What I’m reading this summer

Posted on June 27, 2014 at 2.12 pm

Let Me Be Clear: Barack Obama’s War on Millennials, and One Woman’s Case for Hope

by Katie Kieffer

The tone and title of this book may suggest a simple partisan polemic against the GOP’s enemy #1, but Kieffer’s freshman effort offers what is often a pleasantly liberty-friendly message. Consider, for instance, her comments on the drone war:

Obama authorized a drone strike that killed an innocent sixteen-year-old American boy, Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, and six other civilians, including his seventeen-year-old cousin…The DOJ white paper was the most articulate justification for murder in American history. (p. 233-234)

Or on foreign policy:

By 2008, young people—the crucial swing voters—were tired of war and looking for a harbinger of peace…Obama promised to bring our troops home. Instead, he kept them in the Middle East longer…Anti-American sentiment and episodes of fatal blowback against American troops soared under Obama. (p. 182, 211)

This is not a tome of academic libertarianism. It is, however, a solid choice for your more traditionally conservative friends and family, who will find themselves nodding along to libertarian arguments before they even know what hit them. In the interest of full disclosure, I was given a copy of this book by the publisher to review. I was not under any obligation to offer a favorable review, nor did I receive any compensation.


The Dead Sea Scrolls: A New Translation

by Michael O. Wise, et al.

This one, as you may have guessed is for my summer grad school class. I suppose you’d have to be a history or theology nut to really get into it, but it’s often a fascinating read—particularly given that many of these works were lost to scholars for no less than two millennia.

It’s kind of like the Indiana Jones of reading material (or at least that’s the sort of thing I tell myself when I’ve got to get through 100 more pages of a text written for an audience and culture so incredibly foreign to my own!).


The Cost of Discipleship

by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

My first Bonhoeffer book, which one of my Young Americans for Liberty coworkers was kind enough to give me. I haven’t started it yet, but I’m super excited to do so.

Bonhoeffer, for those who don’t know, was a German pastor and theologian who advocated a “religionless Christianity.” A staunch pacifist, he nevertheless felt an obligation to participate in an attempt to assassinate Hitler. Bonhoeffer ultimately died while imprisoned for his dissent against the Nazi regime. Discipleship is one of his most famous works, and it deals with ethics, sacrifice, and more.


Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology

by Neil Postman

Another one I haven’t started yet—probably won’t get to it until August, realistically.

I’m not sure if I’ll end up sharing Postman’s concerns, but my previous experience of his work has been excellent. He’s good at provoking thought about topics which we can easily take for granted as inescapable parts of modern life.


Liberalism: In the Classical Tradition

by Ludwig von Mises

I started reading this like four years ago, and I’m embarrassed to say I possibly never finished it (which is very unusual for me). Either way, it’s a small volume, and I’d like to give it another perusal this summer. It’s been too long since I read any economics stuff, anyway.


Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life

by C.S. Lewis

It’s also been too long since I anything from Lewis, and the “pope of Protestantism” always bears up to a rereading. Plus, Surprised is a treasure trove of quotes like this:

[T]he greatest service we can do to education today is to teach fewer subjects. No one has time to do more than a very few things well before he is twenty, and when we force a boy to be a mediocrity in a dozen subjects, we destroy his standards, perhaps for life.

And this:

While friendship has been by far the chief source of my happiness, acquaintance or general society has always meant little to me, and I cannot quite understand why a man should wish to know more people than he can make real friends of.

I’m very possibly being over-ambitious here, given that I’m also going to be moving, traveling, and doing a considerable amount of reading for class, but we’ll see how it goes. So what’s on your reading list for the summer?

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This week’s article is about the bipartisan push for a re-invasion of Iraq:

In the last two weeks, a terrorist group too radical even for Al-Qaeda to support, the Islamic State of Syria and the Levant (ISIL), has swept through the Iraq, taking city after city en route to Baghdad.

This new round of chaos has been a dog whistle to the always eager interventionists. Suddenly, hawks like Dick Cheney, John McCain, and Lindsey Graham are booking interviews like it’s 2003, and they all have the same message: America has to go to war again to fix this mess.

Meanwhile, though President Obama initially said there would be “no boots on the ground,” he’s backtracked on that promise in record time. Servicemen are already on their way to Iraq, and drone strikes (which are a terrible option) have been suggested as well. (To his credit, Obama is at least speaking in more cautious terms than his neoconservative counterparts, though it remains to be seen if his actions will be similarly restrained.)

Obama, Cheney, and pals may be ginning up a new push for war, but most Americans have very different ideas. A recent poll shows that a whopping 74% of Americans oppose sending combat troops to Iraq, and a mere 16% are for it.

This is consistent with poll after poll in the last few years that show Americans are overwhelmingly sick of war and tired of our government’s refusal to mind its own business abroad. This desire for peace spans partisan lines, and it definitely includes rejecting of re-invasion of Iraq.

So why the huge difference between what most Americans want and what Washington is trying to force on us? Well, it’s simple: Most Americans are willing to admit how awful U.S. foreign policy has been for the last decade plus and the Washington establishment is not.

The same poll which showed that 3/4 of Americans don’t want more war in Iraq also found that “more than two-thirds say the renewed violence in Iraq is a result of a centuries-old conflict that was worsened by the 2003 invasion launched by President George W. Bush.”

In other words, the people who opposed invasion the first time around were right—and people like Cheney and, now, Obama who want to continue and expand our involvement, have been proven wrong.

As Ron Paul put it, it doesn’t make any sense to listen to the people who got Iraq and America into this mess to begin with: “They cannot admit they were wrong about the invasion being a ‘cakewalk’ that would pay for itself,” and their foreign policy advice isn’t exactly credible anymore.

That’s not to suggest that Saddam Hussein was a good guy, or that Iraq would be a paradise today if the Iraq War had never been started by President Bush and continued by Obama. But it is to point out that al-Qaeda, which spawned this chaos-wreaking ISIL group, did not exist in Iraq before the 2003 invasion. The war our government started under glaringly false pretenses literally created a multitude of new terrorists, and it is that intervention which is a direct cause of Iraq’s current disaster.

Read the whole thing here.

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I’m flying this weekend, so the TSA has been on my mind. All the times I’ve flown in the last four or five years, I don’t remember seeing anyone who wasn’t traveling with me opt out of the strip-scanners. We’ve gotten way too complacent about the TSA, and that’s a bad thing.

In his NBC interview last month, NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden critiqued the government’s willingness to exploit tragedies like 9/11 to “justify programs that have never been shown to keep us safe but cost us liberties and freedoms that we don’t need to give up.”

While Snowden had the NSA in mind—that agency’s massive illegal invasion of our privacy rightfully received plenty of attention in the last year—his words could just as easily apply to another “security” agency we’ve become all too comfortable with.

The TSA.

Sure, there’s still the occasional op-ed suggesting that the Transportation Security Administration be abolished, and yes, Americans have long been fairly ambivalent about this program. But nonetheless, we’ve grown sadly complacent about the TSA.

Although there is an anti-TSA minority, as this recent poll shows, the bulk of Americans believe that the TSA makes air travel safer, and that the security checkpoints are an effective way to prevent terrorism.

That couldn’t be further from the truth.

Despite the extensive security theater rigmarole to which we’re subjected every time we fly, the TSA has never caught asingle terrorist. In fact, a leaked report showed that when undercover government agents tried to get fake bombs through TSA checkpoints at major airports like LAX and Chicago O’Hare, the TSA missed 60-75% of the bombs (Private security agents, to contrast, missed fake bombs only about 20% of the time. I don’t know about you, but I know which option would make me feel safer).

If the TSA were only ineffective, that would be bad enough. But it’s not just a waste of time—it’s an annoying, invasive, expensive, and even dangerous waste of time.

Remember air travel before 9/11? It wasn’t necessarily fun, but it wasn’t an awful, time-sucking hassle, either. Today, flying is inconvenient at best. Is it safe to arrive at the airport two hours early? Better make it three. Am I wearing shoes I can take on and off easily? Have I put all my tiny bottles in a quart-size bag?

Will my dignity fit in the same baggie too?

Read the whole thing here.

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