• Student Fair at Oxford Univ bans Christian group over fears that it might “offend”

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    Here’s the story (link here)

    A college of Oxford University banned a student Christian group from appearing at a freshman fair out of fear it would lead to “alienating” students who practice other religions.

    The Christian Union of Oxford’s Balliol College was initially banned by an event organizer who felt students might feel “unwelcome” due to what he calls the Christian religion being “an excuse for homophobia and neo-colonialism,” The Times of London reported (link here)–Fox News and Times of London

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    Why this story matters

     

    Comments:

    First, this rationale for banning a religious group is bullshit on steroids. It’s not an argument. It’s the cry of a bully in the guise of a victim.

    Second, the ban perfectly illustrates the intimate connection between “fear of offense” and the suppression of free speech and the voluntary assembly of free people.

    • Knowing that any assertion of “I’m offended” can be used to suppress speech encourages a cult of offendedness, some real, some pretend.

    Although England does not have a codified First Amendment right to free speech, it has a long–and once-proud–tradition of permitting free speech.

    Now, the Social Justice Warriors, at once ferocious and too-delicate to be offended, are smashing it.

    Finally, the story matters because far-left attitudes and actions in Europe soon find their copy-cats among American intellectuals and, from there, seep into the wider culture.

    This attack on free speech and the right to assemble deserves hard pushback.

    When the attack is against a religion, it deserves pushback from people of other faiths. It shouldn’t just be Catholics defending the rights of Catholics, Mormons defending the rights of Mormons, Jews defending the rights of Jews. These rights belong to all of us and should be defended by all of us.

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Monday, September 25

    Articles chosen with care. Your comments welcomed.
    Linked articles in bold purple

    ◆ Germany’s Merkel wins, but she is significantly weaker. Far-right party (AfD) will have third most seats in parliament.

    The BBC calls it a “hollow victory.”

    The chancellor knew she would most likely win this election. But it is not the victory she or her party had hoped for. It is the conservatives’ worst election result under her leadership. A verdict, perhaps, on her decision to open Germany’s doors to one million refugees.

    Addressing her party, Mrs Merkel acknowledged the past four years had been hard. Nevertheless the party had still achieved its aim – to finish first.

    The cheers rang a little hollow. Because the real success story of this election belongs to AfD.–BBC

    Comment: Germany has been the most stably governed country in Europe for several decades, so this is a blow to the whole European project.

    The AfD includes real neo-Nazis, but it won votes from a lot of Germans who opposed the mainstream parties on gut issues such as immigration. Merkel’s open-immigration policy has saddled her country with real problems, and she is paying the price.

    Travel ban 3.0: This is a longer-term policy and will be phased in over several weeks.

    President Trump issued the order on Sunday. (Story here in the New York Times)

    The new order adds Venezuela, North Korea, and Chad to the list, which now covers eight countries. Most citizens these countries will be banned from entering the US, though the specifics differ for each country.

    Comment: Attorneys General from Democratic states will inevitably sue. They may win in some liberal courts but will lose at SCOTUS, if it makes it that far.

     Lots of NFL players kneel, supported (at least publicly) by coaches and owners. Trump keeps tweeting, driving the issue

    The Washington Post headline is typical: In showings of protest and solidarity, NFL teams respond to Trump’s criticisms

    The Chicago Tribune, which has a midwestern-conservative editorial page, ran an editorial ripping the President for adding to the nation’s divisions, adding that he did the same thing after Charlottesville.

    Going forward, how about he leaves discussions of free speech, race relations and religious protection to leaders who still have credibility?” –Chicago Tribune editorial

    Although national polls have no appeared on the issue, I see three positions emerging.

    • The players are right, or at least they have every right to do it. People on this side emphasize racial inequities, income inequalities, police brutality, and other progressive agenda items.
    • Trump is right. These players ought to show some respect for the country that made their success possible. People on this side emphasize patriotism and other conservative agenda items (some traditional conservative, some more nationalist).
    • Each side has a point, and each has a problem. The players have a right to protest, if they wish, but they have imposed a political agenda on an escapist entertainment for most fans. Do it somewhere else. They add that Trump may be right to defend patriotism but it is un-Presidential to call the players SOB’s and to urge consumer boycotts.

    Comment: Whether this dispute is good for Trump or for the players (I think it is smart politics for Trump), it is not good for the country. It highlights and deepens serious divisions among Americans.

    I’m sure Roger Goodell would love to get back to his main job: explaining why 300 lb people smashing into each other repeatedly has no effect on the brain “that we have really proven, etc.” It’s the Marlboro Man redux.

    London’s Mayor, Sadiq Khan compares Trump to ISIS (Fox News)

    He has also said Britain should not host Trump on a visit and certainly not consider it a “state visit.”

    Comment: Khan has time on his hands until the next terrorist attack on his city.

    He has taunted Trump and flaunted the safe, multicultural environment of London before. After that tweet in May 2016, he watched as his city was lethally attacked by terrorists several times.

    GOP will roll out its tax plan later this week with cuts and maybe reform.

    The Washington Post is already stirred up, saying it will help the rich

    Comment: Here’s the problem: the top 1% pay about 40% of the country’s income taxes. If you cut taxes, even if you tilt the cuts toward the middle class, you are bound to help a lot of rich people.

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  • After scandal, Cambridge University Press changes policy; will NOT censor articles to please Chinese government

    ZipDialog recently reported that Cambridge University Press had caved in to the Chinese government’s pressure and removed articles from its online journals that offended the Beijing government.

    The demand to remove the articles came from China’s General Administration of Press and Publication, which warned that if they were not removed the entire website would be made unavailable in China. –Washington Post

    CUP abject compliance was a serious breach of academic integrity.

    Fortunately, there was strong blowback from free-speech and human-rights advocates (including this blog), highlighting CUP’s disturbing appeasement. Lots of academics were involved–on the right side.

    Now, under this pressure, Cambridge has caved again, flipping its policy.

    In reversal, Cambridge University Press restores articles after China censorship row(Washington Post)

    The British-based publisher announced Friday it had removed 300 articles and book reviews from a version of the China Quarterly website available in China at the request of the government. But on Monday, it rescinded that decision after outrage from the international academic community.

    It said the original move had only been a “temporary decision” pending discussion with academic leadership of the University of Cambridge and a scheduled meeting with the Chinese importer in Beijing.

    “Academic freedom is the overriding principle on which the University of Cambridge is based,” it said in a statement. “Therefore, while this temporary decision was taken in order to protect short-term access in China to the vast majority of the Press’s journal articles, the University’s academic leadership and the Press have agreed to reinstate the blocked content, with immediate effect, so as to uphold the principle of academic freedom on which the University’s work is founded.” –Washington Post, quoting CUP

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    Comment: This reversal is good news, despite the Press’s “cover your arse” language about this being temporary. It wasn’t. It was appeasement and it would have lasted if there had not been counter-pressure.

    Second, ask yourself whether this decision ever could have been made if, as the press says, “Academic freedom is the overriding principle on which the University of Cambridge is based.”

    Of course, it couldn’t.

    Clearly, that principle was not enough to convince CUP to do the right thing in the first place.

    Only the blowback convinced them.

    I assume that lots of academics were planning to resign from working with CUP or its journals, and I assume that some people higher up in the university got wind of this atrocious decision by the Press.

    People should be fired over this. They simply do not belong at an academic press.

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    Thank you to Prof. Vincent Wang for this valuable update.

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Tuesday, June 20

    Articles chosen with care. Comments welcomed. Linked articles in bold purple

     American Otto Warmbier dies after being imprisoned in North Korea. Pres. Trump condemns it as “a brutal regime” and adds “we’ll be able to handle it.” (Fox News)

    Sec. of State Rex Tillerson referred to Warmbier’s “unjust imprisonment” and called for the release of 3 other Americans held there.

    Now, China’s tour agency that takes Americans to North Korea says it will stop those tours. (Fox)

    Comment: The brutality of the North Korean regime is well known. The question is how to constrain the danger they pose to South Korea, Japan, and the United States.

    Russia Warns Washington after US fighter downs a Syrian Warplane. (New York Times)

    Long-running tensions between the United States and Russia erupted publicly on Monday as Moscow condemned the American military’s downing of a Syrian warplane and threatened to target aircraft flown by the United States and its allies west of the Euphrates.

    The Russians also said they had suspended their use of a hotline that the American and Russian militaries used to avoid collisions of their aircraft in Syrian airspace.

    The episode was the first time the United States downed a Syrian plane since the civil war began there in 2011 and came after the SU-22 jet dropped bombs on Sunday near American-backed fighters combating the Islamic State. It followed another major American military action against the Syrian government: a cruise missile strike to punish a nerve gas attack that killed civilians in April. –New York Times

    That’s not the only major development.  

    The latest escalation comes as competing forces converge on ungoverned swaths of Syria amid the country’s six-year civil war. Syrian forces and Iranian-backed militias that support them are extending their reach east closer to American-backed fighters, including forces that the Pentagon hopes will pursue the militants into the Euphrates River valley after they take the Islamic State’s self-declared capital of Raqqa. The collision of the disparate forces has, in effect, created a war within a war. –New York Times

    Comment: With so many factions fighting in close proximity, there is a huge risk of unintended engagement among the states backing different groups. That, of course, could lead to escalation.

     Theresa May’s weakness casts shadow over Brexit negotiations (Financial Times)

    Britain began the long process of leaving Europe on Monday, but many Conservative MPs are privately speculating whether Theresa May can make it as prime minister through the next few months. –Financial Times

    Comment: May is now deeply unpopular–she’s been called a “dead woman walking”–and leading Tories are trying to find a consensus candidate to replace her as Prime Minister.

    As far as Brexit goes, the PM has also replaced many of the negotiators; the new ones are in disarray. No one knows what Britain’s goal in the negotiations really are.

     Today in European terror: A car with an armed terrorist (he was on France’s watch list) rammed a police car on the Champs-Élysée in Paris. The terrorist’s car burst into flames on the busy street and he later died.  (CNN story here)

    According to the BBC:

    Police found a Kalashnikov rifle, handguns and gas bottles in the car.

    “Security forces have been targeted in France once again,” Interior Minister Gérard Collomb said, calling it an “attempted attack”. –BBC

    Comment: This problem goes beyond police and intelligence work, although it certainly calls for that. As long as Europe is filled large numbers of unassimilated Muslims, attracted to extreme ideologies, this problem will continue. The key is to work on assimilation, restrictions on new immigration, and more intense intel work.

     Well, at least she didn’t waste the money she stole  Report: Stolen city funds paid for her ‘Brazilian butt lift’ (Gainesville Sun)

    Natwaina Clark’s 177 bogus purchases — totaling more than $93,000 — included cosmetic surgery, SunPass and PayPal.

    An investigative report released Wednesday shows a former city of Gainesville employee, accused of stealing more than $93,000 from the city, spent some of it on a Brazilian butt lift. –Gainesville Sun

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  • ZipDialog Roundup for Sunday, June 11

    Articles chosen with care. Comments welcomed. Linked articles in bold purple

     Turmoil within the Tory party after election failure

    The Sunday Telegraph has the most accurate headline, above a picture of Prime Minister May:

    In office, but not in power: Enemies circle Theresa May as she becomes a sitting duck (Sunday Telegraph)

    Boris Johnson, foreign minister and former mayor of London, is a likely challenger for Conservative leadership:

    British foreign minister Boris Johnson has been asked by five other ministers to launch a bid to replace Theresa May as the country’s prime minister after she failed to win a parliamentary majority in an election last week, the Sunday Times reported. (Story here, at US News)

    Pressure in Britain builds on Theresa May to step aside as her top aides resign, her party plots her possible ouster (Washington Post)

    The aides who resigned played a major role in the campaign and were under attack from other Party members. The WaPo goes on to quote Britain’s pro-Tory papers:

    The Daily Mail, an anti-immigrant, nationalist tabloid that has spent the past year cheering on May, published a photo of a graven-faced prime minister along with the headline “Tories Turn on Theresa.”

    The Times of London, a beacon of establishment conservatism that had enthusiastically endorsed the prime minister, published an editorial arguing that she had created “a national emergency” by misjudging the mood of the country and that she was now left “fatally wounded.”

    “If she does not realize this it is another grave misjudgment,” the paper wrote. “More likely, she is steeling herself to provide what continuity she can as her party girds itself for an election to replace her.” –Washington Post

     Qatari capital brims with fear, uncertainty and resilience as Arab crisis intensifies (Washington Post)

    It’s been a week since several Arab countries — led by Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt — severed ties and imposed an economic blockade on Qatar after they accused it of supporting terrorism. The mood in this waterside Persian Gulf capital is a mix of fear, uncertainty and resilience as residents struggle to cope with a political and diplomatic crisis few imagined would so dramatically upend their world. –Washington Post

    Trump continues to take a strong stand publicly. Sec. of State Tillerson was more diplomatic.

    Bernie tells his troops it’s time to take over the Democratic Party (CNN)

    Also, he doesn’t like Donald Trump.

    Comment: His move to take over the Democratic Party is interesting, given that he is not a Democrat. As soon as he lost to Hillary, he formally reverted to being a Socialist, who caucuses with Senate Democrats.

    Van Jones made similar points, adding “Clinton Campaign ‘Took a Billion Dollars and Set It on Fire’ “ (Fox News)

    Comment: Great phrase. Of course, Hillary would never have done that. It would have offended her environmental supporters.

    ◆ Marches across US against Sharia law. Marches are small, often outnumbered by counter-protesters

    LA Times headline: Anti-Sharia rallies around the U.S. denounce Islam while stoking concerns among Muslim groups

    Speaking out about what they believe are the ills of Islam, anti-Sharia law activists demonstrated nationwide Saturday, but were met by counter-protesters who assailed their rhetoric as insensitive and demeaning. –Los Angeles Times

    Chicago Tribune: Chicago protest against Sharia law outnumbered by counter-protesters

    About 30 people gathered at northwest corner of Wacker Drive and Wabash Avenue, carrying signs that read “No killing Gays” and “Sharia abuses women.”

    The group was split into two factions. One group of protesters along Wabash Avenue hoped to bring awareness to specific Sharia practices they claimed oppressed Muslim women and children. They wanted to distance themselves from what they said was a more “radical” faction –protesters gathered near the Heald Square Monument, whose anti-Muslim rhetoric was met with anger and frustration by counter-protesters. –Chicago Tribune

    Comment: It is entirely reasonable to protest cultural restrictions, but it is shameful to engage in racist-style rhetoric. 

     The Daily Mail is reporting that international charities are part of the effort to smuggle refugees out of Libya and into Europe

    Refugee charities are paying people smugglers to ferry migrants to their rescue boats patrolling off Libya, it was claimed last night.

    A senior Libyan coastguard official told The Mail on Sunday he had evidence that aid agencies were stumping up cash for migrants desperate to reach Europe but who cannot afford to pay ruthless traffickers.

    Colonel Tarek Shanboor said he had obtained bank details and phone records that proved the charities were making payments to criminal gangs who have put hundreds of thousands of migrants into unseaworthy boats – leading to thousands of deaths each year.

    His claim will raise concern because there have long been fears that Islamic extremists could be among the migrants. –Daily Mail

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  • ZipDialog Roundup for Saturday, June 10

    Articles chosen with care. Comments welcomed. Linked articles in bold purple

     The aftermath of Comey remains “He said. He said.” One he is Comey, the other is Trump.

    Other than Trump’s foolhardy bravado in offering to testify under oath to Mueller, nothing really happened.

    The newspapers generally covered the testimony honestly. The outlier was the New York Times. Here’s my blog post on that:

    How Five Newspapers Headline Comey’s Testimony: Four are Fair, One is Not

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    Comment on Conspiracy Theories: The Comey testimony and its aftermath underscore and reinforce a larger shift in public discourse that is very troubling: the rise of conspiracy theories.

    America’s media in tandem with the Democratic party and progressives are now playing a constant drumbeat of conspiracy theories, mostly about secret collaboration between the Kremlin and Trump to throw the 2016 election.

    We haven’t seen anything like that since Joe McCarthy.

    Trump does not come to this with clean hands. His claims about Barack Obama’s birth certificate were a major conspiracy theory for years.

     Britain’s Tories face a trainwreck. Their call for a snap election has produced a hung Parliament and likely a shaky coalition government

    The headline in The Independent: Theresa May tries to move on after humiliating result as critics begin to circle

    A chastened Theresa May is attempting to move on from her botched election gamble, under intense pressure from members of her own cabinet and Tory backbenchers to dramatically improve her game. . . .

    Ahead of what is promising to be a bruising meeting with Tory backbenchers next week, MPs publicly questioned Ms May’s position and her campaign, with one even branding it “madness”, while others demanded changes to her Brexit strategy and raised concerns about a deal with the Northern Irish DUP [Democratic Unionist Party] . –The Independent

    May met with the Queen and said she intends to form a government. But there is considerable question about her future.

    The Tories could toss her out before the next election, which is likely to come fairly soon.

    Meanwhile, here are the main effects of the British election. It

    • Requires Conservatives to partner with a small party (DUP) from Northern Ireland to form a government
    • Shows the failure of Theresa May’s campaign; she was a bad candidate who ran on her personality, not future policy
    • Rejects the Conservatives positioning themselves as mushy, big-state centrists, far away from Thatcher’s free-market policies.
    • Gives Labour its biggest gains since late 1940s, even though (or perhaps because) the party is headed by a very, very far leftist.
      • Labour’s huge gains under Jeremy Corbyn, an unabashed socialist who supports a number of terrorist regimes, mark a major political shift in the electorate.

     Spain’s Catalonia region (Barcelona and surrounding area) will hold a referendum on leaving Spain (NPR)

    The Spanish central government sees the vote as illegal, so this sets up a confrontation.

    The Washington Post story is here.

    “There is not going to be any illegal referendum that goes against the Constitution,” the government’s spokesman . . . said after a weekly cabinet meeting. “We are facing an increasingly radical strategy that has less and less support.”

    [But Catalonia’s regional president] Carles Puigdemont said the decision to call for the vote was reached after more than 18 months of efforts failed to establish a dialogue with Madrid.

    He also said the vote was nonnegotiable because Catalans backed his plan for secession by voting for his coalition of pro-independence parties at the end of 2015. –Washington Post

    Comment: The region has a long history and its own language, Catalan, that is related to Spanish but different.

     Repealing Obamacare puts the Senate’s centrist Republicans in a bind. An example from Ohio, in his USA Today story:

    Rob Portman’s dilemma: How to repeal Obamacare without undermining opioid fight

    The key problem: any cutbacks in Medicaid, which Ohio expanded as part of the ACA, would harm addicts’ ability to get care.

    Comment: Repealing and Replacing Obamacare depends on solving very hard problems like this. 

     Meanwhile, Politico reports that “Conservatives near revolt on Senate health care negotiations”

    Comment: Staunchest opponents appear to be Rand Paul (R-KY) and Mike Lee (R-UT).

    Skepticism about the bill voiced by Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Tom Cotton (R-AK) 

    Republicans have 52 votes. They would need 50 votes plus the Vice President to pass a bill and send it to a reconciliation committee with the House.

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  • Today’s British Tabloids have Dramatically Different Front Pages. Is America Moving that Direction?

    Britain’s tabloids have always been feisty and highly partisan.

    Today’s front pages are a perfect illustration.

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    British Media: Always Partisan

    American Media: Getting More So

    Strong covers matter for tabloids because they depend on newsstand sales. That’s true in the US, as well as Britain.

    But US papers are less overtly partisan, less stark. Every reader still knows the NY Daily News is liberal, the NY Post conservative, but the differences are more muted, less in-your-face than those of Britain’s Sun and Mirror.

    In my opinion, though, America’s mainstream media is sliding down the same slippery slope. That’s not confined to the few remaining tabloids. It’s true of mainstream papers, cable news, and broadcast channels.

    The trend is not new, but it has accelerated with their hatred of Donald Trump and his vituperative reciprocation, calling them “enemies” of the people. Lots of presidents have thought that, but he has shouted it from the bully pulpit.

    If we continue down this slope, those tabloid front pages await us.

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    Is Open Partisanship Actually Better than Subtle Suasion?

    There is one interesting response, worth considering.

    Many conservatives already think the New York Times, Washington Post, ABC, NBC, CBS, and CNN are “homers” for the Democrats and progressives. But their slanted coverage is more pernicious, these critics say, because it is less obvious. Ordinary readers and viewers find it harder to detect. They drink the Kool Aid, not knowing it is a sugary drink of editorial bias slipped into hard news stories. If would be better, these critics say, if the media simply declared themselves, as MSNBC has, so viewers would understand.

    Honestly, I don’t know. Maybe you do.

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    Hat tip to Joe Morris for the English tabloids and for stimulating this response