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"Live Free or Die," New Hampshire's grammar-challenged state motto, sounds worthy enough on the surface. But defining and ensuring freedom are infinitely more difficult and crucial than stamping slogans on license plates, as social critic Kaminer (Sleeping with Extra-Terrestrials: The Rise of Irrationalism and the Perils of Piety, etc.) argues in this insightful, incisive new collection of essays, most of which appeared in the American Prospect. The Bush administration's reaction to September 11 ramping up domestic surveillance, covertly detaining a thousand-plus suspects, instituting military rather than civil trials, squeezing dissent only continues what the author sees as a troubling trend of limiting liberty. A champion of First Amendment freedoms, Kaminer argues against restricting Internet communications, squelching pornography, threatening abortion providers under the guise of free speech and sacrificing defendants' rights in criminal trials in favor of the victims. She's for flag-burning as peaceful protest, instituting the Equal Rights Amendment and protecting abortion rights. A devout civil libertarian, Kaminer aims her crisp writing, clear thinking and deflating humor equally on all who would challenge liberties, from antipornography feminists to pro-surveillance attorneys general. She relishes exposing hypocrisy, such as the religion-based social engineering advocated by self-described antigovernment conservatives. Still, she unleashes her strongest barbs and uncharacteristically relies more on insult than insight in excoriating the right wing's anti-individualism. Despite Kaminer's argument that "civil libertarianism is a nonpartisan virtue," this will be an important book particularly for lefties who feel left behind in a nation in which conservatives are winning most of the battles.
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Wendy Kaminer is a beacon shining through the smog. She is eloquent, pugnacious, and amusing, and best of all, she is right. --James Gleick, author of Faster
"Wonderful Wendy Kaminer! With wit and style and cold hard facts, she skewers contemporary credulity." --Katha Pollitt, author of Reasonable Creatures
"Kaminer, a wonderfully funny social critic, takes on a host of threats to rational thought." --Molly Ivins, author of Shrub: The Short but Happy Political Life of George W. Bush
This book is thoughtful and well argued. The few sections with which I disagreed were still thought provoking and worthy of consideration.Published 9 months ago by Douglas K. Smith
"Freedom" and "liberty" seem like two of the most over-used and under-appreciated words in our contemporary political vocabulary. Read morePublished on July 4, 2004 by Kevin Currie-Knight