Terror and religion
Re "America's loyalty dance," Opinion, March 7
When I teach the very controversial subject matter of religion and violence to my UCLA students, I urge them to "analyze, not moralize." How I wish Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) had enrolled in my course.
He would learn that perceived persecution increases any group's extremism, as it did with 19th century Mormons. He would also learn that the first and most frequent victims of religious extremists are their fellow believers.
Finally, he would learn that singling out one religious minority risks stigmatizing the entire group and producing a backlash of young members who seek to "save" their people by becoming misguided "heroes." Such behavior is documented among any religious minority.
If we really want to reduce incidents of holy terror, we might begin by studying previous cases that have occurred in Christianity, Judaism and Hinduism, and noting what all terrorist movements have in common.
Jean E. Rosenfeld
King says that his hearings interrogating American Muslims will be honest and fair. That might be difficult since the hearings themselves are dishonest and unfair.
Ralph S. Brax
Careful on a no-fly zone
Re "U.S. walks thin line on Libya," March 9
A no-fly zone sounds like a peaceful, police-type action, but it is really military intervention.
We would have to put our fighter planes in the air over Libya and start shooting down enemy planes. We would effectively commit ourselves to helping establish a replacement government.
That would be complicated and very expensive, if Iraq is any guide. Right now, the Libyan rebels are a loosely knit bunch with no single leader. After setting them free, we would likely find conflicting factions, and it would be our job to get them to work together.
We should be a friendly bystander, ready to help with food, medical supplies and guidance, but not with jets or other shows of force.
What is it with Republicans like Sen. John McCain who say we are so broke that we need to cut spending on domestic services that actually help American taxpayers, but always find the money for military interventions that help other countries?
Ashcroft's legal liabilities
Re "Don't shield Ashcroft," Editorial, March 5
The mantra from Justice Department lawyers and pro-government judges, who "worry" that allowing former Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft and other Bush administration officials to be sued would "discourage other officials from remaining in public service because of the risk of damage awards," is appalling in a country that claims to stand for the rule of law.
No official, past, present or future, need fear public service because of the risk of getting sued, so long as they don't break the law and violate their public trust. But if they do, the American people have every right to expect that the full force of civil and criminal law will be used to hold them accountable.
I believe that Ashcroft should not be held accountable for the mistreatment of Abdullah Kidd.
Government officials should not be punished for doing their job and, in my opinion, doing it well. Ashcroft's decision to imprison a "suspected terrorist" was a decision made with the best interests of his country in mind, especially in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. Ultimately, national security takes obvious precedence over one individual's liberty.
Ashcroft should be shielded by the American government for doing his job correctly and detaining a suspected terrorist.
Being connected is being human
Re "The inhuman side of today's technology," March 5
The problem with Sherry Turkle's argument that we need to disconnect from Twitter and Facebook to sustain the capacity "for the solitude that refreshes and restores" is that the vast majority of human beings, past and present, haven't enjoyed such solitude. Only the very wealthy and those benefiting from industrialization have had rooms and time to themselves.
It's far more plausible to consider the dense web of messages that Twitter and Facebook users occupy as a digital approximation of life in an extended family or a village, where you're never alone and everyone knows almost everything about you. That kind of life is far more typical of human existence than any kind of solitude.
It can easily be argued that Apple Chief Executive Steve Jobs has been one of the most intellectually corruptive agents in this country.
Each of his digital "advances" has operated to effectively sub-speciate us, dumbing us down by channeling what might otherwise be the higher-order thinking and learning inherent in our uniquely human deliberative capability into, instead, "entertainment" and "being on stage." We are an overpopulated nation of ignorant, arrogant and inept people. The worst is yet to come.
The many faces of Mitt Romney
Re "Romney again reinvents himself," March 5