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The lines most cited in Barack Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize speech were those about evil: “Evil does exist in the world. A non-violent movement could not have halted Hitler’s armies. Negotiations cannot convince Al Qaeda’s leaders to lay down their arms. To say that force may sometimes be necessary is not a call to cynicism–it is a recognition of history, the imperfections of man and the limits of reason.” These lines won approbation from both liberals and conservatives. Former Clinton aide Bill Galston praised them as an example of “Obama’s moral realism.” According to neoconservative Bob Kagan Obama didn’t “shy away from the Manichaean distinctions that drive self-described realists (and Europeans) crazy.” . . . I am not a self-described realist, and I am a Chicagoan by birth, yet I don’t care for these lines. While I don’t object to the idea of just war, and have supported the various wars that Obama cited in his speech, and wouldn’t balk at calling Al Qaeda or Hitler evil, I think Obama ventured onto dangerous terrain by invoking the existence of evil as a justification for war. That kind of argument suggests neither moral realism nor prudent idealism, but the crusade-like, messianic foreign policy–pitting good against evil–that got the country into so much trouble during the last administration. –“Speak No Evil: The problem with Obama’s much-lauded Nobel speech,” John B. Budis, The New Republic
Geopolitical rotisserie leagues–isn’t this how WarGames got started? Admittedly, it’s no “global thermonuclear war” or even tic-tac-toe,
but it still seems wrong. Like predicting the next Ron Paul,
or acting as an apologist for President Obama’s lamentable foreign policy…
From an early age, I have missed the point of things. I noticed this first when the entire class at school seemed to understand that Animal Farm was about something other than animals. I alone sat there believing otherwise. I simply couldn’t see who or what the book was about if not about farm animals. I had enjoyed it for that. Now, the teacher and every other boy seemed to think it was really about Stalin or Communism or something. I looked at it again, but I still couldn’t quite work it out….And allegory. I never got the point of allegory. If it was a choice between algebra and allegory, I knew whose side I was on. When I picked up Moby-Dick, I liked it because it was about hunting whales. And oh dear I just couldn’t concentrate when everyone began to explain, all at the one time, that the whale was a symbol or something, that it stood for… I cannot remember what. –“Missing the Point,” Colm Toibin, London Review of Books
How business school destroyed the American Dream;
related: drunk four-year-old wanders neighborhood with stolen Xmas gifts;
says mother: “He runs away trying to find his father. He wants to get in trouble so he can go to jail because that’s where his daddy is”;
also related: Howard Dean would vote no on healthcare reform, if Howard Dean could vote
Jon Stewart, host of the satirical programme The Daily Show, recently poked fun at a similar suggestion from a congressman that the web was freeing the peoples of Iraq, Afghanistan and Iran: “What, we could have liberated them over the internet? Why did we send an army when we could do it the same way we buy shoes?” Unfortunately, critical voices like his are rare. The majority of the media, so cranky when reporting the internet’s impact on their industry, keep producing tear-jerking examples of the marriage of political protest and social media. And what a list it is: Burmese monks defying an evil junta with digital cameras; Filipino teenagers using SMS to create a “textual revolution;” Egyptian activists using encryption to hide from the all-seeing-eye of the Mukhabarat; even Brazilian ecologists using Google maps to show deforestation in the Amazon delta. And did I mention Moldova, China and Iran? These cyber-dissidents, we are told, now take their struggles online, swapping leaflets for Twitter updates and ditching fax machines for iPhones. –“How Dictators Watch Us On the Web,” Evgeny Morozov, Prospect
No gatecrasher jokes, please, because it’s not funny, it’s just not: Arbeit macht frei sign stolen from Auschwitz;
but this kinda is: Vietnamese submariners plying the Pacific in last-generation Russian u-boats;
woman crossing the ocean in a rowboat likely has nothing to fear
I recently spent a semester teaching writing at an elite liberal-arts college. At strategic points around the campus, in shades of yellow and green, banners displayed the following pair of texts. The first was attributed to the college’s founder, which dates it to the 1920s. The second was extracted from the latest version of the institution’s mission statement:
The paramount obligation of a college is to develop in its students the ability to think clearly and independently, and the ability to live confidently, courageously, and hopefully.
Let us take a moment to compare these texts. The first thing to observe about the older one is that it is a sentence. It expresses an idea by placing concepts in relation to one another within the kind of structure that we call a syntax. It is, moreover, highly wrought: a parallel structure underscored by repetition, five adverbs balanced two against three.
Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:
An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.
A naked man believed to be under the influence of LSD rammed his pickup truck into two police cars.
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“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”