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Readers Write (April 22): Characterizing Islam, judging leadership, rating professors, deciding on marijuana

  • April 21, 2014 - 6:17 PM

CHARACTERIZING ISLAM

False equivalencies, not that editors would know

The April 19 Letters of the Day (“If ‘blasphemy’ is the crime, the coverage ought to be critical”) indicate that the Star Tribune’s opinion page staff has yet to understand the concept of false equivalency. How disappointing.

The first of the two letters starts well, then veers off into equating any consideration of Amineh Safi’s use of the term “blasphemy” in her analysis of media coverage of Islam as being “creeping sharia law” thinking. Concern about serious disrespect — which the letter writer identifies — is not the equivalent of sharia law.

Worse is the second letter writer’s assertion that because some terrorists call on God during their attacks that we must continue to identify the terrorists’ religion. The Star Tribune’s own recent coverage shows that it is totally unnecessary to name the religion of a miscreant. For example, nowhere in the lengthy article on Victor Barnard is the Way International or Barnard’s Shepherd’s Camp referred to as “Christian.” There was simply no need to equate Barnard’s distortions as being a necessary outcome of the Christian faith.

Charles Curry, Apple Valley

 

WAR ACTIONS

Jail for leaders’ choices? That’d be a mistake

On April 17, the Star Tribune Editorial Board supported the appearance of Condoleezza Rice at the University of Minnesota. An April 18 letter writer then accuses the paper of promulgating “the mother of all false equivalencies” for suggesting what are fair comparisons between George W. Bush (and Rice) getting militarily involved in Iraq with President Obama’s use of military attack drones or failing to close Guantanamo. Further, the letter writer seems to question why much of the entire Bush administration (including Rice) is not in jail.

I have noticed that, for some, impersonal killing (via drones) is somehow more palatable than very personal traditional methods of warfare. Is there really a big difference?

There is no room here to go into the facts and circumstances that led our politicians (leaders of both parties) to agree to militarily challenge Saddam Hussein. There was enthusiastic bipartisan congressional approval! We can’t decide here on the merits of the Iraq conflict. But those who would encourage the jailhouse as punishment for a mistake of fact, interpretation or judgment are really encouraging a very scary form of tyranny. That we can decide.

Steve Bakke, Edina

• • •

There is a myth circulating that because the president says he wants to close Guantanamo, he would if he could, but that he can’t because Congress has stopped him. That is not so. The president has the authority right now in existing legislation to achieve that result by transferring detainees out of the facility. Those words were penned last September by Thomas Wilner, counsel of record for Guantanamo detainees in two Supreme Court decisions confirming their right to habeas corpus.

Wade Yarbrough, Apple Valley

 

RATING PROFESSORS

This could help clear up that adjunct pay issue

To the reasons Chuck Chalberg gave for publishing student evaluations of college classes in “Let the (academic) buyer beware” (April 19), I would add this one: Let’s compare the students’ opinions of teaching skills between professors with tenure and the nontenured adjunct teachers who are so poorly paid and so hardworking. Let’s find out whether the shoddy treatment of adjuncts can be justified in any way by their contributions to students’ educations.

The ratings of adjuncts, I expect, will remind us of a TV commercial, paraphrased: “Teaching is all I do, and I do it well.”

Mary McLeod, St. Paul

 

MARIJUANA

Burden of proof ought to run both ways

Gov. Mark Dayton’s commissioner of health, Dr. Ed Ehlinger, says the following about medical marijuana: “There’s lots of anecdotal evidence, but the scientific evidence is not there in terms of prescribing marijuana to patients” (“Medical marijuana bill is back,” April 11).

In other words, anecdotal evidence, even lots of it, doesn’t count as evidence. It’s mere hearsay. OK. We understand that.

However, let’s also understand that marijuana has never been proven beyond anecdote to be harmful to humans or a menace to society. Therefore, parents with epileptic children should not need a prescription from Ehlinger to administer a substance whose efficacy is apparent after just one dose and whose danger was never proven scientifically. Those in government have it both ways. Anecdotal evidence is not good enough to approve an herb with beneficial effects. But anecdotal evidence was plenty good enough to criminalize that herb and send people to prison for using it. Shouldn’t legislators in a just society be just as vigilant as to what becomes a felony as to what becomes an acceptable drug?

Before prison gates slam shut on anyone else’s life for a marijuana offense, lawmakers need to shoulder the burden of proof and demonstrate by the same scientific standards that govern drug approval that marijuana is a dangerous drug whose manufacture, sale and use justify felony charges punishable by prison time and property forfeiture, both of which are prima facie harmful to humans.

Meanwhile, marijuana advocates have nothing to prove. It’s simply time to scrap all archaic 20th-century laws prohibiting marijuana.

David J. Hanson, Minneapolis

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