breaking news from the world of ideas

by James Billot
Monday, 29
August 2022

Joe Rogan tells Americans to vote Republican

The comedian criticised the Democrats' stringent Covid policies on his podcast

Podcaster Joe Rogan has said that people who suffered under stringent Covid policies should vote Republican in the midterm elections. The podcast host warned that people who were forced to close their businesses and “lost everything that they worked for decades to build” will be “angry” because they have received no compensation. Asked what they should do, Rogan responded: “Vote Republican. That’s what a lot of them are going to do anyway — more than a million people transferred over to the Republican party in 2021 alone.” The host went on to praise Republican Governor Ron De Santis for keeping Florida open, saying that his Covid policies were “pretty reasonable”. ...  Continue reading

by James Billot
Monday, 8
August 2022

Reports on Ukrainian corruption start to resurface

Western outlets and politicians are becoming more strident in their criticism

Three days. The publication of a CBS report ‘Arming Ukraine’ lasted three days before it was taken down for quoting an NGO worker who said that only 30% of western aid was reaching the frontlines of Ukraine. According to the network, the NGO worker gave this assessment in late April, insisting that delivery had since improved. Now the documentary is being ‘updated’ to reflect this new information.

Despite the backlash against CBS, there has been a slow but perceptible shift in discussing topics that were once considered verboten. This weekend, the head of Amnesty International’s Ukraine office resigned in protest at the release of a report claiming that Ukrainian forces were ignoring international law by exposing civilians to Russian fire. Amnesty stated that it regretted the “distress” caused by the report, but has (unlike CBS) stood by it. ...  Continue reading

by James Billot
Thursday, 4
August 2022

Amnesty attacked for critical report on Ukraine

Pro-Ukraine voices have come out in force to denounce the organisation

Amnesty International has been roundly condemned by pro-Ukraine voices for a new report criticising Ukraine. The human rights group warned that Ukrainian forces were jeopardising the safety of civilians by establishing bases in populated residential areas, including schools and hospitals. 

“We have documented a pattern of Ukrainian forces putting civilians at risk and violating the laws of war when they operate in populated areas,” said Agnès Callamard, Amnesty International’s Secretary General. “Being in a defensive position does not exempt the Ukrainian military from respecting international humanitarian law.” ...  Continue reading

by James Billot
Friday, 29
July 2022

Wikipedia takes cue from White House and re-defines ‘recession’

Any mention of two negative consecutive quarters has now been scrubbed

Wikipedia has changed the definition of ‘recession’ and locked the page from further edits. These changes were made during the week that the White House proposed a re-definition of recession to mean something other than two consecutive quarters of negative GDP growth.

Until July 11, the world’s largest online encyclopedia included in its definition of a recession ‘two negative consecutive quarters of growth’ with users free to make alterations:

Screengrab from July 11

But as of July 25 any mention of ‘two negative consecutive quarters of GDP growth’ was removed from this section. A Wikipedia administrator then froze the edit feature, blaming a ‘persistent addition of unsourced or poorly sourced content,’ with a warning that the page may have been ‘affected by a current event’. For a period of time, the new definition was locked in: 
 ...  Continue reading

by James Billot
Tuesday, 5
July 2022

Ibram X. Kendi: I taught antiracism to my one-year-old

The activist came to London to share parenting tips

Ibram X. Kendi is an anxious parent.

In his latest book, How to Raise an Antiracist, the antiracist activist describes wearing a gas mask, hazmat suit and gloves just to change his baby’s diapers. On one occasion, he beats himself up for putting on the diaper too tightly, with his body ‘stiffening’ any time the baby is in his arms.

But at an Intelligence Squared talk last night in London, he admitted that he has gone even further, including teaching his daughter about antiracism at the tender age of one. He described an incident where she only had white dolls to play with, which he feared would implicitly teach her to devalue blackness. So Kendi and his wife began instructing his child about the importance of antiracism: ...  Continue reading

by James Billot
Monday, 20
June 2022

Hillary Clinton: Battle with Trump is ‘unfinished business’

Is the Democrat angling for a third run?

She was quick to deny it in her Lunch with the FT interview, but the question of whether Hillary Clinton will run for President again is one that will not go away. Asked about the chances of a third run in 2024, the former Secretary of State’s answer was emphatic: 

“No, out of the question. First of all, I expect Biden to run. He certainly intends to run. It would be very disruptive to challenge that.” 

Intriguingly, there was no second point to this answer. Biden will run, that is that. But that leaves open the question: what if he doesn’t? 

The President will be 81 by the next election and there is a lot working against him: underwater polling, declining mental faculties, worrying midterm predictions — and a party that is losing faith in his leadership. ...  Continue reading

by James Billot
Thursday, 16
June 2022
Campus Wars

America’s campus wars come to Cambridge

The university is going down a dangerous path

Should you respect opinions that are ‘ridiculous’? That is what is being asked of Cambridge dons as part of a new policy aimed at preventing inappropriate behaviour in the workplace. According to The Times, some dons have ‘balked’ at a proposal to be respectful of differing opinions, such as those of religious believers or earth scientists ‘who are trying to make mining more efficient’. Presumably, this respect policy would also extend to social justice narratives about whether every societal ill today is caused by racism or if 2 + 2 = 5. 

While such views are, admittedly, more pertinent to America, it is clear that this is where the language of the Cambridge letter is coming from. The document says it seeks to create “a safe, welcoming and inclusive community which nurtures a culture of mutual respect and courtesy”. The emphasis on safety and inclusion will be depressingly familiar to anyone well-versed in the American social justice argot, so why does Cambridge university plan to copy it? ...  Continue reading

by James Billot
Monday, 13
June 2022

Jared Polis: The weirdest Democrat in America

Colorado's heterodox governor expertly avoids the culture wars

Denver, Colorado 

By most accounts, Jared Polis is an unusual man. For one, his name is Jared — a name not not typically associated with the upper echelons of American politics. As Colorado’s first Jewish and openly gay governor, he is a Democrat, but also a libertarian who supports gun rights, abortion, weed, and even Bitcoin

This makes him an awkward figure in Democratic circles, made all the more so by his distinctly apolitical approach to Covid. During the pandemic, the governor pursued a path that was neither ‘let it rip’ or micromanaging mask-enforcement. He refused to implement mandates in the face of a surging Omicron variant (when its relatively benign nature was still unknown) and resumed in-person schooling quicker than most states. As he told a Colorado public radio station last year, the ‘medical emergency’ phase of the pandemic had passed. “Public health [officials] don’t get to tell people what to wear,” he said. “That’s just not their job”. ...  Continue reading

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