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Is War the Answer?

The protest slogan goes, “War is not the answer.” That’s direct enough, but what is it that war is or is not the answer to? Is war ever the answer? Book after book has been written to examine the latter question. I will keep my scope narrower: are the ways in which we’re currently using war actually solving problems? There is a component of American national mythology surrounding the notion of a “just war.

The Roots of American Dysfunction

As a rule, systems fascinate me. Technical systems, political systems, cultural systems–you name it. The country in which I live–the United States–makes for a particularly puzzling, sometimes aggravating system. In this case, “dysfunction” doesn’t mean the system is bad, but it does point to a system that is not functioning as well as it could. To discuss the American system–by which I mean its interlocking social, political, economic, and religious components–requires some history.

Drug Pricing Mayhem

By this point you have likely heard of Martin Shkreli, the entrepreneur who thought he could make a killing by buying the rights to an anti-parasite drug and jacking the price up 5000%. While he eventually relented and promised to lower the price, the PR damage had been done: he and his company, Turing Pharmaceuticals, became pariahs overnight. A little outrage feels good now and then, of course, but it’s important to realize that this was not an isolated case, nor is drug pricing in the US carried out in a sensible fashion.

Working: Then and Now

In the early 1970s, writer and broadcaster Studs Terkel interviewed dozens of working people in America. The result was Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do. The book is a classic of modern history, providing narrative snapshots of working life that are hard to resist. Having just finished reading through this tome, I thought it would be interesting to put down some general reflections on the stories people told in that era, and talk a little about what has changed, and what hasn’t.

White Supremacy: What Can't Be Unseen

For most white Americans, the term “white supremacy” brings to mind the Ku Klux Klan, slavery, lynching, maybe Nazis, folks using the n-word as a slur, and other obvious displays of racism. We may be less inclined to see white supremacy in a welfare office, or in legislators drafting a new bill, or a family choosing where to buy their new home. Nevertheless, white supremacy manifests in these activities, as well–not to mention many more.

The Student Loan Scam

Full disclosure: I am currently paying federal student loans that I obtained while in college. I never finished college and it was never a huge amount (about $6000), nor do I expect any kind of reform to ever benefit me, but it would be unfair to say I’m a completely disinterested party. That said, student loans are big business in the United States. The federal government makes over $40 billion in profits on student loans annually, to say nothing of what private firms make.

Assassination as Foreign Policy

The Intercept has a new series on drone warfare out now, called The Drone Papers. I’ll share some of the highlights from the first installment, to the extent something so grim can have “highlights.” From The Assassination Complex: While every president since Gerald Ford has upheld an executive order banning assassinations by U.S. personnel, Congress has avoided legislating the issue or even [defining]( the word “assassination.” This has allowed proponents of the drone wars to rebrand assassinations with more palatable characterizations, such as the term du jour, “targeted killings.

When Anti-Rape Rhetoric Aids Misogyny

Although a few years old, today I came across this piece by Charlotte Shane in _The New Inquiry._ I highly recommend reading it, but be forewarned that it contains frank and rather graphic descriptions of rape. I will avoid graphic details here, but this will be an exploration of the points she raised. This is no doubt a difficult topic for many people. Shane takes issue with this popular narrative about rape: