March 16, 2008


Fredrickson, George M., Big Enough to Be Inconsistent: Abraham Lincoln Confronts Slavery and Race ( Cambridge, Ma. & London: Harvard U. Press, 2008) (“The strategic aim of this book is to find a middle ground between the hagiographers, who view Lincoln as a consistent and effective opponent of slavery and a sincere, if sometime politically covert, champion of racial equality, and the debunkers, who are fixated on what they take to be Lincoln’s dyed-in-the-wool racism.” “[I]f this book provides any advance over the reams of previous writing about Lincoln, it is because of its attempt to demonstrate the full complexity and ambiguity of Lincoln’s encounter with the great national questions of slavery and race. In some ways,, as W. E. B. DuBois suggested, Lincoln’s greatness and the fact that he was sometimes uncertain or confused about what he should do or think are not incompatible: he was ‘big enough to be inconsistent.’” Id. at x-xi.).

Halberstam, David, The Coldest Winter: America and the Korean War (New York: Hyperion, 2007) (An alternative title for this wonderful book is ‘The Politics of War: American and the Korean War.’ Also, does not an undated version of this have a familiar ring? "For it was not just Douglas MacArthur who thought that he could fight the North Koreans with a limited number of troops, it was much of the top military and political establishment, and regrettably altogether too many of the troops themselves." Id. at 139.).

Lewis, Anthony, Freedom For the Thought That We Hate: A Biography of the First Amendment (New York: Basic Books, 2008) (a nice little summary of 1st amendment history).

Mihm, Stephen, A Nation of Counterfeiters: Capitalists, Con Men, and the Making of the United States (Cambridge & London: Harvard U. Press, 2007) ("Value, then, was not something inert, something inherent in the note itself, the way that gold in a coin was thought to have an intrinsic value. Far from it: value was something that materialized and became tangible when the note was exchanged, when one person put confidence in the note of another. Only then, at that instant, would an intrinsically worthless piece of paper come to mean something more." "Counterfeiters grasped this essential truth, which applied not only to bank notes, but also to the emergent market economy as a whole. Confidence was the engine of economic growth, the mysterious sentiment that permitted a country poor in specie but rich in promises to create something from nothing.... Counterfeiters, arguably the most ubiquitous and sophisticated of all confidence men, likewise understood that confidence was fragile, incapable of withstanding close scrutiny. Anyone who looked too carefully at what stood behind a bill would destroy it, just like the farmer in the fairy tale who, in trying to find out how the goose laid golden eggs, killed the priceless bird. Bills could function whether counterfeit or not, so long as they entered into circulation with enough trust on the part of the person receiving them. At it core, capitalism was little more that a confidence game. As long as confidence flourished, even the most far-fletched speculation could get off the ground, wealth would increase, and bank notes--the very pieces of paper that made it all possible--would circulate." Id. at 10-11).

Miller, William Lee, President Lincoln: The Duty of a Statesman (New York: Knopf, 2008).

Richards, Leonard L., The California Gold Rush and the Coming of the Civil War (New York: Knopf, 2007) (From the jacket cover" "Richards explains how Southerners envisioned California as a new market for slaves and saw themselves importing their own slaves to dig for gold, only to be frustrated by California's passage of a state constitution that prohibited slavery. Still, they schemed to tie California to the South with a southern-routed transcontinental railroad and worked to split off the southern half as a separate slave state. We see how the Gold Rush influenced the squabbling over the Gadsden Purchase, the Kansas-Nebraska Act, the repeal of the Missouri Compromise, and various attempts to take Cuba and Nicaragua...." "When war did break out, efforts were made to push California to secede, but there was little general enthusiasm for secession, and many prominent Southerners went off to join the Confederate Army while others tried desperately to keep California gold from getting to the North and underwriting Lincoln's war machine.").

Teles, Steven M., The Rise of the Conservative Legal Movement: The Battle for Control of the Law (Princeton & Oxford: Princeton U. Press, 2008) (“Perhaps one of the most common mistakes that have been made by those who have attempted to learn from the conservative legal movement has been the tendency to confuse direct organizational goals and the desired by-products of activities with other ends. The [Henry] Manne programs in the 1970s and 1980s and the lectures and conventions of the Federalist Society, for example, contributed mightily to the development of academic and professional networks. These networks spurred intellectual productivity, improved the information that conservatives could access in government, and assisted in identifying ideological sympathizers when staffing the federal judiciary and administrative agencies. As import as these outputs were, however, they were by-products, or external benefits, of activities and organizations that worked because they were not aimed directly at these goals. Professors and judges attended Manne’s seminars because they were deeply intellectually stimulating, and, despite the unquestioned presence of opportunists within its ranks, such stimulation remains the main force drawing lawyers and law students to Federal Society meetings. Strong networks of the kind that come from these programs developed because of the emotional and intellectual intensity that come from an activity that knots people together and not because the organizations serve instrumental goals for their members. Even when the objective of organizational mobilization is narrowly political, therefore, it may be more effectively pursued through means that are broader and more indirect.” Id. at 280.).

Wilford, Hugh, The Mighty Wurlitzer: How the CIA Played America (Cambridge, MA, & London: Harvard U. Press, 2008) (“This book … has two main aims. One is to provide the first comprehensive account of the CIA’s covert network from its creation in the late 1940s to its exposure twenty years later, encompassing all the main American citizen groups involved in front operations, not just in Europe by in the Third World as well. The other is to portray the relationship between the CIA and its client organizations in as complete and rounded a manner as possible, combining intelligence history with the specific social history or histories of the groups concerned. My hope is that, by telling both sides of the story, the groups’ as well as the CIA’s, I will shed new light not only on the U.S. government’s conduct of the Cold War, but also on American society and culture in the mid-twentieth century.” Id. at 10.).

Wilson, Eric G., Against Happiness (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2008).