Readers’ wildlife photos

Reader and origami artist Robert Lang (see my post about him here) contributed some lovely photos of birds he saw in the neotropics. His notes are indented:

It has been a while since I sent some Reader’s Wildlife Photos™, but I recently was invited to Panama to talk about my favorite subject (which you’ve seen) and my host took my wife and I on several sight-seeing trips. These images are from a boat trip in the Gamboa Rainforest Reserve, which is on the shores of Gatún Lake, occupying a large part of the Panama Canal.

We first have the Snail Kite (Rostrhamus sociabilis), both females (the males are dark blue-gray). They did not historically live in Panama, but migratory birds have settled around the lake to feast on the snails, which were introduced to feed on the (invasive) water hyacinth.

The long, narrow, and sharply curved beak looks ideal for prying snails out of their shells.

And a different raptor, the Yellow-Headed Caracara (Milvago chimachima):

Next, we have a Limpkin (Aramus guarauna), which also feeds on the snails.

And other shore bird, the Little Blue Heron (Egretta caerulea). Now that is some serious blue!

The Northern Jacana (Jacana spinosa).

And last, a Flycatcher. I’m not positive, but it looks like the Panamanian Flycatcher (Myiarchus panamensis).

To come later: reptiles and amphibians!

Friday: Hili dialogue

It’s Friday already! To be precise: Friday, April 19, 2019. It’s National Rice Ball Day, a holiday I don’t understand because what good is a rice ball without sushi or something else on top of it? Having just returned from Amsterdam, I’m also pleased to note that it’s Dutch-American Friendship Day, which doesn’t mean that you should befriend Dutch-Americans, but that we are celebrating the amity between our two countries. Wikipedia explains why the holiday occurs today:

. . . [this is] the day in 1782 when John Adams, later to become the second president of the United States, was received by the States General in The Hague and recognized as Minister Plenipotentiary of the United States of America. It was also the day that the house he had purchased at Fluwelen Burgwal 18 in The Hague was to become the first American Embassy in the world.

I bet you didn’t know that about the Embassy.

There are two drakes in the pond this morning; one is Gregory Peck (Honey’s husband), while the other is an interloper.  And it’s Darwin Death Day (see below); the 137th anniversary of the Great Man’s demise.

Lots happened in history today, beginning with the onset of the Lisbon Massacre in 1506, in which hundreds of Jews, blamed for the drought and plague in Portugal at that time, were publicly slaughtered. On this day in 1770 there were two events: Captain James Cook (at that time still a lieutenant), glimpsed the eastern coast of what is now Australia. On the very same day, Marie Antoinette married Louis XVI of France (then the Dauphin) at a “proxy wedding”; the Dauphin wasn’t able to be there and there was a stand-in groom.

On April 19, 1775, the American Revolutionary War began with an American victory at Concord, Massachusetts. And, as noted above, today was the day in 1782 when the Netherlands recognized the U.S. as an independent country. In the Hague, the house of John Adams, who had secured this recognition, became the first American Embassy.  On this day in 1927, Mae West was sentenced to ten days in jail for obscenity in her play Sex. It was a popular hit but a critical failure due to its themes of murder and prostitution, and eventually was forced to close.

Another two events on this day in 1943. In Poland, the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising began when the remaining, undeported Jews resisted Nazi calls for surrender. The Nazis won, of course, killing 13,000 Jews and wiping out the ghetto. On the same day in Basel, Switzerland, the first deliberate acid trip took place, as Albert Hofmann deliberately took 250 micrograms of the drug three days after having observed its effects on him during research done three days earlier. As Wikipedia notes, “This day is now known as “Bicycle Day”, because [Hoffman] began to feel the effects of the drug as he rode home on a bike.”

On this day in 1956, Prince Rainier of Monaco married actress Grace Kelly, who became the Princess of Monaco, serving until her death in a car accident in 1982. In 1971, Charles Manson was sentenced to death for conspiracy in the Tate-LaBianca murders; his sentence was later commuted to life imprisonment.  On this day in 1987, according to Wikipedia, “The Simpsons first appear as a series of shorts on The Tracey Ullman Show, first starting with Good Night.” Here’s that first episode, which has some neurophilosophy:

On April 19, 1995, the Oklahoma City bombing, perpetrated by Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols, took place: the explosion of a huge bomb, placed in a truck parked beside the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, killed 168 people. McVeigh was executed in 2001,  while Nichols is serving life without parole in a Supermax facility in Colorado, living on a cell block called “Bombers Row” along with Ramzi YousefEric Rudolph, and Ted Kaczynski.

On this day in 2005, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was elected Pope, becoming Benedict XVI. He resigned in 2013 and hasn’t yet gone to his maker. Exactly six years later, Fidel Castro resigned as First Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba. Finally it was on this day six years ago that Boston Marathon suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev was killed in a shootout with police, and his brother Dzhokhar, wounded, was captured hiding inside a covered boat in a backyard in nearby Watertown.

Notables born on this day include Dickie Bird and Jayne Mansfield (both 1933), Elinor “Betty” Donohue (1937), the odious Stanley Fish (1939, 80 today), Ashley Judd (1968), and Kate Hudson (1979, 40 today). Dickie Bird is regarded as one of the greatest and most beloved cricket umpires. He’s still alive at 86, and here’s a film of him remembering his career:

Those who croaked on April 19 include Canaletto (1768), Benjamin Rush (1813), Lord Byron (1824), Charles Darwin (1882), Pierre Curie (1906), William Morton Wheeler (1937), Jim Corbett (1955), Daphne du Maurier (1989), Octavio Paz (1998, Nobel Laureate), evolutionist John Maynard Smith (2004), and Levon Helm (2012).

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is mousing down by the Vistula. Malgorzata explains the first line:

Hili’s first line is the title of a book by Józef Mackiewicz (1969). The book was translated into English and published under this title. Your readers probably haven’t heard of it. 

Hili: One is not supposed to speak aloud.
A: Why?
Hili: In order not to startle the mice.
In Polish:
Hili: Nie trzeba głośno mówić.
Ja: Dlaczego?
Hili: Żeby myszy nie płoszyć.

A tweet from reader Barry. It’s well known that lion/tiger hybrids (“ligers” or “tiglons”) can be much larger than either parental species. Look at this monster:

In Hawaii, it’s Aloha Friday, as is every Friday. Reader Nilou sent this lovely albatross:

Tweets from Matthew. The first shows that ant-parasitive beetles evolved very quickly after “eusocial” ants evolved. In fact, the imposter “clown beetles” are nearly as old (99 million years) as the oldest ants we know.

Here’s the twitter translation for this beautiful and etiolated bee:

“A parasitic bee visited in the fallen tree of the jungle. It may be parasitic on other insects lurking inside the tree. Beautiful things have a dangerous side..”

Seamus and Bubbles! Such a lovely tale (sound up):

Matthew had to explain this joke to me very carefully until I got it, and even then I didn’t think it was funny!

Tweets from Grania. First up: “The Happy Cement Mixer”:

LOL. I agree!


And a distracted kitteh:

Ceiling Cat bless the Phoenix Fire Department

I doubt the quacking mother here was asking for help rather than just quacking in distress, but that’s not implied. At any rate, these firefighters restore my faith in humanity.

Lagniappe: Another duck rescue, which I believe I’ve posted before, but so what? This one (contributed by Heather Hastie via Ann German) may be in Czechoslovakia. Around the world, we have some really nice Quack Responders.


More words I hate

It’s time for another edition of Words I hate, with the implicit invitation of readers to share words (or phrases) that they find repugnant. I have but two today:

1.) Relatable. Yes, this is in some dictionaries, but it really grates on me for reasons I can’t understand. Perhaps it’s because HuffPo, my bête noire, uses it so frequently, as in the following article (click on screenshot).

2.) Word.  And here I mean the use of this word in a single sentence, as in this entry from the Urban Dictionary:

But I often see an individual using it to praise themselves, meaning “What I just said was awesome, and pay attention to it.” For example, to put a number of things that irritate me in a single sentence, “Beyoncé’s new album from Coachella just dropped, and it’s awesome. Word.”

Have at it. After all, the purpose of this post is to blow off steam. And if you want to say something like “Languages evolves, and this is fine,” please refrain.

Middlebury College cancels another controversial speaker because of “safety concerns”

UPDATE: I have sent this letter to the President, the Dean, and the Provost of Middlebury:

Dear President Patton, Provost Cason, and Dean Taylor,

I was appalled to hear that Middlebury College has canceled a talk by Ryszard Legutko because the safety of the College community could not be guaranteed if he appeared. The report by Inside Higher Education notes that the administration, including at least two of you, helped make this decision.

While I am strongly opposed to the right-wing views of Mr. Legutko, and the increasing conservatism and growing anti-Semitic and anti-immigrant sentiments of Poland (and much of Europe), I value free speech in America, especially as the paramount virtue of a university. Students will not learn how to defend their positions, or think properly, unless they are able to hear all sides of controversial issu. You are surely aware that the University of Chicago has formulated “principles of free expression” defending that idea. This should be a model for Middlebury College and for all colleges and universities.By claiming that you could not guarantee the safety of your community, and canceling a right-wing speaker, you are in effect giving the Left (of which I am a member) a heckler’s veto over speech at Middlebury. For it is almost always the Left that threatens the safety of speakers and campuses. (Of the 26 college disinvitations occurring in 2018 and 2019 whose political source could be identified, 21 were prompted by the Left and only 5 from the Right.)  You of course realize that using “campus safety” as an excuse to cancel talks creates a tacit policy in which right-wing speakers are censored at the expense of those on the left. This was the case two years ago when Charles Murray was censored at Middlebury in a shameful exercise of student censorship and administrative cowardice.

I hope you will reevaluate your policy and take action to guarantee the safety of all invited speakers by using your campus security to guarantee academic freedom and First Amendment rights at Middlebury.

Jerry Coyne
Professor Emeritus
Department of Ecology and Evolution
The University of Chicago


Inside Higher Ed (IHE) is becoming a clearinghouse for all the Authoritarian Leftist shenanigans at American colleges and Universities. Today’s top story—to my mind at least—is the disinvitation (or rather, cancellation) of a talk by a right-winger scheduled to talk at Middlebury College in Vermont. As you may recall (see my posts here), in 2017, Middlebury students, who had gone wild by overrunning the campus library, accosting white students and accusing them of racism, also shut down a talk by infamous sociologist Charles Murray, forcing him to cancel a public presentation and actually injuring one of his hosts, a Middlebury professor. There are reports that the students involved in that harm were disciplined, but, as far as I know, the nature of that discipline has neither been revealed nor described.

Now Inside Higher Ed describes yet another instance of a speaker whose invitation to Middlebury has been canceled—on the specious grounds that the College couldn’t guarantee the safety of the speaker.

Let me hasten to add here that I’m equally eager to criticize disinvitations and deplatforming of Left-wing speakers, but I almost never find out about them. They do exist, though: in the FIRE “Disinvitation Database”, for instance, l counted 31 disinvitations in 2018 and 2019 (so far). Of these, 22 came from the Left, 5 from the Right (speaker topics opposed by the Right: abortion, the speaker’s religion, sexual orientation, and the Israel-Palestine conflict), while 4 disinvitations were “not applicable” as to ideology.  If you hear of a case of disinvitations stemming from the Right, do let me know.

To see the IHE article, click on the screenshot below or go here.  There are other reports at the Burlington Free Press and the student newspaper, The Middlebury Campus

From IHE’s report on the disinvitation of speaker Ryszard Legutko:

Legutko is a professor of philosophy at Jagiellonian University, in Kraków. He is also a member of the European Parliament and is associated with far-right views that have growing support in Eastern Europe. He has offended many groups, and criticism at Middlebury has noted his support for discrimination against gay people. His fans note his stance against dictatorship in the era when the Soviet Union controlled Poland.

I find the rise of the right wing in Poland, and the concurrent rise of anti-Semitism (with both trends holding over Europe in general) reprehensible, and so I suspect I’d be deeply opposed to what Legutko had to say (I haven’t listened to his class appearance mentioned below). But so what? He should be allowed to talk because a student organization invited him. But he wasn’t, and the Middlebury administration is to blame for the disinvitation:

. . . . On Wednesday, another controversial figure was slated to give a talk at Middlebury. Again, protests were planned against the speaker, although it is unclear if those protests would have disrupted the speech — a violation of Middlebury rules and the norms of campus discourse. This time Middlebury called off the event, citing safety concerns.

An email that went out to the campus hours before the scheduled appearance by Ryszard Legutko said, “In the interest of ensuring the safety of students, faculty, staff and community members, the lecture by Ryszard Legutko scheduled for later today will not take place. The decision was not taken lightly. It was based on an assessment of our ability to respond effectively to potential security and safety risks for both the lecture and the event students had planned in response.”

The email was signed by Jeff Cason, the provost, and Baishakhi Taylor, dean of students.

They went on to write that due to location changes and an increased number of expected attendees, “we didn’t have the staff capacity” to assure safety.

The Alexander Hamilton Forum, a group at Middlebury that invited Legutko, indicated that it would invite him again in the fall, and a Middlebury spokeswoman indicated that the college was open to that visit, consistent with “standard” event scheduling rules.

While he was unable to speak in a public lecture, Legutko did appear in a political science class, some of which was live-streamed to Facebook.

Here are a few links to detractors and supporters of Legutko’s talk:

An open letter circulating on campus questions sponsoring “a speaker who blatantly and proudly expounds homophobic, racist, xenophobic, misogynistic discourse.” Bringing such a speaker to campus amounts to “shutting out large swaths of the Middlebury community, all of whom are engaged, critical and rigorous thinkers whose energies would be better spent not combating degrading and dehumanizing rhetoric.”

A recent Middlebury graduate who is from Poland published a letter in the student newspaper in which he said in part, “I am all for Middlebury inviting speakers that hold views different than those of the campus majority. But you could at least seek speakers who are not bigots and hypocrites.”

Keegan Callahan, assistant professor of political science and director of the Alexander Hamilton Forum, circulated another letter about the planned visit. While noting that many respect Legutko, the letter stressed the value of the college having speakers with a range of views.

The  Middlebury administration is complicit with its Authoritarian Leftists students in this violation of free speech, for the excuse that “we are unable to guarantee the safety of the College community” doesn’t wash. It is the school’s responsibility to guarantee the safety of the college community, and they could do so if they wanted. All they have to do is ensure a strong security presence and prevent disruption by removing disruptors from the site of the talk (protests outside a talk, of course, are fine). Since it is almost always the Left that constitutes the locus of violence here, shutting down talks that “endanger the campus community” is a tacit agreement that only Left-wing speakers will be permitted.

In this way the Left has taken a page from the Islamist playbook: by threatening violence against those who oppose a group’s ideology, they guarantee that the opponents will be silenced. Shame on Middlebury College for doing this, and so soon after the College was nationally shamed by many for its treatment of Charles Murray.

After I finish this post I’ll write to Middlebury’s President, Laurie Patton, at her email address that’s publicly available on the Middlebury website. My letter will also go to those who signed the disinvitation notice, Provost Jeffrey Cason and Dean of Students Baishakhi Taylor.  Their actions are shameful, and parents and students should be aware of them.

And yet there’s more; IHE reports an other disinvitation that had escaped me:

The decision by Middlebury came just a few weeks after Beloit College, a liberal arts institution in Wisconsin, shut down a planned speech by Erik Prince, an associate of President Trump and the controversial founder of the security company Blackwater. Administrators canceled Prince’s chat following student protests in which they banged on drums and built a barricade of chairs on the stage where Prince was due to give his talk.

What is happening to our colleges? Well, we already know: they are becoming vehicles for political indoctrination and social engineering rather than learning (and learning to think). Middlebury College is complicit in these changes.

Readers’ wildlife photos

Reader Joe Dickinson is back with some photos from California; his notes are indented.

Here are some photos from a recent trip up to Tomales Bay and Point Reyes, north of San Francisco.  I’ve fleshed them out with some shots from earlier trips to the same area.  A second set will follow shortly.

There were big rafts of scaup ducks, probably greater scaup (Aythya marila) out on the bay

Tule elk (Cervus canadensis nannodes) are found in a refuge at the end of Point Reyes.  I particularly like the cow lying down in a bed of flowers.  The bulls are from another year and at a different season.

Here the best of the “context” shots.  The point has a long, curved ocean beach and, before you reach the elk refuge, a nice trail follows a fresh water seep that is damed behind dunes at the edge of the beach.  We have had a wet spring, so everything was nice and green.

These California poppies (Eschscholzia californica) were among many flowers along that trail.

This, I’m pretty sure, is a garter snake of the genus Thamnophis but I can’t identify the species.

I’m more accustomed to seeing them in fresh water wetlands, but this great blue heron (Ardea herodias) is on a rock in the intertidal zone.


Thursday: Hili dialogue

It’s Thursday, April 18, 2019. It’s National Animal Cracker Day (do kids still eat those?). I loved them as a kid, biting the heads off the animals first. You can read more about the history of animal crackers here.  And it’s International Day for Monuments and Sites, also known as “World Heritage Day.”

I’ll be busy with various commitments today, so posting may be light.

On this day in 1521, Martin Luther’s trial for heresy began during the Diet of Worms. Refusing to recant his criticisms of the Catholic Church, he was eventually excommunicated. Here’s Pope Leo X’s Papal Bull from 1520 listing Luther’s errors and threatening him with expulsion. You can make out most of the the Latin (I’d never seen a Papal Bull before, a name that has inspired many jokes):

Moving ahead several centuries, it was on this day in 1909 that Joan of Arc was beatified by the Vatican. That’s the first step on the road to sainthood, which Joan achieved in 1920.

On April 18, 1923, Yankee Stadium was opened, and has been called “The House the Ruth Built”, referring to star Babe Ruth, whose best years as a hitter began at that time. (His famous 60-home-run season was in 1927.) And here is a weird one that someone should check: Wikipedia says that on this day in 1930, “The British Broadcasting Corporation announced that “there is no news” in their evening report.” The link says this:

On Easter weekend in 1930 (18 April), this reliance on newspaper wire services left the radio news service with no information to report after saying “There is no news today”. Piano music was played instead.

Only the Beeb would say “there is no news today” rather than “we were not given any news today”!

Finally, it was on April 18 of 1983 that a suicide bomber in Lebanon, driving a van packed with explosives, destroyed the U.S. embassy in Beirut, killing 63. It’s considered the beginning of Islamist attacks on U.S. targets.

Notables born on this day include Lucrezia Borgia (1480), Clarence Darrow (1857), Pigmeat Markham (1904), Joy Davidman (1915), Hayley Mills (1946), James Woods (1947), Susan Faludi (1959), Conan O’Brien (1963), and Melissa Joan Hart (1976).

Hayley Mills and her faux twin (in the movie “The Parent Trap”) was one of the first love objects for boys of my generation, along with Annette Funicello. I found this short video describing what happened to her after her fame in Disney movies:

Those who died on this day include Julius Caesar (1636, yes, there was an English one), Erasmus Darwin (1802), Ernie Pyle (1945), Albert Einstein (1955), and Thor Heyerdahl (2002).

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili speaks obliquely, and Malgorzata explains:

“Hili just sees too much of the interesting Spring-y world. She can’t process everything. But she thinks that it’s wonderful and she does not mind that there are so many new and interesting things about that she cannot see them all. She is overwhelmed but it’s OK, it’s “cool”.”

Hili: The world has become more interesting.
A: Do you see something?
Hili: I’m overwhelmed, but it’s cool.
In Polish:
Hili: Świat stał się ciekawszy.
Ja: Coś widzisz?
Hili: Wręcz zbyt wiele, ale to fajne.

Several readers sent me this Facebook meme on faith versus fact:

From reader Barry (I may have posted this before). The raccoon is clearly a color mutant:

Tweets from Grania. Someday this d*g will be able to handle that ball with ease:

A tweet from the Chief Mouser to the Cabinet Office:

A lovely flyby from the ISS. Do you recognize the areas?

That ginger and white moggie has a wicked left hook:

Cats have been used by capitalists to sell goods for a long time. . .

Tweets from Matthew, the first one showing a beautiful weevil:

. . . and some even more beautiful stick insects:

In honor of yesterday’s Bat Appreciation Day, which I forgot:

This is really informative:

Remember the joke: “Go forth and multiply?” “We can’t—we’re adders!”


Wednesday: Duck report

Four drakes have been patrolling Botany Pond for several days; three are smallish, and perhaps yearlings—maybe they’re Honey’s offspring. But the Boss Duck, who tries to get rid of them constantly, is Honey’s mate Gregory Peck, who’s identifiable by his large head and his head color, which has more purple in it than the other drakes.

Here’s Greg:

In the right light his purple color becomes quite visible.

My philosophy is to feed Gregory so he stays around to protect Honey and her ducklings when she returns, but not feed the other drakes since they could go after mom or offspring when they return. This is nearly impossible to implement, as Gregory will come for food when I whistle and begin eating, but then the Interloper Drakes see him eating and approach the noms. He then tries to drive them away, but since there are four of them he can’t do it without another one sneaking in from the side for noms. It’s almost funny, but I feel sorry for them all. It’s tough to be a drake.

Here’s the pack, with Gregory in the foreground.


And here is Gregory nomming corn, but at the end he takes off in pursuit of an interloper.

And I forgot that it’s Bat Appreciation Day. My bad! In honor of the only flying mammal, here’s a tweet sent to me by Su.

University of the Arts President defends Camille Paglia’s freedom of speech after she makes controversial statements

I’ve seen Camille Paglia speak in person once (I barely remember what she said), and haven’t followed her work, but what I do remember is that her scholarship is larded with an alarming amount of self-promotion.  (She’s a professor at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia.) But I plead ignorance and may be wrong. Still she did offend a lot of people in an interview with Spiked in which she criticizes the #MeToo movement and the in loco parentis attitude of many American colleges and universities, as well as the entitled attitudes of college women.

There are two videos here; the one causing most of the trouble is the second:

Inside Higher Ed (IHE) reports on the fracas:

In the video, [Paglia] criticizes “girls” who are “coached” about complaints they bring, and she focuses on college students and those who bring a complaint of rape months after an incident over “a mistake they may make at a fraternity party.” She said bringing complaints in this way “is not feminism” but is part of a “bourgeois culture of excuses.”

Critics also point to comments Paglia made in a 2017 interview with The Weekly Standard in which she touched on transgender issues.

“It is certainly ironic how liberals who posture as defenders of science when it comes to global warming (a sentimental myth unsupported by evidence) flee all reference to biology when it comes to gender. Biology has been programmatically excluded from women’s studies and gender studies programs for almost 50 years now. Thus very few current gender studies professors and theorists, here and abroad, are intellectually or scientifically prepared to teach their subjects,” she said. “The cold biological truth is that sex changes are impossible. Every single cell of the human body remains coded with one’s birth gender for life. Intersex ambiguities can occur, but they are developmental anomalies that represent a tiny proportion of all human births.”

The results of this kind of talk, all of which is worth at least pondering and discussing, if only to rebut it, were predictable. After Paglia gave a public lecture, students at the University of the Arts created a petition demanding that she be fired for “mocking survivors of sexual assault and the #MeToo movement,” “mocking and degrading transgender individuals,” and not considering “any sexual assault cases reported more than six months after the incident, because she thinks those cases just consist of women who regret having sex and falsely see themselves as victims.”

The petition makes demands, too:

Here is what we demand of UArts:

1) Camille Paglia should be removed from UArts faculty and replaced by a queer person of color. If, due to tenure, it is absolutely illegal to remove her, then the University must at least offer alternate sections of the classes she teaches, instead taught by professors who respect transgender students and survivors of sexual assault.
2) The University of the Arts must cease to provide Camille Paglia additional platforms such as public events and opportunities to sell her books on campus.
3) The University of the Arts must apologize for its embarrassing response to this situation, and specifically President David Yager must apologize for his wildly ignorant and hypocritical letter.
4) The University of the Arts must sit down with a group of transgenders [sic] students and survivors of sexual assault to discuss how they can best be supported moving forward. This group must include students of color.

UArts: you are disrespecting your students and putting them in danger. Do better.

Regardless of what you think of Paglia’s remarks, they fall under the aegis of academic freedom as well as the First Amendment, and firing her for saying these things is risible. Replacing her “by a queer person of color” is just about as risible, as Paglia is queer, though not “of color.” I’m not quite sure why a person of color should be a replacement since Paglia said nothing about ethnicity.

The “wildly ignorant and hypocritical letter” of College President David Yager can be found here. Contrary to the petition’s claim, it’s an eminently reasonable letter that defends Paglia’s right to speak while implicitly criticizing some of her views. One can differ in whether a University should do the latter, but I don’t have a big problem with a university saying that some views expressed by a speaker or faculty member are contrary to its values. Here’s a portion of Yager’s letter:

I firmly believe that limiting the range of voices in society erodes our democracy. Universities, moreover, are at the heart of the revolutionary notion of free expression: promoting the free exchange of ideas is part of the core reason for their existence. That open interchange of opinions and beliefs includes all members of the UArts community: faculty, students and staff, in and out of the classroom. We are dedicated to fostering a climate conducive to respectful intellectual debate that empowers and equips our students to meet the challenges they will face in their futures.

I believe this resolve holds even greater importance at an art school. Artists over the centuries have suffered censorship, and even persecution, for the expression of their beliefs through their work. My answer is simple: not now, not at UArts.

The University of the Arts is committed to the exercise of free speech and academic freedom, to addressing difficult or controversial issues and ideas through civil discussion, with respect for those who hold opinions different from our own. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis’ 1927 advice still holds true today: that the remedy for messages we disagree with or dislike is more speech and not enforced silence.

We must at the same time be aware that the freedom to express ourselves carries with it consequences, and we must be mindful of how exercising that right may impact others. While, in general, opinions with which we disagree, or even are offended by, are legally protected, we strongly affirm the importance of respect for others and the value of civil discourse. A university—and a society—is made greater by the variety of voices talking to, rather than at, one another.

This is a unique institution in which students and faculty regularly collaborate across disciplines. We must use that same model of collaboration with others to work on the difficult issues that would otherwise divide us, and in so doing bring us together.

Even Paglia, as IHE reports, praised the letter as an “eloquent statement affirming academic freedom [as] a landmark in contemporary education” and “hoped other colleges would view the statement as a model for how to ‘deal with their rampant problem of compulsory ideological conformity.'”

Would that all college presidents had such backbone! It would seem to be a no-brainer to defend freedom of speech on campus, but given that many students don’t want it, but, like those at Williams College, want all “hate speech” banned, this puts college administrators at serious odds with their students. (Note that Paglia’s statements are considered “hate speech”, which shows you the dubious nature of this characterization.) It happens, though, that in this case the students are wrong.

The BBC’s Hitchens remembrance

A few days ago I directed you to an hourlong BBC show about the life and work of Christopher Hitchens, who, had he lived, would have been 70 on April 13. If you haven’t yet heard it, I recommend it highly. You can listen to the program by clicking on the third screenshot below (or going here); it won’t be up forever.

And you have to click a trigger warning verifying that you’re over 16 years old and also have turned off a “parental guidance lock”. Hitchens would be amused at that:

Even if you think you know everything about the man, I think you’ll learn quite a bit. There are interviews with his brother Peter, his BFF Martin Amis, Ian McEwan (who poignantly describes his farewell to Hitchens in the hospital), his Nation colleague Katha Pollitt, his ex-wife Elena, and others. His youthful Marxism is on view, as is his sexism and his prodigious consumption of libations. You’ll be intrigued at the very last thing he wrote: a few words scrawled on a pad, described as “the most succinct op-ed piece ever written—by a writer who was never at a loss for words.”

One thing that struck me was that even those who were opposed to his political beliefs or who found his personality off-putting still admired and felt affection for him. As Amis notes, “I think the key to Christopher is how intensely he was loved by so many people. Not many commentators are loved. I mean, some are valued and respected, but not loved.”

The program is ably narrated and moderated by D. D. Guttenplan, Editor at Large for The Nation. Click below: