When You Ride Alone You Ride with bin Laden: What the Government Should Be Telling Us to Help Fight the War on Terrorism - Bill Maher
I first came across this book at Waldenbooks, when every week we had several new books about 9/11 and bin Laden and Afghanistan, and I was immediately intrigued. For one, I'd seen the original "when you ride alone you ride with Hitler" poster (along with some parodies on ModernHumorist.com), and I'm usually up for well-done parodies. It turns out this book isn't so much parodies as modern-day war propaganda posters, as seen by Bill Maher. Maher is a funny, smart, and—as evidenced by the comment that got everyone all riled up—isn't afraid to say what he believes, even if it goes against popular sentiment. I didn't agree with everything he said, but he does a much better job explaining and defending his opinions than most. The blurbs on the back cover range from Al Franken and Michael Moore to Ann Coulter—an impressive feat.

The book itself isn't designed really well. It's a large picture book, which is nice for the posters, but it makes the text seem sparse. The fact several chapters have pull-quotes on the side, or even full-page quotes, makes it seem like they really needed a bunch of filler to reach a minimum number of pages. Also, the book is a little dated—his remarks regarding Saddam are interesting in light of current events, but for the most part, the book is still relevant.

That said, Maher makes some good points about what we as non-military citizens can do to help fight the war against terror. Whether or not you agree that we ought to be at war, there are a lot of other things involved that our government doesn't really talk about. He feels like the government did a much better job in previous wars telling citizens what we ought to be doing, but now we're not expected to do anything except shop a little harder. He addresses the idea of sacrifice, oil (and SUVs), American ignorance, electricity, diamonds, paying your taxes, and supporting police and firemen. Befitting the former host of Politically Incorrect, he speaks up for racial profiling and against political correctness. He also writes about free speech (of course), religion, drugs, and wasting food.

You're probably thinking, these topics don't sound like they'd make for a laugh-a-minute. You probably haven't read this book. Larry King (according to this blurb on the back) says that this is "destined to be the most talked about book of the year." If only that were true—the fact is, most people probably won't even bother to flip through it.

Fed to jonathan's brain | March 18, 2003