On Memorial Day, time for another game plan

Juan Cole posted that, “Memorial Day, in my view, should be a time of reflection not only on the sacrifices made for the nation in war but on whether our wars are necessary and whether they are being fought in the right way.” And he criticized the war in Afghanistan (as well as the war in Iraq, while maintaining his endorsement of the war in Libya),[1] writing,

The protests in Lashkar Gah, Helmand Province, Afghanistan, against yet another alleged killing of 14 women and children in an airstrike that went awry, reminds us that the big counter-insurgency effort in that country still has not produced social peace, still has not yielded a government capable of taking over security duties. NATO has had to issue an apology. If Afghan police and soldiers could project authority and force in local areas, air strikes would be unnecessary. And after nearly 10 years since the overthrow of the Taliban, it is legitimate to ask when and how exactly local troops can be expected to take up this slack?[2]

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  1. [1]Juan Cole, “Time to Begin Leaving Afghanistan,” Informed Comment, May 30, 2011, http://www.juancole.com/2011/05/time-to-begin-leaving-afghanistan.html
  2. [2]Cole, “Time to Begin Leaving Afghanistan.”

Why Palin might win

I’m guessing Barack Obama feels pretty good about his re-election prospects about now. While his poll numbers are not great—Gallup says 46 percent of U.S. adults approve of his performance and 45 percent disapprove[1]—judging by reaction to the possibility, however remote, that Texas Governor Rick Perry, who last gained national attention by threatening to secede from the Union, might run, it would seem the Republican field is in considerable disarray.[2]

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  1. [1]Gallup, “Obama Job Approval,” May 26, 2011,
  2. [2]Chris Cillizza, “Will Rick Perry run for president in 2012?” Washington Post, May 23, 2011, http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-fix/post/will-rick-perry-run-for-president-in-2012/2011/05/23/AF4CRz9G_blog.html

Park Police assault dancers at Jefferson Memorial

Those who believe that the system can reform itself might have been justified in dismissing Ari Fleischer’s chilling remarks that, “There are reminders to all Americans that they need to watch what they say, watch what they do” as the expression of a single person in a single presidential administration in response to provocative remarks that were decidedly out of tune with the mood of the times.[1] They might even be justified in remaining silent as the travesty known as the PATRIOT Act has been extended for yet another four years, a matter judged to be of such urgency by the succeeding administration that Barack Obama employed an autopen to sign it into law by remote control from Europe to prevent it from expiring even for the few hours it would have taken to fly the physical paperwork across the Atlantic,[2] possibly because no other response is acceptable inside the Beltway.

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  1. [1]Terence Smith, “Limits of Dissent,” Online NewsHour, PBS, October 16, 2011, http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/media/july-dec01/dissent_10-16.html
  2. [2]Michael D. Shear, “Making Legislative History, With Nod From Obama and Stroke of an Autopen,” New York Times, May 28, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/28/us/politics/28sign.html

Plagiarism, selectively condemned

In my academic career, plagiarism has been the big no-no. As a student, the sanctions are severe: professors will almost certainly fail—without any further consideration of its merits—any paper they catch which replicates the ideas or the words of another author without attribution, they may fail the student for the class, and they may report the student for academic discipline, which can lead to expulsion. Even where I thought of things on my own, if I could possibly attribute them to others, I did, because, as I pretty quickly figured out, no one would ever mark me down for “standing on the shoulders of others,” as long as I cited them.

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On the supposed moral superiority of killing an animal yourself

It seems Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has taken on a personal challenge of eating mostly vegetarian and only meat from animals he personally kills.[1] This is supposed to be an improvement. As Zuckerberg puts it,

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  1. [1]Patricia Sellers, “Mark Zuckerberg’s new challenge: Eating only what he kills (and yes, we do mean literally…),” CNNMoney, May 26, 2011, http://postcards.blogs.fortune.cnn.com/2011/05/26/mark-zuckerbergs-new-challenge-eating-only-what-he-kills/

Silence of the Lambs, fleeced and led to slaughter

It has been a revealing week for hierarchy. Rebecca Solnit treats International Monetary Fund head Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s alleged sexual assault of a hotel maid as a metaphor for the IMF’s treatment of developing nations, tragic for the maid and the countries, but with benefits for Strauss-Kahn and the wealthy whose attitude she sums up brilliantly when she writes,

Her name was Asia. His was Europe. Her name was silence. His was power. Her name was poverty. His was wealth. Her name was Her, but what was hers? His name was His, and he presumed everything was his, including her, and he thought he could take her without asking and without consequences.[1]

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  1. [1]Rebecca Solnit, “Worlds Collide in a Luxury Suite,” TomDispatch, May 22, 2011, http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/175395/tomgram%3A_rebecca_solnit%2C_when_ins

Driving in a cab driver’s seat for a hundred miles

Apparently the writers of an editorial in the San Francisco Chronicle feel taxi riders are getting a raw deal in a recently approved fare increase, the first in about seven years, even with sky-high gasoline costs, because cabs are still so hard to get.[1] These complaints are nothing new. But just as those who criticize others should “try walking a mile in the other guy’s shoes,” the publishers of the Chronicle should try driving a hundred miles in a cab driver’s seat.

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  1. [1]San Francisco Chronicle, “Riders get nothing for S.F. taxi fare hike,” SFGate.com, May 19, 2011, http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2011/05/19/EDQ31JHPOU.DTL

Power, patriarchy, and hubris

It is hard to imagine—and I am assuming that a hotel maid’s sexual assault allegations against International Monetary Fund head Dominique Strauss-Kahn are true—a better example to support an analysis of rape as an expression of patriarchy. A very powerful white man assaults a very vulnerable woman of color and, faced with hospital tests confirming at least some of the victim’s story, claims any act that may have occurred was consensual.[1]

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  1. [1]Laura Italiano, Jamie Schram, and Kate Sheehy, “IMF chief claims consent in hotel ‘attack’, New York Post, May 17, 2011, http://www.nypost.com/p/news/local/manhattan/seduced_and_she_said_oui_oui_Oj0Z4K8iFIheZa4gvTBUWN

An end never to be achieved and never to be abandoned.

It took longer than usual for me to be excused from jury duty this week—so long in fact that I thought I might actually have to serve.

The judicial system’s love of law—even at the expense of justice—is really quite an amazing thing to behold. But if law could ever be adequate, they could put a computer in the jury box and send the jurors home. They might use a random number generator for a bit of whimsy. The fact of our presence there is acknowledgment that law is at best a distortion and all too frequently a perversion of the social agreements humans need to coexist.

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