Upcoming Events

FDL Book Salon: Seven Bad Ideas: How Mainstream Economists Have Damaged America and the World

Author: Jeff Madrick
Saturday, November 29, 2014 2:00 pm Pacific time

A bold indictment of some of our most accepted mainstream economic theories—why they’re wrong, and how they’ve been harming America and the world.

Budget deficits are bad. A strong dollar is good. Controlling inflation is paramount. Pay reflects greater worker skills. A deregulated free market is fair and effective. Theories like these have become mantras among American economists both liberal and conservative over recent decades. Validated originally by patron saints like Milton Friedman, they’ve assumed the status of self-evident truths across much of the mainstream. Jeff Madrick, former columnist for The New York Times and Harper’s, argues compellingly that a reconsideration is long overdue.

Since the financial turmoil of the 1970s made stagnating wages and relatively high unemployment the norm, Madrick argues, many leading economists have retrenched to the classical (and outdated) bulwarks of theory, drawing their ideas more from purist principles than from the real-world behavior of governments and markets—while, ironically, deeply affecting those governments and markets by their counsel. Madrick atomizes seven of the greatest false idols of modern economic theory, illustrating how these ideas have been damaging markets, infrastructure, and individual livelihoods for years, causing hundreds of billions of dollars of wasted investment, financial crisis after financial crisis, poor and unequal public education, primitive public transportation, gross inequality of income and wealth and stagnating wages, and uncontrolled military spending.

Using the Great Recession as his foremost case study, Madrick shows how the decisions America should have made before, during, and after the financial crisis were suppressed by wrongheaded but popular theory, and how the consequences are still disadvantaging working America and undermining the foundations of global commerce. Madrick spares no sinners as he reveals how the “Friedman doctrine” has undermined the meaning of citizenship and community, how the “Great Moderation” became a great jobs emergency, and how economists were so concerned with getting the incentives right for Wall Street that they got financial regulation all wrong. He in turn examines the too-often-marginalized good ideas of modern economics and convincingly argues just how beneficial they could be—if they can gain traction among policy makers.

Trenchant, sweeping, and empirical, Seven Bad Ideas resoundingly disrupts the status quo of modern economic theory.

Jeff Madrick, a former economics columnist for Harper’s and The New York Times, is a regular contributor to The New York Review of Books and the editor of Challenge magazine. He is visiting professor of humanities at The Cooper Union and director of the Bernard L. Schwartz Rediscovering Government Initiative at the Century Foundation. His books include Age of Greed, The End of Affluence, and Taking America. He has also written for The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, Institutional Investor, The Nation, The American Prospect, The Boston Globe, and Newsday. He lives in New York City. (Random House)

FDL Book Salon: The Mother Court: Tales of Cases that Mattered in America’s Greatest Trial Court

Author: James D Zirin
Sunday, November 30, 2014 2:00 pm Pacific time

This salon will be rescheduled at the author’s request.

This is the first book to chronicle the history of the US District Court for the Southern District of New York, the most influential District court in the United States, from the perspective of a practicing attorney who has argued many cases before some of its most esteemed judges.

It gives first-hand insight into the evolution of our justice system—where it has been, where it is now and where it is going. It provides an anatomy of what a trial is all about in an American courtroom, featuring the most famous trials of the period in the greatest court in the nation. It gives the reader a taste of what the storied judges of the period— Weinfeld, Murphy, Mansfield, Tyler, Motley and Palmieri, to name a few—were all about, how they thought, how they judged, and why they were the worthy keepers of our sacred right to justice, as well as the historical traditions of the Court, including:

  • The trials of Alger Hiss and the Rosenbergs
  • The “Pizza Connection” case, the longest criminal trial in American history
  • Libel cases involving Ariel Sharon and Time magazine, General Westmoreland and CBS, and others
  • Government obscenity suits against James Joyce’s Ulysses and the film Deep Throat
  • The U.S. government’s decision to try the 9/11 terrorists before a military commission, even though it originally indicted Osama bin Laden in the Southern District of New York

The Mother Court also gives the reader a taste of what the storied judges of the second half of the 20th century—Weinfeld, Murphy, Mansfield, Tyler, Motley, and Palmieri, to name just a few—were all about, how they thought, how they judged, and why they were and are the worthy keepers of our nation’s justice system.

Jim Zirin, author of The Mother Court–Tales of Cases That Mattered in America’s Greatest Trial Court, is host of the critically acclaimed television talk show, Conversations in the Digital Age, which can be seen weekly throughout the New York metropolitan area. The program has a potential viewing audience exceeding two million people.  He is a leading litigator, who has appeared in federal and state courts around the nation. He is a former Assistant United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, having served in the Criminal Division of that office under the legendary Robert M. Morgenthau. Zirin has written over 200 op-ed articles for Forbes, Barron’s, the LA Times, the London Times, the Washington Times, the New York Sun, the Nation, the Daily Beast and the New York Law Journal. (American Bar Association Publication)

In the United States and much of the world there is a palpable depression about the prospect of overcoming the downward spiral created by the tyranny of wealth and privilege and establishing a truly democratic and sustainable society. It threatens to become self-fulfilling. In this trailblazing new book, award-winning author Robert W. McChesney argues that the weight of the present is blinding people to the changing nature and the tremendous possibilities of the historical moment we inhabit.

In Blowing the Roof Off the Twenty-First Century, he uses a sophisticated political economic analysis to delineate the recent trajectory of capitalism and its ongoing degeneration. In exciting new research McChesney reveals how notions of democratic media are becoming central to activists around the world seeking to establish post-capitalist democracies. Blowing the Roof Off the Twenty-First Century also takes a fresh look at recent progressive political campaigns in the United States. While conveying complex ideas in a lively and accessible manner, McChesney demonstrates a very different and far superior world is not only necessary, but possible.

Robert W. McChesney is the Gutgsell Endowed Professor in the Department of Communication at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He is the author of The Political Economy of Media, Communication Revolution, The Problem of the Media, and Rich Media, Poor Democracy. (Monthly Review Press)

In 1964, a book entitled The Invisible Government shocked Americans with its revelations of a growing world of intelligence agencies playing fast and loose around the planet, a secret government lodged inside the one they knew that even the president didn’t fully control. Almost half a century later, everything about that “invisible government” has grown vastly larger, more disturbing, and far more visible. In his new book, Tom Engelhardt takes in something new under the sun: what is no longer, as in the 1960s, a national security state, but a global security one building a surveillance structure unparalleled in history and fighting secret wars that have turned the president into an assassin-in-chief. Shadow Government offers a powerful survey of a militarized America with 1 percent elections and a democracy of the wealthy that your grandparents wouldn’t have recognized.

TOM ENGELHARDT created and runs the TomDispatch.com website, a project of the Nation Institute, where he is a fellow. He is the author of The American Way of War and The United States of Fear, both published by Haymarket Books, a highly praised history of American triumphalism in the cold war, The End of Victory Culture, and a novel, The Last Days of Publishing. Many of his TomDispatch interviews were collected in Mission Unaccomplished: TomDispatch Interviews with American Iconoclasts and Dissenters. With Nick Turse, he has written Terminator Planet: The First History of Drone Warfare, 2001–2050. He also edited The World According to TomDispatch: America in the New Age of Empire, a collection of pieces from his site that functions as an alternative history of the mad Bush years. TomDispatch is the sideline that ate his life. Before that he worked as an editor at Pacific News Service in the early 1970s, and, these last four decades as an editor in book publishing. For fifteen years, he was senior editor at Pantheon Books, where he edited and published award-winning works ranging from Art Spiegelman’s Maus and John Dower’s War Without Mercy to Eduardo Galeano’s Memory of Fire trilogy. He is now Consulting Editor at Metropolitan Books, as well as the cofounder and coeditor of Metropolitan’s the American Empire Project, where he has published bestselling works by Chalmers Johnson, Andrew Bacevich, Noam Chomsky, and Nick Turse, among others. Many of the authors whose books he has edited and published over the years now write for TomDispatch.com. For a number of years, he was also a Teaching Fellow at the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California, Berkeley. (Haymarket Books)

FDL Book Salon: Corporations Are Not People: Reclaiming Democracy from Big Money and Global Corporations

Author: Jeffrey D. Clements
Saturday, December 13, 2014 2:00 pm Pacific time

The Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling that corporations are people eliminated campaign finance restrictions and dramatically increased corporate power –but attorney Jeff Clements shows how you can fight back.

Clements explains the strange history of how the Supreme Court came to embrace a concept that flies in the face of not only all common sense but most of American legal history as well. He shows how unfettered corporate rights will impact public health, energy policy, the environment, and the justice system.

In this new edition Clements details Citizens United’s ongoing destructive effects—for example, Chevron was able to spend $1.2 million to influence a single local election in a city of 100,000 people. But he also describes the growing movement to reverse the ruling—since the first edition 16 states, 160 members of Congress, and 500 cities and towns have called for a Constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United. And in a new chapter, Do Something!, Clements shows how—state by state and community by community—Americans are using new strategies and tools to renew democracy and curb unbalanced corporate power.

STILL ESSENTIAL: The Citizens United decision continues to distort the electoral process and expand the power of corporations
UPDATED THROUGHOUT: This second edition details both the ruling’s expanding damage to democracy and, in an all-new chapter, how citizens can lead the battle against it

Jeff Clements is co-founder and chair of the board of Free Speech for People, a national non-partisan campaign to overturn Citizens United v. FEC, and to strengthen American democracy and republican self-government. Jeff co-founded Free Speech For People in 2009, after representing several public interest organizations with a Supreme Court amicus brief in the Citizens United case.

Jeff has served as Assistant Attorney General and Chief of the Public Protection Bureau in the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office. As Bureau Chief, he led more than 100 staff in the enforcement of environmental, healthcare, financial services, civil rights, antitrust and consumer protection laws. In private practice, Jeff has been a partner in a large Boston firm, and in his own firm. (BK Publishing)

FDL Book Salon: War Is Not a Game: The New Antiwar Soldiers and the Movement They Built

Author: Nan Levinson
Sunday, December 14, 2014 2:00 pm Pacific time

On July 23, 2004, five marines, two soldiers, and one airman became the most unlikely of antiwar activists. Young and gung-ho when they first signed up to defend their country, they were sent to fight a war that left them confused, enraged, and haunted. Once they returned home, they became determined to put their disillusionment to use. So that sultry summer evening, they mounted the stage of Boston’s historic Faneuil Hall and announced the launch of Iraq Veterans Against the War.

War Is Not a Game tells the story of this new soldiers’ antiwar movement, showing why it was born, how it quickly grew, where it has struggled, and what it has already accomplished. Nan Levinson reveals the individuals behind the movement, painting an unforgettable portrait of these predominantly working-class veterans who became leaders of a national organization.

Written with sensitivity and humor, War Is Not a Game gives readers an uncensored, grunt’s-eye view of the occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan, while conveying the equally dramatic struggles that soldiers face upon returning home. Demanding to be seen neither simply as tragic victims nor as battlefront heroes, the Iraq Veterans Against the War have worked to shape the national conversation. This book celebrates their bravery, showing that sometimes the most vital battles take place on the home front.

NAN LEVINSON is a writer, teacher, and journalist, covering civil and human rights, culture, and technology. Her last book, Outspoken: Free Speech Stories, grew from her reporting as the U.S. correspondent for Index on Censorship. She currently teaches journalism and fiction writing at Tufts University. (Rutgers University Press)

FDL Book Salon: The Black Box Society: The Secret Algorithms That Control Money and Information

Author: Frank Pasquale
Saturday, January 10, 2015 2:00 pm Pacific time

Hidden algorithms drive decisions at major Silicon Valley and Wall Street firms. Thanks to automation, those firms can approve credit, rank websites, and make myriad other decisions instantaneously. But what are the costs of their methods? And what exactly are they doing with their digital profiles of us?

Leaks, whistleblowers, and legal disputes have shed new light on corporate surveillance and the automated judgments it enables. Self-serving and reckless behavior is surprisingly common, and easy to hide in code protected by legal and real secrecy. Even after billions of dollars of fines have been levied, underfunded regula­tors may have only scratched the surface of troublingly monopolistic and exploitative practices.

Drawing on the work of social scientists, attorneys, and technologists, The Black Box Society offers a bold new account of the political economy of big data. Data-driven corporations play an ever larger role in determining opportunity and risk. But they depend on automated judgments that may be wrong, biased, or destructive. Their black boxes endanger all of us. Faulty data, invalid assumptions, and defective models can’t be corrected when they are hidden.

Frank Pasquale exposes how powerful interests abuse secrecy for profit and explains ways to rein them in. Demanding transparency is only the first step. An intelligible society would assure that key deci­sions of its most important firms are fair, nondiscriminatory, and open to criticism. Silicon Valley and Wall Street need to accept as much accountability as they impose on others. (Harvard University Press)

FDL Book Salon: Lords of Secrecy: The National Security Elite and America’s Stealth Warfare

Author: Scott Horton
Sunday, January 11, 2015 2:00 pm Pacific time

State secrecy is increasingly used as the explanation for the shrinking of public discussion surrounding national security issues. The phrase “that’s classified” is increasingly used not to protect national secrets from legitimate enemies, but rather to stifle public discourse regarding national security. Washington today is inclined to see secrecy as a convenient cure to many of its problems. But too often these problems are not challenges to national security, they involve the embarrassment of political figures, disclosure of mismanagement, incompetence and corruption and even outright criminality.

For national security issues to figure in democratic deliberation, the public must have access to basic facts that underlie the issues. The more those facts disappear under a cloak of state secrecy, the less space remains for democratic process and the more deliberation falls into the hands of largely unelected national security elites. The way out requires us to think much more critically and systematically about secrecy and its role in a democratic state.

Scott Horton is a Contributing Editor at Harper’s magazine and writes No Comment for the website. A New York attorney known for his work in emerging markets and international law, especially human rights law and the law of armed conflict, Horton lectures at Columbia Law School. A life-long human rights advocate, Horton served as counsel to Andrei Sakharov and Elena Bonner, among other activists in the former Soviet Union. (Nation Books)

FDL Book Salon: It Runs in the Family: On Being Raised By Radicals And Growing Into Rebellious Motherhood

Author: Frida Berrigan
Saturday, January 24, 2015 2:00 pm Pacific time

Parenting is hard. So is being a peacemaker in a violent world. It Runs in the Family is a book about how parents can create lasting and meaningful bulwarks between their kids and the violence endemic in our culture. It posits discipline without spanks or slaps or threats of violence, while considering how to raise thoughtful, compassionate, fearless young people committed to social and political change — without scaring, hectoring or scarring them with all the wrongs in the world.

Frida Berrigan is a mother and stepmother, wife and daughter. Her parents, Phil Berrigan and Elizabeth McAlister, were a former priest and nun who became nationwide icons for their prophetic witness against war and nuclear weapons, which sometimes resulted in long jail sentences. Berrigan grew up in the community they helped found, Jonah House in Baltimore, and becoming a parent herself has forced her to come to terms with her own upbringing in new ways.

Expanding on the stories in her popular column for the website Waging Nonviolence, Berrigan has crafted a welcome antidote to the various parenting fads currently on offer from French moms and tiger moms and mean moms. She offers a unique perspective on parenting that derives from hard work, deep reflection, and lots of trial and error.

Frida Berrigan serves on the board of The War Resisters League, a 90-year-old pacifist organization, and helped to found Witness Against Torture, a nonviolent direct action group focused on shutting down Guantánamo and ending torture. She long served as a researcher at the New America Foundation’s Arms and Security Initiative in New York City, writing and speaking on the topic of militarism. She lived at the New York Catholic Worker before moving to New London, CT with her husband Patrick Sheehan-Gaumer. Patrick is a social worker, second-generation peace activist and father to their 7-year-old daughter Rosena Jane. Their son Seamus Philip was born in July 2012 and Frida became a stay-at-home mom. Their daughter Madeline Vida was born in February 2014. While the baby naps or plays, she writes the “Little Insurrections” blog for Waging Nonviolence, tends a few plots at the community garden and helps keep a busy household on its toes. (OR Books)

FDL Book Salon: Making Manna (novel)

Author: Eric Lotke
Sunday, January 25, 2015 2:00 pm Pacific time

Libby Thompson is just fourteen years old when she flees her abusive home with her newborn son, Angel. Now they must build a life for themselves on hard work and low wages, dealing with police who are sometimes helpful—but not always—and a drug dealer who is full of surprises. As Angel gets older, he begins asking questions about his family, and Libby’s tenuous peace threatens to crumble. Can a son without a father and a young woman without a past make something beautiful out of a lifetime of secrets? Making Manna explores the depths of betrayal, and the human capacity to love, forgive, and flourish in the face of heartbreaking odds.

Eric Lotke has cooked in five star restaurants and flushed every toilet in the Washington DC jail. He has filed headline lawsuits and published headline research on crime, prisons and even sex offenses. His new book, Making Manna, is an uplifting tale of triumph over economic and criminal injustice. More at www.ericlotke.com. (Brandylane Publishers)

“Eric Lotke is a beautiful writer and he has written a beautiful book. Making Manna is a wonderful story of family, redemption,and love  . . . ”
— Heather Ann Thompson, author of Whose Detroit?

“Brilliantly details the searing fragility of life below the poverty line . . . . Both heartbreaking and heartwarming. ”
— David Feige, author of Indefensible and creator of the TNT series Raising The Bar

FDL Book Salon: Drones and Targeted Killing: Legal, Moral and Geopolitical Issues

Author: Marjorie Cohn
Saturday, January 31, 2015 2:00 pm Pacific time

EXPERT ANALYSIS OF AN ILLEGAL AND IMMORAL PRACTICE

The Bush administration detained and tortured suspected terrorists; the Obama administration assassinates them. Assassination, or targeted killing, off the battlefield not only causes more resentment against the United States, it is also illegal. In this interdisciplinary collection, human rights and political activists, policy analysts, lawyers and legal scholars, a philosopher, a journalist and a sociologist examine different aspects of the U.S. policy of targeted killing with drones and other methods. It explores the legality, morality and geopolitical considerations of targeted killing and resulting civilian casualties, and evaluates the impact on relations between the United States and affected countries.

The book includes the documentation of civilian casualties by the leading non-governmental organization in this area; stories of civilians victimized by drones; an analysis of the first U.S. targeted killing lawsuit by the lawyer who brought the case; a discussion of the targeted killing cases in Israel by the director of PCATI which filed one of the lawsuits; the domestic use of drones; and the immorality of drones using Just War principles.

Contributors include: Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Phyllis Bennis, Medea Benjamin, Marjorie Cohn, Richard Falk, Tom Hayden, Pardiss Kebriaei, Jane Mayer, Ishai Menuchin, Jeanne Mirer, John Quigley, Dr. Tom Reifer, Alice Ross, Jay Stanley, and Harry Van der Linden.

Marjorie Cohn
is a professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law in San Diego, former president of the National Lawyers Guild, and deputy secretary general of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers. Her books include Cowboy Republic: Six Ways the Bush Gang Has Defied the Law; Rules of Disengagement: The Politics and Honor of Military Dissent (with Kathleen Gilberd); and the edited volume, The United States and Torture: Interrogation, Incarceration and Abuse. Cohn is a recipient of the Peace Scholar of the Year Award from the Peace and Justice Studies Association. She testified before Congress about the Bush torture policy. (Interlink Publishing)

Recent Events

FDL Book Salon Welcomes Gus Speth, Angels By The River: A Memoir

Author: Will Potter
Sunday, November 23, 2014 12:00 pm Pacific time
78 comments

FDL Book Salon Welcomes James Risen, Pay Any Price: Greed, Power, and Endless War

Author: Tim Shorrock
Saturday, November 22, 2014 12:25 pm Pacific time
171 comments

FDL Book Salon Welcomes Zephyr Teachout, Corruption in America: From Benjamin Franklin’s Snuff Box to Citizens United

Author: Matt Stoller
Sunday, November 16, 2014 1:05 pm Pacific time
79 comments

FDL Book Salon Welcomes Matt Farwell, discussion about Michael Hastings and The Last Magazine

Author: Matt Farwell
Saturday, November 15, 2014 1:05 pm Pacific time
6 comments

FDL Book Salon Welcomes Brandon L. Garrett, Too Big to Jail: How Prosecutors Compromise With Corporations

Author: Dean Starkman
Sunday, November 9, 2014 1:25 pm Pacific time
60 comments

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