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Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire: A 500-Year History

by Kurt Andersen, pub. 2017, pp. 440

kurtandersen.com

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What I learned from this book

I learned that no matter what your political affiliation, your viewpoint on whether we, as Americans in 2018, are in a good place or a bad one, safe or dangerous – there is in fact a 500-year documented history that we can break down that may assist in explaining it all.  Once we can divide it into smaller, more digestible pieces – perhaps we can then figure out the best way forward.  Only time will tell.

What I liked about this book

I thought the author, Kurt Andersen, was exceptionally honest about his views.  These are volatile topics that Americans have passion about.  They can’t be taken casually “playing it” from both sides.  The good news is Andersen doesn’t try that trick.  He delivers in a forthright, self-deprecating, thorough style while wading through historical explanations of many of America’s “powder keg” topics: religion, race, and, of course, politics.

What I disliked about this book

I pretty much liked everything about this book.  I even found it amazing that the author could discuss 500-year old topics in less than five hundred pages!  This could easily have become a convoluted, wordy “1,000-plusser!”  Fortunately, it did not!

Whom would I recommend to read this book

I would recommend this book to any American citizen who feels befuddled by the current environment in which we are living.  I talk to a lot of people in my daily interactions and I’m amazed at how confused many seem as to “How in the hell did we arrive here?”  I suppose one of the brilliant angles of this book is how the author takes us back to the very beginning of the European-American settlement in the U.S.A. Then, he methodically lays out how and why it took that long to get us to where we are today.  It took a variety of religious beliefs, plenty of economic and political maneuvering, and, yes, of course, heaping amounts of…well, fantasy.

Any thoughts?

-A.N.

 

 

After Snowden: Privacy Secrecy and Security in the Information Age

After Snowden: Privacy, Secrecy and Security in the Information Age (by Ronald Goldfarb, Edward Wasserman, and David Cole)

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What I found most amazing about this book

I found it equally amazing and disturbing that in our constitution nothing was mentioned on the topic of ‘privacy.’ Not a word, nary a mention…NOTHING.  This is problematic because where there is no mention, there are no rules. Herein lies the premise of this book.   Because there are no rules applying to privacy, there is a tendency of the government to “stretch” the powers of information gathering in the United States and on its citizens.  When every telephone call, email, text message, Facebook post or tweet is subject to interception and interpretation (let alone, occasional misinterpretation), we find ourselves sort of cast at sea without a paddle.  This is causing us to question everything that is going on for the purpose of “security.”  Those who have questioned these policies and practices have done so because they feel it is the most sensible thing to do and that we have the right as citizens to know.  It is a subject that will be debated over for years to come!

What I DIDN’T like about this book

I cannot find much to dislike about this book.  I suppose the only thing I could say is that I wish the people in charge of some of the covert programs that are currently in operation would take a moment to seriously reevaluate the potential long term damage this may be causing to the American people.  I would also like to for them to be more forthright concerning what our rights are turning into during the Information Age.  I imagine that they have some ideas, but are hesitant to share because of the anticipated backlash (or, perhaps they just don’t feel we need to know).  Regardless, I just think it might be better for us all in the long haul. Constant paranoia and pessimism is probably not a healthy state of mind in the nation’s big picture.  I think it’s fair to say that George Orwell (author of 1984 and the ‘big brother’ concept) is probably doing somersaults in his grave.

Whom would I recommend to read this book?

I would certainly encourage anyone and everyone to read this book.  No age is either too young or unsophisticated to realize that most of our ‘technological engagements’ – from smartphone calls, texts, Facebook and Twitter posts, and simple emails ALL may be subject to review and even more.  We may think that we don’t have any “friends” that are under surveillance, but THEY may have second or third degree “friends” who MIGHT BE.  So, if we are all just fine with the likelihood of falling prey to unwanted surveillance – like Edward Snowden, Bradley (a.k.a. “Chelsea”) Manning and others have claimed) – then perhaps we are overreacting.  If we’re not fine with this, then perhaps we’re not overreacting one bit.

Any thoughts?