key to recognizing beyond-the-pale expression, I don't think you could have a clearer example of 'tact and circumspection' than the Queen's remarks - unless it is simply impossible to express the underlying sentiment in a tactful manner, in which case 'tact' loses any distinction from unacceptable substance. Moreover, the only importance any of this background has as to the acceptability of the cartoons is in its explanation of why the tone of the cartoons lacked tact; that is to say, absent the background of perceived hostility towards Islam, the particular characterizations of Mohammed would not lack tact to the same degree. But again, that simply turns 'tact' into a smokescreen, with substance - in this case the substance of the background - doing all the work. At the end of the day, then, the objection seems to be not that the cartoons expressed a potentially-acceptable view in an unacceptable way, but that the cartoons expressed an unacceptable view.

All of which is to say that I'm not convinced. But it's an interesting approach.

IN OTHER NEWS (15:30 CST): While governments prevaricate, the editorial staff of the New York Press stands up for principle. (Incidentally, I think Webster's misdefines 'prevaricate'. I use the word as defined by the Authority.)

And for those looking for some moderate Muslims, try here:
We condemn the cartoons but this does not justify violence. These rioters are defaming the name of Islam.
No equivocation there either.

Posted by David Mader at 02:39 PM | (0) | Back to Main

Inauspicious Start

That's Daifallah's take on this statement by Peter MacKay on the cartoon controversy, which he (Adam) forwarded me. Coyne has the same take. Don't say I didn't warn y'all. And don't expect this to be the last. The point could walk up to MacKay wearing a goofy hat and a big neon sign and punch him right in the face, and still he'd miss it.

Incidentally, Coyne is savaging the new Tory government for a variety of totally indefensible moves in its first three days - and he's savaging those who are defending them. He's absolutely right. I'm disappointed, and not a little disgusted. Don't think I won't remember next time. I had to do some ethical gymastics to justify my vote this time around. Next time I might just not bother.

UPDATE (15:16 CST): In fairness to the Minister, he's hardly alone, with even Bush expressing a little too much equivocation for my tastes.

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

February 07, 2006

No Kidding

The Grey Lady:

Democrats are heading into this year's elections in a position weaker than they had hoped for, party leaders say, stirring concern that they are letting pass an opportunity to exploit what they see as widespread Republican vulnerabilities.
I've been saying it for months. The entire article is very, very interesting in the way that it sets up those who recognize the failure (Bayh, Obama, Bredesen) against those who don't - Dean, Pelosi, Kerry, Gore - and those who have remained strangely aloof (Clinton). It's a bit too much of a simplification to call those three groups, respectively, the right, left and center of the party, but that's the general sense. The Dems as a party need to figure this out, and quick. The longer the Pelosi/Dean/Kennedy/Moore/Sheehan wing of the party predominates, the longer they'll fail to take advantage of a GOP that - for its own good, and increasingly for the good of the nation - needs to be taken advantage of.

(And for the record, Iain, I got this off Drudge.)

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

No I'm Not - You Are!

Iran's Hamshahri newspaper, in response to the Danish Cartoon controversy, displays the sophistication we've come to expect in reasoned international discourse an elementary-school playground:

ran's best-selling newspaper has launched a competition to find the best cartoon about the Holocaust in retaliation for the publication in many European countries of caricatures of the Prophet Mohammad.
The easy point-scoring remark is this: how many Iranian embassies and consulates do you expect will be burned to the ground in retaliation?

The better point is this: One of the fundamental justifications for the protection of free expression is that the truth can only be discovered (or, if you're a relativist, settled upon) through the vigorous exchange of contrary ideas. I think Milton had something to say about this a few years back.

That being the case, we defend the right of the press to publish offensive cartoons not only because we think they might be right but because we think they might be wrong. The question of whether Jyllands-Posten should be protected in its right to publish the cartoons is separate and distinct from the question of whether the cartoons express an opinion that is supportable. For the record, I think this one is just wrong; I think this one has been proven entirely correct; and I think this one contains elements of a legitimate criticism of normative Islam, even as it contains elements that are unsupportable.

The point is that by protecting the right of Jyllands-Posten to publish the cartoons, we are able to discover where these cartoonists stand on the questions about which they have published. By respecting the right of Hamshahri to publish holocaust-denying cartoons, we'll allow their cartoonists to publicize their views for the evaluation of a candid world. We might be disturbed by those views - indeed I expect that we will be - but it's better to air it all out than to push it underground and then pretend that it doesn't exist.

Posted by David Mader at 01:12 PM | (1) | Back to Main

The First Draft of History

Read this excellent piece by Fouad Ajami in today's Wall Street Journal.

Posted by David Mader at 12:42 PM | (0) | Back to Main

Why I Don't Read the New York Times

From today's leader:

The paper that first published [the Danish cartoons] did so as an experiment to see whether political satirists were capable of being as harsh to Islam as they are to other organized religions.
Ummmmmmmmm-no. No, that's actually just not correct. That is what I think is called, in the newspaper business, 'wrong:'
It is important to remember that the cartoons were printed not to poke fun or to ridicule but on a point of principle. Kåre Bluitgen, the Danish children's writer, wanted to write a book about Mohammed, but was unable to find an illustrator willing to submit drawings for fear of violent attacks by extremist Muslims.
That's a Dane, writing in the British Daily Telegraph. But who's he, next to the enlightened minds at the Times?

Meanwhile, a German journalist schools the American mainstream media on those little things called principles:
We would not have [originally] printed the caricature out of a sense of moderation and respect for the Muslim minority in our country. News people make judgments about taste all the time. We do not show sexually explicit pictures or body parts after a terrorist attack. We try to keep racism and anti-Semitism out of the paper. Freedom of the press comes with a responsibility.

But the criteria change when material that is seen as offensive becomes newsworthy. That's why we saw bodies falling out of the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. That's why we saw the pictures from Abu Ghraib. On such issues we print what we usually wouldn't. The very nature of the discourse is to find parameters of what is culturally acceptable. How many times have we seen Janet Jackson's breast in the course of a discussion of the limits of family entertainment? How many times have we printed material that Jews might consider offensive in an attempt to define the extent of anti-Semitism? It seems odd that most U.S. papers patronize their readers by withholding cartoons that the whole world talks about. To publish does not mean to endorse. Context matters.

The reasons this robust defense of free expression are coming from a German, and are addressed at an American audience, are best left to another time. For now I'll just say: this should be a bit embarassing, frankly.

Posted by David Mader at 01:51 AM | (1) | Back to Main

February 06, 2006


I'm still mulling it over, but I think I'm with Coyne and Wells on this one. It may be ok politics to do this kind of thing on the first day of your mandate, rather than, say, a month before an election, but it's still bad principle.

UPDATE (23:11 CST): If Emerson is Miers, who's the Alito waiting in the wings?

Posted by David Mader at 07:21 PM | (1) | Back to Main


Like, Peter MacKay?

I've always taken a particular interest in Foreign Affairs, and for good reason: my late father was a thirty-year veteran of the department, and my mother has worked at the Lester B. in one capacity or another for about twenty-five. I'm an External/DFAIT/FAC kid. So I'm a bit propriety about the Foreign Affairs portfolio.

As a result, I'm actually a bit conflicted about MacKay. On the one hand, to the degree that MacKay, as the former leader of the Progressive Conservative Party, is the notional deputy-leader, his appointment to Foreign Affairs represents a restoration of the ministry to its (in my view rightful) place as the first among equals in Cabinet.

On the other hand... MacKay?! The guys is - as a respected family friend recently described Paul Martin - a nebbish. He's not a committed conservative and, as my brother just pointed out on the phone, he's entirely unlikely to stand up for conservative principles in the face of a generally un-conservative foreign service.

There are, thankfully, some mitigating factors. First, the new guy at trade is, I'm told, a private-sector guy who'll be solid in his commitment (and understanding) of trade issues. Second, giving Stock the Public Safety office means that, to a large extent, the American portfolio is in solid hands. Aside from trade (see immediately above), security issues are our biggest concern vis-a-vis the Americans, and Day can be relied upon, I think, to handle the portfolio well. Third, a lot will ride on who Harper sends to Turtle Bay. If our ambassador is a solid conservative on international affairs matters - say, a Preston Manning - then there's a possibility of burnishing our international status notwithstanding weakness back home.

I suppose I shouldn't be too quick to judge; MacKay may surprise us all. But consider this: on top of the Foreign Ministry, MacKay becomes Minister for the Atlantic Canadian Opportunities Agency. Which do you think is really dearer to his heart?

Posted by David Mader at 01:01 PM | (3) | Back to Main

February 05, 2006

The Fire Spreads

The Danish consulate in Beirut, Lebanon has been stormed and burned. Here are the wire stories from the Associated Press and Reuters. All quotes in this post are to one of the two stories, which together provide a wealth of information.

The turn to violence in Syria and Lebanon appears to have finally triggered a response from those Muslim leaders who understand the contours of the current conflict:

"This has nothing to do with Islam at all," Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora told Future television. "Destabilizing security and vandalism give a wrong image of Islam. Prophet Mohammad cannot be defended this way." [. . .]

On Sunday's violence in Beirut, Mohammad Rashid Qabani, Lebanon's top Sunni Muslim cleric, said no matter how strongly Muslims felt about the cartoons they must exercise restraint.

"We don't want the expression of our condemnation (of the cartoons) to be used by some to portray a distorted image of Islam," he said.

The world's leading Islamic body rejected the violence.

"Overreactions surpassing the limits of peaceful democratic acts … are dangerous and detrimental to the efforts to defend the legitimate case of the Muslim world," the 57-nation Organization of the Islamic Conference said in a statement.

"Should we burn and destroy things? Setting fire to embassies and destroying them is wrong. The solution lies in diplomacy, not in guns," Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said. "That (violence) is what those who seek a clash of civilizations want." [. . .]

In Britain, politicians and mainstream Muslims called for the police to deal with Moslem militants after a protest in London featured placards saying "Europe you will pay, your 9/11 will come" and "Butcher those who mock Islam."

"The placards that were on display were quite disgraceful and in our opinion seemed to constitute a clear incitement to violence, even murder," said Inayat Bunglawala, spokesman for the Muslim Council of Britain umbrella group.

This isn't a conflict between Islam and everyone else; it's a conflict between everyone and the adherents of a violent, expansionist and unaccommodating brand of Islam. That puts a lot of Muslims in the 'everyone else' camp, and indeed their involvement is necessary to defeat the ideology that has come to be termed 'Islamism,' precisely to distinguish it from Islam as a faith.

In large part the line of demarcation runs not between non-Muslim and Muslim, but between democrat and tyrant. Consider the response of the democratically-elected leader of Afghanistan:
Afghan President Hamid Karzai expressed anger over the cartoons but said Danish troops and other citizens should feel safe in his country.

"It's not the responsibility of Danish troops, it's not the responsibility of Danish government, it's the free media. … We must not hold the troops who are serving in Afghanistan responsible for this," he said Sunday on CNN's "Late Edition."

And then consider the position of the tyrannical regime in Syria:
Syria blamed Denmark for the protests, criticizing the Scandinavian nation for refusing to apologize for the caricatures of Islam's holiest figure.

"(Denmark's) government was able to avoid reaching this point … simply through an apology" as requested by Arab and Muslim diplomats, state-run daily Al-Thawra said in an editorial Sunday.

When we hold a gun to your head, Damascus is saying, you apologize; if we shoot you because you fail to apologize, the fault is yours, not ours. And in case their position wasn't sufficiently clear:
"It is unjustifiable under any kind of personal freedoms to allow a person or a group to insult the beliefs of millions of Muslims," the paper said.
Get it? To the degree that liberal democracy allows for expressions insulting to Islam, democracy and Islam can't mix. That's the position of the Syrian regime. The Syrian regime is a tyranny; democracy represents a mortal threat. Is it a coincidence that Syria supports an interpretation of Islam that is fundamentally antithetical to democracy?

Posted by David Mader at 01:26 PM | (22) | Back to Main

February 04, 2006

Don't Worry, Though...

... it's not a war or anything.


Nothing like that.


UPDATE (20:00 CST): The Telegraph:

The problem is that militant Islam is not seeking a level playing field - equality before the law, for instance - but special treatment. Muslims expect, as they should, the benefits and protections of British pluralism but, in too many cases, baulk at the duties that are their corollary. One of those duties is to accept that, in a free society, there are occasions when each of us is bound to be offended. "Everyone is in favour of free speech," remarked Churchill. "Hardly a day passes without its being extolled. But some people's idea of it is that they are free to say what they like - but if anyone says anything back, that is an outrage." There is no excuse for gratuitous offence, of course. But some Muslims might like to consider how insulting their own views on women's rights, theocracy and Western practices are to many non-Muslims. The offensiveness of these views is no reason to close British mosques or Islamic newspapers.
If you haven't seen the cartoons, they're here. Go look. Go look, and then tell me if there are more than two that can even be considered mildly offensive. And then consider this one:

UPDATE (20:12 CST): Remember when I suggested that Britain was moving ever closer to a state of conflict somewhere between rebellion and civil war, and one of Matt's readers called me unintelligent for making the suggestion?


UPDATE (20:30 CST): In Der Spiegel, US-based Muslim dissident Ibn Warraq urges us—we who value the principles of enlightened liberalism—not to surrender:
A democracy cannot survive long without freedom of expression, the freedom to argue, to dissent, even to insult and offend. It is a freedom sorely lacking in the Islamic world, and without it Islam will remain unassailed in its dogmatic, fanatical, medieval fortress; ossified, totalitarian and intolerant. Without this fundamental freedom, Islam will continue to stifle thought, human rights, individuality; originality and truth.

Unless we show some solidarity, unashamed, noisy, public solidarity with the Danish cartoonists, then the forces that are trying to impose on the Free West a totalitarian ideology will have won; the Islamization of Europe will have begun in earnest. Do not apologize.

Read the whole thing.

UPDATE (00:47 CST, 2/5/06): In the Telegraph, Dane Sandi Toskvig writes:
It is important to remember that the cartoons were printed not to poke fun or to ridicule but on a point of principle. Kåre Bluitgen, the Danish children's writer, wanted to write a book about Mohammed, but was unable to find an illustrator willing to submit drawings for fear of violent attacks by extremist Muslims.

Depicting Mohammed is against Islamic law, but that is not the law of the land in Denmark. The newspaper Jyllands-Posten (an unlikely candidate for a lead role in international relations) invited 25 cartoonists to stand up for what it said was the right of free expression. Twelve illustrators responded and, last September, the drawings were published.

It has taken some time and some considerable misinformation by extremists for the matter to boil up as it has done this week. The prime minister has refused to censor Jyllands-Posten because the Danish government does not have the power to tell its people what they may or may not print.

Keep that in mind: these cartoons were commissioned following a complaint that cartoonists would not draw Mohammed for fear of violence. The cartoons have been met by an orchestrated, and international, campaign of violence.

And then we are told that the fault is ours, for failing to understand the sensitivities of Muslims. Fooey. The fault is not ours; the fault is theirs who have normalized a violent, expansionist and unaccommodating interpretation of Muslim faith. The key to modern pluralistic democracy, and the assumption upon which the policy of multiculturalism is based, is the principle of peaceful coexistence. The Islam practiced by those who burned the embassies in Damascus, and those who rallied at the Regent's Park mosque in London, is doctrinally opposed to the principle of peaceful coexistence. It cannot be accommodated; it cannot be appeased. One of three things must occur: it must change; or we must change; or we, and it, must part ways.

UPDATE (01:13 CST 2/5/06): Washington Post cartoonist Kevin Kallaugher draws his own take on the affair, which provides us with a fine representation of the essence of the controversy:

UPDATE (01:35 CST 2/5/06): This Charles Moore column from yesterday's Telegraph is an absolute must-read:
It's some time since I visited Palestine, so I may be out of date, but I don't remember seeing many Danish flags on sale there. Not much demand, I suppose. I raise the question because, as soon as the row about the cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed in Jyllands-Posten broke, angry Muslims popped up in Gaza City, and many other places, well supplied with Danish flags ready to burn. . . .

Why were those Danish flags to hand? Who built up the stockpile so that they could be quickly dragged out right across the Muslim world and burnt where television cameras would come and look? The more you study this story of "spontaneous" Muslim rage, the odder it seems.

The complained-of cartoons first appeared in October; they have provoked such fury only now. As reported in this newspaper yesterday, it turns out that a group of Danish imams circulated the images to brethren in Muslim countries. When they did so, they included in their package three other, much more offensive cartoons which had not appeared in Jyllands-Posten but were lumped together so that many thought they had.

It rather looks as if the anger with which all Muslims are said to be burning needed some pretty determined stoking.

Read the whole thing.

[Incidentally, thanks to reader Dave K. for bringing this story to my attention days ago. Dave picked up on its importance long before I did. Thanks also to Edie M. for forwarding me a link to the cartoons themselves.]

Posted by David Mader at 07:32 PM | (0) | Back to Main

February 02, 2006


This is the trailer I've been talking about for the past week. Go watch.

I cannot wait for this movie. First, as many of you know, I think it's time to bring hats back. Second, and more fundamentally, I think that this movie will, unintentionally, say something very interesting and important about America. I won't say more until I see it, except this: I don't think Kanye West could make this film.

Posted by David Mader at 01:25 AM | (1) | Back to Main

February 01, 2006

What's the Supreme Court Equivalent of Kremlinology?

This is one of the funniest things I've seen in a while.

Posted by David Mader at 09:19 AM | (0) | Back to Main