Category: International

A Sound of Transcendent Beauty and Defiance from the Bomb Shelters of Ukraine

The world has watched in utter disgust at the wanton destruction of Ukraine by Russia. However, in the very midst of the ruins left in the wake of this invasion, the indomitable spirit and beauty of humanity has broken through in the actions of brave Ukrainians. The video below is one of the most beautiful and inspiring moments that I have seen. It is overwhelming and I wanted to share it with anyone who has not seen it.  It shows 94 violinists in 29 countries joining young Ukrainian violinist Illia Bondarenko as he plays in a bunker with the Russian onslaught attacking Kyiv above him.

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Should Universities Take a Stand on Ukraine? UChicago is Facing That Question

It has become increasingly common for universities to take political positions in support of everything from Black Lives Matter to D.C. Statehood. As such positions increase, there is more and more pressure for official positions to be taken on other subjects. Now, the University of Chicago is being asked to affirm its support of Ukraine after controversial statements from Professor John Mearsheimer. (For full disclosure, I am a graduate of UChicago and Mearsheimer was one of faculty when I was doing strategic studies research at the department). Continue reading “Should Universities Take a Stand on Ukraine? UChicago is Facing That Question”

Bolshoi Conductor Resigns Over Free Speech Controversy as the Crackdown Continues for Artists and Athletes

We recently discussed controversies involving Russian artists and athletes being told that they will be cancelled or blacklisted if they do not expressly denounce the Russian invasion of Ukraine and President Vladimir Putin. Now that assault on free speech has reached the highest levels of ballet after Tugan Sokhiev, the chief conductor at Bolshoi Theatre and the Orchestre National du Capitole de Toulouse, resigned rather than be coerced into such public statements. The Munich Philharmonic also dismissed chief conductor Valery Gergiev after he failed to condemn the invasion. Continue reading “Bolshoi Conductor Resigns Over Free Speech Controversy as the Crackdown Continues for Artists and Athletes”

Flagging Free Speech or Nepotism? Formula One Team Drops Russian Driver Over Ukraine Invasion

I recently wrote about the Metropolitan Opera Manager Peter Gelb cancelling  soprano Anna Netrebko after she failed to condemn Vladimir Putin. Netrebko, who denounced the Ukrainian invasion, has appeared in pictures with Putin and has said that she will take a hiatus from performing after the controversy. I drew heated objections to my column for defending a supporter of Putin. I was defending free speech rather than Putin but it is an old saw used against civil libertarians when they object to public or private censorship. Now we have a different story out of Formula One racing where Russian driver Nikita Mazepin was dropped by Haas F1 despite a FIA ruling he could compete in Formula One races.  The controversy has some unique elements tied to the racing but raises similar issues of compelled speech. Continue reading “Flagging Free Speech or Nepotism? Formula One Team Drops Russian Driver Over Ukraine Invasion”

Yes, Foreign Fighters in Ukraine are Covered Under the Geneva Conventions as “Combatants”

We have been seeing new reports for foreign volunteers joining the Ukrainian forces, including Americans, to fight against the Russian invasion. There now appear a sizable number of such volunteers in a modern version of the Lincoln Brigade that fought against fascism in Spain before World War II. The similarities to the Spanish Civil War are striking with the fascists controlling the skies, fielding advanced weaponry, and engaging in war crimes.  Back then, Russia supported the Republican forces against fascism. Now, however, Russia is declaring that foreign volunteers are not considered covered “combatants” under the Geneva Conventions. That is not true. Continue reading “Yes, Foreign Fighters in Ukraine are Covered Under the Geneva Conventions as “Combatants””

Getting the Hook: The Met Cancels Opera Singer for Refusing to Condemn Putin

“It is a great artistic loss for the Met and for opera.” Those words from the Metropolitan Opera Manager Peter Gelb makes it sound like soprano Anna Netrebko has died or lost her voice in some accident. In reality, Netrebko was cancelled for failing to denounce Vladimir Putin. As with the criminalization of support for Putin in some countries, the termination of Netrebko is an attack on free speech. It is perfectly bizarre for the Met to stand against tyranny by attacking free speech, the very right that combats tyranny in all forms. This is not just the day that the music died for Netrebko, it is the day that free speech died at the Met.

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Czech Republic Reportedly Moves To Criminalize Speech in Favor of Putin or the Russian Invasion

This week, the Supreme State Attorney Igor Striz of the Czech Republic announced that the country is moving to criminalize speech supporting Russian President Vladimir Putin or the Russian invasion with sentences of up to three years. It is a curious way to fight tyranny . . . with tyrannical measures against free speech.

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Does the Filming of the Russian POWs Violate the Geneva Conventions?

I recently wrote a column on why I believe that the Russians are now committing flagrant war crimes. Ukraine is the victim of those crimes and the images from that country are truly sickening.  Vladimir Putin and his government now stands as not just a pariah among nations but criminal actors who have shattered the most basic principles of international law and the Law of War. In that context, it is difficult to raise questions about the response of Ukraine, which is facing annihilation at the hands of a tyrant. However, Ukraine is reportedly showing videotapes of Russian POWs. While it pales in comparison to what is being done by the Russians, the practice may violate Article 13 of the Geneva Conventions. Despite my strong and ongoing support for Ukraine in this struggle, it is important to flag such potential violations when they occur. It also has bearing on the media in using such images.

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Is Russia’s “Meat Grinder” Multiplying War Crimes?

Vladimir Putin may be the greatest proof of John Steinbeck’s claim that “war is a symptom of man’s failure as a thinking animal.” For most of us, there seems no plausible endgame for Putin in his invasion of Ukraine other than death and destruction for both countries. Putin seems to be thinking in a different century but using this century’s weapons.

For criminals, there is often a calculus of risk that is done in looking at the costs and penalties of a crimes. The same is true for most war criminals and Putin is clearly now in that class of criminals. There is mounting evidence of war crimes, particularly in attacks on civilian areas.

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As Madness Reigns in Russia, a Voice of Wisdom From Kenya

Russia is now unleashing its massive military assault on Ukraine and shattering every international norm in the process. Putin himself has shocked the world with his authoritarian actions and rhetoric. We are watching the blind rage of megalomania played out on a world stage. The only voice that seems to resonate in this madness is that of Putin himself. There has, however, been one voice that seemed to embody the best of our international and law values. It is the voice of Kenyan U.N. Ambassador Martin Kimani. While many of you have likely heard parts of his incredible address, I thought that this would be an important time to hear his remarks, which include criticism of all of the world powers.

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Canadian Parliament Votes To Extend Trudeau’s Emergency Powers . . . After the Protest Has Ended

By a vote of 185 to 151, the Canadian Parliament voted to approve Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s motion to invoke the Emergencies Act. The vote is chilling given the fact that the protest has ended and the roads have been cleared. Nevertheless, the Trudeau government still wants to wield the excessive and unnecessary powers claimed under the Act. The vote shows how easily many drift into more and more draconian measures against their political opponents.

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Public Health Scotland Stops Releasing Covid Data to Protect The Public From Reaching Bad Conclusions

Public Health Scotland (PHS) is upset that critics are using its data to oppose Covid mandates and policies.  PHS believes that the anti-vaxxers are seizing on the data to undermine its case for continued mandates. One official is quoted as saying that “[t]he case rates, hospitalization rates, the death rates are very simple statistics” and critics are misreading the data “inappropriately and sometimes willfully.” The solution? PHS will reportedly stop sharing the data with the public. It appears that it is not enough for companies like Twitter to ban critics from social media. Now, citizens will be protected not just from opposing views but information that will only confuse them. Continue reading “Public Health Scotland Stops Releasing Covid Data to Protect The Public From Reaching Bad Conclusions”

Oh Canada: Trudeau’s Government Condemns Cuba Over Free Speech As Canada Cracks Down on Free Speech

The Trudeau government went public this week with a condemnation of Cuba over its lack of free speech protections as the government deployed unprecedented powers to crackdown on Canadian truckers and their supporters. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has invoked the 1988 Emergencies Act for the first time to freeze accounts of truckers and contributions by other Canadian citizens. It was entirely unnecessary and, while the media is largely supportive of Trudeau, the powers have been condemned by civil liberties groups in Canada. Continue reading “Oh Canada: Trudeau’s Government Condemns Cuba Over Free Speech As Canada Cracks Down on Free Speech”

Finish MP Criminally Charged After Quoting Bible in Opposition to LGBT Event

Finland may be viewed as “the happiest place to live” but not if you value free speech. A major free speech case is brewing in the country after Member of Parliament (and former Interior Minister) Päivi Räsänen was criminally charged after tweeting a quotation from the Bible in opposition to her church’s sponsorship of an LGBT pride event. Räsänen, 61, is reportedly facing up to two years in prison for exercising her rights of free speech and freedom of religion.

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Trudeau’s Trucker Terrorists: Why the Emergency Powers Endanger the Rights of All Groups From Truckers to Marchers

For the first time in history, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau invoked the Emergencies Act to crackdown on what he has described as an attack on democracy itself in Canada. While civil libertarians in Canada have condemned the move as threatening core free speech and associational rights in the country, the American media and legal commentators have largely supported Trudeau in the use of these extreme measures. Indeed, I triggered a tsunami of criticism in stating that Canada could have used such powers to cut off donations for the Civil Rights Movement and arrest Martin Luther King today for such protests. This was due to the distortion of my comments on MLK being arrested (as opposed to being subject to arrest under this law). However, there was also an objection that there is no equivalency between the truckers and the Civil Rights Movement. Again, that is not the point of the reference:  the comparison was to the type of civil disobedience used in protests. The concern is that the Canadian government could declare such an emergency to crackdown on any group engaging in civil disobedience through blockades or occupation protests. It could even happen to Dr. King today if marchers sought to repeat historic marches in Canada. Without meaningful limits under the law, they could also be unilaterally declared threats to Canadian “sovereignty, security and territorial integrity” by Trudeau for acts of civil disobedience.

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Res ipsa loquitur – The thing itself speaks