Upcoming Events

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

FDL is in hiatus – this salon has been canceled and will be rescheduled when FDL returns.

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

FDL is in hiatus – this salon has been canceled and will be rescheduled when FDL returns.

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

FDL is in hiatus – this salon has been canceled and will be rescheduled when FDL returns.

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

FDL is in hiatus – this salon has been canceled and will be rescheduled when FDL returns.

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

FDL is in hiatus – this salon has been canceled and will be rescheduled when FDL returns.

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: 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

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

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

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