This is the greatest discovery of all time!

Of all time! And yes, I know I’m about six months late on the whole Kanye thing, but every time I say the words “of all time” it’s all I can think of.

MIT OpenCourseWare Project – effing FREE online classes from MIT. You don’t get credit, but you can access them all! Videos, assignments, reading materials… it’s the most incredible thing I’ve ever seen in my life. I’m all aflutter. I feel like this guy:

Yay MIT for not having its head up its ass!!!!

Glenn Greenwald, let’s be friends again…

THIS IS A MUST READ… Sorry about all the Glenn Greenwald links this week. He’s just on fucking fire lately. Read it if you care about, well, basically anything :

That WikiLeaks is being targeted by the U.S. Government for surveillance and disruption is beyond doubt.  And it underscores how vital their work is and why it’s such a threat.

WikiLeaks editors, including Assagne, have spent substantial time of late in Iceland because there is a pending bill in that country’s Parliament that would provide meaningful whistle blower protection for what they do, far greater than exists anywhere else.  Why is Iceland a leading candidate to do that?  Because, last year, that nation suffered full-scale economic collapse.  It was then revealed that numerous nefarious causes (corrupt loans, off-shore transactions, concealed warning signs) were hidden completely from the public and even from policy-makers, preventing detection and avoidance.  Worse, most of Iceland’s institutions — from its media to its legislative and regulatory bodies — completely failed to penetrate this wall of secrecy, allowing this corruption to fester until it brought about full-scale financial ruin.  As a result, Iceland has become very receptive to the fact that the type of investigative exposure provided by WikiLeaks is a vital national good, and there is real political will to provide it with substantial protections.

If that doesn’t sound familiar to Americans, it should.  At exactly the time when U.S. government secrecy is at an all-time high, the institutions ostensibly responsible for investigation, oversight and exposure have failed.  The American media are largely co-opted, and their few remaining vestiges of real investigative journalism are crippled by financial constraints. The U.S. Congress is almost entirely impotent at providing meaningful oversight and is, in any event, controlled by the factions that maintain virtually complete secrecy.  As I’ve documented before, some alternative means of investigative journalism have arisen — such as the ACLU’s tenacious FOIA litigations to pry documents showing “War on Terror” abuses and the reams of bloggers who sort through, analyze and publicize them — but that’s no match for the vast secrecy powers of the government and private corporations.

The need for independent leaks and whistle-blowing exposures is particularly acute now because, at exactly the same time that investigative journalism has collapsed, public and private efforts to manipulate public opinion have proliferated.  This is exemplified by the type of public opinion management campaign detailed by the above-referenced CIA Report, the Pentagon’s TV propaganda program exposed in 2008, and the ways in which private interests covertly pay and control supposedly “independent political commentators” to participate in our public debates and shape public opinion.

TNC is so awesome….

Ta-nehisi has an incredible post about the tea party movement and their bush league protests. I strongly suggest you check it out:

I was a student at Howard at the time, and like all the other prospective Marchers, I read the papers and was well-versed in notion of not embarrassing your people in front of white folks. The last thing any of us wanted to do was to march down to the Mall and have the next day’s headline read, “Niggers Can’t Even March Without Fighting.” In the months leading up to the March, organizers toured the country speaking to black men in the community and pushing the essential conservative aspects of the March.
The theme was atonement–even as we recognized the wickedness of racism, we were going to the Mall to take ownership of our sins, to denounce black on black crime, to denounce absentee fatherhood, and recommit ourselves to the traditional cult of maledom. The concept of violence, or even boisterous anger, was counter to the March’s goals, and so while there was much surprise at how solemn the event came off, if you’d been watching from the start, it would have made sense. I think had someone done something to embarrass us, there really would have been hell to pay. We thought that media was looking for trouble, but we also thought it was within our power not to give it to them.
I think we got some of that sense from the Civil Rights movement’s choreography. These guys were the masters of protest as propaganda. The Montgomery bus boycott was a strategy and Rosa Parks was not some witless old lady, but a civil rights worker who’d been trained to accord herself a certain way. When Martin Luther King would be arrested he dressed a certain way, he seemed to try to convey to the cameras a kind of solemn restraint. The marches themselves were choreographed, and the strategy of nonviolence was drilled into anyone who’d protest.
I hear GOP folks and Tea Partiers bemoaning the fact that media and Democrats are using the extremes of their movement for ratings and to score points. This is like Drew Brees complaining that Dwight Freeney keeps trying to sack him. If that were Martin Luther King’s response to media coverage, the South might still be segregated. I exaggerate, but my point is that the whining reflects a basic misunderstanding of the rules of protest. When you lead a protest you lead it, you own it, and your opponents, and the media, will hold you responsible for whatever happens in the course of that protest. This isn’t left-wing bias, it’s the nature of the threat.

Glenn Greenwald, just how I like him…

Getting worked up about his own country, for all the right reasons:

President Obama gave an interview earlier this week to an Indonesian television station in lieu of the scheduled trip to that country which was canceled due to the health care vote.  In 2008, Indonesia empowered a national commission to investigate human rights abuses committed by its own government under the U.S.-backed Suharto regime “in an attempt to finally bring the perpetrators to justice,” and Obama was asked in this interview:  “Is your administration satisfied with the resolution of the past human rights abuses in Indonesia?”  He replied:

We have to acknowledge that those past human rights abuses existed.  We can’t go forward without looking backwards . . . .

When asked last year about whether the United States should use similar tribunals to investigate its own human rights abuses, as well his view of other countries’ efforts (such as Spain) to investigate those abuses, Obama said:

I’m a strong believer that it’s important to look forward and not backwards, and to remind ourselves that we do have very real security threats out there.

That “Look-Forward/Not-Backward” formulation is one which Obama and his top aides have frequently repeated to argue against any investigations in the U.S.  Why, as Obama sermonized, must Indonesians first look backward before being able to move forward, whereas exactly the opposite is true of Americans?  If a leader is going to demand that other countries adhere to the very “principles” which he insists on violating himself, it’s probably best not to use antithetical clichés when issuing decrees, for the sake of appearances if nothing else.

One more thing…

Even though there will probably be two more things…

1. Why didn’t the conservative student group that invited Coulter invite, oh I don’t know, an actual American conservative intellectual? I know there aren’t many, but it’s a university for fuck’s sakes. If I was a U of O student, I would be more pissed at them bringing such an idiot (who probably commands a very high speaking fee) than the fact that she is conservative. What is she going to get up there and say? Canada sucks because it’s liberal? Muslims are evil? Liberals all want to play the victim while she simultaneously lets Sarah Palin play the victim and outright defends it?

I was all for it when Netanyahu came to Concordia, and found it ridiculous that the protesters shut it down. Get a conservative with some substance, not one who just says awful things to sell books.

All worked up…

Glenn Greenwald, who I do like, has his panties in a twist over Canada’s hate speech laws:

I’ve written many times before about the evils of “hate speech” laws that are prevalent in Canada and Europe — people being fined, prosecuted and hauled before official tribunals for expressing political opinions which the State has prohibited and criminalized.  I won’t rehash those arguments here, but I do want to note a particularly creepy illustration of how these laws manifest.  The far-right hatemonger Ann Coulter was invited by a campus conservative group to speak at the University of Ottawa, and the Vice Provost of that college sent Coulter a letter warning her that she may be subject to criminal prosecution if the views she expresses fall into the realm of prohibited viewpoints:

Dear Ms. Coulter,

I understand that you have been invited by University of Ottawa Campus Conservatives to speak at the University of Ottawa this coming Tuesday. . . .

I would, however, like to inform you, or perhaps remind you, that our domestic laws, both provincial and federal, delineate freedom of expression (or “free speech”) in a manner that is somewhat different than the approach taken in the United States. I therefore encourage you to educate yourself, if need be, as to what is acceptable in Canada and to do so before your planned visit here.

You will realize that Canadian law puts reasonable limits on the freedom of expression. For example, promoting hatred against any identifiable group would not only be considered inappropriate, but could in fact lead to criminal charges. Outside of the criminal realm, Canadian defamation laws also limit freedom of expression and may differ somewhat from those to which you are accustomed. I therefore ask you, while you are a guest on our campus, to weigh your words with respect and civility in mind. . . .

Hopefully, you will understand and agree that what may, at first glance, seem like unnecessary restrictions to freedom of expression do, in fact, lead not only to a more civilized discussion, but to a more meaningful, reasoned and intelligent one as well.

I hope you will enjoy your stay in our beautiful country, city and campus.

Sincerely,

Francois Houle,

Vice-President Academic and Provost, University of Ottawa

Personally, I think threatening someone with criminal prosecution for the political views they might express is quite “hateful.”  So, too, is anointing oneself the arbiter of what is and is not sufficiently “civilized discussion” to the point of using the force of criminal law to enforce it.  If I were administering Canada’s intrinsically subjective “hate speech” laws (and I never would), I’d consider prosecuting Provost Houle for this letter.  The hubris required to believe that you can declare certain views so objectively hateful that they should be criminalized is astronomical; in so many eras, views that were most scorned by majorities ended up emerging as truth.

For as long as I’ll live, I’ll never understand how people want to vest in the Government the power to criminalize particular viewpoints it dislikes, will never understand the view that it’s better to try to suppress adverse beliefs than to air them, and will especially never understand people’s failure to realize that endorsing this power will, one day, very likely result in their own views being criminalized when their political enemies (rather than allies) are empowered. Who would ever want to empower officious technocrats to issue warnings along the lines of:  be forewarned:  if you express certain political views, you may be committing a crime; guide and restrict yourself accordingly?  I obviously devote a substantial amount of my time and energy to critiquing the actions of the U.S. Government, but the robust free speech protection guaranteed by the First Amendment and largely protected by American courts continues to be one of the best features of American political culture.

I have NO problem with Canada’s hate speech laws. I think the letter the Provost sent to Ann Coulter is perfectly reasonable. I don’t see why Greenwald’s so worked up.  This is a bit of a chicken and egg situation. Our government has largely done a better job protecting civil rights and human rights than the US government (though we ain’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination). Our public discourse might be boring, but it’s pretty civil. I would say that it’s certainly a result of the laws that we have in place to protect civility.  Sure, you have MORE freedom of speech in the U.S. but you also have idiots like Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin and Ann Coulter dominating the public discourse, promoting ignorance and hatred, (and whipping up a whole lot of racist nutbags in the process). A lot of Canadians, maybe a majority, are sickened and shocked by the crap that comes out of their mouths. THIS IS A GOOD THING.

I don’t see anything wrong with warning Ann Coulter that you aren’t allowed to promote hatred against an identifiable group in this country. That’s one of the few things in this country I’m proud of. Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh could not exist here, and they certainly wouldn’t be paid hundreds of millions of dollars to hate people on the air. Plus, Canada isn’t the country that’s looking more and more Orwellian by the day. I believe that’s our neighbour to the south. “We’re tough on terrorism thus we’re scared to try them in our courts?” “We’re defending our constitution by saying we should destroy its institutions in the name of fighting terror?” “We want to scare the people so badly that they’re willing to let us create an all powerful police state that can detain and torture people without just cause?” And yet Canada is the country with less freedom? I don’t fucking think so.

So Ann Coulter? Liz and Dick Cheney? John Yoo? Bill O’Reilly etc etc? Fox News? You guys can have ’em.