Overdue and Out of Renewals for Darn Good Books

I have completely gotten bogged down due to issues with my eyes. There may be a need for me to get a reading machine at this rate. I am going to have to give a bunch up and then come back to this page to re-reserve when I get down to a handful, 90 is simply too many to juggle! I need to stop hitting the reserve every time I see something on BookTV and just do a future to read page so I don’t forget them. A few have already slipped by but a few more I did remember to make a note of them to read later.

book jacket with graphic of ear of cornBetting on Famine: why the World STILL Goes Hungry by Jean Ziegler (2013) is a compelling read, and I want to do it justice. The pages I did read are terrifying and mortifying. There is considerable discussion about the fact that the Nazi’s deliberately starved people in the concentration camps before they killed them. Since I have seen horrible images of the survivors, I know this to be true. Unbelievably wicked but everywhere everyday children and adults are dying from hunger. Fewer people would be a good start to avoiding the problem in the first place, but that is never going to happen since the various religions believe having children is the whole point of women’s lives.

book jacket with bar code under illustration of capitol buildingDollarocracy: How the MONEY and MEDIA ELECTION COMPLEX Is DESTROYING AMERICA by John Nichols and Robert W. McChesney. Forward by SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS. (2013)

I really will check this out again soon because it will be so interesting to see if what they wrote about in 2013 recognized that The Donald would get $3 BILLION in free advertising of his bombastic word salads, believe me, I am very smart, I know things, I am a winner. (I know I am sick of him “winning”).


book jacket with paper money shaped like a necktie under a white shirt collarWhy we can’t afford the rich by Andrew Sayer (2015). Forward by Richard Wilkinson co-author of The Spirit Level.

Very tiny print. Good footnotes. Good organization. Good writing. Chapter titles include (7) Legal corruption: above the law or making the law?

This chapter starts with two excellent quotes:

When plunder becomes a way of life for a group of men living in society, they create for themselves, in the course of time, a legal system that authorizes it and a moral code that GLORIFIES it.
—  Frederic Bastiat, French writer and economist

It is not wisdom but Authority that makes a law.
— Thomas Hobbes

The first paragraph enumerates the many ways people cheat or are cheated — including the hateful “mostly useless” mortgage payment premium insurance.

Other chapters look very promising to make some clear assessment of reality. Part Two is “Putting the rich in context: what determines what people get?” is definitely a must read as well as the subsequent Chapter 10 “So what determines pay?” In the first instance a nice sidebar mentions the oft seen name Thomas Piketty (really am going to have to read his books soon) who said the richest person in France is the heiress to the L’Oreal cosmetics empire. She “saw her wealth increase from $2 BILLION to $25 BILLION between 1990 and 2010″ and has never worked a day in her life. Not to mention all the money sucked from ill-paid women who believe they must use cosmetics to be “attractive” or to look professional. And don’t get me started on the animal testing. I wish everyone would stop wearing cosmetics immediately. And perfume.

On the topic of pay, “In a capitalist economy, what people get is largely a function of power, not of moral or democratic judgment.”

Do individuals’ income reflect the value of what they contribute? We have already dealt with one major reason why workers in general don’t get paid the equivalent of what they have created: as long as there are rentiers and capitalists, workers have to produce enough to provide those OWNERS WITH UNEARNED INCOME. They also provide transfers or warranted unearned income for those too young, old, sick or disabled to work.

Since workers cannot bite the hand that feeds them, they hate the “takers” who through misfortune, require assistance. He discusses the two kinds of injustice (p. 153): economic inequality causes “distributive injustice” whereas “freeloaders” cause a “contributive injustice” — one example cited is the case of the burden of housework being borne by wives more than husbands. Oh yes, this is a really good book. One more fast paragraph:

Neoliberal governments [US] regularly smear the unemployed for being allegedly workshy and irresponsible, or for having sunk into “welfare dependency”, and this helps to distract public attention from the rich and their wealth extraction and tax avoidance. (pp. 153-154)


book jacket with a little rounded flag symbolThat’s Not What We Meant To Do: Reform and is unintended consequences in twentieth-century America by Steven M. Gillon (2000). He is also the author of another good book, The Pact, see below.

Since he dedicates the book to John (John John to my generation) Kennedy, it will be no surprise that he has a democratic slant. The chapter that most interests me is the one called “The Irony of Reform” and it covers some of the history of Social Security, which the Republicans attempted to change “before the ink was dry.” Since this book was written in 2000, the chapter concludes with it being “unknown” what Bill Clinton’s workfare reforms will accomplish, but in 2016 we now know that they were a crushing blow to the poor and working poor.This is, I suppose considered irony, but to me it is more of a predictable tragedy. He ends his chapter with perhaps an accurate assessment of the results (depending on how you view the real objective of reform).

Welfare reform is its own biggest enemy,” observed Theda Skocpol. “Not only do politicians promise far more than they can deliver, but their efforts have usually backfired, producing expanded rolls and higher costs.”

BTW, Theda Skocpol was denied tenure (because she was a woman) at Harvard and fought back and became the first woman professor of sociology there.

book jacketBending Toward Justice: The Voting Rights Act and the Transformation of American Democracy by Gary May (2013)

The really sad part about this book is that it has been nullified thanks to the dead and be damned Justice Scalia in the Supreme Court decision that gutted the Voting Rights Act. And we are seeing the costs of that faulty decision in this 2016 election debacle. Too many people don’t have a clue how things used to be and seem to soon become bad again; even if The Donald doesn’t get elected, the racial hatred he has inflamed will be hard to quench. The opening photo of two black men in Mississippi, 1964, attempting to register to vote “while white officials look on” is terrifying to see when you read the sign adjacent to the table:

The sign on the wall informs them that in ten days everyone will know. Their names and addresses will be published in the local newspaper, giving opponents of black suffrage a chance to retaliate against them. 

The gutting was done in 2013 in Shelby County v. Holder. And of course he discusses (now Congressional Representative, since 1987) John Lewis and Selma’s bridge, recently made into a movie called Selma. BTW, the title is from a speech by Martin Luther King, Jr. Given the circumstance of now, I cannot agree with his optimism:

“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”


book jacket featuring photo of Bill Clinton and Newt GingrichThe Pact: Bill Clinton, Newt Gingrich, and the rivalry that defined a generation by Steven M. Gillon (2 008)

This is the book I heard about on Book TV, pretty sure there anyway. It caught my attention because I had been reading all this revealing stuff about how bad Bill Clinton with his neoliberalism politics hurt many people (e.g. workfare, crushing Glass-Steagall, and more). When I heard it said that he was actually planning to do a deal to privatize Social Security, I nearly threw up I was so horrified at the “what if” thought, especially post-2008 crash. Pages 266-267 describe this evil bargain, and a plan to ruin Medicare as well, but thanks to Monica Lewinsky and the vengeful Republican adulterers, they decided to try to impeach him and that killed any cooperation.


book jacket with illustration of buildingBroke, USA: From pawnshops to Poverty, Inc. — How the working poor became big business by Gary Rivlin (2010)

Excessively folksy in tone, but an attempt to tell personal stories about how the crash damaged lives. A lot of creative nonfiction style to the writing. The poverty industry encapsulates “mercenary entrepreneurs who have taken advantage of an era of deregulation to devise high-priced products to sell to the credit-hungry working poor, including the instant tax refund and the payday loan. In the process they’ve created an industry larger than the casino business and have proved that pawnbrokers and check cashiers, if they dream big enough, can grow very rich off those with thin wallets.” (book jacket copy)

Payday lenders are legalized loan sharks and a huge supporter of Debbie Wasserman Schultz, an architect of the Hillary Clinton primary theft from Bernie Sanders. Unfortunately a majority of fools in Florida re-elected her to her congressional seat — even though she has much higher aspirations, probably a cabinet post if HRC manages to pull it out (which I doubt). At least then maybe Tim Canova, who deserved the seat, could be appointed or elected to replace her.

Page 240 plus a bit before and after has a fascinating story of the predatory lending issue in Ohio that took place when I lived there. The fact that it was promoted by Republicans should tell you all you need to know about it. Bill Faith, and advocate in Columbus, described it this way:

There’s this subprime problem going on all over the state and what do our legislatures do? [sic] Faith asked. “They pass a bill that says to the cities, ‘We are going to preempt you from doing anything about predatory lending, that’s the state’s job, but, oh, by the way, we’re not going to do anything about the problem.”

Later the discussion of the “improvement” they hoped to implement was a cap of 36% !!!!! interest on payday loans. However, further on it turns out the effective interest rate that payday lenders were charging was 391% APR. This is still a problem across the land, and especially near military bases because we don’t pay our soldiers enough; they need food stamps sometimes as well as payday loans to make ends meet. A vicious cycle that no one should experience, least of all our military families.


book jacket with little drawing of American flagBlasphemy: How the Religious Right is Hijacking our Declaration of Independence by Alan Dershowitz (2007)

I am definitely going to have to read this fully and make details comments on it because it is excellent, despite my disagreement with his advocacy of Israel given that we are giving them 38 BILLION dollars just because they exist while they are committing genocide against the Palestinians, including cutting off their water supplies.

The part that really caught my attention was of particular interest to me because it discussed the situation of one of Minnesota’s excellent representatives, Keith Ellison, who happens to be Muslim. In chapter 2 “The Christian Right’s Strategy to Turn the Declaration into a Baptismal Certificate” he discusses how the Religious Right is trying to lower, but I would call it eliminate, the wall of separation between church and state “to a level that would permit the introduction of generic religion — God, nonsectarian prayer, multiple religious images — into the government sphere; once this is accomplished the next step would be to insist that America’s true religion is Christianity, since our nation was founded by Christians on Christian principles.”

He discusses the falseness of the founded as a Christian nation later. It should also be noted that, so far, the zealots have been graciously inclusive by referring to the Judeo-Christian religion, so one might think the Jews will get a pass, but I wouldn’t bet my life on it, given what they have endured for centuries, such as forced baptism by Catholic priests back in the day. Whereas we poor atheists and agnosticism believers will be “condemned as immoral.”

He cites the case of a Jew who was elected to the North Carolina state legislature (1808) but was “blocked from taking his seat by a law requiring him to accept the divinity of the New Testament. . . .” But of course, Christians aren’t the only bigots.

. . . a Jewish right-wing talk show host named Dennis Prager led a campaign to disallow the first Muslim elected to congress (in November 2006) to take an oath of office on the Koran. Prager insisted congressman Keith Ellison ‘should not be allowed to do so —  not because of any American hostility to the Koran, but because the act undermines American civilization. Insofar as a member of Congress taking an oath to serve America and uphold its values is concerned, America is interested in only one book, the Bible. If you are incapable of taking an oath on that book, don’t serve in Congress.’ (p. 75)

He was flat out wrong because we are not a Christian nation, we are a secular nation. That is one reason why there is no religious test is required to hold office: we are not a Christian nation.

Prager’s patriotic prattling is misinformed on the facts, too. No Member of Congress is officially sworn in with a Bible. Under House rules, the swearing-in ceremony is done in the House chambers, with the Speaker of the House administering the oath of office en masse. No Bibles or other holy books are used at all. Member may, if they choose, also have a private ceremony with family and friends. At these unofficial ceremonies, Members frequently solemnize the event by taking an oath while holding a personal family Bible.

Prager ridiculously asserts that permitting Rep. Ellison to take the oath of office would ‘be doing more damage to the unity of America and to the value system that has formed this country than the terrorists of 9-11.’ What he fails to understand is that what truly unifies all Americans is a value system built on religious freedom and pluralism, not DOGMATISM and COERCION.

Prager presents intolerant, ugly views. His comparison of Ellison’s desire to ‘choose his favorite book’ to that of the right of a racist elected to public office to use Hitler’s Mein Kampf is outrageous.

The Hitler thing was also said by bigot judge Roy Moore (who was removed from the bench) as well as someone swearing allegiance to the “Communist Manifesto” really nutso guy. He wanted Congress to prohibit Ellison from taking the oath at all. A congressmen also said he would “disallow Ellison from taking his seat because of his request to swear in on the Koran.” (Virgil H. Goode Jr., R-NC. BTW he is a Trump supporter and once had delusions of presidential grandeur himself.)



book jacket with ballot box showing money sticking outFive Dollars and a Pork Chop Sandwich: Vote Buying and the Corruption of Democracy by Mary Frances Berry (2016). Saw her speak on Book TV so should be available on CSPAN TV. This is the story of the true nature of “voter fraud” in that it is not the voters that are the threat but the party bosses and others who defraud the voters by denying them their voting rights. Again, as we all now know too well with the corruption of 2016 primaries, particularly on the incorrectly believed “good” side of things, the Democrats.

In Shelby, also cited above, Scalia actually said outright that the Constitution does not guarantee a right to vote. Since to make that an absolute, we would need a Constitutional Amendment and that will never happen because the Republicans know that the more people vote the less they win. That’s one reason why they are opposed to returning voting rights to felons who have served their time. Since voting has nothing to do with criminal activity — especially since banksters and their ilk are never even brought to trial but are just as real criminals as the 19 year old in jail for pot.


book jacket with graphic of Congress sitting on a foundation of New York skyscrapers upside downConfidence Men: Wall Street, Washington, and the Education of a President by Ron Suskind, (2011) — winner of the Pulitzer Prize for his writing for the Wall Street Journal.
This is a seriously good documentation of the 2008 crash. Color photos of the evil doers are included. A reproduction of Treasury Secretary Time Geithner’s jammed schedule for Monday, March 9, 2009 is included and the caption makes the point that the bastard blocked the FDIC chair’s effort to have Citibank’s managers fired and the bank restructured.

Oh my, it is interesting when various names recur. BlackRock shows up again in this book [the other was David Stockman in previous post] with a picture of CEO Larry Fink, caption reads:

Larry Fink, often called the King of Wall Street, had over $3 TRILLION in assets under management and $9 TRILLION he oversaw, mostly of TOXIC assets he priced and managed for the GOVERNMENT. In September 2010 [Rahm] Emanuel put forward Fink as a replacement for [Larry Summers and ushered him into the Oval Office.

Another caption mentions that Wall Street was making tens of billions a year in derivatives-related profits. Basically the book reveals the Obama is not the best Hope and Change we wanted as president.


book jacket with cross and donkey and elephant party emblemsGod’s Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn’t Get It, a New Vision for Faith and Politics in America by Jim Wallis (2005)

Another case of being surprised that an author who has opinions that are so contrary to my beliefs can actually say some things that make sense and actually agree with some aspects of my beliefs. Jim Wallis is described on the author blurb as an evangelical.

He is the founder of Sojourners magazine, covering faith, politics, and culture. He is also the Convener of Call to Renewal, a national federation of churches and faith-based organizations working together to overcome poverty by changing the direction of public policy.

One thing that stuck me most when I randomly picked pages to read (no index so it was not possible to do what I usually do, check for names and issues and see what is said). Bottom line — seriously hostile to secularists (aka atheists I guess) but more of a Christian Christian than a Xtian Christian, so this book has some merit but fundamentally flawed reasoning to require religious beliefs to determine their vote for laws that will control what everyone may or may not do.


book jacket hands raised with a sea of numbersThe Math Myth and Other STEM Delusions by Andrew Hacker (2016)

This is a GREAT book! I was prepared to argue against his premise that students do not benefit from being taught higher mathematics, but I can understand his point that it causes a false barrier that excludes some people from some professions. Like calculus as a requirement for med school. Since I never took calculus, I cannot say why it would be helpful, if indeed, it is. I loved algebra and was in advanced placement. The next year is was geometry and it was unbearably awful and pointless and that pretty much killed any math ambition to carry on. Besides, I mainly wanted to take art electives anyway. Later, in college, I took Finite Mathematics and I loved it: probability theory, Venn diagrams, logic trees. It was awesome. Unfortunately, even though I completely grasped the concepts, I had trouble with the tests, serious test anxiety. My algebra, since it was taken early, was practically useless even though I had done well with it. I had attempted to take a college level course, but the teacher insisted we solve the problems with her exact steps even though I arrived at the right answer doing it differently. So I quit.

That is part of the point of his premise, by mandating esoteric higher math for graduation, we may make people feel like failures even though they will never use the math they are required to take. They may also suffer poor grades and perhaps miss the opportunity for scholarships because of one bad grade (or summa cum laude) or even admission to graduate school.

I studied for the GRE math test and just couldn’t do it (as an older returning student). I discovered that I did better by random guessing than by stressing out and trying to answer for real. Since I was trying to get into Library and Information Science, I figured my killer language score would offset a 15 to 20 percent math score. So I randomly filled in all the answers, and finished in about 10 minutes, and then amused myself randomly checking to see if I could, in fact, answer any of them. It freaked the people near me out. But it also worked. And I got a scholarship!

Even better than just being a good read he makes his case about what kind of math is useful and why some questions become an issue of semantics instead of actual numeracy. In doing all these tables and charts and examples I learned a whole bunch of math related stuff I did not know!

Highly recommended especially for any teachers!


book jacket with red elephant graphic and blue donkeyThe Party Is Over: How Republicans Went CRAZY, Democrats Became USELESS, and the Middle Class Got SHAFTED by Mike Lofgren (2012)

When I brought this book with me to a city council meeting to read while I waited for the meeting to begin, an old fellow came in at the last minute so I moved over for him to take the seat on the end of the row. After the meeting started and I closed the book, he must have looked over and read the title and boy he was pissed because of the “Republicans went CRAZY” line. I chuckled and said, well the Democrats are bashed too, but he apparently felt that CRAZY was much worse than USELESS. He was kind of pissy the rest of the evening.

The author blurb says he was in congress for 28 years (a little misstated I think because a fast read makes it sound like he was a Congressman but he was a Republican staffer), and 16 were as a senior analyst on the House and Senate Budge committees — again that means he was a staffer. That said, he is pretty even-handed in his criticisms. Chapter 3 “All wrapped up in the Constitution” starts with this:

Like biblical literalists, Republicans assert that the Constitution is divinely inspired and inerrant. But also like biblical literalists, they are strangely selective about those portions of their favorite document that they care to heed, and they favor rewriting it when it stands in the way of their political agenda.

One may be forgiven for finding it strange that people who profess to revere the Constitution should so caustically denigrate the institution that is supposed to be the material expression of its principles. The Republican tactic of inducing public distrust of government is not only cynical, it is schizophrenic. (p. 44)

I am going to highly recommend this book on the basis of one paragraph:

Few voiced concern about the effective repeal of Fourth Amendment protections against uncontrolled government surveillance, or of the weakening of habeus corpus and self-incrimination protections in the public hysteria following 9/11 — or THE DARK RECESSES OF DICK CHENEY’S ID to blot America’s reputation worldwide. (p. 45)

He even acknowledges that the Republicans redistricted Dennis Kucinich out of his Congressional seat (D-OH). He was a good man. On page 29 he notes that legislation today is “loaded with policy riders to rev up the parties’ political bases — believe it or not, abortion amendments are often inserted in defense authorization. . . . he even covers the too little coverage of the slavery of women in Mariana Islands where women were raped and forced to have abortions that didn’t make much news.

One more bit, he quotes George Orwell, and since I am a fan I must include it: “We have now sunk to a depth at which re-statement of the obvious is the first duty of intelligent men.” This was in his famous review of Bertrand Russell‘s  Power: A New Social Analysis (1939).


book jacket with cartoon of fat bankerThe Age of Acquiescence: the life and death of American resistance to organized wealth and power by Steve Fraser (2015). Also the author of Every Man a Speculator and Wall Street.

This is a pretty fun and depressing read at the same time. He mentions the writing of Mark Twain, Dostoevsky, and Tom Wolfe’s Bonfire of the Vanities. I find that refreshing. Okay, chapter 11 is the one I am going to have to take photos of because it is about something that has infuriated me for decades: the myth of free will in employment. I even had a letter to the editor published in the newspaper decrying the lie that it is. His chapter title is: Wages of Freedom: The Fable of the Free Agent. Yes, it is a good chapter. It doesn’t address my main point as much as it could, which is that the unequal power between Employer and Employee makes the supposed equality of “at will” employment a lie. People have homes, family, kids in school, expenses; they cannot just “take it or leave it” because there are never going to be enough “good” jobs anymore.

His chapter on labor movement is particularly good. The first chapter details some of the realities that people who scream for no regulations seem to have forgotten.

During the formative years of industrialization, 35,000 workers DIED EACH YEAR in industrial accidents, many of them key skilled mechanics. In 1910, one-quarter of all workers in the iron and steel industries were INJURED at LEAST ONCE, partly because of MANAGEMENT’S FAILURE TO INSTALL SAFETY DEVICES or SHORTEN THE HOURS OF WORK. Two thousand [2,000] coal miners died each year on the job. EVERY DAY, around the same time, there were one hundred [100] industrial accidents somewhere in the country.

Especially for various skilled occupations, the railroads, for example, became a killing ground. Between 1890 and 1917, 158,000 mechanics and laborers were killed in railroad repair shops and roundhouses. In 1888-1889 alone, of 704,000 railroad employees, 20,000 were injured and nearly 2,000 killed. On the Illinois Central between 1874 and 1884, ONE of every TWENTY trainmen died or was disabled; among brakemen — railroaders who did the most dangerous work — the ration was ONE in SEVEN. . . .Part of the reason for this appalling record of disfigurement and death was MANAGEMENT’S relentless drive to increase the workload; brakemen, for example were required to brake four or five cars rather than the two or three that had been the custom earlier. (pp. 56-57)

More descriptions of the miserable conditions of workers, including child labor are described and is the conspiracy of Rockefeller and Tom Scott who built “a cartel and divided up the market themselves, fixed rates” etc. Plus “a menagerie of trusts” for almost every product. (p. 60) This is definitely a well documented and very well described. “Another Day Older and Deeper in Debt” pretty much sums up the situation we have today where the poor have so little they get trapped by payday lenders and inadequate safety net assistance. Good book.


Okay, running out of time now so will just list the books I have to take back.

book jacket photo of a golden dustpanThe Servant Economy: Where America’s Elite is Sending the Middle Class by Jeff Faux (2012)

The impact of Citizen’s United and the politics of austerity are covered. Readable and thoughtfully written. Another cursed legacy of too late dead Scalia.



book jacket family photoWhat’s the Matter with White People? Why we long for a golden age that never was by Joan Walsh (2012)

Fun fact: “Alexander Hamilton, the father of American banking is buried in the Trinity Church yard down the street” near Wall Street. I have been there and didn’t know that.

This is kind of a fun telling of recent history from her life experience which coincides with much of my own.


book jacket featuring a photo of the men of the Supreme CourtThe Burger Court and the Rise of the Judicial Right by Michael J. Graetz and Linda Greenhouse (Pulitzer Prize-winning former Supreme Court reporter for the New York Times)

I became particularly interested in this book when I read somewhere else about how Nixon had changed his mind about appointing someone to the bench, not that I can recall now. So this is definitely on my top re-reserves. Page 344 has a photo of Scalia being nominated to take Rehnquist’s seat who was elevated to Chief Justice due to Burger retiring.

As I am so very interested in all things Supreme Court, especially issues about the Constitution, I also have two more books related to them that I will have to do later, maybe as a theme read sequentially.


book jackdtThe United States Constitution: Questions and Answers by John R. Vile (2014). The series also has one on the SCOTUS. This really has a nice organization, by Articles and Amendments and so on with solid sensible questions and answers. One example that caught my eye, because I was wishing it was possible, asked “Is it possible to amend the Constitution through mechanisms like the initiative or referendum?” Some states allow this and it has proven very effective. However the answer is no, apart from one iconoclast Yale professor, Akhil Reed Amar, who proposed that the phrase “We the People” could be construed to achieve this. The author states that attempts to do that “could prove to be highly destabilizing.” (p. 122)


book jacketGreat Cases in Constitutional Law, edited by Robert P. George with multiple authors (2000)

Since this book is 16 years old now and so it has missed some of the many recent Scalia decisions, plenty of “great” cases need to be covered to catch up since he single handedly gutted the Voting Rights Act, and ruined our democracy with Citizen’s United, and so much more. The usual cases are here, Marbury v. Madison, Dred Scott v. Sandford, Lochner v. New York, Brown v. Board of Education, Roe v. Wade. There are two essays for each case.

The essays are based on lectures given at a conference at Princeton. It does not explain how the particular authors were selected to comment on any particular case. For example, I don’t really think the George Will‘s opinion on Roe v. Wade has any merit. Besides being a conservative and also being a man, he should shut the fuck up. The other speaker was also an unusual choice to address Roe but not completely weird because her field of study was gender and politics. Jean Bethke Elshtain


book jacket with pictures of flying Benjamins and CongresExtortion: How politicians extract your money, buy votes, and line their own pockets by Peter Schweizer (2013). Ha, he cites Alan Dershowitz (a book of his is listed above) and the “three felonies a day” phrase that was also the title of another book I read.

In theory, the America federal judicial system interprets rules and laws consistently for all citizens. It has been subverted by racial bias and economic leverage, but in theory, and it our collective great hopes, everyone is equal before the law. Yet in recent years it has been increasingly bent for the benefit of the Permanent Political Class. Who gets prosecuted, how aggressively they are prosecuted, and who avoids facing charges can and often does depend on the ability to pay protection money to the Permanent Political Class. (p. 128)


book jacket with photo of Ayn RandAyn Rand Nation: The Hidden Struggle for America’s Soul by Gary Weiss (2012), Since so many of the politicians these days never got past their high school infatuation with Ayn Rand, always imagining themselves to be the smartest, the best, the most worthy, the elite deserving of anything and everything, it behooves us all to know something about this woman. Her name is intertwined with far too much of contemporary conservative and neoliberal political positions to be ignored. One right-wing organization makes her books mandatory reading. I read her books, but I got over the message with a little humanity. I don’t have time to list all her followers here, but you have probably heard Paul Ryan praise her and wave her book around (Atlas Shrugged gets the most attention). Alan Greenspan participated in her many little clutches of hangers-on. She denounced Social Security but not to the point she refused to take it for herself. The doctrine, called Objectivism, summarized by one member as “Government is inherently negative,” (p. 260) The epilogue starts out with a quote that seems particularly apt today, by Garson Kanin (he was married to Ruth Gordon), Born Yesterday:

The whole damned history of the world is a story of the struggle between the selfish and the unselfish! . . . All the bad around us is bred by selfishness. Sometimes selfishness even gets to be a cause, and organized force, even a government. Then it’s called Fascism.


book jacketThe Supreme Court on Labor Unions: Why Labor Law is Failing American Workers by Julius G. Getman (2016)

Kind of like a big duh on his premise: of course the Court is hostile to labor unions since the conservative Justices are little more than lackeys who twist the law as much as possible to derive false analysis. Lochner alone makes it clear that the courts and justice are only kissing cousins rather than guardians of the people. But it really nice that Professor Getman calls the bastards out for their misdeeds and ongoing bias against unions, unlike, say, the cabal that is corporate management. Think about the Pullman strike! Today it is the avoidance of all labor laws entirely by declaring employees are less than “at will” they aren’t even employees: they are independent contractors! Free to set their hours (ha) and make as much or as little as they like (ha) and be rugged individuals like God intended for “Christian Amerika” (sarcasm).

This book is very well written and is organized by aspects of labor that have come before the courts.

  1. Union Organizing
  2. Collective Bargaining
  3. Right to Strike
  4. Protected Status of Economic Pressure
  5. Union Picketing, and Boycotts
  6. Duty of Fair Representation
  7. The Definition of “Employee” under the NLRA
  8. Arbitration

In the introduction he reminded me of something I had forgotten. Labor unions used to be “declared criminal conspiracies to distort the market” and the conspiracy doctrine was only effectively challenged in 1842 by Lemuel Shaw in Commonwealth v. Hunt.

Shaw’s analysis pretty much ended the conspiracy doctrine, but it did not usher in an era of mutual accommodation between unions and courts. In the aftermath of the Hunt case, courts shifted from holding unions illegal by virtue of their ANTIMARKET goals to finding many of their activities, particularly strikes and boycotts, unlawful. As noted by Frankfurter and Greene in their classic book The Labor Injunction, courts were quick to find a variety of union goals and tactics unlawful. Courts regularly found unions guilty of violence or illegal coercion when their conduct involved nothing more than peaceful picketing or demonstrations. One court announced that ‘there is and can be no such thing as peaceful picketing, any more than there can be chaste vulgarity, or peaceful mobbing, or lawful lynching.’ (p. 1)

The Supreme Court, in 1907, even went so far as to declare unions subject to “the Sherman Antitrust Act created to prevent business monopolies.” So ironic! [Loewe v. Lawlor(p. 3)

We have not come very far.

In Adair v. United States, decided in 1908, the Court overturned an act of Congress that sought to OUTLAW DISCRIMINATION against union members and yellow-dog contracts in the railroad industry. The Court declared that the Constitution protected the right of an EMPLOYER to refuse to employ union members and to make nonmembership a requirement of the employment CONTRACT. It framed is opinion as an effort to PROTECT THE AUTONOMY OF WORKERS. (p. 4)

The “at will” myth may have started here; it sure sounds like this was it. The almighty CONTRACT sovereignty that overrides even Constitutional rights. The following quote is from the opinion.

The right of a person to sell his labor upon such terms as he deems proper is, in its essence, the same as the right of the purchaser of labor to prescribe the CONDITIONS upon which he will accept such labor from the person offering to sell it. So the right of the employee to QUIT the service of the employer, for whatever reason, IS THE SAME AS THE RIGHT OF THE EMPLOYER, for WHATEVER REASON, to dispense with the services of such employee. . . and ANY LEGISLATION that DISTURBS that EQUALITY is arbitrary interference with the LIBERTY OF CONTRACT which NO GOVERNMENT can legally justify in a FREE LAND.

The one thing that would have been a really nice appendix would have been a concise listing of all the labor cases discussed in the book. They may not all be listed in the Index. There are a lot of Ibids in the notes.

OMG Scalia went to the University of Chicago! I will have to check dates to see if he and the wicked  cabal of neoliberalism and trickle-down cadre were functioning at that time.

The power of contract to overrule statutory rights harks back to an earlier era and reflects a new, unstated but powerfully effective policy of permitting the market through contract to govern labor relations. This new market-driven policy will be hailed by many of Justice Scalia’s former colleagues at the University of Chicago. It has been rightly deplored by those who believe in unions and collective action for workers.

You have “choice” sign a contract giving up your rights or don’t work.


book jacketPeople Get Ready: The Fight against a Jobless Economy and a Citizenless Democracy by Robert W. Mcchesney and John Nichols.

They believe that “economic democracy” should not be perceived as a threat but a promise. However, “share the wealth” is not a platform any politicians will ever support. I had to stop abruptly and so now don’t recall exactly what their purported bold plan is the cope with the catastrophe that is 2016 in the (somewhat) United States. [Sarah Vowell phrase — read all her books, especially Assassination Vacation] If I get back to it, which I doubt, I will let you know more. It seems to me that there was nothing much new here and no realistic assessment of the issues that need to be solved first.



book jacket with photos of W and CheneyTakeover: The Return of the Imperial Presidency and the Subversion of American Democracy by Charlie Savage (2007) — the author was the winner of the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting

Obviously from the cover you can see it is all about George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, et al. Eww, there is a photo of the evil Samuel Alito with W accept his nomination to the Supreme Court. And one of the new Chief Justice John Roberts. Another is a picture of W who, “after signing the USA Patriot Improvement and Reauthorization bill on March 9,2006,” that had some over oversight provisions, later wrote a signing statement that said he could ignore the oversight provisions in the bill. A few photos of the torture at Abu Ghrab include a photo of the cruel tracking of the number of hours people were made to stay awake and other atrocities. Another caption mentions the our dearly loathed Cheney, who was also a devil on W’s daddy had urged George the First to launch the Gulf War without getting congressional approval but daddy rejected his advice. Not sure it would have made any difference given the subsequent vote by both sides (except Bernie Sanders for sure) to vote for W’s war.


book jacketThe Democratic Party (Opposing Viewpoints series) by multiple authors (2016)

Ran out of time. That’s it for now.






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