“You can’t win a person’s heart and mind when you are pointing a rifle at his or her chest”

Ferguson, Michael Brown, Mike Brown, #michaelbrown, #mikebrown

Afghanistan War veteran Paul Szoldra:

In Afghanistan, we patrolled in big, armored trucks. We wore uniforms that conveyed the message, “We are a military force, and we are in control right now.” Many Afghans saw us as occupiers.

And now we see some of our police officers in this same way. “The militarization of law enforcement is counter-productive to domestic policing and needs to stop,” tweeted Andrew Exum, a former Army infantry officer.

If there’s one thing I learned in Afghanistan, it’s this: You can’t win a person’s heart and mind when you are pointing a rifle at his or her chest.

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B’nai Brith Canada Hearts Free Speech (Except When It Doesn’t.)

by matttbastard

Free speech for ye:

B’nai Brith Canada condemns free speech double standard on campus as Coulter talk is cancelled in Ottawa

TORONTO, March 24, 2010 – B’nai Brith Canada has condemned the free speech double standard that exists on university campuses across Canada and has resulted in the cancellation of recent events due to safety concerns emanating from campus radicals.

Not thee:

B’nai Brith Canada calls for removal of anti-Israel propaganda from recommended reading list for school children

TORONTO, March 25, 2010 – B’nai Brith Canada has called for the removal of The Shepherd’s Granddaughter, a vehemently anti-Israel book targeting students in grades seven and eight, from the recommended reading list of Ontario public school libraries. The one-sided work of fiction, which demonizes the Jewish State and was brought to B’nai Brith Canada’s attention by a concerned parent, is currently being recommended by teachers and librarians in the Toronto District School Board (TDSB).

B’nai Brith Canada: where irony goes to die a slow, painful death.

h/t BigCityLib

Recommend this post at Progressive Bloggers

The Last Post I Will Ever Write About Ann Coulter (Except for Cynical SEO Purposes)

by matttbastard

(Photo: Rockinon2009, Flickr)

Well, well, well (h/t Sabina Becker):

First, contrary to what Coulter seems to suggest in a brief phone interview with Macleans.ca scribe Colby Cosh, it was not the police who “shut it down.” I spoke with Ottawa Police Services media relations officer Alain Boucher this morning, and he told me, in no uncertain terms, that it was her security team that made the decision to call off the event. “We gave her options” — including, he said, to “find a bigger venue” — but “they opted to cancel … It’s not up to the Ottawa police to make that decision.”
 
Boucher’s statements are seemingly at odds with the account provided via twitter by Ezra Levant, who was supposed to appear on stage alongside Coulter. Several hours after the event had been called off, he tweeted that “Cops advised that proceeding with Coulter event in face of protesters would be dangerous to her and crowd,” and quoted a Sgt. Dan Beauchamp as saying that shutting down the event was “a public safety issue,” as well as an unnamed “police officer” who allegedly said that the OPS “cannot guarantee her safety.” He also corrected an early report from Calgary radio host Rob Breakenridge, who tweeted that the speech was kiboshed because of a fire alarm, claiming that “it was the threat of violence, say cops.”
[…]

Finally, an observation from a CBC reporter who was in the Foyer while Coulter was being interviewed by CTV’s Power Play: At approximately 5:15pm, he overheard a member of her security team tell a Conservative MP that her event “may be cancelled,” which would suggest that the decision to do so was already being considered before more than half the crowd had assembled outside the venue — hopeful speech-goers and protesters alike. Coulter herself, meanwhile, told Cosh that she never actually left the Rideau Club — where she was the guest of honour at a $250 per head private reception — for the university. Given the travel times involved, and the 7:30 pm start time, she would likely have had to do so by 7pm at the latest in order to make it in time.

To quote my favouritist bookstore eva:

Ann Coulter played y’all, Canada.

DNFTT.

BTW y’all wanna get excised over an actual affront to free speech in Canada (as opposed to Ezra & Ann’s asinine [if largely successful] attempt to insult our collective intelligence for filthy lucre)? Say hello to the campaign to silence Israeli Apartheid Week. Don’t know what I’m talking about?

Exactly.

Related: More mythbusting, pith and fitfully delicious pique from BigCityLib and some sweet, sweet snark from my homegrrl pale (mmm, that’s the stuff).

Recommend this post at Progressive Bloggers

Ann Coulter in Canada: Of Fire Alarms and Flaming Hyperbole

by matttbastard

(Photo: Jimbo Wales, flickr)

Aw, poopsie:

After protesters at the University of Ottawa prevented Ann Coulter from giving a speech on Tuesday night, the American conservative writer said it proved the point she came to make – free speech in Canada leaves much to be desired.

Then she said what she really thought of the student protesters who surrounded Marion Hall, making it to unsafe, in the view of her bodyguard, for the pundit to attempt entry.

“The University of Ottawa is really easy to get into, isn’t it?” she said in an interview after the cancelled event. “I never get any trouble at the Ivy League schools. It’s always the bush league schools.”

Ms. Coulter said she has been speaking regularly at university campuses for a decade. While she has certainly been heckled, she said this is the first time an engagement has been cancelled because of protesters.

“This has never, ever, ever happened before – even at the stupidest American university,” she said.

[…]

In a short speech, [Ezra] Levant said Tuesday was “an embarrassing day for the University of Ottawa and their student body, who could not debate Ann Coulter . . . who chose to silence her through threats and intimidation, just like their vice-president did.”

Bollocks. Far from being ‘silenced’, as Levant boldly (and stupidly) contends, Coulter’s profile and her underlying thesis (such as it is) regarding so-called ‘PC’ tyranny have been greatly amplified by her trip to the Great White North (to the point where yours truly, someone who, long ago, pledged to avoid even mentioning the name ‘Ann Coulter’, much less posting about her, is now dutifully chronicling the nauseating twists and turns of Ann’s Excellent Canadian Adventure).

dBo:

There was actually no physical threat, only heated, emotional outbursts from a crowd that had been whipped up to a frenzy by the inflamed publicity her entourage had stoked.

Coulter should have thanked the students protesting outside Marion Hall. Their performance has raised Coulter’s profile in the US. Media networks that had stopped inviting her to their talk shows are likely swamping her agent with booking requests.

Butbutbut poor Ms. Coulter was unfairly harrangued by an unruly, censorious mob of low-rent “junior jihadists” (“It’s always the bush league schools”) hell-bent on shouting her down and setting her adrift on an ice flow (buddy).

(Photo: anewsocialcontract, flickr)

Maybe so, but, as Boris @ The Beav contends, perhaps the burning anger purportedly on display Tuesday night was indeed sparked by more than merely Coulter’s trademark deliberate provocation:

There are moments when a bit of incivility is required and acceptable. We’ve seen over the past few years of the Harper government a rise in the policies that support the sort of sentiments that Coulter advocates. The cases Abousfian Abdelrazik, Maher Arar, Omar Khadr, Mohamed Harkat, Suaad Hagi Mohamud, the current fiasco with Rights and Democracy, etc etc, all suggest an insidious bent to the Harper government that Ann Coulter simply voices in plain language.

She becomes a symbolic target for the impotent rage that many of us feel toward the Harper regime and its perverse and fascistic fans. There is a link.

And if there was a mob, and it was unruly enough to shut down her little talk, fire alarms and all, then so be it.

This is what happens when bigots and fascists show themselves in public to spew their bile. This is also what happens when the public cannot find civil means (pay attention here, Opposition) of redressing the temperament and actions of a far-right minority government hell-bent on destroying the open liberal democracy that about 60 to 70% of us seem to support and enjoy. We find targets we can actually hit, and we push back.

True enough — still, at a certain point one has to carefully pick one’s battles. And, quite frankly, as dBo noted, this latest incident has only served to increase Coulter’s profile to a level of prominence that she hasn’t enjoyed in years. It would seem this thin line that separates righteous anger from useful idiocy is still being delineated (to the great delight of Coulter and Levant, no doubt):

Rita Valeriano was one of several protesters inside the hall who, with chants of “Coulter go home!” shouted down the International Free Press Society of Canada organizer who was addressing the crowd.

Valeriano, a 19-year-old sociology and women’s studies student, said later that she was happy Coulter was unable to speak the “hatred” she had planned to.

“On campus, we promise our students a safe and positive space,” she said. “And that’s not what (Coulter) brings.”

Outside the hall, Sameena Topan, 26, a conflict studies and human rights major at the U of O, spoke to the Citizen on behalf of a group of protesters.

“We have a large group of students that can very clearly outline the difference between discourse and discrimination,” Topan said of the protest. “We wanted to mobilize and make sure that’s clear on campus, that there’s a line between controversy and discrimination, and Ann Coulter has crossed it. Numerous times.”

“We had concerns about (the event) at the beginning, but especially after we saw what happened at the University of Western Ontario, when she called out a Muslim girl there and was saying she needs to take a camel because Muslim people shouldn’t fly. That kind of stuff just reaffirmed everything that we were afraid of and that’s when . . . we really got worried.”

Topan was pleased to hear the students behind her shout, “Hate speech cancelled!” in unison.

“I think that’s great. I think we accomplished what we were here to do, to ensure that we don’t have her discriminatory rhetoric on our campus,” she said.

Rewind my selekta:

Look, it’s bad enough that three Canadian campuses (including one in my hometown) have afforded a vile bigot like Coulter a stage to perform her trademark powersuit-wingnut vaudeville routine. But are they also contractually obligated to serve her up a heaping bloody plate of steak tar tar on a goddamn silver platter? 

Cliff sharpens the main point and lays out the bottom line:

I think people like Coulter absolutely exult at the opportunity to put on the veneer of smoking martyr to free speech. Handing her that opportunity on a plate gives a professional rodeo clown far more credibility than she deserves.

Co-sign. DNFTT, kids. Srsly.

Still, my irony bone can’t help but be tickled by the notion that Ann Coulter of all people (in concert with Levant, Canada’s favourite wanna-be wingnut provocateur) might try to gin up a human rights case (to make a Very Important Point About Free Speech, natch) over “restraint, respect and consideration”:

Speaking to students and academics at the University of Western Ontario Monday, Coulter said the e-mail sent to her Friday by Francois Houle, vice-president academic and provost of the University of Ottawa, targeted her as a member of an identifiable group and as such, she will be filing a complaint with the Human Rights Commission alleging hate speech.

“I’m sure the Human Rights Commission will get to the bottom of it,” Coulter said to loud cheers from the 800-strong audience. “I think I’m the victim of a hate crime here. Either what (Mr. Houle) did was a hate crime, or the whole commission is BS.”

[…]

Coulter’s targeting of the University of Ottawa administration and Canada’s Human Rights Commissions came at the end of a half-hour speech that attacked political correctness in the United States and the mainstream media, which she said was uncritical of the Obama administration and unfairly biased against conservatives.

“It’s almost like there is one standard for Conservatives and one completely different one for Liberals,” Coulter told the crowd, which alternated from cheering to booing depending on the topic of discussion, which ranged from gay marriage, illegal immigration to Obama’s health-care bill.

A word is either offensive or it’s not. In a world of political correctness, all words are banned unless they’re used against conservatives.”

Yeah,  Ann Coulter, longtime defender of speech rights (h/t Cliff):

“They’re [Democrats] always accusing us of repressing their speech. I say let’s do it. Let’s repress them. Frankly, I’m not a big fan of the First Amendment.”

Sweet, delicious irony — who needs heroin to give you that rush, eh?

Am sure Coulter’s basking in her own pseudo-narcotic haze from all the attention she’s receiving (yeah, yeah — I know. Shaddap.)

Recommend this post at Progressive Bloggers

Prorogation, Disengagement and Cutting the Democratic Deficit in Canada

by matttbastard

With thousands of Canadians reportedly hitting the streets this past weekend to express their disapproval of Stephen Harper’s latest arrogant bird-flip to Parliamentary democracy, it seems apparrent that our political elites are out of touch with the people whose interests they profess to represent. A new report, to be released today, offers empirical evidence in support of the painfully obvious:

“…Canadians are jaundiced about the state of democracy here.”

Tonda MacCharles:

The report, to be released Wednesday by the Institute of Wellbeing, says Canada is experiencing “a huge democratic deficit, with trust in Canadian government and public institutions on a steep decline.”

“The disconnect between Canadians and those who govern on their behalf is deep, wide, and growing,” said the institute’s Lynne Slotek.

“At a time when people are demanding greater accountability and transparency, they see their government institutions becoming more remote and opaque.”

Yet despite this cavernous divide separating institutional political activity and ordinary citizens, Canadians haven’t given up on democratic engagement — they just have to participate via alternative avenues:

Slotek said in an interview the public’s obvious dissatisfaction with that decision “is an affirmation of what our report says – that people are interested in politics, they want to find ways to participate, and if they can’t, they’ll look at other activities such as signing petitions, Facebook or the Internet.”

The report says while voter turnout has declined from a high of 69.6 per cent in the 1993 federal election to the historic low of about 59 per cent in 2008, it does not mean Canadians are uninterested in politics. Hard data on “voter interest” in the 2008 election isn’t yet available, but the group looked at other indicators over 10 years, she said.

It says the volunteer rate for “formal political activities, such as participating in law, advocacy and political groups” has been low – around 2 per cent – over the years, but the volunteer rate for “informal ones, such as, protesting, signing petitions and boycotting, has been relatively high.” The report cites a 2002 study that found 54.6 per cent of Canadians said they participated in one political activity, either “traditional or non-traditional.”

Part of the intent behind Harper’s cynical prorogation scheme was to take advantage of a disorganized, feckless opposition and lay the groundwork for a post-Olympic spring election victory, perhaps even a majority government (or, at the very least, a Conservative Senate). But with poll numbers tanking and protests mounting, it would appear that Harper and his too-clever-by-half cronies in the PMO neglected to consider a very important constituency: the people of Canada, who, regardless of partisan affiliation, are finally fed up with having once again been taken for granted by an out-of-touch government that has reasserted its entitled sense of invincibility and naked contempt for accountability one too many times.

As one protester put it this past Saturday, Stephen Harper is “abusing the power that the people of Canada have bestowed upon him.”

It’s beyond time for the people to take that power back.

Recommend this post at Progressive Bloggers

“Oh, you know, we’re heading into nut country today.”

by matttbastard

Glenn Greenwald sees something all-too-familiar in the vicious, reality-averse wingnut invective directed towards President Obama:

In 1994, Jesse Helms, then-Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, claimed that “just about every military man” believes Clinton is unqualified to be Commander-in-Chief and then warned/threatened him not to venture onto military bases in the South:  “Mr. Clinton better watch out if he comes down here. He better have a bodyguard.”  The Wall St. Journal called for a Special Prosecutor to investigate the possible “murder” of Vince Foster.  Clinton was relentlessly accused by leading right-wing voices of being a murderer, a serial rapist, and a drug trafficker.  Tens of millions of dollars and barrels of media ink were expended investigating “Whitewater,” a “scandal” which, to this day, virtually nobody can even define.  When Clinton tried to kill Osama bin Laden, they accused him of “wagging the dog” — trying to distract the country from the truly important matters at hand (his sex scandal).  And, of course, the GOP ultimately impeached him over that sex scandal — in the process issuing a lengthy legal brief with footnotes detailing his sex acts (cigars and sex talk), publicly speculating about (and demanding examinations of) the unique “distinguishing” spots on his penis, and using leading right-wing organs to disseminate innuendo that he had an abandoned, out-of-wedlock child.  More intense and constant attacks on a President’s “legitimacy” are difficult to imagine.This is why I have very mixed feelings about the protests of conservatives such as David Frum or Andrew Sullivan that the conservative movement has been supposedly “hijacked” by extremists and crazies.  On the one hand, this is true.  But when was it different?  Rush Limbaugh didn’t just magically appear in the last twelve months.  He — along with people like James Dobson, Pat Robertson, Bill Kristol and Jesse Helms — have been leaders of that party for decades.  Republicans spent the 1990s wallowing in Ken Starr’s sex report, “Angry White Male” militias, black U.N. helicopters, Vince Foster’s murder, Clinton’s Mena drug runway, Monica’s semen-stained dress, Hillary’s lesbianism, “wag the dog” theories, and all sorts of efforts to personally humiliate Clinton and destroy the legitimacy of his presidency using the most paranoid, reality-detached, and scurrilous attacks.  And the crazed conspiracy-mongers in that movement became even more prominent during the Bush years.  Frum himself — now parading around as the Serious Adult conservative — wrote, along with uber-extremist Richard Perle, one of the most deranged and reality-detached books of the last two decades, and before that, celebrated George W. Bush, his former boss, as “The Right Man.”

Ah, the ’90s — good times. But I would look even further back for historical antecedants than Greenwald does, to a far darker period in US politics. Sam Kashner, from a profile of William Manchester, author of Death of a President:

“In that third year of the Kennedy presidency,” Manchester wrote, “a kind of fever lay over Dallas country. Mad things happened. Huge billboards screamed, ‘Impeach Earl Warren.’ Jewish stores were smeared with crude swastikas.…Radical Right polemics were distributed in public schools; Kennedy’s name was booed in classrooms; corporate junior executives were required to attend radical seminars.” A retired major general ran the American flag upside down, deriding it as “the Democrat flag.” A wanted poster with J.F.K.’s face on it was circulated, announcing “this man is Wanted” for—among other things—“turning the sovereignty of the US over to the Communist controlled United Nations” and appointing “anti-Christians … aliens and known Communists” to federal offices. And a full-page advertisement had appeared the day of the assassination in The Dallas Morning News accusing Kennedy of making a secret deal with the Communist Party; when it was shown to the president, he was appalled. He turned to Jacqueline, who was visibly upset, and said, “Oh, you know, we’re heading into nut country today.”

This past weekend’s 9/12 rally — and the unremittingly paranoid iconography of right-wing backlash politics on display once more — should give pause to any student of American history, whether academic or lay. Hofstadter would certainly recognize the (lily-white) kid wearing a t-shirt pining for a “new era of McCarthyism.” I don’t pray (because I don’t believe there’s anyone up there to receive any spiritual SOS), but I truly hope (hope) the historical parallels ultimately turn out to be limited in scope and scale.

Recommend this post at Progressive Bloggers

Iran: Dreams Underfoot

by matttbastard

(Image: sterno74, used under a Creative Commons licence)

Following the 2003 invasion and occupation of Iraq, Tom Regan’s Terrorism and Security Briefing for the Christian Science Monitor became a must-read for anyone who wanted a daily general analysis of counterterrorism/counterinsurgency developments around the world. Unfortunately, Regan no longer compiles the briefing. But, late last week, he quietly emerged from an undisclosed location to pen this must-read take on the ongoing post-election turmoil in Iran.

Regan notes that the West may be projecting its own collective desire for transformative political reform in the region onto a murky, still-fluid situation that is not quite the widespread democratic uprising that the mainstream media and Western political establishment would have us believe:

…I strongly believe that what are seeing in Iran is something like a reality based TV show. It’s based on a real incident, but it’s still being shaped by the show’s writers and director (ie, the western media) to be the most interesting to a Western audience. We’re only seeing the bits of tape that conform to what the western media ([which] represent us) want the story to be. It’s real but it’s not reality.

First, this is most definitely NOT a national revolution. This is a protest largely based, as I said, in northern Tehran, the more affluent and prosperous area of the city where most of the universities are located as are (surprised) the hotels where most western journalists stay. As Time’s Joe Klein (who just got back from Tehran) noted in an interview on CNN yesterday, there is no protest at all in southern Tehran, the largest part of the city where the poor and less-educated live. This is Ahmadinejad ’s base. And there is almost no protest at all in rural areas. The regime is firmly in command in most of the country, and the more repressive elements like the Revolutionary Guard have yet to really make their presence felt.

You know, this beginning to sound like Beijing 20 years ago.

Now, there is always the chance that a revolt driven by a relatively small number of the country’s population will succeed in overthrowing the country’s regime. Especially in Iran, where one revolution has already done that. But that was a revolt approved by the large majority of the people against a hated despot. This is not the same situation. If there is hatred of Ahmedinejad it comes no where near close to the hatred felt for the Shah. It’s just not going to happen.

As they say, read the whole damn thing.

h/t Karoli via Twitter

Related: Patrick Martin provides a history lesson on Mir-Houssein Mousavi, a most unlikely champion for Western-style liberal democracy, while John Palfrey, Bruce Etling and Robert Faris of Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society share an informative survey of the overall Iranian web presence (which–surprise–may not conform with what we’ve been voyeuristically observing via Twitter). Elsewhere, Dana Goldstein gives us these two mustread posts on the role Iranian feminists have played in the uprising (h/t Ann Friedman). Also see the one and only Antonia Zerbisias (taking a welcome respite from blogging about her thighs and pention [sic]) for more on how–and why–the women of Iran have taken the lead in demonstrations.

Recommend this post at Progressive Bloggers