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Since Those who abhor the burden of taking a clear stance on issues of importance are often fond of the "agnostic's fallacy." The fallacy goes like this: Two options are both technically possible; therefore, they are equally probable and no distinction can be made between them. So we get the agnostic, who thinks the existence and nonexistence of the supernatural are equally probable despite the absence of evidence for the former.
Foreign policy discussions always seem to be framed in the same way: On one side, the faction of greater American involvement in some region and, on the other, the faction of pulling back or ?avoiding entanglement.In fact, though, this is completely illusory. The choice of non-involvement in humanitarian matters is no longer before the United States and hasn't been for years. As hegemon, the U.S. is the world's policeman - that is the nature of its position. And who would wish it otherwise? The point of amassing such power is to use it for good.
As if to dash any hope that the state of education might improve in the new decade, NewSouth Books announced recently that it will release a new edition of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn with the word nigger and other "hurtful epithets" replaced with "less offensive words." The reason for this change, they say, is that many school districts today refuse to teach the novel due to parent complaints.What's troubling about this decision isn't just the desecration of a great work or the fact that complaints from illiterate parents can get great books banned in schools, but that any person of even modest education can still bring himself to behave as if there were such a thing as race at all.
As if it weren't obvious already just how far behind the United States the Third World lags in respect for individual rights, two recent events should make it clear.Earlier this month, a Pakistani woman was sentenced to death for blasphemy after neighbors accused her of defaming Muhammad in a dispute over water. Shortly thereafter, a Chinese woman was sentenced to a year of re-education and labor for "disrupting social order" after she mocked anti-Japan protesters on Twitter.
Alas, it seems the campaign for marijuana legalization will not be moving forward in 2010 after all. California's Proposition 19 - the proposal to legalize recreational marijuana use for those over 21 - was defeated on Tuesday, dashing the hopes of those who sought to use it as a platform to challenge bans elsewhere. It seems very likely that a majority of students support legalization. If you count yourself among this group, give yourself a pat on the back - you've reached the correct conclusion.But as in all matters, how you arrive at the correct conclusion is just as important as the fact that you arrive at the correct conclusion. Considering this, the pro-legalization crowd has been woefully inept. The legalization arguments have become largely predictable, but none of them offer a compelling reason to justify legalization and all of them foolishly concede far too much to those who favor prohibition - and in doing so, make the job of the prohibitionists that much easier. On Prop 19, as has so often been the case, proponents of legalization were their own worst enemies.
Two police agencies in Florida recently announced that they've billed Pastor Terry Jones a total of $180,000 for police security related to his abandoned plan to burn copies of the Qur'an on Sept. 11. The reaction to this news has been alarmingly tepid at best and borderline sadistic at worst. A post on New York Magazine's Daily Intel blog, for instance, offered this take: "Seems kind of strange and unfair for Jones to be charged for that ... but who cares, the guy's a jerk."There's something very ugly about the fact that the police are treating this man as if he were not entitled to expect them to do their jobs simply because he had the gall to draw attention to himself and his unpopular views. The barely concealed message is as clear as it is chilling: Your right to free expression is protected, and if people try to harm you as a result, the police will do their jobs and keep you safe - that is, unless they don't like what you have to say, in which case you'll get a fat bill and some indignation for making them do their jobs.
As the reasons given for opposing the planned Cordoba House mosque in New York City have become increasingly incoherent and shrill, the one consistent appeal has been to the pain which the mosque's location will allegedly cause the relatives of those killed in the 9/11 attacks. Indeed, even if they've agreed on nothing else, supporters and opponents of the mosque seem to have agreed on the importance of taking the views and feelings of those relatives into consideration. To take just one example from the supporters' side, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach calls on the mosque's developer to poll victims' relatives for their views because he says theirs is the opinion that really matters. He also said of the former World Trade Center that it is utterly inappropriate to build anything on that cemetery without the consent of the families. But why should so-called 9/11 families be entitled to any special consideration on this or any other issue? Why do people flinch when "9/11 families" are invoked and go to such lengths to show that they are indeed taking these families' feelings into account? The death of a family member is neither a credential nor a qualification and losing a family member in a terrorist attack no more qualifies one to comment on the building of a mosque than losing a family member to cancer qualifies one to practice oncology - or worse, to tell others where they can and can't practice oncology. Inherent in this undue deference is the suggestion that what matters is not the content of an opinion, but rather the person offering the opinion. What sentiment could be more troubling? Those who demand deference to their opinions based on who they are rather than what they've said do not deserve it, and those who would offer them that deference do not deserve to be taken seriously.