The American Bear


They All Fall Down: “Progressives” Back off From Their Demands to Poli Sci | Corey Robin

Now that the mayor, the New York Times, and just about everyone else have come down hard on all the government officials and politicians who tried to force my department to withdraw its co-sponsorship of the BDS panel, the “progressive” politicians have issued a second letter (their first is here) to Brooklyn College President Karen Gould, in which theybackpedal, backpedal, backpedal pull back from their earlier position. No longer, it seems, must we “balance” this panel or withdraw our co-sponsorship.

That it took a billionaire mayor to explain these simple matters to our progressive leaders is, well, what can one say? This entire episode has been an instructive example in courage and cowardice, shame and shamelessness. [continue]

In a study of 392 campus speech codes last year, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, where I work, found that 65 percent of the colleges had policies that in our view violated the Constitution’s guarantee of the right to free speech.

- Greg Lukianoff, the New York Times. Feigning Free Speech on Campus. (And here’s a link to the study he mentions above)

Take from those numbers what you will — universities are home to either smart, enlivened debate or misguided enthusiasm — but Lukianoff’s op-ed piece is worth a read. In the framing of his piece, university life looks a bit like micro-life. Which is what it should be but usually isn’t.

See one of his examples:

Civility is nice, but on college campuses it often takes on a bizarre meaning. In 2009, Yale banned students from making a T-shirt with an F. Scott Fitzgerald quotation — “I think of all Harvard men as sissies,” from his 1920 novel “This Side of Paradise” — to mock Harvard at their annual football game. The T-shirt was blocked after some gay and lesbian students argued that “sissies” amounted to a homophobic slur. “What purports to be humor by targeting a group through slurs is not acceptable,” said Mary Miller, a professor of art history and the dean of Yale College.

(via futurejournalismproject)

Artists alter Islamophobic ads on SF buses, MUNI adds disclaimers

Days after shockingly racist and Islamophobic ads started appearing on city buses in San Francisco — paid for by a notorious anti-Muslim group led by notorious racist Pamela Geller — anonymous artists wheatpasted over the ads with an image of a hand and a stamp with the words “HATE SPEECH.”

Additionally, the San Francisco Municipal Transit Authority (SFMTA) posted full-sized disclaimer placards on MUNI buses that carry the Islamophobic ads. The disclaimer says that “SFMTA policy prohibits discrimination based on national origin, religion, and other characteristics, and condemns any statements that describe any group as “savages.”

As Zahra Billoo, the executive director of the San Francisco Bay Area chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) said on The Electronic Intifada podcast this week, MUNI made it clear “that they would not be removing the ads,” because as vile as the message was, “it was likely protected by the First Amendment.” However, the community has mobilized and was in talks with MUNI and the SF Human Rights Commission to determine the impact of the ads and how to move forward. Earlier in the week, the SFMTA announced that the revenue from the ads would be directed to the Human Rights Commission.

Pamela Geller and her group “thrives on lawsuits,” Billoo added. “She goes from city to city, waiting for someone to turn her down, so that she can sue them. She’s using lawsuits to essentially blackmail other cities into submission.” After New York City’s transit agency rejected the same ads, Geller filed a lawsuit and won a temporary injunction last month when a federal judge ruled that Geller’s ads were protected by the First Amendment.

San Francisco said, ok, we’re not going to touch that with a ten-foot pole,” Billoo said. “We’ll give her the ad space. And so they caved because of the fear [of a lawsuit].”

To hear more of our important interview with Zahra Billoo, listen to our podcast

In other news, The Gothamist reported on a new ad from Pamela Geller and her Islamophobic hate group that turned up at the Hartsdale Metro-North station in Hartsdale, New York. The poster reads, “19,250 Deadly Islamic Attacks Since 9/11/01* (*And Counting)” and “It’s Not Islamophobia, It’s Islamorealism.”

The Gothamist reported:

Naturally, this upsets a local Westchester politician.

Paul Feiner, the Greenburgh Town Supervisor, tells the Daily Politics that he wants the MTA “to warn passengers that the ads could be upsetting and don’t represent Metro-North’s views or that of the community,” noting, “There are many Muslims residing in Greenburgh and in our villages. They should not be discriminated against. the posters encourage hatred, discrimination and do not help the efforts to fight hate crimes.”

Feiner added that he wants the MTA to donate the ad profits to an anti-discrimination campaign, “I feel it’s not a violation of free speech for Metro North to put up a competing sign and it’s also not a violation of free speech if they donate the profits to an anti-defamation league or an organization that objects to hate crimes. I feel that it should be clear that the people of Metro North and the town do not support this message.”

The poster is from the American Freedom Defense Initiative (from Pamela Geller), which complained about some Jewish organizations criticizing the ads, “Look how tough these Jews are when it comes to going after their own who are brave enough not to hide behind the genocidal rhetoric of the annihilators. Are we to understand that these liberal Jews sanction the jihad war on innocent civilians in Israel?

(Source: jayaprada)

Tea Party “treason” | Glenn Greenwald

The ThinkProgress blog today accuses a U.S. citizen — the Chairman of the Mississippi Tea Party, Roy Nicholson — of treason; says ThinkProgress (emphasis in original):

Of all the right-wing meltdowns following yesterday’s decision by the Supreme Court to uphold the individual mandate in the Affordable Care Act, this statement put out by the chairman of the Mississippi Tea Party may take the cake:

When a gang of criminals subvert legitimate government offices and seize all power to themselves without the real consent of the governed their every act and edict is of itself illegal and is outside the bounds of the Rule of Law. In such cases submission is treason. Treason against the Constitution and the valid legitimate government of the nation to which we have pledged our allegiance for years. To resist by all means that are right in the eyes of God is not rebellion or insurrection, it is patriotic resistance to invasion.

May all of us fall on our faces before the Heavenly Judge, repent of our sins, and humbly cry out to Him for mercy on our country. And, may godly courageous leaders rise up in His wisdom and power to lead us in displacing the criminal invaders from their seats and restore our constitutional republic.

Despite Nicholson’s repeated charge that the Obama administration is guilty of high crimes, the only treason in play here is the suggestion of an open revolt against the federal government.

In light of this treason accusation, here’s my question: does President Obama have the power to order Nicholson assassinated without charges or trial? Should he have this right? I asked this question on Twitter, and — fascinatingly — virtually everyone who did not realize that I was referencing the Awlaki assassination reacted with extreme negativity, as though I had proposed something heinous, unthinkable and profoundly un-American.

But what’s the principled distinction that makes assassinating Awlaki acceptable but not Nicholson? The most likely answer is that Awlaki was in Yemen while Nicholson is in the U.S., but that’s just a pragmatic difference, one that cannot make any legal or Constitutional difference: American citizens don’t renounce their Constitutional protections against the U.S. Government when they leave the country. If the President has the legal authority to assassinate U.S. citizens without charges on the ground that they are allegedly plotting against the U.S. when they’re on foreign soil, then shouldn’t the President have this same right for citizens on American soil? Think Progresscelebrates the Awlaki assassination as an Obama “success”; would they do the same if the President ordered Nicholson ordered assassinated without charges?

Obama defenders often justify Obama’s assassination of Awlaki by equating it to Lincoln’s killing of Confederate soldiers (revealingly, justifying War on Terror abuses by pretending this “war” is analogous to the Civil War was also the long-standing favorite tactic of neocons during the Bush years). Leaving aside the painfully glaring differences between the two “wars” — and the glaring difference between killing uniformed soldiers on a battlefield versus killing individuals in their homes far from any battlefield (see point 5) — wouldn’t acceptance of that analogy justify the targeting of Nicholson without due process? If Nicholson is in open revolt against the U.S. Government, then shouldn’t the President order him killed?

Think Progress’ accusation that Nicholson is guilty of “treason” is absurd — the U.S. Supreme Court has expressly held that the First Amendment free speech clause guarantees the right even to advocate violence or terrorism against government officials — but that did not stop the Democratic think tank and many others from cheering Awlaki’s assassination. And here’s a related question: for those who justified the due-process-free imprisonment of U.S. citizen Jose Padilla (who was arrested by the Bush administration on U.S. soil and then indefinitely detained without charges based on the allegation that he had joined Al Qaeda): should President Obama have the power to order Nicholson indefinitely detained without charges or trial? Would those who oppose such a power be guilty of advocating for traitors?

In light of all this, does anyone have difficulty understanding the complaint that the U.S. Government has a radically different system of justice for Muslims than it does everyone else? The primary “evolution” of the War on Terror over the past several years has been the importation of its civil liberties erosions onto U.S. soil and applied to U.S. citizens on the claimed groundthat Homegrown Terrorism is now the gravest threat. As the country largely cheered the due-process-free assassination of U.S. citizen Awlaki, is it really difficult to envision the same power being applied in cases like this?

It is tempting to dismiss the exile of protesters as a reasonable concession to security in what law enforcement would like you to believe is a new age of terrorism. After all, they will say, demonstrators are not being silenced; they are merely being denied access to the forum of their choice and the chance to amplify their own message by presenting it against the backdrop of the message they oppose. But that is precisely why we should be concerned. The anti-protest bill signed by Barack Obama is a quiet attack on free speech. | Dahlia Lithwick

The anti-protest bill signed by Barack Obama is a quiet attack on free speech. | Dahlia Lithwick

[Here is] the real problem with the change to the old protest law. Instead of turning on a designated place, the protest ban turns on what persons and spaces are deemed to warrant Secret Service protection. It’s a perfect circle: The people who believe they are important enough to warrant protest can now shield themselves from protestors. No wonder the Occupy supporters are worried. In the spirit of “free speech zones,” this law creates another space in which protesters are free to be nowhere near the people they are protesting.

Consider that more than 6,700 people have been arrested at Occupy events since last September. Thus, while these changes to the law are not the death of free speech, they aren’t as trivial as the administration would have you believe. Rather, they are part of an incremental and persistent effort by the government to keep demonstrators away from events involving those at the top of the political food chain.

Despite many detailed popular histories, academic dissertations, and ponderous legal treatises devoted to the subject, it remains a mystery to me how, in 1789, the creators of a government respected, protected, and even institutionalized political dissent, elevating it to first among equals within the Bill of Rights. It is mysterious to me because before and ever since, governments have made a steady and concerted effort to suppress it. Joshua Dratel

A year of blogging, threats and silence | Jillian York

In 2009, Iranian blogger Omidreza Mirsayafi became the first blogger ever to die in prison. That year alone, a year referred to by a senior US State Department official as “the worst year in the history of the internet as it related to internet freedom”, no fewer than 35 bloggers around the world languished in prison.

While by no means a new phenomenon - Tunisia arrested its first blogger back in 2000 - the events of 2009 escalated risk for netizens across the world, as governments quickly awakened to the “threat” posed by bloggers and social media users. This year, as an increasing number of citizens have taken up cyber-arms, protesting online as well as on the street, governments have broadened their attacks on netizens. No longer content to simply censor content, countries like Syria and Bahrain have upped the ante, employing online propagandists and intimidating those who dare speak out online.

Still others - such as Thailand -utilise draconian laws to hold online publishers responsible for comments, a practice which has chilling effects for all internet users. There is no single organisation that tracks every blogger arrest around the world; indeed, doing so would be a full-time job.

Nevertheless, statistics compiled by tireless groups such as Global VoicesReporters Without Borders and the Committee to Protect Journalists suggest 2011 to be among the worst years yet for online free expression, marred by the persecution of bloggers and social media users in a number of states. Below are five of the worst.

Finish reading


Internet Freedom and the Stench of Hypocrisy

“The United States stands with cyber dissidents and democracy activists from the Middle East to China and beyond”, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said  recently in a speech about internet freedom.  She pledged to “expand the Obama administration’s efforts to stand against Internet repression in autocratic states”. She was at it again just the other day at another internet freedom conference, mouthing the same platitudes.

Fine words and no less than you would expect from any regime paying more than lip-service to freedom-of-speech and transparency, but is it just me who is gagging on the ripe, rancid stench of hypocrisy ?

Is this not the very administration that has been so mercilessly persecuting Bradley Manning for documents leaked in the public interest that highlighted war crimes (the apache helicopter massacre for example) ? Months of extreme solitary confinement so far in conditions regarded by many reputable critics as torture and designed to break him mentally so that he will implicate Wikileaks. Despicable.

Is this not the very administration which, totally outside of any legal process, leaned on and bullied private companies like Amazon, Visa, and Paypal to get them to refuse service to Wikileaks ? Take a bow Senator Joe Lieberman who acted as the enforcer and got the dirty work done in the shadows.

Is this not the very administration which … well I’m not even going to get into the whole murky business of the personal character assassination of Assange in the media but anyone who thinks its totally divorced from his Wikileaks activities must be dangerously naive or resolutely blinkered.

Is this not the very administration which had its minions mount massive and illegal denial of service attacks on the Wikileaks servers in criminal acts that mirrored the kind of thing done by the very repressive regimes it criticizes?

Every day, everything we do on the internet is spied on by the American government. Collection systems at the National Security Agency intercept and store 1.7 billion e-mails, phone calls and other types of communications. Automated programs work tirelessly 24/7 flagging up anything ‘suspicious’ for human investigation. Say the wrong word in chat, send the wrong link in email, visit the wrong site online and you could end up a ‘suspect’ and innocence of any crime is no guarantee of a just outcome. Mistakes are made.

Glenn Greenwald says .. “Internet freedom — preventing government and corporate control of the Internet — is indeed one of the most vital political fights of this generation, perhaps the most vital. There are many people in a position credibly to lead and support that fight. Hillary Clinton and the government in which she serves is most definitely not among them; more often than not, they are among the enemies of those freedoms.” .. I couldn’t agree more.

So yes Hilary .. good to hear you standing up for freedom on the internet and against authoritarian regimes that seek to curtail it. I must say it all sounds very convincing. Now could you just start to practice what you preach ? Oh and in the meantime pass me the sick-bag please .. its that stench of hypocrisy. Thanks

Gingrich was right that Exon’s bill was extremely broad. As Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) pointed out in a particularly inspired floor speech, the law could even have criminalized the online distribution of Gingrich’s first novel, 1945, in which a “pouting sex kitten”—who is also a Nazi—seduces a White House aide in order to extract classified information. How Newt Gingrich saved porn—and the Internet—in the 1990s

(Source: motherjones)

That the FBI is engaged in a campaign of defamation and intimidation aimed at this website is not at all surprising, and yet I still can’t accept it emotionally. We have done nothing wrong: indeed, it is the FBI which is clearly in the wrong. Their activities in regard to are of dubious legality, and are an infringement of our rights to free speech and to organize on behalf of our ideas. Justin Raimondo discovers that the FBI targeted, compiled a dossier on Raimondo, and deems the website and its activists a threat to “national security.” (via aheram)

(via palatial-bear-messages-deactiva)