Category Archives: Books

Weekend reading: Madeleine Albright’s Fascism: A Warning

Two snips from Kirkus Reviews about Madeleine Albright’s Fascism: A Warning (Harper, Apr. 10, 2018):

Former Secretary of State Albright offers an authoritative and well-grounded analysis of the growing rise of fascism around the world. Why, she asks, “has international momentum toward democracy slowed, and why are so many charlatans seeking to undermine public confidence in elections, the courts, the media,” and science? She counts the current president among the charlatans.

Besides providing an overview of the careers of Mussolini and Hitler, Albright looks at leaders such as Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez, Turkey’s Recep Erdogan, Hungary’s Viktor Orban, and Russia’s Vladimir Putin. Putin, she observes, is not yet a “full-blown” fascist, but he “has flipped through Stalin’s copy of the totalitarian playbook and underlined passages of interest to call on when convenient.”

— Joe

Available tomorrow: James Comey’s A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership

From the blurb for James Comey’s A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership (Flatiron Books, April 17, 2018):

Former FBI director James Comey shares his never-before-told experiences from some of the highest-stakes situations of his career in the past two decades of American government, exploring what good, ethical leadership looks like, and how it drives sound decisions. His journey provides an unprecedented entry into the corridors of power, and a remarkable lesson in what makes an effective leader.

— Joe

Weekend reading: Cyber Mercenaries: The State, Hackers, and Power

Cyber Mercenaries: The State, Hackers, and Power (Cambridge UP, Jan. 18, 2018) by Tim Maurer “explores the secretive relationships between states and hackers. As cyberspace has emerged as the new frontier for geopolitics, states have become entrepreneurial in their sponsorship, deployment, and exploitation of hackers as proxies to project power. Such modern-day mercenaries and privateers can impose significant harm undermining global security, stability, and human rights. These state-hacker relationships therefore raise important questions about the control, authority, and use of offensive cyber capabilities. While different countries pursue different models for their proxy relationships, they face the common challenge of balancing the benefits of these relationships with their costs and the potential risks of escalation. This book examines case studies in the United States, Iran, Syria, Russia, and China for the purpose of establishing a framework to better understand and manage the impact and risks of cyber proxies on global politics.” — Joe

Jean O’Grady goes old school

And by that I mean, Jean is launching what sounds like an annual “best of” selection of Dewey B Strategic blog posts in a print-based “blog-o-zine.” The 2017 compilation is expected to be published on or about April 30th. Jean writes

Why should someone pay for it? The 2017 Dewey B Strategic Blog-o-zine is intended to be an easy access, reference handbook on the major legal research/technology trends, product releases and enhancements of 2017. The book includes 34 product reviews for cutting edge legal products incorporating AI, analytics, workflow tools and plain old expert analysis. What have the big players Thomson Reuters, LexisNexis, Bloomberg Law and Wolters Kluwer been up to? Did you catch the release of new features on Fastcase, CARA, Ravel, Lex Machina? Have you heard about the innovative new tools from Judicata, Gavelitcs and Voxgov? The blog-o-zine can be seen as a good investment in a tool that will make it easier for you to focus your time and your budgets on best products for your firm’s research
needs.

The book will retail for $99 but will be available at the pre-publication price of $79.00 (plus shipping) through April 30th. If interested follow this link to Jean’s blog post which includes a PayPal link for purchasing this compilation.

Interesting. — Joe

The List: A Week-by-Week Reckoning of Trump’s First Year

Here’s the blurb for Amy Siskind’s The List: A Week-by-Week Reckoning of Trump’s First Year (Bloomsbury Publishing, Mar. 27, 2018):

In the immediate aftermath of Donald Trump’s election as president, Amy Siskind, a former Wall Street executive and the founder of The New Agenda, began compiling a list of actions taken by the Trump regime that pose a threat to our democratic norms. Under the headline: “Experts in authoritarianism advise to keep a list of things subtly changing around you, so you’ll remember” Siskind’s “Weekly List” began as a project she shared with friends, but it soon went viral and now has more than half a million viewers every week.

Compiled in one volume for the first time, The List is a first draft history and a comprehensive accounting of Donald Trump’s first year. Beginning with Trump’s acceptance of white supremacists the week after the election and concluding a year to the day later, we watch as Trump and his regime chips away at the rights and protections of marginalized communities, of women, of us all, via Twitter storms, unchecked executive action, and shifting rules and standards. The List chronicles not only the scandals that made headlines but just as important, the myriad smaller but still consequential unprecedented acts that otherwise fall through cracks. It is this granular detail that makes The List such a powerful and important book.

Recommended. — Joe

Weekend reading: The Trump White House: Changing the Rules of the Game

Here’s a snip from the blurb for Ronald Kessler’s The Trump White House: Changing the Rules of the Game (Crown Forum, Apr. 3, 2018):

Based on exclusive interviews with the president and his staff, The Trump White House: Changing the Rules of the Game tells the real story of what Donald Trump is like, who influences him, how he makes decisions, what he says about the people around him, and how he operates when the television lights go off, while portraying the inside story of the successes that have already brought solid results as well as the stumbles that have turned off even longtime supporters and undercut his agenda.

Some insights from the book:

  • Trump aides Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner have been responsible for Trump’s most disastrous decisions. Trump is aware that his daughter and son-in-law are problems and has hinted to them that they should go back to New York. Seeing Jared on TV, Trump said, “Look at Jared, he looks like a little boy, like a child.”
  • First Lady Melania Trump has a tremendous impact on policy and strategy. She sits in on meetings and is widely admired by aides for her judgment.
  • Kellyanne Conway is the No. 1 White House leaker
  • Trump calls certain reporters directly, feeding them stories attributed to “a senior White House official,” creating the impression that the White House leaks even more than it already does.

— Joe

Weekend reading: Look Away: Documenting the Crude and Sexist Items from the Trump Campaign Trial

Here’s the blurb for Paul Sherman’s Look Away: Documenting the Crude and Sexist Items from the Trump Campaign Trial (X Park Press, Oct. 5, 2017):

Crude, sexist, and racist political items helped galvanize Trump supporters during the 2016 election. Look Away documents and categorizes the vulgar and sexist signs, bumper stickers, T-shirts, and buttons that were part of the fabric of many Trump rallies. Many of the images in Look Away’s 176 pages are offensive and tough to stomach, yet they are a vital record of the past election. The book serves as an important reminder to future generations about the break in political discourse that occurred in 2016.

— Joe

Nourse’s Misreading Law, Misreading Democracy

Here’s the blurb for Victoria Nourse’s Misreading Law, Misreading Democracy (Harvard UP, 2016):

American law schools extol democracy but teach little about its most basic institution, the Congress. Interpreting statutes is lawyers’ most basic task, but law professors rarely focus on how statutes are made. This misguided pedagogy, says Victoria Nourse, undercuts the core of legal practice. It may even threaten the continued functioning of American democracy, as contempt for the legislature becomes entrenched in legal education and judicial opinions. Misreading Law, Misreading Democracy turns a spotlight on lawyers’ and judges’ pervasive ignorance about how Congress makes law.

Victoria Nourse not only offers a critique but proposes reforming the way lawyers learn how to interpret statutes by teaching legislative process. Statutes are legislative decisions, just as judicial opinions are decisions. Her approach, legislative decision theory, reverse-engineers the legislative process to simplify the task of finding Congress’s meanings when statutes are ambiguous. This theory revolutionizes how we understand legislative history—not as an attempt to produce some vague notion of legislative intent but as a surgical strike for the best evidence of democratic context.

Countering the academic view that the legislative process is irrational and unseemly, Nourse makes a forceful argument that lawyers must be educated about the basic procedures that define how Congress operates today. Lawmaking is a sequential process with political winners and losers. If lawyers and judges do not understand this, they may well embrace the meanings of those who opposed legislation rather than those who supported it, making legislative losers into judicial winners, and standing democracy on its head.

— Joe

Weekend reading: Alt-America: The Rise of the Radical Right in the Age of Trump

Here’s the blurb for David Neiwert’s Alt-America: The Rise of the Radical Right in the Age of Trump (Verso, Oct. 17, 2017):

Just as Donald Trump’s victorious campaign for the US presidency shocked the world, the seemingly sudden national prominence of white supremacists, xenophobes, militia leaders, and mysterious “alt-right” figures mystifies many. But the American extreme right has been growing steadily in number and influence since the 1990s with the rise of patriot militias. Following 9/11, conspiracy theorists found fresh life; and in virulent reaction to the first black US president, militant racists have come out of the woodwork. Nurtured by a powerful right-wing media sector in radio, TV, and online, the far right, Tea Party movement conservatives, and Republican activists found common ground. Figures such as Stephen Bannon, Milo Yiannopoulos, and Alex Jones, once rightly dismissed as cranks, now haunt the reports of mainstream journalism.

Investigative reporter David Neiwert has been tracking extremists for more than two decades. In Alt-America, he provides a deeply researched and authoritative report on the growth of fascism and far-right terrorism, the violence of which in the last decade has surpassed anything inspired by Islamist or other ideologies in the United States. The product of years of reportage, and including the most in-depth investigation of Trump’s ties to the far right, this is a crucial book about one of the most disturbing aspects of American society.

— Joe

Huddleston’s Fastcase: The Definitive Guide published by ABA

From the blurb for Fastcase: The Definitive Guide (ABA, 2018) by Brian Huddleston:

The days when lawyers could run up hundreds or thousands of dollars in expenses from one of the “big three” legal research services and bill those amounts to their clients are long gone. And, as any lawyer knows, time is money. If you’re a lawyer using Fastcase, you already know how to use your legal research budget and your time efficiently. This book will help you put Fastcase and your valuable time to even better use. It will also show you some features you didn’t even know it had.

If you’re new to Fastcase, get ready to learn how to use this invaluable legal research tool and work with the variety of resources it gives you, from case law to statutes, regulations, and more. More than 25 state bar associations now provide Fastcase to their members; if yours is one of them (or if you have your own subscription) you can’t be without this helpful guide!

Recommended for all Fastcase users. — Joe

Weekend reading: Russian Roulette: The Inside Story of Putin’s War on America and the Election of Donald Trump

Here’s the blurb for Russian Roulette: The Inside Story of Putin’s War on America and the Election of Donald Trump (Twelve, Mar. 13, 2018) by Michael Isikoff and David Corn:

RUSSIAN ROULETTE is a story of political skullduggery unprecedented in American history. It weaves together tales of international intrigue, cyber espionage, and superpower rivalry. After U.S.-Russia relations soured, as Vladimir Putin moved to reassert Russian strength on the global stage, Moscow trained its best hackers and trolls on U.S. political targets and exploited WikiLeaks to disseminate information that could affect the 2016 election.

The Russians were wildly successful and the great break-in of 2016 was no “third-rate burglary.” It was far more sophisticated and sinister — a brazen act of political espionage designed to interfere with American democracy. At the end of the day, Trump, the candidate who pursued business deals in Russia, won. And millions of Americans were left wondering, what the hell happened? This story of high-tech spying and multiple political feuds is told against the backdrop of Trump’s strange relationship with Putin and the curious ties between members of his inner circle — including Paul Manafort and Michael Flynn — and Russia.

RUSSIAN ROULETTE chronicles and explores this bizarre scandal, explains the stakes, and answers one of the biggest questions in American politics: How and why did a foreign government infiltrate the country’s political process and gain influence in Washington?

Recommended. — Joe

Which legal novel deserves a shot at being the greatest work of legal fiction of all time?

Above the Law wants to know because it is conducting its March Madness poll about the best legal fiction. You have until Monday, March 19 at 9:00 a.m. Eastern to cast your votes here. — Joe

Weekend reading: Vicente Fox’s Let’s Move On: Beyond Fear & False Prophets

From the blurb for Vicente Fox’s Let’s Move On: Beyond Fear & False Prophets (Savio Republic, Jan. 16, 2018):

Vicente Fox, the former president of Mexico, issues both a denunciation of the current state of American politics and a call to unity and resistance in the face of rising ethnocentric and anti-democratic sentiments.

Vicente Fox offers his unique viewpoint as a former head of state, avid historian, and true admirer of America’s constitutional ideals. He knows where a Trump presidency can lead—and it is nowhere good. Let’s Move On is a political manifesto written in Fox’s trademark, no-nonsense style where he both denounces Trump’s malignant anti-intellectualism and inspires people to rise up and resist.

— Joe

Weekend reading: The Making of Donald Trump

From David Cay Johnson’s The Making of Donald Trump (Melville House, 2016):

Covering the long arc of Trump’s career, Johnston tells the full story of how a boy from a quiet section of Queens, NY would become an entirely new, and complex, breed of public figure. Trump is a man of great media savvy, entrepreneurial spirit, and political clout. Yet his career has been plagued by legal troubles and mounting controversy.

Drawing on decades of interviews, financial records, court documents, and public statements, David Cay Johnston, who has covered Trump longer and more closely than any other journalist working today, gives us the most in-depth look yet at the man who has shocked the world.

— Joe

Weekend reading: One Nation After Trump: A Guide for the Perplexed, the Disillusioned, the Desperate, and the Not-Yet Deported

Here’s the blurb for One Nation After Trump: A Guide for the Perplexed, the Disillusioned, the Desperate, and the Not-Yet Deported (St. Martin’s Press, Sept. 19, 2017) by E.J. Dionne Jr., Norman J. Ornstein and Thomas E. Mann:

American democracy was never supposed to give the nation a president like Donald Trump. We have never had a president who gave rise to such widespread alarm about his lack of commitment to the institutions of self-government, to the norms democracy requires, and to the need for basic knowledge about how government works. We have never had a president who raises profound questions about his basic competence and his psychological capacity to take on the most challenging political office in the world.

Yet if Trump is both a threat to our democracy and a product of its weaknesses, the citizen activism he has inspired is the antidote. The reaction to the crisis created by Trump’s presidency can provide the foundation for an era of democratic renewal and vindicate our long experiment in self-rule.

The award-winning authors of One Nation After Trump explain Trump’s rise and the danger his administration poses to our free institutions. They also offer encouragement to the millions of Americans now experiencing a new sense of citizenship and engagement and argue that our nation needs a unifying alternative to Trump’s dark and divisive brand of politics―an alternative rooted in a New Economy, a New Patriotism, a New Civil Society, and a New Democracy. One Nation After Trump is the essential book for our era, an unsparing assessment of the perils facing the United States and an inspiring roadmap for how we can reclaim the future.

— Joe

A citizen’s guide to the limits of presidential power

From the blurb for The Limits of Presidential Power: A Citizen’s Guide to the Law (Manheim & Watts, Jan. 11, 2018) by Lisa Manheim and Kathryn Watts:

This one-of-a-kind guide provides a crash course in the laws governing the President of the United States. In engaging and accessible prose, two law professors explain the principles that inform everything from President Washington’s disagreements with Congress to President Trump’s struggles with the courts, and more. Timely and to the point, this guide provides the essential information every informed civic participant needs to know about the laws that govern the president–and what those laws mean for those who want to make their voices heard.

— Joe

Weekend reading: Stiglitz’s Globalization and Its Discontents Revisited: Anti-Globalization in the Era of Trump

From the blurb for Joseph E. Stiglitz’s Globalization and Its Discontents Revisited: Anti-Globalization in the Era of Trump (W. W. Norton & Company, Nov. 28, 2017):

In this crucial expansion and update of his landmark bestseller, renowned economist and Nobel Prize winner Joseph E. Stiglitz addresses globalization’s new discontents in the United States and Europe. Immediately upon publication, Globalization and Its Discontents became a touchstone in the globalization debate by demonstrating how the International Monetary Fund, other major institutions like the World Bank, and global trade agreements have often harmed the developing nations they are supposedly helping. Yet globalization today continues to be mismanaged, and now the harms―exemplified by the rampant inequality to which it has contributed―have come home to roost in the United States and the rest of the developed world as well, reflected in growing political unrest.

With a new introduction, major new chapters on the new discontents, the rise of Donald Trump, and the new protectionist movement, as well as a new afterword on the course of globalization since the book first appeared, Stiglitz’s powerful and prescient messages remain essential reading.

— Joe

Why haven’t publishers apologized for their books that glorify slavery and Jim Crow

Remnants of the Confederacy and the years of segregation that followed can be found on the bookshelves of libraries around the United States. In their Fortune Feb. 2, 2018 op-ed piece, Why Haven’t Publishers Apologized for Their Books That Glorify Slavery?, Alfred Brophy and Autumn Barrett identify books published in the twentieth century by publishers still in existence that supported Jim Crow. They write

These books set in motion ideas that constrained our nation’s vision of race and law and continue to cast a long shadow over our nation’s narratives of race and equality. Those who were educated on such ideas held power for decades, institutionalizing their visions and methods, and training generations of scholars. The presses that are responsible for putting these ideas into the stream of public consciousness owe an acknowledgment of their complicity. Moreover, an excavation of these books, and their contemporary uses, can shed light on the legacies of Confederate ideologies of the past, and we may recognize the echoes of their words in the present.

Recommended. — Joe

Weekend reading: The Unmaking of the President 2016: How FBI Director James Comey Cost Hillary Clinton the Presidency

From Kirkus Review for The Unmaking of the President 2016: How FBI Director James Comey Cost Hillary Clinton the Presidency (Scribner Feb. 6, 2018) by Lanny J. Davis: “According to Davis … the negative effect is indisputable, and he has the data, compiled both before and well after the election, to back up his claims. While he occasionally tumbles into legal jargon, he provides compelling criticism of the FBI, the New York Times, and others.” — Joe

Weekend reading: Automating Inequality: How High-Tech Tools Profile, Police, and Punish the Poor

Here’s the blurb for Virginia Eubanks’ Automating Inequality: How High-Tech Tools Profile, Police, and Punish the Poor (St. Martin’s Press, Jan. 23, 2018):

A powerful investigative look at data-based discrimination―and how technology affects civil and human rights and economic equity

The State of Indiana denies one million applications for healthcare, food stamps and cash benefits in three years―because a new computer system interprets any mistake as “failure to cooperate.” In Los Angeles, an algorithm calculates the comparative vulnerability of tens of thousands of homeless people in order to prioritize them for an inadequate pool of housing resources. In Pittsburgh, a child welfare agency uses a statistical model to try to predict which children might be future victims of abuse or neglect.

Since the dawn of the digital age, decision-making in finance, employment, politics, health and human services has undergone revolutionary change. Today, automated systems―rather than humans―control which neighborhoods get policed, which families attain needed resources, and who is investigated for fraud. While we all live under this new regime of data, the most invasive and punitive systems are aimed at the poor.

In Automating Inequality, Virginia Eubanks systematically investigates the impacts of data mining, policy algorithms, and predictive risk models on poor and working-class people in America. The book is full of heart-wrenching and eye-opening stories, from a woman in Indiana whose benefits are literally cut off as she lays dying to a family in Pennsylvania in daily fear of losing their daughter because they fit a certain statistical profile.

The U.S. has always used its most cutting-edge science and technology to contain, investigate, discipline and punish the destitute. Like the county poorhouse and scientific charity before them, digital tracking and automated decision-making hide poverty from the middle-class public and give the nation the ethical distance it needs to make inhumane choices: which families get food and which starve, who has housing and who remains homeless, and which families are broken up by the state. In the process, they weaken democracy and betray our most cherished national values.

Recommended. — Joe