Weapons of Math Destruction: How big data increases inequality and threatens democracy by Cathy O’Neil (2016)
This is a MUST READ book. Actually, buy it and actively share. Some of you may know about how computerized algorithms have caused chaos and massive profits in the financial sector — and crashes. Some of you may have been adversely impacted by computerized credit risk calculations. It is due to a math algorithm that airlines are able to juggle the price-fixing of their airplane tickets so you can never plan or know what the price for any given run or airline might be, making it tedious in the extreme for consumers to get the best price for any flight, other than you know that if you have to go somewhere last minute you will be screwed. The author is a genius at math in my opinion and a darn good writer. This book addresses some of the ways that we are being harmed by the use for math in ways that are destructive to us and commerce and our nation.
Continue reading Weapons of Math Destruction by Cathy O’Neil
Dissent and the Supreme Court: it’s role in the court’s history and the nation’s constitutional dialogue by Melvin I. Urofsky (2015)
Probably best to buy this book because it is over 400 pages and extremely detailed with almost every sentence containing information of significance to the discussions of cases that have been before the Court and will be again based on the numerous unconstitutional laws so many states have passed recently. I do not recall what I was reading or watching, but I was suddenly struck by a better understanding of racism in America. Though I am white, I have a heart and am empathetic and compassionate, but now that I am older I suppose, I more truly grasp how wretched and unreasonable and dreadful and pervasive explicit racism (then and, alas, now). Some people were fooled when it was briefly suppressed by being converted to more subtle or maybe secretive racism that we had for a little after the Civil Rights Movement. And obviously, this was not true. Voting rights are at risk for most people in light of recent Supreme Court decisions, Citizens’s United, but also the one (Shelby v. Holder recently where Clarence Thomas (and Scalia and the other Republican Justices) decided to gut the Act and said, sort of, racism doesn’t exist anymore and so federal review of states laws regarding voting rules was no longer necessary. We have now also seen that this was just another bad decision by these conservative men who want to suppress the vote. Witness the change of Arizona changes to their laws, which they were now allowed to do without Federal review by the Shelby ruling, to reduce the number of polling places from 300 to 60, resulting in 5 hour waiting in lines for many people, miles long queues, and the pretense that “provisional” ballots will even be counted.
Continue reading Dissent and the Supreme Court by Melvin I. Urofsky
I Dissent: Great Opposing Opinions in Landmark Supreme Court Cases by Mark Tushnet (2008)
Our constitutional tradition celebrates the great dissenters — John Marshall Harlan, Oliver Wendell Holmes, William O. Douglas. On one level, the reason is clear: out of step with the prevailing constitutional views, of their times, they were [sometimes] vindicated by history. The nation came to see the wisdom of their constitutional views, and the errors of the majorities that temporarily prevailed.
I added the [sometimes] because Scalia’s dissent is in two of the cases and I’m pretty sure when I get to them, he will be wrong, again. (His opinions always were wrong in MY opinion based on general principle!) So I decided I couldn’t wait and went to the last case first because it was a Scalia dissent.
Oddly, other cases have two justices listed in the table of contents as dissenting. However in the Scalia cases, Clarence (gag) Thomas was also listed in the chapter as joining in the dissent in Lawrence v. Texas, but not in the Table of Contents maybe because he wrote a separate dissent. Of course, now that Scalia is dead (RIH) it is a common joke that Thomas will not know how to vote anymore. Plus the mockery that after the many decades on the bench, he had NEVER SPOKEN during a case presented to the Supreme Court until Scalia died (2016).
Continue reading I Dissent edited by Mark Tushnet
Showdown: Thurgood Marshall and the Nomination that Changed America by Will Haygood (2015)
Haygood is the author of The Butler (an excellent movie too) and this book on Thurgood Marshall is as compelling as a stimulating novel but the people are real, and even more so because they span generations in their role in our government for good or mostly I would say, ill. (Strom Thurmond, may he rest in hell, who dares to question Marshall on the topic of “miscegenation” while he himself had started an affair with a 16 year old black girl in his household service. [can you say coercion? or statutory rape perhaps?) The bastard lived to be 100 and spent most of that time trying to stop progress, especially racial equality. (This was about 7 years after the Loving decision that ruled mixed race marriage legal.)
Showdown: Thurgood Marshall and the Supreme Court Nomination That Changed America, is a MUST READ book. Not only is it a good read, it exposes with objectivity that I would not be able to manage (anger, horror, etc. would be my view) what America was like at the time of his nomination under the Presidency of L.B. Johnson (sixties in other words). The odious Senator Sam Ervin, and other characters like Strom, are brought to life, exposing their bigotry, corporatism even then, and sheer meanness in their grilling of Marshall with arcane and irrelevant questions, topped by entrapment style “Constitution is a living document” or the words exactly and only as men from a world long ago meant them. In other words, if Marshall opted for strict constitutionalism, by which I do not think the senators even included the Bill of Rights (except obviously for the Second Amendment) as completely legitimate law, the senator would be asking Marshall to declare slavery legal again.
I would include more detail here, but I had to return the book to the library. I may check it out again after I knock off some of the other 50 or so I have piled up, and will update this page when I do get it back.