Upcoming Events

FDL Book Salon: Carbon Shock: A tale of risk and calculus on the front lines of a disrupted global economy

Author: Mark Schapiro
Saturday, September 20, 2014 2:00 pm Pacific time

How Carbon Is Changing the Cost of Everything

In Carbon Shock, veteran journalist Mark Schapiro takes readers on a journey into a world where the same chaotic forces reshaping our natural world are also transforming the economy, playing havoc with corporate calculations, shifting economic and political power, and upending our understanding of the real risks, costs, and possibilities of what lies ahead.

In this ever-changing world, carbon—the stand-in for all greenhouse gases—rules, and disrupts, and calls upon us to seek new ways to reduce it while factoring it into nearly every long-term financial plan we have. But how?

From the jungles of the Amazon to the farms in California’s Central Valley, from ‘greening’ cities like Pittsburgh to rising powerhouses like China, from the oil-splattered beaches of Spain to carbon-trading desks in London, Schapiro deftly explores the key axis points of change.

For almost two decades, global climate talks have focused on how to make polluters pay for the carbon they emit. It remains an unfolding financial mystery: What are the costs? Who will pay for them? Who do you pay? How do you pay? And what are the potential impacts? The answers to these questions, and more, are crucial to understanding, if not shaping, the coming decade.

Carbon Shock evokes a world in which the parameters of our understanding are shifting—on a scale even more monumental than how the digital revolution transformed financial decision-making—toward a slow but steady acknowledgement of the costs and consequences of climate change. It also offers a critical new perspective as global leaders gear up for the next round of climate talks in 2015.

Journalist Mark Schapiro explores the intersection of the environment, economics, and political power, most recently as a correspondent at the Center for Investigative Reporting. His work has been published in Harpers, The Atlantic, Yale 360, and other publications. He has reported stories for the PBS newsmagazine Frontline/World, NOW with Bill Moyers, and public radio’s Marketplace, and is the author of Exposed: The Toxic Chemistry of Everyday Products and What’s at Stake for American Power. He is also an adjunct professor at the University of California, Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism and at the Monterey Institute of International Studies. (Chelsea Green Publishing)

FDL Book Salon: The Case Against the Supreme Court

Author: Erwin Chemerinsky
Sunday, September 28, 2014 2:00 pm Pacific time

A preeminent constitutional scholar offers a hard-hitting analysis of the Supreme Court over the last two hundred years

Most Americans share the perception that the Supreme Court is objective, but Erwin Chemerinsky, one of the country’s leading constitutional lawyers, shows that this is nonsense and always has been. The Court is made up of fallible individuals who base decisions on their own biases. Today, the Roberts Court is promoting a conservative agenda under the guise of following a neutral methodology, but notorious decisions, such as Bush vs. Gore and United Citizens, are hardly recent exceptions. This devastating book details, case by case, how the Court has largely failed throughout American history at its most important tasks and at the most important times.

Only someone of Chemerinsky’s stature and breadth of knowledge could take on this controversial topic. Powerfully arguing for term limits for justices and a reassessment of the institution as a whole, The Case Against the Supreme Court is a timely and important book that will be widely read and cited for decades to come.

A graduate of Harvard Law School, Erwin Chemerinsky is the founding dean and distinguished professor of law and the Raymond Pryke Professor of First Amendment Law at the University of California, Irvine School of Law, with a joint appointment in political science.

FDL Book Salon: To Make Men Free: A History of the Republican Party

Author: Heather Cox Richardson
Sunday, October 5, 2014 2:00 pm Pacific time

A distinguished American historian traces the paradoxical evolution of the Republican Party—founded to give the poor equal opportunity, but too often aligned with the country’s elites.

When Abraham Lincoln helped create the Republican Party on the eve of the Civil War, his goal was to promote economic opportunity for all Americans, not just the slaveholding Southern planters who steered national politics. Yet, despite the egalitarian dream at the heart of its founding, the Republican Party quickly became mired in a fundamental identity crisis. Would it be the party of democratic ideals? Or would it be the party of moneyed interests? In the century and a half since, Republicans have vacillated between these two poles, with dire economic, political, and moral repercussions for the entire nation.

In To Make Men Free, celebrated historian Heather Cox Richardson traces the shifting ideology of the Grand Old Party from the antebellum era to the Great Recession, revealing the insidious cycle of boom and bust that has characterized the Party since its inception. While in office, progressive Republicans like Teddy Roosevelt and Dwight Eisenhower revived Lincoln’s vision of economic freedom and expanded the government, attacking the concentration of wealth and nurturing upward mobility. But they and others like them have been continually thwarted by powerful business interests in the Party. Their opponents appealed to Americans’ latent racism and xenophobia to regain political power, linking taxation and regulation to redistribution and socialism. The results of the Party’s wholesale embrace of big business are all too familiar: financial collapses like the Panic of 1893, the Great Depression in 1929, and the Great Recession in 2008. With each passing decade, with each missed opportunity and political misstep, the schism within the Republican Party has grown wider, pulling the GOP ever further from its founding principles.

Expansive and authoritative, To Make Men Free is a sweeping history of the Party that was once America’s greatest political hope—and, time and time again, has proved its greatest disappointment.

Heather Cox Richardson
is professor of history at Boston College. Previously professor of history at the University of Massachusetts, she received her PhD in 1992 from Harvard’s Program in the History of American Civilization. She is the author of four books, including Wounded Knee: Party Politics and the Road to an American Massacre and West from Appomattox: The Reconstruction of America after the Civil War. She has appeared on a Bill Moyers documentary, “The Chinese in America,” and works with two educational consulting firms to train secondary school teachers and conduct public historical seminars. An OAH Distinguished Lecturer, she is also a member of both the editorial board of the journal American Nineteenth Century History and the national advisory board for the Tredegar National Civil War Center Foundation. She reviews books for popular media like the Chicago Tribune as well as a wide range of scholarly journals. (Basic Books)

FDL Book Salon: The Tolerance Trap: How God, Genes, and Good Intentions are Sabotaging Gay Equality

Author: Suzanna Danuta Walters
Saturday, October 11, 2014 2:00 pm Pacific time

From Glee to gay marriage, from lesbian senators to out gay Marines, we have undoubtedly experienced a seismic shift in attitudes about gays in American politics and culture. Our reigning national story is that a new era of rainbow acceptance is at hand. But dig a bit deeper, and this seemingly brave new gay world is disappointing. For all of the undeniable changes, the plea for tolerance has sabotaged the full integration of gays into American life. Same-sex marriage is unrecognized and unpopular in the vast majority of states, hate crimes proliferate, and even in the much vaunted “gay friendly” world of Hollywood and celebrity culture, precious few stars are openly gay.

In The Tolerance Trap, Suzanna Walters takes on received wisdom about gay identities and gay rights, arguing that we are not “almost there,” but on the contrary have settled for a watered-down goal of tolerance and acceptance rather than a robust claim to full civil rights. After all, we tolerate unpleasant realities: medicine with strong side effects, a long commute, an annoying relative. Drawing on a vast array of sources and sharing her own personal journey, Walters shows how the low bar of tolerance demeans rather than ennobles both gays and straights alike. Her fascinating examination covers the gains in political inclusion and the persistence of anti-gay laws, the easy-out sexual freedom of queer youth and the suicides and murders of those in decidedly intolerant environments. She challenges both “born that way” storylines that root civil rights in biology, and “god made me that way” arguments that similarly situate sexuality as innate and impervious to decisions we make to shape it. A sharp and provocative cultural critique, this book deftly argues that a too-soon declaration of victory short-circuits full equality and deprives us all of the transformative possibilities of full integration. Tolerance is not the end goal, but a dead end. In The Tolerance Trap, Walters presents a complicated snapshot of a world-shifting moment in American history—one that is both a wake-up call and a call to arms for anyone seeking true equality.

Suzanna Danuta Walters has written and lectured extensively on sexuality, popular culture, and feminism and is currently the Director of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and Professor of Sociology at Northeastern University. She is the author of several books, including All the Rage: The Story of Gay Visibility in America and Material Girls: Making Sense of Feminist Cultural Theory.  (NYU Press)

FDL Book Salon: Economics: The User’s Guide

Author: Ha-Joon Chang
Sunday, October 12, 2014 2:00 pm Pacific time

In his bestselling 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism, Cambridge economist Ha-Joon Chang brilliantly debunked many of the predominant myths of neoclassical economics. Now, in an entertaining and accessible primer, he explains how the global economy actually works—in real-world terms. Writing with irreverent wit, a deep knowledge of history, and a disregard for conventional economic pieties, Chang offers insights that will never be found in the textbooks.

Unlike many economists, who present only one view of their discipline, Chang introduces a wide range of economic theories, from classical to Keynesian, revealing how each has its strengths and weaknesses, and why there is no one way to explain economic behavior. Instead, by ignoring the received wisdom and exposing the myriad forces that shape our financial world, Chang gives us the tools we need to understand our increasingly global and interconnected world often driven by economics. From the future of the Euro, inequality in China, or the condition of the American manufacturing industry here in the United States—Economics: The User’s Guide is a concise and expertly crafted guide to economic fundamentals that offers a clear and accurate picture of the global economy and how and why it affects our daily lives.

Ha-Joon Chang, a Korean native, has taught at the Faculty of Economics, University of Cambridge, since 1990. He has worked as a consultant for numerous international organizations, including various UN agencies, the World Bank, and the Asian Development Bank. He has published 11 books, including Kicking Away the Ladder, winner of the 2003 Myrdal Prize. In 2005, Ha-Joon Chang was awarded the 2005 Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought. (Bloomsbury Publishing)

FDL Book Salon: #Newsfail: Climate Change, Feminism, Gun Control, and Other Fun Stuff We Talk About Because Nobody Else Will

Author: Jamie Kilstein, Allison Kilkenny
Saturday, October 18, 2014 2:00 pm Pacific time

A hilarious and informative primer on the most urgent issues of our day, from the creators and co-hosts of Citizen Radio, a 100% listener-supported show whose slogan is “independent radio that won’t lead you to war.”

#Newsfail is not your grandmother’s comedic-memoir-slash-political-manifesto. From page one (in a preface titled, “In Which the Authors Interview Ralph Nader in the Bathtub”), comedian Jamie Kilstein and journalist Allison Kilkenny pledge to give you the news like you’ve never gotten it before.

On issues ranging from feminism to gun control, climate change to class war, foreign policy to net neutrality, they tell you how the mainstream media gets it left, right, and utterly, unforgivably, irresponsibly wrong—think Noam Chomsky as channeled by Fred and Carrie from “Portlandia.” #Newsfail is all this, plus the story of Allison and Jamie’s own DIY foray into independent media via their podcast, Citizen Radio, which has featured guests such as Jeremy Scahill, Sarah Silverman, Glenn Greenwald, and Neil deGrasse Tyson, and been downloaded millions of times by people all over the world.

Their mission is truth-telling above brainwashing. All you have to do is listen.

Jamie Kilstein is a stand-up comedian, who has been featured on The Conan O’Brien Show, Showtime, Up With Chris, Countdown with Keith Olbermann, and NPR’s Weekend Edition. One time, Glenn Beck called him a doofus, which is the nicest thing anyone has ever said to him.

Allison Kilkenny
has previously reported for The Nation and has appeared on MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry Show and Up With Chris, and Democracy Now. One time, G. Gordon Liddy told Allison that her writing “makes him want to vomit,” which is the nicest thing anyone has ever said to her. (Simon and Schuster)

The world’s leading scientific and medical experts offer the first comprehensive analysis of the long-term health and environmental consequences of the Fukushima nuclear accident

“The clock cannot be turned back. We live in a contaminated world.”
—Hiroaki Koide, Kyoto University

On the second anniversary of the Fukushima disaster, an international panel of leading medical and biological scientists, nuclear engineers, and policy experts assembled at the prestigious New York Academy of Medicine. A project of the Helen Caldicott Foundation and co-sponsored by Physicians for Social Responsibility, this gathering was a response to widespread concerns that the media and policy makers had been far too eager to move past what are clearly deep and lasting impacts for the Japanese people and for the world. This was the first comprehensive attempt to address the health and environmental damage done by one of the worst nuclear accidents of our times.

The only document of its kind, Crisis Without End represents an unprecedented look into the profound aftereffects of Fukushima. In accessible terms, leading experts from Japan, the United States, Russia, and other nations weigh in on the current state of knowledge of radiation-related health risks in Japan, impacts on the world’s oceans, the question of low-dosage radiation risks, crucial comparisons with Chernobyl, health and environmental impacts on the United States (including on food and newborns), and the unavoidable implications for the U.S. nuclear energy industry.

Crisis Without End is both essential reading and a major corrective to the public record on Fukushima.

Dr. Helen Caldicott, Winner, Nuclear-Free Future Lifetime Achievement Award

The world’s leading spokesperson for the antinuclear movement, Dr. Helen Caldicott is the co-founder of Physicians for Social Responsibility, a nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize, and the 2003 winner of the Lannan Prize for Cultural Freedom. Both the Smithsonian Institute and Ladies’ Home Journal have named her one of the Most Influential Women of the Twentieth Century. In 2001 she founded the Nuclear Policy Research Institute, which later became Beyond Nuclear, in Washington, D.C. The author of The New Nuclear Danger, War in Heaven (with Craig Eisendrath), Nuclear Power Is Not the Answer, and Loving This Planet and the editor of Crisis Without End (all published by The New Press), she is currently president of the Helen Caldicott Foundation/NuclearFreePlanet.org. She divides her time between Australia and the United States.  (The New Press)

FDL Book Salon: Buying the Vote: A History of Campaign Finance Reform

Author: Robert E. Mutch
Saturday, October 25, 2014 2:00 pm Pacific time

Are corporations citizens? Is political inequality a necessary aspect of a democracy or something that must be stamped out? These are the questions that have been at the heart of the debate surrounding campaign finance reform for nearly half a century. But as Robert E. Mutch demonstrates in this fascinating book, these were not always controversial matters.

The tenets that corporations do not count as citizens, and that self-government functions best by reducing political inequality, were commonly heldup until the early years of the twentieth century, when Congress recognized the strength of these principles by prohibiting corporations from making campaign contributions, passing a disclosure law, and setting limits on campaign expenditures. But conservative opposition began to appear in the 1970s. Well represented on the Supreme Court, opponents of campaign finance reform won decisions granting First Amendment rights to corporations, and declaring the goal of reducing political inequality to be unconstitutional.

Buying the Vote analyzes the rise and decline of campaign finance reform by tracking the evolution of both the ways in which presidential campaigns have been funded since the late nineteenth century. Through close examinations of major Supreme Court decisions, Mutch shows how the Court has fashioned a new and profoundly inegalitarian definition of American democracy. Drawing on rarely studied archival materials on presidential campaign finance funds, Buying the Vote is an illuminating look at politics, money, and power in America.

Robert E. Mutch is an independent scholar who specializes in the history of campaign finance. (Oxford University Press)

FDL Book Salon: Chasing Shadows: The Nixon Tapes, the Chennault Affair, and the Origins of Watergate

Author: Ken Hughes
Sunday, October 26, 2014 2:00 pm Pacific time

The break-in at Watergate and the cover-up that followed brought about the resignation of Richard Nixon, creating a political shockwave that reverberates to this day. But as Ken Hughes reveals in his powerful new book, in all the thousands of hours of declassified White House tapes, the president orders a single break-in–and it is not at the Watergate complex. Hughes’s examination of this earlier break-in, plans for which the White House ultimately scrapped, provides a shocking new perspective on a long history of illegal activity that prolonged the Vietnam War and was only partly exposed by the Watergate scandal.

As a key player in the University of Virginia’s Miller Center Presidential Recordings Program, Hughes has spent more than a decade developing and mining the largest extant collection of transcribed tapes from the Johnson and Nixon White Houses. Hughes’s unparalleled investigation has allowed him to unearth a pattern of actions by Nixon going back long before 1972, to the final months of the Johnson administration. Hughes identified a clear narrative line that begins during the 1968 campaign, when Nixon, concerned about the impact on his presidential bid of the Paris peace talks with the Vietnamese, secretly undermined the negotiations through a Republican fundraiser named Anna Chennault. Three years after the election, in an atmosphere of paranoia brought on by the explosive appearance of the Pentagon Papers, Nixon feared that his treasonous–and politically damaging–manipulation of the Vietnam talks would be exposed. Hughes shows how this fear led to the creation of the Secret Investigations Unit, the “White House Plumbers,” and Nixon’s initiation of illegal covert operations guided by the Oval Office. Hughes’s unrivaled command of the White House tapes has allowed him to build an argument about Nixon that goes far beyond what we think we know about Watergate.

Chasing Shadows is also available as a special e-book that links to the massive collection of White House tapes published by the Miller Center through Rotunda, the electronic imprint of the University of Virginia Press. This unique edition allows the reader to move seamlessly from the book to the recordings’ expertly rendered transcripts and to listen to audio files of the remarkable–and occasionally shocking–conversations on which this dark chapter in American history would ultimately turn.

Ken Hughes is a researcher at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center Presidential Recordings Program. His work as a journalist has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, the Washington Post, the Boston Globe Magazine, and Salon. (University of Virginia Press)

FDL Book Salon: Burning Down the House: The End of Juvenile Prison

Author: Nell Bernstein
Saturday, November 1, 2014 2:00 pm Pacific time

When teenagers scuffle during a basketball game, they are typically benched. But when Will got into it on the court, he and his rival were sprayed in the face at close range by a chemical similar to Mace, denied a shower for twenty-four hours, and then locked in solitary confinement for a month.

One in three American children will be arrested by the time they are twenty-three, and many will spend time locked inside horrific detention centers that defy everything we know about how to rehabilitate young offenders. In a clear-eyed indictment of the juvenile justice system run amok, award-winning journalist Nell Bernstein shows that there is no right way to lock up a child. The very act of isolation denies delinquent children the thing that is most essential to their growth and rehabilitation: positive relationships with caring adults.

Bernstein introduces us to youth across the nation who have suffered violence and psychological torture at the hands of the state. She presents these youths all as fully realized people, not victims. As they describe in their own voices their fight to maintain their humanity and protect their individuality in environments that would deny both, these young people offer a hopeful alternative to the doomed effort to reform a system that should only be dismantled.

Burning Down the House is a clarion call to shut down our nation’s brutal and counterproductive juvenile prisons and bring our children home.

Nell Bernstein is a former Soros Justice Media Fellow and a winner of a White House Champion of Change award. Her articles have appeared in Newsday, Salon, Mother Jones, and the Washington Post, among other publications. (The New Press)

FDL Book Salon: Too Big to Jail: How Prosecutors Compromise with Corporations

Author: Brandon L. Garrett
Sunday, November 9, 2014 2:00 pm Pacific time

American courts routinely hand down harsh sentences to individual convicts, but a very different standard of justice applies to corporations. Too Big to Jail takes readers into a complex, compromised world of backroom deals, for an unprecedented look at what happens when criminal charges are brought against a major company in the United States.

Federal prosecutors benefit from expansive statutes that allow an entire firm to be held liable for a crime by a single employee. But when prosecutors target the Goliaths of the corporate world, they find themselves at a huge disadvantage. The government that bailed out corporations considered too economically important to fail also negotiates settlements permitting giant firms to avoid the consequences of criminal convictions. Presenting detailed data from more than a decade of federal cases, Brandon Garrett reveals a pattern of negotiation and settlement in which prosecutors demand admissions of wrongdoing, impose penalties, and require structural reforms. However, those reforms are usually vaguely defined. Many companies pay no criminal fine, and even the biggest blockbuster payments are often greatly reduced. While companies must cooperate in the investigations, high-level employees tend to get off scot-free.

The practical reality is that when prosecutors face Hydra-headed corporate defendants prepared to spend hundreds of millions on lawyers, such agreements may be the only way to get any result at all. Too Big to Jail describes concrete ways to improve corporate law enforcement by insisting on more stringent prosecution agreements, ongoing judicial review, and greater transparency.

Brandon L. Garrett is Roy L. and Rosamond Woodruff Morgan Professor of Law at the University of Virginia School of Law. (Harvard University Press)

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FDL Book Salon Welcomes Paul LeBlanc and Dianne Feeley, Imagine: Living In A Socialist USA

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FDL Book Salon Welcomes John Dean, The Nixon Defense: What He Knew and When He Knew It

Author: James Robenalt
Saturday, August 30, 2014 1:20 pm Pacific time
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