Category Archives: Books

Weekend reading: McFaul’s From Cold War to Hot Peace: An American Ambassador in Putin’s Russia

From the blurb for Michael McFaul’s From Cold War to Hot Peace: An American Ambassador in Putin’s Russia (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, May 8, 2018):

From one of America’s leading scholars of Russia who served as U.S. ambassador to Russia during the Obama administration, a revelatory, inside account of U.S.-Russia relations from 1989 to the present

In 2008, when Michael McFaul was asked to leave his perch at Stanford and join an unlikely presidential campaign, he had no idea that he would find himself at the beating heart of one of today’s most contentious and consequential international relationships. As President Barack Obama’s adviser on Russian affairs, McFaul helped craft the United States’ policy known as “reset” that fostered new and unprecedented collaboration between the two countries. And then, as U.S. ambassador to Russia from 2012 to 2014, he had a front-row seat when this fleeting, hopeful moment crumbled with Vladimir Putin’s return to the presidency. This riveting inside account combines history and memoir to tell the full story of U.S.-Russia relations from the fall of the Soviet Union to the new rise of the hostile, paranoid Russian president. From the first days of McFaul’s ambassadorship, the Kremlin actively sought to discredit and undermine him, hassling him with tactics that included dispatching protesters to his front gates, slandering him on state media, and tightly surveilling him, his staff, and his family.

— Joe

Weekend reading: Kakutani’s The Death of Truth: Notes on Falsehood in the Age of Trump

Here’s the blurb for Michiko Kakutani, The Death of Truth: Notes on Falsehood in the Age of Trump (Tim Duggan Books, July 17, 2018):

We live in a time when the very idea of objective truth is mocked and discounted by the occupants of the White House. Discredited conspiracy theories and ideologies have resurfaced, proven science is once more up for debate, and Russian propaganda floods our screens. The wisdom of the crowd has usurped research and expertise, and we are each left clinging to the beliefs that best confirm our biases.

How did truth become an endangered species in contemporary America? This decline began decades ago, and in The Death of Truth, former New York Times critic Michiko Kakutani takes a penetrating look at the cultural forces that contributed to this gathering storm. In social media and literature, television, academia, and politics, Kakutani identifies the trends—originating on both the right and the left—that have combined to elevate subjectivity over factuality, science, and common values. And she returns us to the words of the great critics of authoritarianism, writers like George Orwell and Hannah Arendt, whose work is newly and eerily relevant.

With remarkable erudition and insight, Kakutani offers a provocative diagnosis of our current condition and points toward a new path for our truth-challenged times.

— Joe

Weekend reading: Dershowitz on the case against impeaching Trump

From the blurb for The Case Against Impeaching Trump, (Hot Books, July 9, 2018):

The Case Against Impeaching Trump seeks to reorient the debate over impeachment to the same standard that Dershowitz has continued to uphold for decades: the law of the United States of America, as established by the Constitution. In the author’s own words:

“In the fervor to impeach President Trump, his political enemies have ignored the text of the Constitution. As a civil libertarian who voted against Trump, I remind those who would impeach him not to run roughshod over a document that has protected us all for two and a quarter centuries. In this case against impeachment, I make arguments similar to those I made against the impeachment of President Bill Clinton (and that I would be making had Hillary Clinton been elected and Republicans were seeking to impeach her). Impeachment and removal of a president are not entirely political decisions by Congress. Every member takes an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States, and the Constitution sets out specific substantive criteria that MUST be met.

I am thrilled to contribute to this important debate and especially that my book will be so quickly available to readers so they can make up their own minds.”

— Joe

Weekend reading: Putin’s Kleptocracy

Here’s the blurb for Karen Dawisha’s Putin’s Kleptocracy: Who Owns Russia? (Simon & Schuster, 2015):

The raging question in the world today is who is the real Vladimir Putin and what are his intentions. Karen Dawisha’s brilliant Putin’s Kleptocracy provides an answer, describing how Putin got to power, the cabal he brought with him, the billions they have looted, and his plan to restore the Greater Russia.

Russian scholar Dawisha describes and exposes the origins of Putin’s kleptocratic regime. She presents extensive new evidence about the Putin circle’s use of public positions for personal gain even before Putin became president in 2000. She documents the establishment of Bank Rossiya, now sanctioned by the US; the rise of the Ozero cooperative, founded by Putin and others who are now subject to visa bans and asset freezes; the links between Putin, Petromed, and “Putin’s Palace” near Sochi; and the role of security officials from Putin’s KGB days in Leningrad and Dresden, many of whom have maintained their contacts with Russian organized crime.

Putin’s Kleptocracy is the result of years of research into the KGB and the various Russian crime syndicates. Dawisha’s sources include Stasi archives; Russian insiders; investigative journalists in the US, Britain, Germany, Finland, France, and Italy; and Western officials who served in Moscow. Russian journalists wrote part of this story when the Russian media was still free. “Many of them died for this story, and their work has largely been scrubbed from the Internet, and even from Russian libraries,” Dawisha says. “But some of that work remains.”

— Joe

Weekend reading: Born Trump: Inside America’s First Family

From the blurb for Born Trump: Inside America’s First Family (Harper, June 19, 2018) by Emily Jane Fox

Who is Donald J. Trump? To truly understand America’s forty-fifth president, argues Vanity Fair journalist Emily Jane Fox, you must know his children, whose own stories provide the key to unlocking what makes him tick. Born Trump is Fox’s dishy, deeply reported, and richly detailed look at Trump’s five children (and equally powerful son-in-law, Jared Kushner), exploring their lives, their roles in the campaign and administration, and their dramatic and often fraught relationships with their father and with one another.

Reexamining the tabloid-soaked events that shaped their lives in startling new detail, Born Trump is full of surprising insights, previously untold stories, and delicious tidbits about their childhoods (ridiculously privileged and painful, in equal measure) and the extraordinary power they now wield. As a version of this new kind of American royalty they wish to be, they are ensconced not in palaces but in Trump Tower and the White House.

Even before Trump’s oldest child, Don Jr., was born, Donald told friends that he wanted at least five kids—to make sure there was a greater probability one would turn out just like him. His vision didn’t pan out exactly as he’d imagined, but Trump’s children each inherited some of his essential traits—as one source says, “collectively, they make the whole.”

Ivanka is a media-savvy, hyperskilled messenger with her father’s self-promotional ease but without the brash.

Don Jr. has the most contentious relationship with his father yet seems prone to endlessly repeat his mistakes.

Eric embraced the family’s real estate business but has, in surprising ways, charted a more independent course than his siblings.

While Tiffany grew up mostly separate from her father, she inherited Trump’s perspective as an outsider—his unique combination of assurance and insecurity.

And there is Ivanka’s husband, Jared Kushner, whose own family drama and personal ambition is a crucial thread in this saga.

Come for the vision of Trump as a father—a portrait of the president at his kindest and cruelest. Stay for the revelatory gossip, including the truth about the firings of Christie and Manafort, the inside scoop on Donald’s three marriages, why Ivanka and Jared are “bashert,” and how this family of real estate tycoons have become the most powerful people in the world.

— Joe

Moore’s Undocumented: Immigration and the Militarization of the United States-Mexico Border

Here’s the blurb for John Moore’s Undocumented: Immigration and the Militarization of the United States-Mexico Border (PowerHouse Books, Mar. 27, 2018):

John Moore has focused on the issue of undocumented immigration to the United States for a decade. His access to immigrants during their journey, and to U.S. federal agents tasked with deterring them, sets his pictures apart. Moore has photographed the entire length of the U.S. southern border, and traveled extensively throughout Central America and Mexico, as well as to many immigrant communities in the United States. His work includes rare imagery of ICE raids, mass deportations, and the resulting widespread fear in the immigrant community. For its broad scope and rigorous journalism, Undocumented: Immigration and the Militarization of the United States-Mexico Border is the essential record on the prevailing U.S. domestic topic of immigration and border security.

Recommended. — Joe

Weekend reading: Uncovering Trump: The Truth Behind Donald Trump’s Charitable Giving

Here’s the blurb for David A. Fahrenthold’s Uncovering Trump: The Truth Behind Donald Trump’s Charitable Giving (Diversion Book, May 4, 2017):

In February of 2016, Donald Trump promised $6 million in donations, including $1 million from his own pocket, to local charities along his campaign trail. But by the time he won the New Hampshire primary, he had stopped giving away money and had donated far less than his pledged amount. Washington Post reporter David A. Fahrenthold went in search of the missing money, and found a bigger story than he ever expected.

In this collection of articles from The Washington Post, Fahrenthold chronicles his investigations on candidate Trump. From a deep dive into the Trump Foundation to breaking the news of the now-infamous “Access Hollywood” tape, the information he discovered shaped the course of the campaign and set the tone for the Trump presidency.

A must-read for anyone who followed the 2016 campaign, Uncovering Trump takes you behind the scenes of Fahrenthold’s investigation, through the lens of his expertly reported news stories.

— Joe

Haider’s Mistaken Identity: Race and Class in the Age of Trump

Here’s the blurb for Asad Haider’s Mistaken Identity: Race and Class in the Age of Trump (Verso, May 15, 2018):

Whether class or race is the more important factor in modern politics is a question right at the heart of recent history’s most contentious debates. Among groups who should readily find common ground, there is little agreement. To escape this deadlock, Asad Haider turns to the rich legacies of the black freedom struggle. Drawing on the words and deeds of black revolutionary theorists, he argues that identity politics is not synonymous with anti-racism, but instead amounts to the neutralization of its movements. It marks a retreat from the crucial passage of identity to solidarity, and from individual recognition to the collective struggle against an oppressive social structure.

Weaving together autobiographical reflection, historical analysis, theoretical exegesis, and protest reportage, Mistaken Identity is a passionate call for a new practice of politics beyond colorblind chauvinism and “the ideology of race.”

— Joe

Weekend reading: Gaslighting America: Why We Love It When Trump Lies to Us

From the blurb for Amanda Carpenter’s Gaslighting America: Why We Love It When Trump Lies to Us (Broadside Books, May 1, 2018):

In Gaslighting America, Carpenter breaks down Trump’s formula, showing why it’s practically foolproof, playing his victims, the media, the Democrats, and the Republican fence-sitters perfectly. She traces how this tactic started with Nixon, gained traction with Bill Clinton, and exploded under Trump. If you think Trump is driving you crazy, it’s because he is. Now, in this urgent book, she explains how to withstand the fire.

Where some people see lies, Trump’s fierce followers see something different. A commitment to winning at all costs; there is nothing he could say that would erode their support at long as it’s in the name of taking down his political enemies.

His opponents on the left and right continue to act as if his fake narratives and conspiracy theories will bring him down, when in fact, they are the ruses that raised him up.

As a conservative former staffer to a competing presidential campaign, Amanda Carpenter witnessed her fellow Republicans fall in line behind Trump. As a political commentator, she was publicly smeared by one of his supporters on live television without a shred of evidence supporting the allegations. Slowly, she watched her entire party succumb to Trump and become defenders of his tactics, and Gaslighting America may be the only hope to bring them back to reality.

— Joe

Chafetz’ Congress’s Constitution: Legislative Authority and the Separation of Powers

From the blurb for Congress’s Constitution: Legislative Authority and the Separation of Powers by Josh Chafetz (Yale UP, 2017):

Congress is widely supposed to be the least effective branch of the federal government. But as Josh Chafetz shows in this boldly original analysis, Congress in fact has numerous powerful tools at its disposal in its conflicts with the other branches. These tools include the power of the purse, the contempt power, freedom of speech and debate, and more.

Drawing extensively on the historical development of Anglo-American legislatures from the seventeenth century to the present, Chafetz concludes that these tools are all means by which Congress and its members battle for public support. When Congress uses them to engage successfully with the public, it increases its power vis-à-vis the other branches; when it does not, it loses power. This groundbreaking take on the separation of powers will be of interest to both legal scholars and political scientists.

— Joe

Kriner and Schickler’s Investigating the President: Congressional Checks on Presidential Power

From the blurb for Investigating the President: Congressional Checks on Presidential Power by Douglas Kriner and Eric Schickler (Princeton UP, 2016):

Douglas Kriner and Eric Schickler construct the most comprehensive overview of congressional investigative oversight to date, analyzing nearly thirteen thousand days of hearings, spanning more than a century, from 1898 through 2014. The authors examine the forces driving investigative power over time and across chambers, identify how hearings might influence the president’s strategic calculations through the erosion of the president’s public approval rating, and uncover the pathways through which investigations have shaped public policy. Put simply, by bringing significant political pressure to bear on the president, investigations often afford Congress a blunt, but effective check on presidential power―without the need to worry about veto threats or other hurdles such as Senate filibusters.

— Joe

Randy Kozel’s Settled Versus Right: A Theory of Precedent

From the blurb for Randy Kozel’s Settled Versus Right: A Theory of Precedent (Cambridge UP, 2017):

In this timely book, Randy J. Kozel develops a theory of precedent designed to enhance the stability and impersonality of constitutional law. Kozel contends that the prevailing approach to precedent in American law is undermined by principled disagreements among judges over the proper means and ends of constitutional interpretation. The structure and composition of the doctrine all but guarantee that conclusions about the durability of precedent will track individual views about whether decisions are right or wrong, and whether mistakes are harmful or benign. This is a serious challenge, but it also reveals a path toward maintaining legal continuity even as judges come and go. Kozel’s account of precedent should be read by anyone interested in the nature of the judicial role and the trajectory of constitutional law.

— Joe

The No-Nonsense Guide to Born-Digital Content

From the blurb for The No-Nonsense Guide to Born-Digital Content (Facet Publishing, 2018) by Heather Ryan and Walker Sampson:

Libraries and archives of all sizes are collecting and managing an increasing proportion of digital content. Within this body of digital content is a growing pool of ‘born-digital’ content: content that has been created and has often existed solely in digital form. Providing continued, sustainable access to a wide array of born-digital content is a challenge for libraries and archives, particularly because of the broad and highly technical skills needed to build and sustain born-digital content management workflows.

The No-Nonsense Guide to Born Digital Content provides an entry level how-to guide that aims to help ease inexperienced students and practitioners into this area. It explains step by step processes for developing and implementing born-digital content workflows in library and archive settings of all sizes and includes a range of case studies collected from small, medium and large institutions internationally.

Coverages includes:

• the wide range of digital storage media and the various sources of born-digital content;

• an overview of digital information basics;

• selection, acquisition, accessioning, and ingest;

• description, preservation, and access;

• methods for designing and implementing workflows for born-digital collection processing;

• a comprehensive glossary of common technical terms; and

• strategies and philosophies to move forward as technologies change.

— Joe

Weekend reading: Hayden’s The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies

From the blurb for Michael V. Hayden’s The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (Penguin Press, May 1, 2018):

In the face of a President who lobs accusations without facts, evidence, or logic, truth tellers are under attack. Meanwhile, the world order is teetering on the brink. North Korea is on the verge of having a nuclear weapon that could reach all of the United States, Russians have mastered a new form of information warfare that undercuts democracy, and the role of China in the global community remains unclear. There will always be value to experience and expertise, devotion to facts, humility in the face of complexity, and a respect for ideas, but in this moment they seem more important, and more endangered, than they’ve ever been. American Intelligence–the ultimate truth teller–has a responsibility in a post-truth world beyond merely warning of external dangers, and in The Assault on Intelligence, General Michael Hayden takes up that urgent work with profound passion, insight and authority.

It is a sobering vision. The American intelligence community is more at risk than is commonly understood, for every good reason. Civil war or societal collapse is not necessarily imminent or inevitable, but our democracy’s core structures, processes, and attitudes are under great stress. Many of the premises on which we have based our understanding of governance are now challenged, eroded, or simply gone. And we have a President in office who responds to overwhelming evidence from the intelligence community that the Russians are, by all acceptable standards of cyber conflict, in a state of outright war against us, not by leading a strong response, but by shooting the messenger.

There are fundamental changes afoot in the world and in this country. The Assault on Intelligence shows us what they are, reveals how crippled we’ve become in our capacity to address them, and points toward a series of effective responses. Because when we lose our intelligence, literally and figuratively, democracy dies.

— Joe

New edition of the law librarian’s bible now available

Kendall Svengalis has published the 2018 edition of his Legal Information Buyer’s Guide & Reference Manual. Updates include:

  • Fifty eight (58) additional pages of material, now totaling 1,019 pages
  • More than 90 new treatises, reference titles, and other product reviews (Chapter 27)
  • Enhanced bibliographies of legal treatises in 67 subject areas, including 77 titles on Legal Research and Writing, with new, used, electronic, and West Monthly Assured Print Pricing on more than 2,700 titles in all (Chapter 27)
  • Enhanced bibliography of legal reference titles (Chapter 22)
  • Updated bibliographies of state legal resources and research guides, including the cost of CALR offerings (Chapter 28)
  • Completely updated bibliographic data for all covered titles
  • Completely updated cost and supplementation figures through 2018, with supplementation figures through 2017 (and 2018 for Matthew Bender).
  • Completely updated cost spreadsheet for supplemented titles (Appendix G)
  • Completely updated charts and tables reflecting 2017 annual reports and pricing data
  • Completely updated sample Westlaw and Lexis costs (Chapter 25)
  • Completely updated sample CALR costs for all vendors (Chapter 25)
  • Completely updated spreadsheet of published state statutory codes
  • Recent industry developments and acquisitions, including profit margins (Chapter 2)
  • Updated information on Fastcase and Law360
  • Cumulative supplementation cost data going back 25 years — all at your fingertips — to guide your acquisitions and de-acquisitions decisions
  • Special alerts of egregious price and supplementation cost increases in recent years

Order here. Strongly recommended. — Joe

First book on developing First Amendment defenses and justifications for covering and protecting robotic speech

From the blurb for Ronals K. L. Collins and David M. Skover’s Robotica: Speech Rights and Artificial Intelligence (Cambridge University Press, May 31, 2018):

In every era of communications technology – whether print, radio, television, or Internet – some form of government censorship follows to regulate the medium and its messages. Today we are seeing the phenomenon of ‘machine speech’ enhanced by the development of sophisticated artificial intelligence. Ronald K. L. Collins and David M. Skover argue that the First Amendment must provide defenses and justifications for covering and protecting robotic expression. It is irrelevant that a robot is not human and cannot have intentions; what matters is that a human experiences robotic speech as meaningful. This is the constitutional recognition of ‘intentionless free speech’ at the interface of the robot and receiver. Robotica is the first book to develop the legal arguments for these purposes. Aimed at law and communication scholars, lawyers, and free speech activists, this work explores important new problems and solutions at the interface of law and technology.

— Joe

Weekend reading: Messing with the Enemy: Surviving in a Social Media World of Hackers, Terrorists, Russians, and Fake News

Messing with the Enemy: Surviving in a Social Media World of Hackers, Terrorists, Russians, and Fake News (Harper, May 29, 2018) by Clint Watts: “A former FBI Special Agent, U.S. Army officer and leading cyber-security expert offers a devastating and essential look at the misinformation campaigns, fake news, and electronic espionage operations that have become the cutting edge of modern warfare—and how we can protect ourselves and our country against them. … Watts examines a range of social media platforms—from the first Internet forums to the current titans of Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn—and nefarious actors—from al Qaeda to the Islamic State to the Russian social media troll farm—to illuminate exactly how they use Western social media for their nefarious purposes. He explains how he’s learned, through his successes and his failures, to engage with hackers, terrorists, and even the Russians—and how these interactions have generated methods for fighting back against those that seek to harm people on the Internet. He concludes with a snapshot of how advances in artificial intelligence will make future influence even more effective and dangerous to social media users and democratic governments worldwide. Shocking, funny, and eye-opening, Messing with the Enemy is a deeply urgent guide for living safe and smart in a super-connected world.” — Joe

Winkler’s We the Corporations: How American Businesses Won Their Civil Rights

Ronald Collins’ interview of Adam Winkler about his new book, We the Corporations: How American Businesses Won Their Civil Rights (Liveright, Feb. 27, 2018), for SCOTUSblog piqued my interest in Winkler’s new book. Here’s the blurb:

We the Corporations chronicles the astonishing story of one of the most successful yet least well-known “civil rights movements” in American history. Hardly oppressed like women and minorities, business corporations, too, have fought since the nation’s earliest days to gain equal rights under the Constitution?and today have nearly all the same rights as ordinary people.

Exposing the historical origins of Citizens United and Hobby Lobby, Adam Winkler explains how those controversial Supreme Court decisions extending free speech and religious liberty to corporations were the capstone of a centuries-long struggle over corporate personhood and constitutional protections for business. Beginning his account in the colonial era, Winkler reveals the profound influence corporations had on the birth of democracy and on the shape of the Constitution itself. Once the Constitution was ratified, corporations quickly sought to gain the rights it guaranteed. The first Supreme Court case on the rights of corporations was decided in 1809, a half-century before the first comparable cases on the rights of African Americans or women. Ever since, corporations have waged a persistent and remarkably fruitful campaign to win an ever-greater share of individual rights.

Although corporations never marched on Washington, they employed many of the same strategies of more familiar civil rights struggles: civil disobedience, test cases, and novel legal claims made in a purposeful effort to reshape the law. Indeed, corporations have often been unheralded innovators in constitutional law, and several of the individual rights Americans hold most dear were first secured in lawsuits brought by businesses.

Winkler enlivens his narrative with a flair for storytelling and a colorful cast of characters: among others, Daniel Webster, America’s greatest advocate, who argued some of the earliest corporate rights cases on behalf of his business clients; Roger Taney, the reviled Chief Justice, who surprisingly fought to limit protections for corporations?in part to protect slavery; and Roscoe Conkling, a renowned politician who deceived the Supreme Court in a brazen effort to win for corporations the rights added to the Constitution for the freed slaves. Alexander Hamilton, Teddy Roosevelt, Huey Long, Ralph Nader, Louis Brandeis, and even Thurgood Marshall all played starring roles in the story of the corporate rights movement.

In this heated political age, nothing can be timelier than Winkler’s tour de force, which shows how America’s most powerful corporations won our most fundamental rights and turned the Constitution into a weapon to impede the regulation of big business.

Recommended. — Joe

Weekend reading: To End a Presidency: The Power of Impeachment by Laurence Tribe and Joshua Matz

Here’s the blurb for To End a Presidency: The Power of Impeachment (Basic Books, May 15, 2018) by Laurence Tribe and Joshua Matz:

To End a Presidency addresses one of today’s most urgent questions: when and whether to impeach a president. Laurence Tribe and Joshua Matz provide an authoritative guide to impeachment’s past and a bold argument about its proper role today. In an era of expansive presidential power and intense partisanship, we must rethink impeachment for the twenty-first century.

Of impeachments, one Constitutional Convention delegate declared, “A good magistrate will not fear them. A bad one will be kept in fear of them.” To End a Presidency is an essential book for all Americans seeking to understand how this crucial but fearsome power should be exercised.

Recommended. — Joe

Weekend reading: Trump / Russia: A Definitive History

From the blurb for Seth Hettena’s Trump / Russia: A Definitive History (Melville House, May 8, 2018):

Is the 45th President of the United States under the control of a foreign power? Award-winning Associated Press reporter Seth Hettena untangles the story of Donald Trump’s long involvement with Russia in damning detail—including new reporting never before published.

In Trump/Russia: A Definitive History, Seth Hettena chronicles the many years Trump has spent wooing Russian money and power. From the collapse of his casino empire—which left Trump desperate for cash—and his first contacts with Russian deal-makers and financiers, on up to the White House, Hettena reveals the myriad of shady people, convoluted dealings, and strange events that suggest how indebted to Russia our forty-fifth president might be.

Using deeply researched reporting, along with newly uncovered information, court documents, and exclusive interviews with investigators and FBI agents, Hettena provides an expansive and essential primer to the Trump/Russia scandal, leaving no stone unturned.

— Joe