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The Friday Freebie is where I share an online, open-access resource that I think readers might find interesting and useful. Each week, I will introduce a free resource that I think will be useful to teh angry Leftists – books, podcasts, web sites, etc. The aim is to compile a toolkit for understanding and advancing progressive ideals.

This week’s freebie comes courtesy of Dave Bath, who reminded me of a resource I knew about yet had forgotten. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology was a pioneer in both making use of the Internet to provide information and in opening up the institution’s intellectual property to all, rather than limiting knowledge just to paying customers (students). They realised that they could serve society by doing so, while retaining the valuable asset that customers pay them for – assessment and the provision of qualifications.

The OpenCourseWare site began by putting the syllabus online for a few of MIT’s courses, but has reached a point where materials are online and publicly accessible for almost every course the university offers. It’s a great resource for anyone who wants to be educated and informed about a broad range of topics, including political issues.

The Political Science Department of MIT has courses covering a wide set of topics – some focused on the United States, others looking further afield or at general political principles. Some of the courses that I am going to read more about include:


If you find another topic that you’re interested in, either within political science or another part of the site, feel free to share it in the comments – and thanks once again to Dave for highlighting this great source of information and directed study.

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The Friday Freebie

The Friday Freebie is where I share an online, open-access resource that I think readers might find interesting and useful. Each week, I will introduce a free resource that I think will be useful to teh angry Leftists – books, podcasts, web sites, etc. The aim is to compile a toolkit for understanding and advancing progressive ideals.

This week’s freebie is related to one of the pet topics of many a conservative commentator, not to mention that lovable larrikin, Barnaby Joyce – global warming. There are plenty of bloggers who keep track of the contortions and cherry-picking these folks engage in to maintain their denialism – Tim Lambert’s Deltoid does a great job on this front (although I am a bit dismayed by his abandonment of Roman numerals in today’s post), and Graham Readfearn of the Courier-Mail occasionally takes on the task of criticising his colleagues within the Murdoch empire. And then there are sites dedicated to discussing the technical details of climate science – Tamino’s Open Mind and RealClimate being two great examples. And for every Jennifer Marohasy, there’s a Barry Brook out there to rebut the pseudoscientific propaganda.

But today’s freebie is intended to provide a more general, fundamental background to inform readers about the science underlying global warming. John Cook established Skeptical Science as a resource to help readers get past both the denialism and alarmism. The site begins with some of the most commonly heard arguments about global warming, and discusses (with links and citations) the evidence for or against each of those arguments. With that foundation, Cook is able to track how many of those arguments are recycled in news and opinion writing about global warming. It’s a clear and detailed site for getting to grips with some of the issues that are raised as controversies in the debate about global warming.

Do you have a tip for future freebies? Contact me with any suggestions or requests.

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Oh dear. We’re running late again – I was on the road for the past couple of days, and almost had this post ready to go but my taxi arrived early.

The Friday Freebie is where I share an online, open-access resource that I think readers might find interesting and useful. Each week, I will introduce a free resource that I think will be useful to teh angry Leftists – books, podcasts, web sites, etc. The aim is to compile a toolkit for understanding and advancing progressive ideals.

This week’s freebie is a simple one, but important given the current conflict in Gaza. Human Rights Watch is a monitoring and advocacy group for the preservation of human rights throughout the world. Their Q&A on the current hostilities is essential reading – they examine the obligations under international law for both Hamas and Israel’s military and humanitarian actions. They have also called on the United Nations Security Council to investigate the actions that led to the IDF the bombing of a UN school in Gaza.

But HRW also researches and reports on human rights violations throughout the world, making their reports publicly available. You can read a description of their research methodology, view their World Report for 2008, or access their complete list of reports, which can be filtered by issue and/or region.

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Yes, it’s Saturday – I can only blame the failure to post a freebie yesterday on the holidays completely demolishing my internal sense of weekends and weekdays. That, plus the fact that I’m too immersed in lazy mode to look at a calendar. So, here’s a belated freebie.

The Friday Freebie is where I share an online, open-access resource that I think readers might find interesting and useful. Each week, I will introduce a free resource that I think will be useful to teh angry Leftists – books, podcasts, web sites, etc. The aim is to compile a toolkit for understanding and advancing progressive ideals.

This week’s freebie distills decades of psychological research into a book about the personality type that appears commonly among those who control the modern Republican Party. Bob Altemeyer, a psychology professor at Canada’s University of Manitoba, has conducted a programme of research on a personality construct that he labelled right-wing authoritarianism (RWA). Building on earlier work on authoritarianism, Altemeyer refined the concept of the authoritarian personality to identify just a few core principles (e.g., submissiveness to “legitimate” authority and hostility toward individuals and groups designated as deviant), developed an RWA scale, and investigated the relationship between authoritarian personality traits and specific attitudes and behaviours (e.g., prejudice). Although Altemeyer’s notion of RWA has been criticised by some (including retired academic and noted blogger, Dr John Ray), the majority of research building on Altemeyer’s work has found significant implications of RWA for understanding some negative aspects of human behaviour.

It is important to note that, despite its name, RWA does not correspond directly to political ideology. It is possible for left-wing political ideology to coexist with RWA personality traits (e.g., Stalin) – thus providing the grain of scientific evidence that can be misinterpreted into “horseshoe theory“. Likewise, political conservatism is not necessarily associated with RWA. However, in his latest book – “The Authoritarians” – Altemeyer argues that authoritarianism has taken over conservative politics in the United States, in the form of groups such as the Religious Right with their fundamentalist belief that society as a whole should adhere to a socially conservative form of Christian values, and the neoconservatives who have engineered an unprecedented extension of executive power within the United States and advocated imposing their “approved” sociopolitical model to “improve” and reform other nations.

I intend to return to the concept of RWA when I have the time and planning to start a regular feature on behavioural and social science issues, so this freebie provides a nice preview of the sorts of topics I hope to discuss. Anyone who is interested in learning more about Altemeyer’s work can access these resources:

  • The full book of “The Authoritarians” is available for download in PDF form.
  • There is a Google Group for discussing Altemeyer’s work.
  • NON-FREEBIE ALERT! Although non-PDF versions of the book cost money, Altemeyer has done his best to minimise the cost. You can order a hard copy of the book via Lulu.com for around $US10. An audio version of the book has now been made available too, read by Altemeyer and with a foreword by John Dean. At present, it can be ordered on CD from Cherry Hill Publishing, although an Audible download is in the pipeline as well.

Do you have a tip for future freebies? Contact me with any suggestions or requests.

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The Friday Freebie is where I share an online, open-access resource that I think readers might find interesting and useful. Each week, I will introduce a free resource that I think will be useful to teh angry Leftists – books, podcasts, web sites, etc. The aim is to compile a toolkit for understanding and advancing progressive ideals.

This week’s freebie is the work of one of the leading scholars of the 21st century, Lawrence Lessig. A law professor at Stanford (who is soon to move back to Harvard), Lessig has been an advocate for applying law and technology to produce the optimal outcomes for society and culture. One of the primary issues Lessig has targeted is the nature of traditional copyright law and its potential to stifle innovation – he was a founding board member of the Creative Commons project and has served on the board of other organisations such as the Free Software Foundation and Electronic Frontier Foundation. More recently, Lessig has turned his attention to corruption, and in particular to the ethical issues involved in taking other people’s (or organisations’) money – for instance, he has been involved in setting up the Change Congress site to address corruption of the political process.

Many of Lessig’s arguments transcend any concept of left-right orientation – they are just important and practical reflections on what an effective and prosperous society requires. And the great thing is that Lessig’s actions meet the ideals he espouses, so that most of his work can be freely accessed, reproduced and extended. Here are some starting points:

I’ll finish this freebie with a trivia question. Lawrence Lessig was portrayed in an episode of “The West Wing” – drawing on his earlier activities in assisting eastern European countries to develop constitutional frameworks for their new democracies, Christopher Lloyd played the role of Lessig. This makes Lessig one of two real people who were played by actors in “The West Wing”. Can anybody name the other?

Do you have a tip for future freebies? Contact me with any suggestions or requests.

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The Friday Freebie

The Friday Freebie is where I share an online, open-access resource that I think readers might find interesting and useful. Each week, I will introduce a free resource that I think will be useful to teh angry Leftists – books, podcasts, web sites, etc. The aim is to compile a toolkit for understanding and advancing progressive ideals.

This week’s freebie comes courtesy of Toaf, and I’m very glad he let me know about it. Against the Grain is a radio and web show that discuses political, social, cultural and economic issues that are relevant to progressive ideals. It airs three times a week (Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday – American time). Some of the episodes I have listened to over the past couple of weeks have considered issues such as:

  • the wave of social activism and change in 1968, which one guest on the show argued was the most significant social movement of the 20th century because of the enduring changes it has produced;
  • the interplay of developments in communication networks and activist movements; and
  • some proposed models for what a (Left-derived) new society might look like.

Back episodes, links to information about participants on the show, and subscription information for the podcast are all available on the Against the Grain web site.

Do you have a tip for future freebies? Contact me with any suggestions or requests.

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The Friday Freebie

The Friday Freebie is where I share an online, open-access resource that I think readers might find interesting and useful. Each week, I will introduce a free resource that I think will be useful to teh angry Leftists – books, podcasts, web sites, etc. The aim is to compile a toolkit for understanding and advancing progressive ideals.

This week’s freebie is a literary classic – Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal”; or, to give its full title, “A Modest Proposal: For preventing the children of poor people in Ireland, from being a burden on their parents or country, and for making them beneficial to the publick.” Many regard Swift’s essay as the greatest work of political satire. It certainly puts to shame some of the so-called satire written by today’s columnists, and it should be read and studied by anyone who wants to use irony and humour to make a political point.

Here are three ways to access Swift’s essay for free:

  • The full text is available to read online via Project Gutenberg.
  • Have the text delivered in four instalments to your browser, BlackBerry or any other device by e-mail or RSS using DailyLit.
  • Download and listen to a free audiobook version of the essay through LibriVox [SPOILER ALERT: the synopsis on this page gives away the nature of Swift’s proposal; you may prefer to avoid reading it and let Swift’s essay speak for itself]

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