Category Archives: Books

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

Weekend reading: Trumpocracy: The Corruption of the American Republic

Here’s the blurb for Trumpocracy: The Corruption of the American Republic (Harper, January 16, 2018) by David Frum:

Bestselling author, former White House speechwriter, and Atlantic columnist and media commentator David Frum explains why President Trump has undermined our most important institutions in ways even the most critical media has missed, in this thoughtful and hard-hitting book that is a warning for democracy and America’s future.

While much of the country has been focused on Russia, David Frum has been collecting the lies, obfuscations, and flagrant disregard for the traditional limits placed on the office of the presidency. In Trumpocracy, he documents how Trump and his administration are steadily damaging the tenets and accepted practices of American democracy. During his own White House tenure as George W. Bush’s speechwriter, Frum witnessed the ways the presidency is limited not by law but by tradition, propriety, and public outcry, all now weakened. Whether the Trump presidency lasts two, four, or eight more years, he has changed the nature of the office for the worse, and likely for decades.

In this powerful and eye-opening book, Frum makes clear that the hard work of recovery starts at home. Trumpocracy outlines how Trump could push America toward illiberalism, what the consequences could be for our nation and our everyday lives, and what we can do to prevent it.

— Joe

Weekend Reading: It’s Even Worse Than You Think: What the Trump Administration Is Doing to America

From the blurb for It’s Even Worse Than You Think: What the Trump Administration Is Doing to America (Simon & Schuster, January 16, 2018) by David Cay Johnston:

Bestselling author and longtime Trump observer David Cay Johnston shines a light on the political termites who have infested our government under the Trump Administration, destroying it from within and compromising our jobs, safety, finances, and more.

No journalist knows Donald Trump better than David Cay Johnston, who has been following him since 1988. It’s Even Worse Than You Think: What the Trump Administration Is Doing to America goes inside the administration to show how the federal agencies that touch the lives of all Americans are being undermined.

Also recommended, David Cay Johnston’s The Making of Donald Trump, Updated ed., Melville House, Nov. 14, 2017. — Joe

Weekend reading: Trump Revealed

From the blurb for Trump Revealed: The Definitive Biography of the 45th President by Michael Kranish and Marc Fisher:

Hailed as “authoritative” and “essential,” and based on the work of two dozen reporters and twenty hours of interviews with Trump, Trump Revealed is the indispensable and now updated biography of the 45th president of the United States.

Coauthored by Washington Post investigative political reporter Michael Kranish and senior editor Marc Fisher, Trump Revealed details the 1970s Justice Department suit against Trump and his father for racial discrimination, his business and political machinations and alleged organized crime connections, his disastrous Atlantic City casino projects, and his relentless pursuit of the attentions of the media. What emerges is a portrait of “a man certain of his views, hugely confident in his abilities, not terribly well informed, quick to take offense,” a man with a penchant for big bets—on real estate, branded businesses, and, ultimately, on himself.

— Joe

Weekend reading: Devil’s Bargain: Steve Bannon, Donald Trump, and the Storming of the Presidency

From the blurb for Lloyd Green’s Devil’s Bargain: Steve Bannon, Donald Trump, and the Storming of the Presidency (Penguin, July 18, 2017):

From the reporter who was there at the very beginning comes the revealing inside story of the partnership between Steve Bannon and Donald Trump—the key to understanding the rise of the alt-right, the fall of Hillary Clinton, and the hidden forces that drove the greatest upset in American political history.

Based on dozens of interviews conducted over six years, Green spins the master narrative of the 2016 campaign from its origins in the far fringes of right-wing politics and reality television to its culmination inside Trump’s penthouse on election night.

The shocking elevation of Bannon to head Trump’s flagging presidential campaign on August 17, 2016, hit political Washington like a thunderclap and seemed to signal the meltdown of the Republican Party. Bannon was a bomb-throwing pugilist who’d never run a campaign and was despised by Democrats and Republicans alike.

Yet Bannon’s hard-edged ethno-nationalism and his elaborate, years-long plot to destroy Hillary Clinton paved the way for Trump’s unlikely victory. Trump became the avatar of a dark but powerful worldview that dominated the airwaves and spoke to voters whom others couldn’t see. Trump’s campaign was the final phase of a populist insurgency that had been building up in America for years, and Bannon, its inscrutable mastermind, believed it was the culmination of a hard-right global uprising that would change the world.

Any study of Trump’s rise to the presidency is unavoidably a study of Bannon. Devil’s Bargain is a tour-de-force telling of the remarkable confluence of circumstances that decided the election, many of them orchestrated by Bannon and his allies, who really did plot a vast, right-wing conspiracy to stop Clinton. To understand Trump’s extraordinary rise and Clinton’s fall, you have to weave Trump’s story together with Bannon’s, or else it doesn’t make sense.

— Joe

Holiday reading: Life 3.0: Being Human in the Age of Artificial Intelligence

From the blurb for MIT professor Max Tegmark’s Life 3.0: Being Human in the Age of Artificial Intelligence:

How will Artificial Intelligence affect crime, war, justice, jobs, society and our very sense of being human? The rise of AI has the potential to transform our future more than any other technology—and there’s nobody better qualified or situated to explore that future than Max Tegmark, an MIT professor who’s helped mainstream research on how to keep AI beneficial.

How can we grow our prosperity through automation without leaving people lacking income or purpose? What career advice should we give today’s kids? How can we make future AI systems more robust, so that they do what we want without crashing, malfunctioning or getting hacked? Should we fear an arms race in lethal autonomous weapons? Will machines eventually outsmart us at all tasks, replacing humans on the job market and perhaps altogether? Will AI help life flourish like never before or give us more power than we can handle?

What sort of future do you want? This book empowers you to join what may be the most important conversation of our time. It doesn’t shy away from the full range of viewpoints or from the most controversial issues—from superintelligence to meaning, consciousness and the ultimate physical limits on life in the cosmos.

— Joe

Weekend reading: Pasquale’s The Black Box Society

Every day, corporations are connecting the dots about our personal behavior―silently scrutinizing clues left behind by our work habits and Internet use. But who connects the dots about what firms are doing with all this information? In The Black Box Society: The Secret Algorithms That Control Money and Information (Harvard UP, 2016) Frank Pasquale exposes how powerful interests abuse secrecy for profit and explains ways to rein them in. — Joe

Weekend Reading: Lewandowski & Bossie’s Let Trump be Trump campaign memoir

From the blurb of Corey R. Lewandowski and David N. Bossie’s Let Trump Be Trump: The Inside Story of His Rise to the Presidency (Center Street Dec. 5, 2017):

Corey R. Lewandowski, Trump’s campaign manager who contributed to Trump’s historic bid for the White House, teams up with David N. Bossie, the consummate political pro who helped steer the last critical months of the Trump Campaign, to offer the first insiders’ account of the most historic campaign in modern political history. Starting from the months leading up to Trump’s announcement all the way through staff shakeups within the White House, LET TRUMP BE TRUMP offers eyewitness accounts of the real stories behind some of the most sensational headlines.

At turns surprising, raw with emotion, and hilarious, LET TRUMP BE TRUMP is a book destined to be beloved by Trump supporters and cited by even Trump critics as the first and most definitive insider account of the 2016 campaign.

— Joe

Weekend reading: You Can’t Spell America Without Me: The Really Tremendous Inside Story of My Fantastic First Year as President Donald J. Trump (A So-Called Parody)

“Until Donald Trump publishes the ultimate account of his entire four or eight or one-and-a-half years in the White House, the definitive chronicle will be You Can’t Spell America Without Me: The Really Tremendous Inside Story of My Fantastic First Year As President (A So-Called Parody),” according to the blurb for Alec Baldwin and Kurt Andersen’s book. — Joe

Weekend reading: The Green Amendment

From the blurb for Maya van Rossum’s The Green Amendment: Securing Our Right to A Healthy Environment (Disruption Books, Nov. 14, 2017):

For decades, activists have relied on federal and state legislation to fight for a cleaner environment. And for decades, they’ve been fighting a losing battle. The sad truth is, our laws are designed to accommodate pollution rather than prevent it. It’s no wonder people feel powerless when it comes to preserving the quality of their water, air, public parks, and special natural spaces.

But there is a solution, argues veteran environmentalist Maya K. van Rossum: bypass the laws and turn to the ultimate authority—our state and federal constitutions.

In 2013, van Rossum and her team won a watershed legal victory that not only protected Pennsylvania communities from ruthless frackers but affirmed the constitutional right of people in the state to a clean and healthy environment. Following this victory, van Rossum inaugurated the Green Amendment movement, dedicated to empowering every American community to mobilize for constitutional change.

Now, with The Green Amendment, van Rossum lays out an inspiring new agenda for environmental advocacy, one that will finally empower people, level the playing field, and provide real hope for communities everywhere. Readers will discover:

• how legislative environmentalism has failed communities across America,
• the transformational difference environmental constitutionalism can make,
• the economic imperative of environmental constitutionalism, and
• how to take action in their communities.

— Joe

 

Weekend reading: Collusion: Secret Meetings, Dirty Money, and How Russia Helped Donald Trump Win

From the blurb for Luke Harding’s Collusion: Secret Meetings, Dirty Money, and How Russia Helped Donald Trump Win (Vintage, Nov. 16, 2017):

December 2016. Luke Harding, the Guardian reporter and former Moscow bureau chief, quietly meets former MI6 officer Christopher Steele in a London pup to discuss President-elect Donald Trump’s Russia connections. A month later, Steele’s now-famous dossier sparks what may be the biggest scandal of the modern era. The names of the Americans involved are well-known—Paul Manafort, Michael Flynn, Jared Kushner, George Papadopoulos, Carter Page—but here Harding also shines a light on powerful Russian figures like Aras Agalarov, Natalia Veselnitskaya, and Sergey Kislyak, whose motivations and instructions may have been coming from the highest echelons of the Kremlin.

Drawing on new material and his expert understanding of Moscow and its players, Harding takes the reader through every bizarre and disquieting detail of the “Trump-Russia” story—an event so huge it involves international espionage, off-shore banks, sketchy real estate deals, the Miss Universe pageant, mobsters, money laundering, poisoned dissidents, computer hacking, and the most shocking election in American history.

— Joe

Weekend reading: Brazile’s Hacks: The Inside Story of the Break-ins and Breakdowns That Put Donald Trump in the White House

From the blurb for Donna Brazile’s Hacks: The Inside Story of the Break-ins and Breakdowns That Put Donald Trump in the White House (Hachette Books, Nov. 7, 2017):

In the fallout of the Russian hacking of the Democratic National Committee–and as chaos threatened to consume the party’s convention–Democrats turned to a familiar figure to right the ship: Donna Brazile. Known to millions from her frequent TV appearances, she was no stranger to high stakes and dirty opponents, and the longtime Democratic strategist had a reputation in Washington as a one-stop shop for fixing sticky problems.

What Brazile found at the DNC was unlike anything she had experienced before–and much worse than is commonly known. The party was beset by infighting, scandal, and hubris, while reeling from a brazen and wholly unprecedented attempt by a foreign power to influence the presidential election. Plus, its candidate, Hillary Clinton, faced an opponent who broke every rule in the political playbook.

Packed with never-before-reported revelations about what went down in 2016, Hacks is equal parts campaign thriller, memoir, and roadmap for the future. With Democrats now in the wilderness after this historic defeat, Hacks argues that staying silent about what went wrong helps no one. Only by laying bare the missteps, miscalculations, and crimes of 2016, Brazile contends, will Americans be able to salvage their democracy.

Interesting. — Joe

Just released, Sunstein’s Impeachment: A Citizen’s Guide

From the blurb for Harvard Law prof Cass Sunstein’s Impeachment: A Citizen’s Guide (Harvard UP, Oct. 30, 2017):

Cass R. Sunstein provides a succinct citizen’s guide to an essential tool of self-government. He illuminates the constitutional design behind impeachment and emphasizes the people’s role in holding presidents accountable. Despite intense interest in the subject, impeachment is widely misunderstood. Sunstein identifies and corrects a number of misconceptions. For example, he shows that the Constitution, not the House of Representatives, establishes grounds for impeachment, and that the president can be impeached for abuses of power that do not violate the law. Even neglect of duty counts among the “high crimes and misdemeanors” delineated in the republic’s foundational document. Sunstein describes how impeachment helps make sense of our constitutional order, particularly the framers’ controversial decision to install an empowered executive in a nation deeply fearful of kings.

With an eye toward the past and the future, Impeachment: A Citizen’s Guide considers a host of actual and imaginable arguments for a president’s removal, explaining why some cases are easy and others hard, why some arguments for impeachment have been judicious and others not. In direct and approachable terms, it dispels the fog surrounding impeachment so that Americans of all political convictions may use their ultimate civic authority wisely.

— Joe

Weekend Reading: “Little Katy’s” campaign memoir, Unbelievable

From the blurb for NBC reporter Katy Tur’s Unbelievable: My Front-Row Seat to the Craziest Campaign in American History (Dey Street Books, Sept. 12, 2017):

Called “disgraceful,” “third-rate,” and “not nice” by Donald Trump, NBC News correspondent Katy Tur reported on—and took flak from—the most captivating and volatile presidential candidate in American history.

Katy Tur lived out of a suitcase for a year and a half, following Trump around the country, powered by packets of peanut butter and kept clean with dry shampoo. She visited forty states with the candidate, made more than 3,800 live television reports, and tried to endure a gazillion loops of Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer”—a Trump rally playlist staple.

From day 1 to day 500, Tur documented Trump’s inconsistencies, fact-checked his falsities, and called him out on his lies. In return, Trump repeatedly singled Tur out. He tried to charm her, intimidate her, and shame her. At one point, he got a crowd so riled up against Tur, Secret Service agents had to walk her to her car.

None of it worked. Facts are stubborn. So was Tur. She was part of the first women-led politics team in the history of network news. The Boys on the Bus became the Girls on the Plane. But the circus remained. Through all the long nights, wild scoops, naked chauvinism, dodgy staffers, and fevered debates, no one had a better view than Tur.

Unbelievable is her darkly comic, fascinatingly bizarre, and often scary story of how America sent a former reality show host to the White House. It’s also the story of what it was like for Tur to be there as it happened, inside a no-rules world where reporters were spat on, demeaned, and discredited. Tur was a foreign correspondent who came home to her most foreign story of all. Unbelievable is a must-read for anyone who still wakes up and wonders, Is this real life?

— Joe

Sixth Circuit holds against University of Cincinnati in Title IX case

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals decided the case of John Doe v. University of Cincinnati (16-4693) today.  The case concerns whether a preliminary injunction against a penalty of suspension imposed in a Title IX case should be upheld.  The Court agreed with Doe that his due process rights were violated as he had no way to cross examine the accuser in his case.  The Court notes that educational institutions are not in the judicial business, meaning that their hearings do not have to model trials and their rules of procedure.  Nonetheless, they have to provide a level of due process to the accused.  The fact that the University failed “to provide any form of confrontation of the accuser made the proceeding against John Doe fundamentally unfair.”

The process the University subscribes to in its administrative hearings for Title IX violations allows for accuser and accused to submit written questions which the administrative committee would review and ask each of the parties.  This did not happen in this hearing because the accuser, Jane Roe, did not attend the hearing.  University rules did not, in fact, require any of the parties to attend.  The panel made its decision on the basis of the written statements each party submitted, the Title IX Officer’s report, and statements Doe made in his defense at the hearing.  They decided to impose a two year suspension that was later reduced to one year on administrative appeal.

Doe took his case to the District Court which found in his favor.  The University could only decide based on the submissions from each party, basically one’s word against another.  The Court stated that cross examination was “essential” to due process in these circumstances.  The District Court also noted that the University’s code allowed for notarized statements from the accuser.  Roe’s statements were not notarized and the Court said that this significant departure from the institution’s own procedures could also amount to a violation of due process.

The University appealed to the Sixth Circuit which agreed with the District Court and upheld the preliminary injunction against suspension.  The Court largely agreed with the District Court’s reasoning.  The Court of Appeals set out the required process:

While the exact outlines of process may vary, universities must “at least” provide notice of the charges, an explanation of the evidence against the student, and an opportunity to present his side of the story before an unbiased decision maker. Id. (citing Heyne v. Metro. Nashville Pub. Sch., 655 F.3d 556, 565–66 (6th Cir. 2011)).

Both parties agreed that Doe’s property interest (not being suspended) is significant.  The Court said that the right to cross examine in one form or another is required by due process in the most serious of cases and the accusation of sexual misconduct is one of these cases.

Given the parties’ competing claims, and the lack of corroborative evidence to support or refute Roe’s allegations, the present case left the ARC panel with “a choice between believing an accuser and an accused.” Flaim, 418 F.3d at 641. Yet, the panel resolved this “problem of credibility” without assessing Roe’s credibility. Id. (citation omitted). In fact, it decided plaintiff’s fate without seeing or hearing from Roe at all. That is disturbing and, in this case, a denial of due process.

The Court held that the cross examination need not take the form of direct confrontation.  The question and answer format identified in the University Rules would work as would other variations such as appearances via Skype.  At the very least, the accuser will have to participate somewhat more actively in the hearing.

I wrote a book review recently of Laura Kipnis’ book, Unwanted Advances:  Sexual Paranoia Come to Campus, which is about this very issue.  Professor Kipnis highlighted some of the more egregious violations of due process in the book’s stories.  It’s well worth reading in light of this decision.

Mark