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March 30, 2006

Money, Mouth

The Western Standard has been sued for publishing the Mohammed cartoons. It's time for those of us who support free speech in Canada to put our money where our mouths were. And I'm not only looking at those who supported the Standard's decision to publish the cartoons. I'm also looking at those who thought the Standard made a bad editorial decision - but who believed they had a right to make such a mistake. A decision against the Standard would mean - necessarily - that the publication of the cartoons was illegal. Not criminal, of course - but illegal nonetheless. So I say, again, that all of us who support free speech in Canada need to put up.

Here's where you can donate. Even if you give only ten dollars, those individual contributions will add up. Now's the time to turn principle into action.

Posted by David Mader at 12:16 AM | (8) | Back to Main


I was listening, I just didn't understand.

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

March 29, 2006

Canada Gets It Right

One cheer for Peter MacKay and three cheers for Canada for cutting ties with the Palestinian Authority:

Canada has become the first country after Israel to cut funding and diplomatic ties to the Palestinian Authority over the new Hamas government’s refusal to renounce violence.

The Conservatives say they will still offer humanitarian aid to Palestinians through the United Nations and other agencies.

But Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay said Wednesday that Ottawa cannot go farther.

“As you know, Hamas is a terrorist organization — listed in this country — and we cannot send any direct aid to an organization that refuses to renounce terrorist activity, refuses to renounce violence.”

The emphasis is mine; I highlight that statement because it's wonderfully encouraging to see the Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs being so forthright. After Pink Lloyd Axworthy and Bill Graham (to name two), Canadians could be forgiven for expecting a weak and equivocating statement on an issue like this. I presume MacKay was given the statement by PMO - I doubt it was crafted at the Lester B. and I have trouble believing MacKay's own staff would have drafted something that strong - but the Minister might have fudged on its delivery, and he didn't.

The full statement is here; the Star story has some predictable reaction from the usual suspects (my fisk-ish reaction is in italics):

The news shocked pro-Palestine groups who fear aid will be cut to those living in squalid refugee camps.

If they're receiving aid, why are their refugee camps squalid? Mightn't the squalidity (hey, go with it) be an indication that the Palestinian Authority (even under Fatah management) was misappropriating aid funds? And if the conditions are already described as "squalid," what adjective will be used to describe them after aid is cut off? Of course this is all academic, since Canada will continue to contribute humanitarian aid through the UN.

Although that raises its own set of questions: if UN camps are already squalid, mightn't that be an indication that the UN is misappropriating funds? And so on. . .

After decades of Israeli occupation, Palestinians are now effectively being punished for democratically electing a government they believe can help, he said.

"Suddenly we’re saying: 'It’s okay to have a democratic vote, but if we don’t like the result then you can’t have that.'"

Well, no it's not - that's not what we're saying. In fact, the Ministers' statement explicitly distinguishes between the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian people. And the message is directed squarely at the Palestinian Authority. And the message is: we recognize that Hamas has been elected and controls the Palestinian Authority, and we will be happy do have normal relations with a Hamas-led PA -- just as soon as Hamas recognizes the State of Israel, renounces violence and commits itself to a peaceful resolution of the conflict.

At the very least, Canada and other countries should be making the same peaceful demands of Israel, says Wahida Valiante, national vice-president of the Canadian Islamic Congress.

“It’s a two-way street."

Note the necessary implication here: like Hamas, Kadima, the governing party in Israel, must be an internationally-recognized terrorist organization. Today Wahida Valiante, tomorrow the world, I suppose. Of course Valiante is disingenuous, since Kadima and Israel are explicitly committed to the emergence of a Palestinian state.

"Canada is blindly following the lead of Washington," and of pro-Israel lobby groups, she said.

Well now this is really, really unfair. I mean, I'm really upset about this. Because I sure as hell hope it's not blind. In all seriousness, I do expect that there was communication between Foggy Bottom and the Lester B. (or, more likely, between the White House and PMO) in advance of what was, essentially, a simultaneous announcement. Washington realizes (hopefully based on Ottawa's prodding) that the Canadian government will be much more willing than in the past to use the good reputation of the maple leaf to bless shared foreign-affairs positions. So Valiante is half-right. We are stepping to the same tune as Washington - only it's not Washington's tune; it's ours as well. That, of course, is what makes Valiante upset.

There was also this:
Liberal MP Keith Martin visited the West Bank in August.

"It was profoundly tragic,” he said. “Palestinian people live in abhorrent conditions. Yet, they desperately want to become self-sufficient. Unfortunately, violent radicals impede the ability of the Palestinian people to move forward with an independent state, side by side with an independent and secure Israel."

Wise words. You'd almost think this guy was a conservative. Just a conservative opportunist, I guess. [Like David Emerson? - ed.] Yup. Like David Emerson. Only Emerson had better timing.

Posted by David Mader at 08:15 PM | (0) | Back to Main

March 23, 2006

The Beard

Sullivan says that beards are officially back. I could have told you that - Maderblog has proudly sported a beard for about two years now.

And seeing as I'm apparently a fashion maven, let me tell you the next trend: hats.

(I call that my Drudge photo.)

Posted by David Mader at 01:04 PM | (8) | Back to Main

March 22, 2006

When All the Posts Disappear...

... I guess it means I should post more often. Sorry for the radio silence. My extraordinarily busy period draws to a close next Monday, when I settle back into a very busy schedule. Lots of interesting stuff going on; wish I had more time to blog. Alas. But I'll be back soon.

Posted by David Mader at 01:46 PM | (0) | Back to Main

March 08, 2006


Thanks for all your kind comments in response to the post below. They really are appreciated.

Posted by David Mader at 10:01 AM | (2) | Back to Main

March 05, 2006

Leonard Mader - 1948-2005

[This obituary first appeared in the Winter, 2005 issue of ‘bout de papier,’ the magazine of the Professional Association of Foreign Service Officers - DSM]

“The measure of a man's life is the well spending of it, and not the length.” - Plutarch

Len Mader's sudden death on March 5, 2005 at the age of 57 was a tragedy for his family and a shocking loss for his many friends in Canada and around the world. It was especially poignant because Len had recently retired and was having the time of his life. His days were filled with the joy of doing the things that he most wanted to do in his life — studying, teaching, spending time with the people he loved and admired. It was those last eight months of Len's life that provide the key to understanding the whole man.

Len was born and raised in Calgary. After graduating from the University of Calgary and University of Western Ontario, he joined External Affairs — as it was then called — in 1974. He had postings in New York (as a stagiaire at the United Nations, with a full term at the Consulate-General), Dublin and London. With his communication skills and astute sensitivity on issues of messaging and methodologies, Len became one of the principle architects of departmental communications strategies in a series of headquarters and overseas jobs.

By the end of the 1990s, after serving in personnel, quietly untangling problems, dissecting conflicting policies and working his way quietly towards consensus solutions, he was ready for new challenges. It was a considerable leap of experience and background when Len became director of the Security Operations Division, but his calming style of management and careful ways in managing people made him an ideal candidate. Len brought to the job his typical blend of rational assessment and subtle wit, even while attending to the most difficult and wrenching problems of foreign service life in an increasingly insecure world. In the post 9/11 environment, when his Division became a lightning rod for so many issues, reasoned or not, Len worked his way through the intense pressures without ever losing his cool. The motto he coined for his division — “keeping careless people alive in exotic locations” — lives on, a tribute to Len's dedication, professionalism and good humour which were at the core of his 30 years in the foreign service.

For those who worked with Len, probably the first word that comes to mind when thinking of him is “balance.” Len was always even-tempered and calm, though he held strong views on many subjects. When others around him were flapping, he would simply bear down and get the work done.

For those who knew Len outside the office, balance is also a term they would use, but balance in a much wider sense. Balance as a sense of proportion, as an understanding of how to value the things that matter most to a person and assign them their relative weights in a life lived honorably and well. Balance as a passionate commitment to doing right by the people he loved and cared about.

Family was paramount. Len met his wife Robin while posted in New York, and with their two sons, Daniel and David, they formed a close-knit foreign service family which was the cornerstone of Len's life. He was immensely proud of his family, in the quiet, unassuming way which was his manner. Those who heard the eloquence of Daniel and David at Len's funeral as they spoke of their father's passing were struck by their strength of character and the family that had nurtured it.

There were other passions as well, particularly his growing commitment over the years to Judaism, not only as a matter of faith but as a way of life. Len had always been impressed by the deep traditions in Judaism. He talked often of the lines of Jewish learning and inquiry that could be traced back unbroken for thousands of years. Perhaps most important, however, was the sense of community and continuity that he found in Judaism. When he retired, Len had the time to pursue these interests with enthusiasm and delight. He met and prayed regularly with a group of Jewish scholars. He volunteered as a teacher at an Ottawa Jewish school. In retirement, Len had the time to give back to the community he loved, and he did so passionately.

There is, in the Jewish tradition, a simple moral principle passed down from parent to child: “Be a mensch.” Be a human being. It is not a matter of high philosophy but of ordinary decency. Take your responsibilities towards others seriously, be the kind of person that other people can trust and count on. At Len's funeral, the room was packed with many hundreds of people who had assembled within hours of his death to pay tribute to him. It was a remarkably diverse group, and many people looking around the room were struck by how many lives have been touched by Len and his family. It brought home to everyone just how lovely a man he was. Len was a real mensch, and we miss him very much.

Dan Livermore and Gary Soroka are both long-standing members of PAFSO in Foreign Affairs Canada.

Posted by David Mader at 12:00 AM | (2) | Back to Main

March 04, 2006

Canada's Century - A Century Late?

This story is getting a lot of blogosphere attention:

Canada has been showered with attention for its oil sands — deposits of thick, sludgy crude in remote parts of northern Alberta — but until now most of that oil has flowed only as far south as Chicago.

This week, crude spun out of Canada's oil sands came all the way to this flat Oklahoma prairie town that's known as the oil pipeline capital of the world.

Enbridge, a Calgary-based oil delivery and storage company, opened the taps to its Spearhead Pipeline, a 650-mile stretch of steel from Chicago to Cushing, and the first western Canada crude sloshed into the company's mammoth Cushing terminal early Thursday.

Most of us see January's election of the Harper Tories in fairly narrow political terms, as the result of short-term discontent with the long-ruling Grits. But it's not hard to believe that history will come to see the election in a much different light - as the inevitable westward shift of Canadian political power correspoding to the rising economic might of Alberta. If that, and not short-term discontent, is what's really going on, then the above story strongly suggests that Harper's Tory government will be anything but a flash in the pan.

Posted by David Mader at 10:38 PM | (0) | Back to Main

March 02, 2006

Shouting on the Street-Corner

Anyone who blogs, or who comments on blogs, should read this. Although I love litigation in principle, I've never been crazy about libel suits, which - particularly where most suits are settled - serve only to shut someone up by threatening them with a cost of litigation that they are unable to bear.

Still, there's no question that the internet is as public a place as any. Most people fool themselves in thinking that when they sit down at their home computer, their on-line actions are as private as typing on a key-board. When you post to the internet you speak to the world, whether or not the world listens.

As an aside, while it sounds like the blogger at the center of the story may well be at fault, I couldn't help but sympathize with this:

On Dec. 8, she received a letter from one of Homestead’s lawyers, Donald B. Bayne, stating the company and its employees named on the site “take very seriously the false, malicious and libellous statements you have published about them on your website,” and that the company had complained to her site host, Lycos, which took the page down.

“When I got the notice, I went into a panic, I couldn’t eat or sleep for four days,” said Dawe, who lives on The Parkway.

I've only had one run-in with the civil law as a consequence of my posting here, and I felt much the same way. Still, I'm glad I had that run-in, since it made me more aware of the issues attendant to blogging, and gave me some experience that will be valuable when it happens next - something I expect. Of course, I probably only say I'm 'glad' of the run-in since I remain un-sued; hopefully that's a result of the care I put into my blogging, and hopefully that'll continue in the future.

Posted by David Mader at 02:44 PM | (0) | Back to Main

The Other Supreme Court

Sikhs can wear kirpans in Canada. I'm not crazy about the Charter, but I've been quite impressed, in the course of my rather limited reading of Canadian cases, by the Supreme Court's reasoned application of the document and its principles. They often show much more deference to legislative judgment than the US Supreme Court, which is somewhat remarkable given the constitutions of the two countries.

What do I know, of course. But that's my impression.

(And yes, that's a gross misrepresentation of today's decision, which really says that a province cannot entirely ban kirpans from schools on safety grounds, but can impose reasonable restrictions.)

Posted by David Mader at 11:31 AM | (0) | Back to Main

Justice is Sleepy

While most of today's US Supreme Court-related buzz is about Justice Alito's thank-you letter to James Dobson, the more interesting story might be this:

The Supreme Court had put the Texas cases on the fast track, scheduling an unusually long two-hour afternoon session. The subject matter was extremely technical, and near the end of the argument Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dozed in her chair. Justices David Souter and Samuel Alito, who flank the 72-year-old, looked at her but did not give her a nudge.
This might be the sort of color that Supreme Court reporters (I mean, reporters who cover the Supreme Court, not the Supreme Court Reporter) add to their stories. But I think this sort of thing will become an increasing meme with the increasing age disparity on the court. It's true that Justices have no institutional sensitivty to public opinion, but public opinion can have an affect, nonetheless.

And this can have consequences. If you split the Court into a 'conservative' wing and a 'liberal' wing and leave Kennedy the wildcard, the ages come out like this:

Roberts - 51
Alito - 56
Thomas - 58
Scalia - 70
AVERAGE: 58.75

Kennedy - 70

Souter - 67
Breyer - 68
Ginsburg - 73
Stevens - 86

In other words, assuming that age is the key predictor of departure from court, it is somewhat more likely that the next departure from the Court will be a "liberal" justice. Public reaction to episodes like yesterday's might (if only marginally) speed such a departure. That would increase the possibility that President Bush would have a third nomination before the end of his tenure, again raising the chances that the ideological makeup of the court will shift to the right.

This holds all else equal, of course, and of course, all else is never equal.

UPDATE (20:15 CST): Via WorldNetDaily comes this graphic from FoxNews, showing an artist's rendition of yesterday's oral arguments:

The story suggests that the nap lasted a quarter of an hour.

Posted by David Mader at 11:13 AM | (0) | Back to Main

Prime Minister's Questions

Watch Harper's latest press conference. I said it before, I'll say it again: they like this guy.

From time to time I've disparaged the notion that the press truly acts as a 'fourth estate' of good government, because I reject the idea that the press as a class should enjoy any privilege not enjoyed generally by the citizenry. But I wonder, particularly while watching things like this press conference, whether the press might not have a legitimate quasi-governmental function in those states where political power is accumulated in one office or branch.

What I mean is this: in the modern Canadian parliamentary tradition, given the reality of modern political parties, parliamentary opposition is more or less binary: the party out of power is opposed to the party in power, and generally speaking has little incentive to cooperate. That's not strictly true, since on many issues there will be substantial common ground, and often the opposition party will in principle support government legislation, or at least will not want to be portrayed to the electorate as opposing it. Moreover, where the government lacks a parliamentary majority, supra-partisan considerations come into play.

But in the traditional majority-government scenario where the prime minister controls (either directly or by virtue of his position as majority-party leader) both executive and legislative power, there's little institutional reason to cooperate with the opposition; conversely, there's a heavy interest on the part of the opposition to oppose government action for the sake of opposing.

In that instance, it's conceivable that the opposition will be more motivated by partisan interests than by democratic-principle interests. Take, for example, the reaction to these terrible Mexico murders. It's in the opposition's interest to act from the premise that the government has failed in its duty, since the opposition's goal is the representation of the government as ineffectual (and the consequent replacement of that government by the opposition itself). The press, by contrast, has no partisan incentive in operating from that premise - nor any institutional incentive to do so either. As a result, the press may be more effective in discovering precisely what the government is up to, and in framing and directing the government's activities, than the parliamentary opposition.

I'm not convinced, but it's a thought.

Posted by David Mader at 01:37 AM | (1) | Back to Main

Ash Wednesday

Before I moved to Austin, I'd never seen anyone sporting ash on his or her forehead. It's really a remarkable thing, and it only increases my love of Texas (and, I assume, much of the United States). The fact that I'd never seen the practice until last year is more remarkable, I think, given that I spent four years in Montreal - the biggest city in ostensibly-Catholic Quebec - during college.

Am I crazy to be heartened - even reassured - by such public displays of Christian faith? I don't think so, and for two reasons. First, comfort with faith displays a certain stability of character that I find admirable. Perhaps that's a personal projection, but a professor made a similar remark today with regard to a recent decision by new Chief Justice John Roberts. The first sentence of his decision in Gonzales v. O Centro Espirita Beneficente Uniao Do Vegetal reads:

A religious sect with origins in the Amazon Rainforest
receives communion by drinking a sacramental tea, brewed from plants unique to the region, that contains a hallucinogen regulated under the Controlled Substances Act by the Federal Government.
My professor remarked on Roberts' use of the term 'receives communion' - a Christological term applied to a non-Christian religious practice. Some class members evinced a certain discomfort with this sort of projection; my professor - no Christian conservative - said that for whatever reason, he in fact found it reassuring. I think there's something to that. Faith is important, and it's nice to see so many people - particularly young people - acknowledge that.

Second, and perhaps more importantly, I'm heartened to see expressions of faith that I understand, based on personal experiences, to be non-threatening. Sincere expressions of faith by Texan Catholics doesn't threaten me because I know, or believe, that most Texan Catholics accept a notion of peaceful coexistence between faiths. I don't see an ash cross on someone's forehead as evidence of an increased likelihood of hostility toward me because of my Jewish faith; on the contrary, I see it as evidence of an increased likelihood of mutual respect and understanding because of the commonality of religious faith in the abstract and the mutual acceptance of a notion of peaceful coexistence between adherence of different religous dogmas.

I don't mean to suggest that, absent other factors and in isolation, Judaism and Catholocism will coexist without tension. Indeed, it's quite possible that the amity I feel towards faithful Christians today will ebb as secularism ebbs and the commonality between Jews and Christians (as religious individuals in a secularist society) diminishes. But for now I'm happy to celebrate these simple and confident expressions of faith, whatever may come in time.

Posted by David Mader at 01:23 AM | (6) | Back to Main

March 01, 2006

Ah, an Objective Press

What is this?

The CTF claims to be a non-profit, non-partisan advocacy group which fights for lower taxes, and greater government accountability.
It claims to be? The obvious implication is that it's not. Two questions: a) which part does the "reporter" doubt? That CTF is non-profit? That it's non-partisan? that it's an advocacy group? that it fights for lower taxes and greater government accountability? b) What is the basis of the "reporter's" suggestion that the CTF is something other than what it represents itself to be? The language used would be justifiable in a news report if the issue was a matter of contention and the opposite point of view was sourced. But - even if it is a matter of contention, which doesn't seem that clear - it's not sourced. The CTF says it's a non-profit etc. The reporter says otherwise. That's not a new report; that's an editorial.

UPDATE (15:13 CST): Two things. Matt in the comments argues that 'CTF claims to be' may be a more neutral phrase than 'CTF is,' which accepts uncritically the claims of the group. He suggests that an empirical evaluation of the use of the phrase 'claims to be' would demonstrate whether it has historically been used in a skeptical way, as I suggest it's being used here. I agree that such a study would be best, and I've started to poke around on Lexis and Westlaw. I'll post what I find.

Also, Mark Logan over at The Shotgun accepts that 'CTF claims to be' is loaded language but notes that 'CTF is' is equally loaded. He suggests that the appropriate language would be something like "CTF describes itself as." I think that's exactly right.

Posted by David Mader at 01:30 PM | (5) | Back to Main

Us and Them

Jyllands-Posten, the paper that sparked controversy by publishing the now-infamous Mohammed Cartoons last year, has published a manifesto by a number of prominent Europeans and others denouncing "a new totalitarian threat: Islamism." The entire manifesto is republished in the post below. It's a welcome statement, and I can't help but notice certain similarities with a statement published here in October, 2003. The publication of the manifesto dovetails nicely with the broadcast of this remarkable appearance on al Jazeera. This isn't a clash of Islam and the West. This is a clash of democracy and tyranny.

That's why this ports business has troubled me so much. I missed the first wave of punditry, and so didn't have much to add, but my sense throughout has been that lots of people appear to have lost their mind. Although I admit I didn't read deeply into it, I've seen no serious allegation that the UAE-based company got the Ports contract illegitimately. Lefties were able to pursue an economically-isolationist agenda while simultaneously appearing strong on national defense. Righties were able to distinguish themselves from the Administration and rile up a little nativist patriotism. It was all shameful.

The only serious argument I've heard is that employing an Arab company makes Islamist infiltration more likely. The necessary assumption is that Arab companies are more susceptible to Islamist influence than any other. Not an outrageous suggestion, but it, in turn, rests on the assumption that Arabs are less likely to be anti-Islamist than non-Arabs.

Well, read the manifesto again, and watch that clip. Wafa Sultan is an Arab, but I reject outright the suggestion that she's 'overcoming' any default antipathy towards Jews or democracy or secularism. She's not overcoming anything; she's making up her mind. Arabs can do that just as well as anybody. There's nothing intrinsic in the Arab mind that frustrates the acceptance of liberty and peaceful coexistence. Nor, as the interview demonstrates, does the Arabic language lack the tools to describe the ideas at issue. It could be that the directors of the UAE-based company in the ports deal happen to be hostile to democracy; that's a legitimate point of inquiry. But I see no reason to assume, a priori, that they are - and certainly no reason to make such an assumption on the basis of their race.

Yes, it's us against them. But we are democracts - and lots of us are Arabs, and Muslims, and lots of other things too.

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

A Manifesto

After having overcome fascism, Nazism, and Stalinism, the world now faces a new totalitarian global threat: Islamism.

We, writers, journalists, intellectuals, call for resistance to religious totalitarianism and for the promotion of freedom, equal opportunity and secular values for all.

The recent events, which occurred after the publication of drawings of Muhammed in European newspapers, have revealed the necessity of the struggle for these universal values. This struggle will not be won by arms, but in the ideological field. It is not a clash of civilisations nor an antagonism of West and East that we are witnessing, but a global struggle that confronts democrats and theocrats.

Like all totalitarianisms, Islamism is nurtured by fears and frustrations. The hate preachers bet on these feelings in order to form battalions destined to impose a liberticidal and unegalitarian world. But we clearly and firmly state: nothing, not even despair, justifies the choice of obscurantism, totalitarianism and hatred. Islamism is a reactionary ideology which kills equality, freedom and secularism wherever it is present. Its success can only lead to a world of domination: man's domination of woman, the Islamists' domination of all the others. To counter this, we must assure universal rights to oppressed or discriminated people.

We reject « cultural relativism », which consists in accepting that men and women of Muslim culture should be deprived of the right to equality, freedom and secular values in the name of respect for cultures and traditions. We refuse to renounce our critical spirit out of fear of being accused of "Islamophobia", an unfortunate concept which confuses criticism of Islam as a religion with stigmatisation of its believers.

We plead for the universality of freedom of expression, so that a critical spirit may be exercised on all continents, against all abuses and all dogmas.

We appeal to democrats and free spirits of all countries that our century should be one of Enlightenment, not of obscurantism.

12 signatures

Ayaan Hirsi Ali
Chahla Chafiq
Caroline Fourest
Bernard-Henri Lévy
Irshad Manji
Mehdi Mozaffari
Maryam Namazie
Taslima Nasreen
Salman Rushdie
Antoine Sfeir
Philippe Val
Ibn Warraq


Posted by David Mader at 01:05 AM | (2) | Back to Main

Just Another Hockey Dad

Talk about good press. Watch the associated video, too, to fully appreciate the tone in which Canada's prime minister describes his frustration at a poor call by a referee in his son's hockey game. And my American readers will be amused to learn that our PM is in fact writing a book about the history of hockey.

Here's the thing: the press likes this guy. He's smart, he's down to earth, and he does his job. How they got him to relax with the media I don't know, but it just about seals the deal. The more stories like this that come out, the more Canadians are going to like him, whatever his policies. Likeability is a huge x-factor in politics, and has long been Harper's largest liability (beyond being a Canadian conservative). If he can conquer that, boy, watch out.

Posted by David Mader at 01:03 AM | (3) | Back to Main