The BBC reports that the United States has imposed sanct
ions on key Iranian officials for human rights abuses dating from the crackdown on anti-government protesters in the summer of 2009. The sanctions consist of travel bans and asset freezes. As far as diplomatic tools go, sanctions like these –small, targeted ones- are mostly symbolic in nature and morally uncontroversial. They will at least inconvenience the miscreants in question a little, and likely will not hurt any innocents.
But the same cannot be said of sanctions in general as diplomatic tools. Without so much as a shot fired, economic sanctions can be just as
destructive as wars and just as capable of harming the innocent. More than that, they rarely accomplish policy goals in their own right, although they might make some goals easier to attain in at least the short run.
When we discuss sanctions of the kind that target whole nations, we are really weighing the morality of collective punishment against the desirability
of certain policy goals. Maybe the price will be worth it. Maybe not.
Image by Flickr user ajagendorf25 used under a Creative Commons Attribution License
What to do when parents don’t want their children exposed to certain material?
Charles’cheap viagra//www.thepublicphilosopher.com/2010/09/28/the-loss-of-innocence-is-more-than-a-literary-trope/”> post yesterday raised some critical questions as to when “parents should have the power to ban school texts.” While there are obviously difficult cases, I think most people would balk at the idea of pulling Catcher in the Rye or The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn off of the shelves of school libraries. But, what about parents who don’t want the book removed from the library or classroom altogether, but instead simply object to their child having to read the work as part of a class assignment? How far should schools go to accommodate the wishes of the parents of individual students? Read more
Does it matter that many don’t understand their own religion?
A recent Pew poll reveals that Americans have a serious lack of knowledge regarding religion. Knowledge of Buddhism could be categorized with the location of Iraq on a map as knowledge that would be nice for the public to have; what seems disturbing is that many don’t understand quite basic tenants of their own religions.
Most shocking to me: “Forty-five percent of Catholics did not know that their church teaches that the consecrated bread and wine in holy communion are not merely symbols, but actually become the body and blood of Christ.” My memory of Catholic school was that this is an incredibly central tenet of Catholicism, at the very core of the religion, and one of the key theological beliefs distinguishing Catholicism from much of Protestantism.
Should we care?
In response to debates over public school library blacklists, the BBC Spam Bully
>poses the question, “should parents have the power to ban school texts?” The complaints the BBC article addresses are mostly about children’s exposure to sexuality. Some of the books in question are literary classics, though most are staples of pop culture like the Twilight series.
Who is responsible for the development of children, moral and otherwise? A short list of candidates would include parents and community organizations alongside schools. Parents have a great deal of latitude over their children, and can usually choose what activities in the community they engage in. But only the relatively privileged can choose what schools to send their children to, and when questions of sex and morality are concerned there is rarely consensus in the school boards. Someone is bound to be offended.
But in some ways the debate over public school blacklists misses the point. The fact remains that public school libraries are only one of many different ways for children to access information. By hook or by crook children will whet their curiosities. Concerned parents must surely acknowledge the existence of libraries outside of school, cialis no prescription bookstores, and the internet.
The issue of public school library blacklists is only a distraction from the more general question of how children should be raised, and whether any one set of preferences should ever prevail against the wishes of some.
Image from Flickr user Robert Dumas used under a Creative Commons Attribution License
The rise of China and America’s military responsibility
ce in The Atlantic reports on a joint US/Japan rehearsal to defend Japan from a possible Chinese invasion. According to the article, while there is no immediate threat of any Chinese invasion, there is no doubt that China is a rising power that one day will challenge American supremacy.
The question isn’t will China rise, it’s what happens when it does. If we simply let current trends continue, it’s entirely foreseeable that China could cajole, persuade, or bully the rest of East Asia under its influence. The U.S. can handle Chinese competition, but a unified East Asia could undermine the U.S. in any number of ways. […] Another risk of inaction could be regional war. As China expresses more dominance over its neighbors, if regional diplomatic institutions remain too weak to ensure peaceful conflict resolution, it’s possible that China could come to blows with states such as Thailand or, yes, Japan.
This is an argument for a more aggressive foreign policy in an era when many are calling for cuts to the defense budget and dismantling of the American “empire.”
Moral arguments for scaling back American power overseas tend to rely a “live and let live” type of analogy. It is arrogant and often disastrous for Americans to impose our will upon disparate nations and peoples, some might contend – let each family live according to their own rules without the fear of the American fist.
There is certainly some truth to this argument, but I think it is overly simplistic. Even if America withholds its own power, nations may still fear the power of other militaries, or perhaps equally important, individual persons may fear the power of their own governments. Read more
Sexual taboos lead the way to hypocrisy and tragedy
CNN reports that Bishop Eddie Long, Baptist church leader and staunch opponent of gay marriage, will defend himself from allegations of sexual assault on younger men. If the allegations prove true, then Bishop Long’s case will be the latest in a succession of gay sex scandals involving publicly anti-gay crusaders.
Of course, people who bill themselves as defenders of traditional sexual mores and values do not have any exclusive claim to scandalous sexual misconduct (although it is possible they have a slight edge). But when scandals involving those who profess such beliefs do arise, what really distinguishes their cases is less the severity of the transgressions and more the depths of their hypocrisy. They rightfully attract condemnation, for sexual hypocrisy, more than other kinds, ruins lives.
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What’s the harm?
David Streitfeld at the NYT reports that Library Systems & Services (LSSSI), a for-profit corporation, has contracted to run the public libraries of numerous municipalities. Their reach is expanding rapidly, Streitfeld reports, and in terms of number of branches, they rank right behind Los Angeles, New York, and Chicago.
This raises interesting questions about the proper role of the free market in delivering what are perceived as social necessities, either to the healthy functioning of a democratic system as a whole or to individuals operating within such a society. If we assume that free public libraries are such a neccesity, I don’t see much cause for concern.
The online viagra general worries with privatizing public goods are (a) that certain people will be priced out, (b) that all people will be forced to pay more in general or to pay “too much,” (c) that some goods are so important that no one should have to pay at all (this is a ridiculous argument, since the goods have to come from somewhere, and someone is paying for them, probably through taxes), (d) that, whereas governments don’t usually go out of business (and can deliver goods at a loss), companies do all the time, which would threaten the delivery of the good in question, and (e) that companies working from profit-maximizing motives won’t deliver the good as well, generously, or graciously as a government working with the public welfare in mind.
Sunday, September 19 – Friday, September 24