You Are What You Read

Reviews of books as I read them. This is basically a (web)log of books I've read.

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Location: Lawrenceville, Georgia, United States

I am a DBA/database analyst by day, full time father on evenings and weekends.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The Assault on Reason

Al Gore is a hero of mine. I really appreciate his understanding of politics and society. He has a strong mind and is willing to explicate his ideas to others. His latest book, The Assault on Reason, is an attempt to describe the failures of our society and government over the last several years.

Gore has studied the Constitution and the other writings of the founding fathers of the United States. He brings a strond understanding of the kind of civil discourse they believed was necessary for a democracy to function. They also knew about the dangers of the concentration of power, and wisely split the powers of government into separate branches. They wanted a free and strong press, so that the people could discuss the government, and required that governing be open and free of secrets.

The Bush administration has pushed for more and more secrecy in government, which in my mind is one of their greatest crimes. Not far from that is punishing those to want to tell the truth, such as about global warming, or the cost of new Medicare programs, or the need for a follow-up plan for the invasion of Iraq. Moreover, they respond to their critics by calling their un-American and traitors. The truth is, criticizing one's government is very American.

Gore also talks about the use of fear in the rush to war. Bush insisted that war would be his last option, but it was always his first. He confused al Queda and Saddam in the public mind, and always warned about the worst imaginable dangers. Such fear stifled discussion, so that people were ready for war. He also uses fear to insist on more powers, such as holding suspects indefinitely or warrantless wiretapping. The Constitution is clear that such investigations require a warrant from a court, and Congress has bent over backward providing an easy court to grant fast warrants. Yet the administration still insists it is too difficult, and they should have the power to spy on people without any controls.

They have also twisted arguments in favor of the wealthy class. Millions of people go without health coverage, yet they are more concerned about a few wealthy billionaires who might have to pay an inheritance tax. They have convinced millions of people that their well-being depends on tax cuts for the wealthy.

Gore has a well thought out, well researched book. He knows the details of the Bush adminstration's errors, and he knows what our founders would see wrong. He has studied the effects of television on civil discourse, and is discouraged. Instead of a widely read press, we now have the one-way medium of television, where people received information but to not contribute, and politicians spend millions on short TV commercials to present one-sided, simple answers. People read less, and get more information from TV. He sees the Internet as having potential to spread better information and provoke a better civil discourse.

I am impressed with Gore's details and his breadth of knowledge. He quotes Jefferson, Lincoln, Adam Smith, Alexander Hamilton, Winston Churchill, George Orwell, and many others. He brings a wealth of knowledge from his years in Congress and as Vice President. The book is a strong A. I look forward to seeing how things change in the next administration, whosever it may be.


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