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Slant 11-19-2015

• As news of the Islamic State’s attack on Paris began to trickle in on Nov. 13, we reacted with shock and horror — at least 129 killed, several hundred more injured and collateral damage to the thousands of Syrian refugees who are trying to flee the violence in their own country. In a whirlwind of collective stupidity, governors across the U.S. are taking a stand against Syrian refugees coming to their states. Under U.S. law, a governor can’t ban refugees, so many of those state leaders are simply taking a stand for political reasons. Gov. Kate Brown has moved from a weak “no comment” this week to her later statement that Oregon is open to those who need respite. Are we afraid of Syrians because we truly think thousands of innocent people are actually terrorists? Or are some governors taking this foolish anti-immigrant stand for a reason similar to why so many of us didn’t react strongly to the recent massacres in Beirut and Bagdad and, further back, Kenya? We fear and lack sympathy for those who we can’t relate to because they are “not like us.” Ironically, the best way to get over xenophobia is to get to know those “foreigners.” So let’s welcome them, should any choose to come to the Northwest.

• The brutal attacks in Paris and elsewhere affect all of us and UO graduate music student Tony Glausi has written and produced a thoughtful and moving video in an effort to “bring hope to the many broken hearts and wounded souls that are suffering today.” Find the video with his music on our blog this week, eugeneweekly.com/blog/there-always-hope.

Advocates for MUPTE and other tax breaks for developers keep trotting out the old talking point that tax incentives are the reason downtown Eugene is reviving, but it’s not that simple. MUPTE backers tend to ignore the many commercial projects that have been built and are being built without tax breaks (note the new Hilton suites and Whole Foods going up downtown). They also avoid talking about the hidden costs to taxpayers of providing ongoing services to MUPTE projects, and how Oregon’s economic recovery has helped downtown as much, if not more, than the giveaways. And there are issues of fairness and equity: The Hub and Capstone projects are competing with established student housing that is not subsidized. 

• What exactly is a “flagship” university? We’ve been conducting a straw poll and nobody seems to know what that means except that UO administrators constantly say it and the media prints it. One administrator said it was an academic category. Sounds snooty and elitist to us and probably also to important parts of this state in Corvallis and Portland. Lower the flag, please. The UO doesn’t need it.

• Harvard Law professor Charles Ogletree spoke on the UO campus Nov. 12 and his subject was “Black Lives Matter: Race and Justice Across America,” but he talked mostly about his ascent from a poor black family to Stanford, then to Harvard Law as a student and professor, and finally to his success as one of the most influential black Americans. It’s an inspiring story. We hope he also is speaking these days to students who are protesting on campuses across the country against “cultural appropriation,” suggesting that they move on to protest police violence against people of color, harsh economic inequality in America, educational racism, loss of voting rights — a long list. We need Ogletree and college students making sure those issues matter to the American people.

• The Obama State Department’s nixing of the Keystone Pipeline is off the front pages and we recognize that the action was mostly symbolic — nasty tar sands oil still has many ways to get to refineries through our existing infrastructure of pipelines, railroads and truck routes. But the symbolism is powerful, particularly in light of the upcoming climate summit in Paris. As far as we can tell, Obama is the first head of state to thwart a major fossil fuel project because of the climate crisis. Will other world leaders follow?