Plagiarism Needs a Better Definition


There’s this parable that economists always tell.

Your car breaks down and you take it to the mechanic. He opens the hood and looks at your engine for a few seconds. Then he takes out a little hammer and taps it on the top. Suddenly it works again.

‘That’ll be $100,’ he says.
‘But all you did was make a little tap!’ you protest.
‘The tap, that’s $1,’ he says. ‘Knowing where to tap, that’s $99.’

Like everyone else who writes for a living, I’ve been reading the Fareed Zakaria plagiarism allegations with a knot in my stomach.

Here’s what we know so far:

In 2012, Zakaria blatantly yoinked a Jill Lepore (love her!) paragraph in an article he wrote about gun control. He got busted and he apologized.

Dude has written for legit every publication, so his current employer and his alma maters investigated his old work for copy-pastage. They…

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Women vs. the Internet Trolls: A Reading List

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I am the exception, not the rule; I am lucky. The writing I produce garners little to no (negative) attention. When it does, people usually correct my grammar or spelling. This is okay with me, because it’s constructive. To my knowledge, no one has called me ugly, or stupid, or any number of cruel epithets or slurs. This is privilege; I am lucky. But I am scared to put my name to controversial opinions, or to voice my own opinion at all. My tweets are innocuous quips or retweets of people far more articulate than I am. I hide behind other people’s words.

I scan Roxane Gay’s Twitter feed about once a day; she is one of my favorite writers. I don’t want to miss a thing. I know she must be exhausted from engaging with trolls, but she’s logical and courteous. She says, “God bless you” or “Live in the…

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Immigration and America

We will consider using this for Gear Up Civics on November 15.  As we study the impact of citizenship on our daily lives, we must be cognizant of the struggle of those immigrants who hope to become citizens.

kanani mahelona


A few days ago, my longtime friend, Rodolfo Ramirez, became an American citizen. I was honored to be able to travel by train to New Haven, CT to witness his naturalization ceremony, along with his partner, John, and his dear friends, Maria, Gitte, Marge and Roberto. I have witnessed this wonderful, loving and talented man transition over the years from a young and magnetic coworker in Mexico City, to a wizened, mature and passionate teacher and resident of Connecticut, to a lifelong friend and confidant – and full-fledged citizen of the United States, to boot!



The train ride through New England, and the purpose for the journey, awakened the ghosts of the original American patriots who lived, defended and died here. It made me reflective of my own sense of what patriotism feels like, and what role immigration plays in the spirit of national pride.

Upon arrival at the grand, column-flanked…

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Written on August 30, 2010 at 3:32am

 First let me start by saying that I am not sure who this is for or who will even read it for that matter.  But if it did matter, it would defeat the purpose of writing this.

Something doesn’t feel right.  I can’t put my finger on it.  Perhaps it is last minute regrets.   Perhaps it is fear of the impending doom.  Perhaps it is nothing at all!  But it is someTHING.

I know what is not.  It is not paranoia.  It is not fear of commitment.  It is not reluctance to move forward in my life.

I am numb.  The inclination to add an exclaimation point escapes me.  I have lost enthusiasm, and I am not sure if anyone has noticed.  I don’t think I care if ANYone has noticed.  My pride prevents me from wanting anyONE to notice.  But my desire for attention yearns for EVERYone to notice.  My selfishness has gone unattended for quite some time…

…and I wonder what brash thing I must do next to re-ignite my passion.

Where I am now does not nurture lust for the tangible.  It is what I can feel…that I seek.   I want to feel again, but not for the sake of feeling.   Instead, for the sake of being satisfied–for a moment, and then again for longer.  Not a taste of fantasy.  Rather a lasting feeling of fulfillment.

Something is missing, and I can’t figure out what it is.  Physical, emotional, spiritual?  Something is wrong.  No quick fix here.  I don’t want it.  But I don’t know what I want.   But it must be genuine.  I can’t be superficial.

Passive Aggressive

I struggled with trying to understand.  I prayed on it and I recognize that God’s time is not my own.  I recognize that being patient means having faith, but I also recognized that time was running out.  I’ve been observed as being transparent.  I couldn’t make it through a day without someone who cares for me wondering what was wrong.  I looked pensive.  I looked worried.  And I times, I looked sick.  I began having a difficult time focusing.  I could only sleep when I knew all was secure in my home.

Lacking that feeling of security I began to search outside my home (and outside my heart) for answers.  I didn’t know what I was searching for.  I needed answers, but I didn’t even know which questions to ask.  I didn’t know who to ask, or where to look.  Sure I prayed on it.  I prayed for relief.  I prayed for comfort from the rising torment.  I prayed that the weight be lifted from my heart.  But as soon as He lifted the weight, I’d run free.  With barely thanking the Lord fully, I celebrated.  “Free at last,” I’d cry, only to find myself in peril days (if not hours) later.   That feeling of distress was temporary but definitely evident.  My emotions would ebb and flow; but not like that of a personality disorder.  This was NOT the beginning of a debilitating illness.  The Lord would not allow it, and for that I am glad.   No, this was circumstantial.  This was developed through misunderstanding and lack of trust.  THIS was painful and had the potential to cause harm to myself and others if a “cure” was not found.  I embraced those close to me.  They reached out to me to lend their support, but no one was able to ease my pain, nor provide me with the relief that I sought. I needed answers.

What does a person do when they’ve asked the obvious?  When they’ve gone directly to the source and they realize that either the response they’ve received is either incomplete or entirely false.  What does a person do when they dig deeper and investigate on their own and come up dry?  The problem is with investigation.  When we do our own, we have a preconceived notion of what we will find.  We are looking for a specific event, a certain behavior or trend, or evidence of things unseen.  And with a preconceived notion, what we cannot find, we invent.  Clearly invention is not the way to go, but it lends itself to justification and rationalization.  Major distress!

I was exhausted.  I turned to obsessing.  Lost sleep.  Lost opportunities.  Lost time.  New walls were being built and old walls were being guarded.   With each attempt, I grew farther from answering my questions.   Instead, I developed new questions with each inquiry.  Worse yet!  I was getting deeper and deeper invested into something that would yield no positive return.  It had to stop.   “Lord, it has to stop NOW!”

I called upon one last friend– someone who was not close to me (and therefore not inclined to candy coat a response).  Someone who could provide some insight, but be impartial.  And with few words, the response was clear:  Attention.   I was spending so much time looking for the answers, I wasn’t paying attention.   Not paying attention to the problem at hand.  Not paying attention to those involved.  Not giving attention to those who deserved it the most…those who had a NEED.  I put my own need above all.  My need was to solve a problem.

My need caused other problems.  My need…

But I didn’t understand at first.  I was attentive.  I reacted.  I questioned.  I consoled.  I addressed the problems and concerns head on.  I did everything that I was supposed to do.  I did everything that was expected of a man.  Then why did I feel like less of a man?  Cause I didn’t pay attention?  But I did!  I was ultra focused and painfully patient.  Sadly, it wasn’t that I didn’t PAY attention.  I didn’t give enough attention.  Attention was the one thing that was desired more than anything else.  And I didn’t know.

I didn’t know because when I asked, I didn’t get an honest answer.  I got an around-about answer.  You see, when you are assertive and you know what you want, you have expectations that you will get some kind of cooperation.  That’s what we aim for.  Cause and effect.  But when others are non-confrontational (for whatever reason), the dynamics change.  Passive aggressive.  Passive aggressive?   PASSIVE AGGRESSIVE!

I had an epiphany.  I couldn’t make the relationship work because I was involved with someone who was passive aggressive.  I spent so much time with that person that I had convinced myself that to not address an issue head on, or assertively, was simply being polite.  To be non-confrontational was to have good manners.

I recognize now that to beat around the bush is to not get what you want.  Non-confrontational means to not fight.  But aren’t some things worth fighting for?  I can’t think of a single incident in my life where I got what I wanted without directly asking for it.  I struggle to recall anything that I’ve obtained that I wasn’t either specific about needing or that I didn’t earn on my own.  Pride.

This is not about pride, however.  This is about being passive aggressive.  How can we expect to find happiness without being specific about what makes us happy?  How do we obtain success without putting forth effort?  It’s not given!  It’s not just going to appear.  Things happen for a reason, but things don’t just happen.  There are forces in the universe that enable certain events to occur.  Even if those forces are not visible, they still exist.  And nothing just happens without first putting forth SOME kind of effort.  Who are we to assume that others can just read our minds?  They don’t!  WE don’t!  Not if we want to obtain at least some level of satisfaction.  There are some who put forth minimal effort.  Others try very hard.  Then there are those who do nothing.  Do nothing, get nothing!  Working hard yields results.  Putting forth minimal effort?  That’s passive aggressive.

To hint at, but not directly assert—that’s passive aggressive.   To want it, but not reach for it—that’s passive aggressive.

I want more!  I waited a long time.  I tried, but maybe not that hard.  But I am learning that to try is to put forth some effort without expecting absolute success.  From now on, I expect…!  I expect to be treated with respect.  I expect others to recognize my efforts and to acknowledge my hard work.  Conversely, I request, nay, demand that my lack of effort, my lack of interest, passion, and security be addressed.  Talk to me!  Tell me!  Show me!  Interact!!!

I am not alone!  I stand as one of many who deserve more, but not because we WANT it, but because we earned it.  Do you understand that if we don’t try hard enough, we concede?   We accept defeat.  I can’t have that.  I will not concede!  I will not be passive aggressive.  I will be assertive.  And I will walk away before I accept less than the best.

stop hiding

after resting with the breeze blowing through my bedroom

after the whole day passing me by

after going through the Sunday motions

after praising

after shopping for the evening’s nourishment

after allowing the kids to have their private time

after I slipped into a blissful snooze

I awoke.

I decided to take the kids out to shoot some hoops in the yard for the remaining 10 minutes before dusk.

we played

we laughed

we taught our old dog some new tricks

we ran

we took some pictures

and just after I sent the kids inside to clean up for dinner

I said

let me put some things out of sight

I turned my back to the dog who was playfully laying on his back

I turned my back to the house where the lights glowed amidst the rustic back woods

I turned my back to yesterday’s worries

While my back was turned

The dog ran off

leash and all

the kids heard me calling for the dog

they came out to help

but he did not come back

I walked the yard and it’s surroundings

I took to the path that the dog knows well

but it was dark, too dark to bring others

but too dark to go alone

I could barely see

my feet knew the route

I figured that I would atleast try

I had nothing to loose

each second the wooded path was more faint

branches scratching my face

wooded landmarks were all I had

those…and my faith

within minutes I reached the end of the path

a familiar place where I’d hidden my treasures

a place that no one else lurked

but a place I’d chosen to keep things safe

last week’s storm had taken out some trees

pushed over from top to root

no one would have otherwises noticed or cared

but for me it was remarkable

but for me it was mentionalbe

but for me it was once a place where I felt safe

crushed by the fallen tree

just like the other hidding spot was

crushed by the fallen tree

and I realized that no hidding place was safe

no hidding place was hidden enough

there’s no hidding from the world

and there’s no hidding place from Him

I walked a little bit farther

calling out for my dog

I grew weary

the night grew closer

and off in the distance I found him

I found Him

He was still

and so was I

nothing was said

we walked back together


in the dark

and I was content

the he was found

but then I realized that

he was never lost

he was hiding

just as I had been hiding

and I was glad that I had realized

that there was no reason to hide


But to each his own I suppose…

Everyone wants to be a part of something.

Somebody wants to be a part of everything.

Nobody wants to be a part of nothing.

Anybody can think they know it all.

We are unifed when we want something.

Division comes before the fall.

Pride plays a role in the disaster.

Heros don’t always make the call.

Who knows all the answers?

No person can predict the pain.

Experience combines successes and failures.

Wisdom (for fools) is hard to sustain.

Wants and needs are mutually exclusive.

A mutual love for nothing

Because love exceeds wants.

And needs are defined by something.

But to each his own, I suppose…