The Lincoln Memorial is one of my favorite spots in Washington DC. The words from the Gettysburg Address on one side and the speech from his second inauguration on the other speak to a time of national division, and have never failed to move me. President Lincoln’s visage in the middle is strong, but not stern. It’s not an attractive face, but it’s compelling. It manages to convey both an unyielding nature, as well as malice toward none. It’s an exceptionally good piece of art.
Today I gazed at Lincoln’s face and asked him what kind of character it took to hold together a nation so intent on tearing itself apart. It certainly took the last ounce of his devotion and, in the end, his life.
After Lincoln’s death the country had to go on without him. Others rose to take his place. President Johnson, by most accounts, was terrible. The union may have won the war, but Johnson did his best to lose the peace. But our institutions and Lincoln’s legacy were enough to hold the country together until better leadership arrived.
When President Ulysses S. Grant was elected he brought with him not only the fighting spirit of a victorious general, but convictions powerful enough to lead others in knowing what to fight for. President Grant continued to fight for the principles of the Civil War. A Republican president, he created the Department of Justice to prosecute the Ku Klux Klan, pushed for ratification of the 15th Amendment, and enshrined our American values of equality into law.
At the risk of making a bold comparison, we find ourselves today in Lincoln’s shoes. We have the treble task of holding our country together, shoring up her institutions, and making our children ready to assume leadership in the future.
“If you can do those three things,” Mr. Lincoln whispered to me, “the next Grant will be ready to take up your unfinished work.”
Tonight at dinner, our conversation was driven by President Trump’s expulsion from Twitter. I wanted the kids to understand the significance of the Presidential use of digital media in a post-media world, and what it means that he no longer has access to The Bully Pulpit. I thought I’d bring you into our dinner lesson here at Rivendell Academy (our in-house name for the schooling we do at home).
We began by discussing Thomas Paine. His pamphlet, Common Sense, is responsible for galvanizing colonists into what amounted to a civil war; a war against their fellow Englishmen. Common Sense is as important to the existence of the United States as is the Declaration of Independence.
We talked about Benjamin Franklin and his fellow publishers, who wrote newspapers without much regard to objectivity. We talked about Pulitzer and Hearst and the age of Yellow Journalism (or tabloid journalism, or checkbook journalism). Many historians cite this approach to selling papers as the main cause of the Spanish-American War.
We talked about President Teddy Roosevelt and the way he used the media to govern. As he was speechwriting and composed an especially delicious passage, he is reported to have said something like, “My opponents will accuse me of preaching. But haven’t I got a Bully Pulpit!” (Bully, in this case, was used as an adjective and meant something superlative.) President Roosevelt used the media so deftly that he set a precedent for thought leadership and agenda-setting as one of the most important facets of US presidential leadership.
I explained that in the following decades, a golden age of journalism flourished, driven by specific journalistic ethics (like objectivity) and reinforced by specific practices (like quoting and triangulation of sources). This trustworthiness created by these ethics made the media the eyes and ears of the American people, enabling them to hold their government accountable in an entirely new way. Government corruption was significantly diminished as a result.
We talked about the media’s role as The Fourth Estate, an unelected but necessary piece of the relationship between electors and elected in the United States.
Due partly to squeezed media revenues following the internet’s democratization of publishing, newsrooms have fewer editors than ever before. Those all-important keepers of journalistic ethics have been seeking innovative business models, and they haven’t been as free to groom the next generation of Woodwards and Bernsteins.
Though previous US Presidents have used social media, President Trump actualized the potential of direct communication with the people of the United States (and, indeed, the world). For the first time, no one was mediating the president’s messages. He often governed directly in public, even firing cabinet secretaries and announcing major policy initiatives in full public view.
President Trump’s tweeting has been Twitter founder and CEO Jack Dorsey’s biggest blessing and curse. One the one hand, the president’s choice of platform has kept the company at the very center of relevance for public discourse. On the other hand, as far as anyone can see, President Trump didn’t self-censor much. His use of the platform often took him beyond the bounds of the company’s normal terms of service. He gave new color to President Roosevelt’s term ‘Bully Pulpit’. Dorsey, a thoughtful person, came up with a rationale that kept Twitter from having to ban the leader of the free world. He argued (and his company wrote a new policy stating) that there’s a public interest served by having direct access to the thoughts of national leaders, even if those leaders say things that would normally get others banned from the platform.
Among others, there is a major downside to President Trump emphasis on the importance of public communication relative to the other functions of executive authority. Beyond neglecting the more mundane functions of governance (like whipping votes around a given legislative agenda), it also puts the presidency’s most prominent power in the hands of one unelected person: Jack Dorsey. When Dorsey, feeling pressure from employees and shareholders and probably anticipating future congressional testimony, decided to suspend President Trump’s Twitter account, he was able unilaterally take the bully out of the Bully Pulpit.
Future leaders will have to make some hard decisions about how to communicate and exercise thought leadership. They’ll need to use the power of the internet without becoming beholden to its business models.
Note: I’m writing this as an American citizen to my fellow American citizens. I am not speaking in any official capacity or speaking on behalf of the US government.
Foreign aid is not popular in the US. It’s never been popular. Why does the US congress insist on passing budget appropriations to spend American taxpayer dollars in other countries? Don’t we have enough problems at home? Shouldn’t our money be spent in our own country? Those are good questions, and they deserve an answer.
First, let me clear up some misconceptions. The the Coronavirus relief portions of the bill passed by the House and Senate on December 22 don’t include foreign aid. They were passed as part of a Consolidated Appropriations Bill, along with the regular budgeted spending of the US Government for normal business. You can read that here: Consolidated Appropriations Bill, 2021 (.pdf). This consolidated appropriations bill (including most of our regular US annual budget, requested from Congress by the White House) contains other, non-COVID expenditures that count as ‘foreign aid’. The only section that contains COVID relief is Division M and Division N. It’s easy to see why there’s confusion because regular government spending was passed at the same time. This means that Coronavirus relief money isn’t being spent on ‘foreign aid’. You can see how the Coronavirus legislation actually spends money in the graphic below, courtesy of the Tax Foundation.
Takeaway 1: Coronavirus relief money isn’t being spent on foreign aid.
So why is US taxpayer money being spent overseas?
By now we know that Coronavirus relief money isn’t being sent overseas, but the older question remains: Why is US taxpayer money being spent in other countries at all? Why is it written into our annual budget? Don’t we have enough other things to spend money on within our own borders?
This brings us to my biggest problem with foreign aid: the name. When we talk about spending money in other countries, the term ‘foreign aid’ makes it sound like we’re giving money to other countries, charitably, because we have a bunch of extra money to spend. This couldn’t be further from reality.
The US engages in other countries because there are US interests at stake. We spend money in other countries for one of two reasons: to protect US interests, or to promote US values.
Takeaway 2: We spend money in other countries for one of two reasons: to protect US interests or to promote US values.
The definition of US interests and values is a matter of great debate, and I won’t address that here. Instead, I’ll show you where you, the American taxpayer, can see what we’ve defined as current US interests.
Your United States Department of State publishes, for all Americans to see, our strategy for engaging with each country where we have a mission. You can read our mission priorities by country here: Integrated Country Strategies.
Take the country of Malaysia as an example. Here is a direct link to the Integrated Country Strategy for Malaysia (.pdf). The US has three main priorities in Malaysia. The first is peace and mutual security. The second is good governance and the rule of law. The third is expanding and deepening commercial and economic interests. You can read the complete justification for these priorities in the document above. The first priority affects US security and the protection of American citizens. The second priority promotes US values. The third priority protects US jobs and the financial interests of US companies.
As you can see from the Malaysia example above, the US isn’t just giving away money: everything we spend money on promotes US interests or US values. Politicians are driven by votes. Politicians in the executive and legislative branches don’t spend money in other countries because other countries are voting for them; they spend money because the folks back home depend on connections to other countries for their livelihoods.
California farmers want to be able to export cherries and wine to foreign markets. The money our government spends as (badly-named) foreign aid helps to make this possible. The folks in Columbus, Indiana who manufacture forklifts or the people in Midland, Texas who drill for shale oil depend on being able to export those products to other countries. The US spends money to ensure that they’ll have stable markets and stable societies to keep buying their products.
Are people in other countries helped by US spending? Certainly. Educating women in Pakistan makes for a more stable society; one where terrorism isn’t able to flourish as easily. But the ultimate point of that spending is to protect Americans or promote US values.
Another reason to spend money in other countries is that it’s part of great power competition. China’s One Belt, One Road initiative will spend between $4 and $8 trillion to create a network of trading partners in 65 countries. They’re planning to connect China to Malaysia, Mombasa, and Madrid. International trade isn’t a zero-sum game. But if the US wants to maintain a seat at the trading table, we need to be prepared to spend some amount of money.
Spending money in other countries, so-called ‘foreign aid’, is done to benefit Americans. That’s why, after all these years (and with no natural overseas contituency), our legislators keep doing it.
All Americans should be debating what our interests and value are. I encourage you to talk to your legislators about how they can best promote American interests and values in our spending priorities. But the fact that we have values to promote and interests to pursue in other countries is beyond dispute.
Our nation is divided. It’s not the first time. If we look to the past, there are some hints about how to handle it.
Yestersday, I made a pilgrimage with my family to the home of Thomas Jefferson. Next to the bed where he died, I told my children about his remarkable relationship with John Adams.
The second and third Presidents of the United States had a long relationship which soured into bitterness. First as delegates to the Continental Congress and later as diplomat in Europe, these two very different people became close friends. But in the years that followed, the business of running a nation exacerbated their differences of style and perspective.
The presidential election of 1800 was nasty and personal. It was part of the emergence of political parties in our country, with the personal and political differences of Jefferson and Adams dividing people into Jeffersonians and Federalists. That rift persists today, with Republicans and Democrats differing on policy and persona; each accusing the other of bad faith and bad thinking.
The former friends, Jefferson and Adams, went radio silent for 12 years. Jefferson overturned a bunch of Adams’s legislation, and I’m sure that they thought they were through with each other.
But with some cooling off and the benefit of hindsight, these two wise men re-established contact. Tellingly, it was their former personal connection that provided a basis for intial contact. But their hurts were deep, and it wasn’t long before they were re-litigating their policy differences. By then, though, something had changed. They were growing old, and their peers from the revolutionary generation were dying off around them. Now, they were willing to listen to each other.
Increasingly, they realized that they shared an experience greater than their differences. As these two imperfect but wise men approached death, they considered their legacies. And they found that their legacies were intertwined. They never ‘solved’ their policy differences, but they did forge a beautiful friendship. Though they never saw each other in person again, they died on the same day: July 4, 1826 – 50 years to the day after the signing of the Declaration of Independence on which they had worked together. Adam’s last words, and maybe some of his last thoughts, were of Jefferson: “Thomas Jefferson still lives.”
What can we learn?
The things we share are greater than our differences. Looking to those things will make us more open to hearing each other.
Personal relationships can bridge political divides. Don’t start talking policy with someone before you spend some time hearing their story. If you don’t know anyone from the opposite party, check out Braver Angels. This fantastic group can introduce you to someone you disagree with, but whom you’ll probably like.
How we handle ourselves will impact the legacy we leave behind. The comment you’re about to leave or the Tweet you’re about to send will become part of our national discourse, and part of the country we’re leaving for our children. Speak and write as if history is watching.
When you’re on your death bed, the political fades away and the personal remains. Live with your fellow citizens in a way that allows you to die with dignity and peace, leaving behind a country that’s better than the one you found.
Note: I’m not an historian, and I don’t claim inerrancy in my understanding or my facts. If you want to read more about these fascinating characters from history, I recommend a few books:
In December, Lisa and I visited the palace of Versailles, the residence of French royalty from Louis XIV to Louis XVI, or 1682 – 1789. It was awesome – and terrifying. The opulence on display was truly breathtaking. Marie Antoinette, it turns out, had an entire village built in the garden out back so she could cosplay as a commoner. (No, I’m not joking.)
But the entire site exists as a monument to hubris.
You see, at the same time we started listening to Charles Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities. Written 80 years after the French Revolution, Dickens’s descriptions of the grinding poverty found elsewhere in France while the palace was occupied by Marie Antoinette are striking. They paint a picture of income inequality that should terrify anyone who might be considered an economic elite.
The French Revolution illustrates conditions that can be considered an upward boundary on income inequality. Once inequality hits this boundary, social contracts fail and the laws that govern society unravel (or dissolve entirely).
Effort to reduce income inequality (or at least mask it) aren’t only for the poor – they also serve to protect economic elites from the fate of Louis XVI. The rich kids of Instagram have the opposite effect.
So if income inequality has some sort of practical upper boundary, what about conditions below that threshold? Is there a solution to income inequality?
I think of income inequality as a description or measurement, a bit like temperature. Is it ever the wrong temperature? No, because temperature is descriptive; it doesn’t have a moral dimension. But can it be too hot or cold for survival? Absolutely.
The question in the title comes from a friend, who asked me about it on Facebook. I’m going to reframe it thus: “What sort of economic policies should we pursue?” I have a few reasons for this. First, a measurement or description can’t be ‘solved’, in the same way that you’d never try to solve a temperature reading. Second, the real world needs solutions that are directional instead of idealistic. We should be informed by ideals, but policy should be able to take the real world and move it in the direction of those ideals.
The wisest economic policy prescription I’ve read come from the book Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity and Poverty by Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson. This book describes societies from colonial America to the Soviet Union to North and South Korea. It spends a lot of time talking about societal elites who create extractive, oppressive political systems that create the sorts of injustices that led to the French Revolution.
The antidote to this is to focus economic policies on inclusivity. When everyone is able to participate in an economy (start a business, own property, buy things and sell them at a profit), you have the conditions for a more just society. When some are excluded from full economic participation (for example, not being able to own property because of gender or tribal affiliation), injustice follows. Embedded in this is the idea that economic participation requires political participation. People who can’t vote will find themselves excluded from full economic participation pretty quickly.
This is both achievable and realistic. It avoids the pitfalls of forced income redistribution, which leads to a stifling of innovation and an overall lower standard of living. It also avoids the pitfalls of an elite-driven system of monopolistic capitalism, which keeps people trapped and unable to be economically mobile.
This, then, is the basis for any economic policy I consider: does this policy move us toward or away from economic inclusivity?
Help me out, dear readers. Add to this conversation. What books have you read that helped your thinking in this area? What am I missing?
We just finished watching the show Hello World on YouTube, hosted by journalist Ashlee Vance. This episode was entitled The Rise of AI, and was about the emergence of the artificial intelligence industry in Canada.
Below I’ll post some of my thoughts, along with written pieces by Liam and Clara, who watched the episode with me.
I just finished watching “The Rise Of AI” on Youtube. There were a couple of people who talked to the main person (Ashlee Vance, see below) about Artificial Intelligence (AI for short). It was very interesting. If you would like to watch it, click here. Here are the speakers (listed order of appearance).
Ashlee Vance was born in 1977. He is currently 42. We follow him around Canada as he talks to the people listed below.
Geoffrey Hinton has held onto the idea of neural networks for 40 years. In other words, making a computer think like a human. People call him the godfather of Artificial Intelligence. Geoffrey Hinton can’t sit down, otherwise, his disk comes out.
Suzanne Gildert started the company Kindred. At Kindred, they use trial and error to train their robots. She talked about her robots. My favorite was the cat robot. Hers is also the cat robot. In the video, there were robot pilots. You’ll have to watch the video to get the whole story.
Justin Trudeau is the current Prime Minister of Canada. He is mentioned three times in the video. He is married to Sophie Grégoire Trudeau who is currently 44. He was born December 25, 1971. He is currently 47 years old.
Richard Sutton was born in the US, but Canadian politics brought him over to Canada. He wanted to get away from difficult times in the US. He says in the video that he didn’t like that the United States was invading other countries and that he didn’t care for all that. My favorite bot was Blueberry. He’s so cute! Watch the video to find out more. I think that AI could be good and bad. Ashlee Vance records some responses to his mom talking, and then he calls her. He used his responses to talk to her, then picks up the phone and actually talked to his mom. He asked her if that was scary. She said it would have been if it had been an emergency. Click HERE to go to that part in the video. Overall, I think this was a good video.
I just watched a YouTube video called The Rise of AI. It was an hour long documentary about the history of AI, what people are doing with it now, and where it might go. There are many different ways that AI could evolve. Humans could co-exist with AI, or AI could take over the world.
I had trouble finding evidence for AI co-existing with us, because as they become as smart and then smarter than us, they might start to think of themselves as the dominant sentient beings, with a kind of Divine Right of Kings sort of belief. They might start to think that since they are smarter than us, it is their job to take care of us, or maybe they will see the damage we have done to the environment and decide that the planet as a whole would be better off without humans. There was a company mentioned in said video that is called Lyrebird. Lyrebird creates realistic artificial voices. In other words, they can clone your voice. Imagine if someone cloned the president’s voice and then made him say something that threatened the security of the country. Kindred AI is working on AI that can sort stuff such as clothing. It is a real possibility that robots could take over the world.
I know that I have been very negative about AI so far, but there is really no way that we can know what AI will do. Instead of eradicating us because of the way we treat the environment, they might help us fix it. Instead of affixing their dominance over us, they might decide to live with us. There is really no way to know which path AI will choose. That is why I am hoping for the best.
AI is an endlessly fascinating topic. There are so many angles from which to approach it: the ethics of AI, a map of the realities of AI, the probable futures of AI, the people behind AI, the implications for future economies and governmental systems, what it means to be human in the age of AI, and more.
Ashlee Vance (and the rest of the team behind Hello World) chose to focus on the unique contributions of Canada to artificial intelligence. He interviewed pioneering researchers in AI, did a decent job of explaining how the technology works, talked with a few startups commercializing AI, and talked briefly with AI skeptics about some of the possible future dangers.
The portrayal of Geoffrey Hinton was especially touching. Hinton is a computer science researcher at the University of Toronto who, along with academic collaborators, was the first to use a deep neural network approach to AI. He believed in the concept from the late 1980s until 2006, when data processing and data availability were able to prove his ideas valid. His triumph is a testament to both sheer stubborn will and the willingness of universities to employ academics for long periods of time without any evident fruit. It’s a perfect test case of the need to fund basic research.
Amara’s Law states that we overestimate the short-term impact of technology while underestimating the long-term impact of technology. I know the first part of this ‘law’ is true with AI: while startups like Lyrebird are a bit creepy, they don’t represent a Terminator-esque nightmare scenario. But I’m not sure if we’re underestimating the long-term impact of AI. When you read this in the future, you’ll have to leave a comment to let me know!
This is one of my favorite topics. I’ve been thinking about it and reading about it for some time now. I don’t have it figured out to my satisfaction, but I came to a new thought this morning, so I figured I should share.
I was pondering the nature of religion and the nature of politics, and I realized they have something inverse in common. The reason religion and politics should not mix is partly due to their relationship to compromise.
Religion in general and Protestant Christianity in particular should not compromise. The philosophical game of religion is played on the field of truth claims.Â Negotiating or compromising on truth claims is like kicking field goals for your opponent.Â It’s not a good idea.Â This is the (very good) reason that people have died for their religious convictions throughout the centuries.
Politics, on the other hand, lives with an entirely different relationship to compromise.Â For a politcian, compromise IS the game.Â Legislature and governance is all about negotiating between competing interests.Â If different interests didn’t exist, governments wouldn’t need to exist, either.Â That’s why politics is so easy to criticize, fun to talk about (e.g. ‘Those idiots in [Washington, Sacramento, Madison, Dakar, etc.] wouldn’t know the right thing to do if it bit them on the hand!”), and so demanding of wisdom.Â Compromise IS the task of government, and it’s not an easy one.
So every time a pastor asks his congregation to vote a particular way, he is speaking from one realm into another: he is speaking from a position that’s used to wielding divine authority to make absolute truth claims into a realm where issues always have different sides and a single voice bearing the best idea is not guaranteed to make headway.Â In politics, strength of conviction falls subservient to the power of coalition.Â That’s not a fault of politics; it’s just the nature of politics.Â But this pastor is likely to create an unproductive voting bloc.Â He’s likely to create or encourage a group of people to take a position they can’t back down from.Â In the end, it makes for bad politics and bad blood.
And every time a governmental leader speaks toward the realm of religion, it’s natural (but altogether inappropritate) that he should ask for compromise and ecumenism.Â He, who is used to compromise as a way of doing business, naturally expects this from the realm of religion.Â And he’s dead wrong.Â Religion thrives on truth claims, and asking religious people to deny what they know as truth for some greater good is like asking religion to drink poison.
There are many outworkings of this continued tension between church and state, and they’re likely to be messy.Â I can’t claim any kind of special ability to negotiate such perilous waters just because I understand the larger principle.Â But I can offer one guiding question for discussion: what can we do to build up a HEALTHY wall of separation ‘twixt the two very important areas?
I’ve always been interested in politics.Â As a young child, one of my main questions (that was never satisfactorily answered) was this: ‘How do you do political research?’Â I come from a family that highly values informed civic participation.Â But I knew that people make all kind of political claims.Â I came to learn that you could find out about politics by reading the newspaper or by looking at voting guides put out by everyone from the California Teacher’s Associaton to the National Association of Evangelicals.Â That last voting guide was distributed from time to time in our church bulletin.
But both of these sources of political information were filtered; they came from secondary sources: interest groups that focused heavily on this issue or that.Â Of course, you could watch the presidential debates if you happened to have the television on for one of the several evenings they occurred.Â Or you could hear the candidates speak once if you were lucky enough to be in a town on the campaign trail.Â I still remember the hoopla when Dan Quayle visited my home town of Lodi, Calif.Â But these were still limited, one-time opportunities.Â Candidates, if they were slippery enough, could couple together a few area-relevant soundbytes and curry favor with voters everywhere they went.Â The epitome of this was Hillary Clinton’s claim that she was both a lifelong New York Mets fan and a lifelong New York Yankees fan when she spoke at two different events.Â But the ubiquity of today’s news media made that kind of campaign-trail stumping less effective, and Hillary (still a product of old-tyme politics) got burned.Â 24-hour news and a proliferation of news channels changed the world of politics.
The internet has further changed today’s political landscape.
Did you happen to miss the presidential debates (or are you part of the increasingly large population that doesn’t watch television anymore in favor of internet-delivered content)?Â No problem.Â You can still watch the debates on Youtube (www.youtube.com/youchoose), who co-sponsored the debates this year.Â Incidentally, those videos will still be available after the election is over.Â If a candidate made a campaign promise, the world will be able to look back at that promise and hold the candidate accountable after he (or she) is elected.
Would you like to know about a candidate’s stance on a particular issue?Â Go to John McCain’s Issues page: www.johnmccain.com/Informing/Issues or Barack Obama’s analogue: www.barackobama.com/issues.Â There’s a lot of information there; more than you can shake a stick at.Â Not that you’re the type to shake sticks at web pages, but you get my drift.
Would you like to read comprehensive campaign coverage?Â No problem.Â Go to everyone’s favorite news aggregator, Google News, at http://news.google.com/?topic=el.Â In my opinion, there’s a pretty high signal-to-noise ratio there, but it’s still a legitimate source of coverage.
Blogging took off first in two worlds: the technology world, where every geek seems to be publishing stuff (…ahem…) and the political world, where every wonk (and Wonkette) has their own lane in the information superhighway.Â Here’s a search on Google blog searches for ‘2008 presidential election‘.
With so much information out there, it’s more important than ever that you trust your information gatekeepers.Â That’s why we here at andrewandlisa.org are running for ….. um ….nothing.Â Sorry, I guess I got a little carried away with all the political commentary.
But seriously, folks, in today’s internet age, where it easier than ever to be informed and easier than ever to engage in thoughtful dialogue, we should be using the internet to make us more informed citizens.Â Maybe, just maybe, we’ll see a more informed race.Â I think the quality, peculiarity and non-polarity of our two presidential candidates is already a result of and testament to this great world-changing new media.
What a book!Â This one, written by Victor Davis Hanson, was alternately hard to read and fascinating.Â It wasn’t hard to read in terms of reading level, though that may make the ideas in the book accessible to fewer people.Â it was hard to read because of the raw honesty with which Hanson talks about issues of race and immigration.
As a small-town farmer and now university professor, he blasts what he terms the race industry for their tactics, which he claims serve only to further alienate those who are already aliens in California.Â He waxes a bit nostalgic about his growing-up years and the approach to racial integration demonstrated by his early teachers.Â But he also claims that the usually-ugly specter of modern lowest-common-denominator culture holds much promise for racial integration, even despite it’s otherwise putrid pallor.
As a classicist, Hanson offers a fascinating solution set, complete with alternate futures.Â He’s wise enough to predict several outcomes, and because of this will probably be seen by history as prescient.
I highly recommend this book for anyone wanting to debate or understand our public policy options with regard to illegal immigration.Â At 150 pages, it’s almost short enough to be considered a long pamphlet.
Even if you judge this book by its cover, it still garners high marks.Â The presentation and cover art are visually pleasing.
My two critiques:
I think the writing style puts this book and its important message out of the grasp of some people.Â The issues to debate will need all our minds and wills, and I’d hate to see these important thoughts lost because of the form they take.
I’d like to see the author’s preferred solution set fleshed out a little more.Â I guess this isn’t a policy platform, but a powerful discussion-starter.Â I know that it goes a long way toward giving my future policy stance on illegal immigration a firm footing.
Hi, Shinnfans. I know what youâ€™re wondering. I know because I subtly implanted the question in your minds using the title of this blog post. You want to know what Iâ€™m thinking. If this was a play, hereâ€™s how the dialogue would pan out:
You (internally, maybe even a fleeting thought): â€œAndrew hasnâ€™t been writing much lately. All heâ€™s been doing is posting images and stupid little videos with internet babble or pictures that move too fast to be seen well.â€
Me (Andrew): â€œHuh. Good point.â€ (Hangs mouth open, looking kind of dumb. Realizes audience is watching and quickly snaps into a brow-furrowing, hard-thinking expression.)
You: â€œCome on, why donâ€™t you get right on that, do some thinking and reading, create some meaningful content, and give us something to either chew on, disagree with, or totally walk away from because it would require us to think too much.â€
Me (Andrew): â€œUm, Iâ€™m kind of busy right now. Can I do that later?â€ (For a moment, that dumb look comes back.)
You: â€œNo, weâ€™re a demanding internet audience with short attention spans. If you donâ€™t post good content at least once a day, we stop visiting. In fact, even this is getting kind of long. Can you wrap it up, please?â€
Me: â€œOkay, how about a compromise? Can I tell you what Iâ€™m reading so you know whatâ€™s coming down the pike?â€
You: â€œHurry it up. Half of us stopped reading before your last line. The rest of us thought the phrase was, â€˜Whatâ€™s coming down the pipe.â€™ â€
Me: â€œYou thought wrong, and I get to say so because itâ€™s my blog. Pike in that usage refers to the old term for a road. Hereâ€™s my recent reading list, with comments:â€ </imaginary meta dialogue>
Mexifornia: A State of Becomingby Victor Davis Hanson. Really riveting reading. Tackles the question of how to approach illegal Mexican immigration. Heavily criticizes what Hanson terms the race industry. Hanson is a classicist, a professor at Fresno State, and a guy who grew up on a family farm in Selma, California, where he still lives.
Inside Todayâ€™s Mormonismby Richard Abanes. A little boring, this volume delves into the claims of Mormonism in pretty technical detail. I suppose the level of technical detail is necessary for the book to be authoritative.
In The Name of God: Understanding the Mindset of Terrorismby Timothy Demy and Gary P. Stewart. I just started this, and it seems like a pretty generic American defense of the War On Terror â„¢ and The Justness of Our Cause (also tm). Honestly, it takes a lot to impress me these days in a book about terrorism. I read the (dry) 9/11 Commission Report cover-to-cover. Iâ€™ve just started this, so it might end up better than it started. If it does, Iâ€™ll let you know. Both authors are military chaplains, and one (Timothy Demy) is an officer with whom I served in the Coast Guard.
The Looming Tower: Al Qaeda and the Road to 9/11by Lawrence Wright. Speaking of impressive (see previous paragraph), this book blows me away. Iâ€™m listening to the audio book form, but itâ€™s a great tome on the long history of Al Qaedaâ€™s major players and the conditions (both personal and political) that gave rise to the organization. Reading this book feels like taking a Masterâ€™s-level course in Middle Eastern politics. I briefly considered buying a copy on Amazon.com and sending it to the CIA. Our government needs the level of understanding displayed in this book. The research is thorough and extensive, while the retelling of the story seems journalistic in nature with very little editorial content and a refreshing lack of a discernible agenda. I highly recommend this book.
Just for fun, here are some past posts that cover my reactions to several dimensions of the subject of terrorism: