December 30, 2009


Aid, Matthew M., The Secret Sentry: The Untold History of the National Security Agency (New York; Bloomsbury Press, 2009) ("In the end, the fear among a number of retired NSA officers is that the agency's domestic eavesdropping program, in addition to generating much unwanted negative publicity for the agency, almost certainly diverted much-needed manpower and fiscal resources from NSA's foreign-intelligence-gathering mission to what the agency officers generally believe to have been a poorly considered and legally questionable domestic monitoring operation that apparently has produced little in the way of tangible results, despite claims to the contrary from the [Bush] White House." Id. at 299. "In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king." Desiderius Erasmus).

Danner, Mark, Stripping Bare the Body: Politics, Violence, War (New York: Nation Books, 2009) (This is a collection of some the author's thoughtful essays on political violence. "But firmness can stop armies and save lives." Id. at 327 (quoting President Clinton). "In Bosnia, of course, such 'firmness,' in the form of aerial bombardment, came from a paralyzed America only after three years of genocidal war and the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people. In Kosovo, the firmness came in the same form; but it did not 'stop armies,' at least not for seventy-nine days, and it is a difficult argument to make that it saved lives--or at least that it saved Kosovar lives." "American lives of course it did save. Amid the carnage of Kosovo, and the more than 1,200 dead civilians in Serbia, not a single American airman or soldier, indeed not a single member of the Western alliance, died; not one suffered injuries. And here we reach the bleak underside of President Clinton's 'moral imperative' as it was played out during those seventy-nine days of bombing. For Kosovo certainly comes as close as yet achieved to that grail which American leaders have been so long seeking: the politically cost-free war." Id. at 327-328. "'From the totalitarian point of view history is something to be created rather than learned. A totalitarian state is in effect a theocracy, and it is ruling caste, in order to keep its position, has be thought of as infallible. But since, in practice, no one is infallible, it is frequently necessary to rearrange past events in order to show that this or that mistake was not made, or that this or that imaginary triumph actually happened.'" Id. at 554 (quoting, George Orwell, "The Prevention of Literature," in The George Orwell Reader: Fiction, Essays and Reportage (New York: Harcourt, 1961, 371.).

Favret, Mary A., War at a Distance: Romanticism and the Making of Modern Wartime (Princeton & Oxford: Princeton U. Press, 2009) ("I will be arguing that the generation of writers from Cowper to Coleridge--artists as celebrated as William Wordsworth and forgotten as the anonymous poets of the periodical press--helped to construct the first wartime of modernity. C.K. William's poem ["The Hearth," in C.K. Williams, The Singing (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2003), 65-66.] alerts us to his overlooked history, the continuity between the way war figures in romantic writings and the way war figures today. But the wartime so constructed does not obey the enclosing actions of periodization; instead it presents a more unsettled and unsettling temporality. Shot through with expressions, imagery, and figures of speech assembled over two hundred years ago, wartime is a present experience handed down from a past uncertain of its future. We have inherited what wartime looks and sounds and feels like from this other time, which remains both strange and familiar." Id. at 4-5. "As it looks back over two centuries, War at a Distance tells how military conflict on a global scale looked and felt to a population whose armies and navies waged war for decades, but always at a distance. For those at home, the task was to find sentient ground for what often appeared a free-floating, impersonal military operation, removed from their immediate sensory perception. . . . As a wartime phenomenon, British Romanticism gives its distinctive voice to the dislocated experience that is modern wartime: the experience of war mediated, of time and times unmoored, of feeling intensified but also adrift." Id. at 9).

Kagan, Donald, The Peloponnesian War (New York: Viking, 2003) ("The defeat of Athens in the war was also a blow to the prospects for democracy in the other Greek cities. The influence of political systems on the people outside them is closely connected with their success in war. The democratic constitution of a powerful and successful Athens was a magnet and a model for others, even in the heart of the Peloponnesus Athens' loss in the war against Sparta was taken as proof of the inadequacy of its political system; Athenian failures were seized upon as democratic errors; ordinary human mistakes and misfortunes were judged to be the peculiar consequences of democracy. The Spartan victory over the democratic coalition at Mantinea in 418 was the turning point in the political development of Greece toward obligarchy rather than democracy, but the final defeat of Athens reinforced the trend." Id. at 488-489. "It is both legitimate and instructive to think of what we call the Peloponnesian War as 'the great war between Athens and Sparta,' as one scholar has designated it, because, like the European war of 1914-1918 to which the title 'the Great War' was applied by an earlier generation that knew only one, it was a tragic event, a great turning point in history, the end of an era of progress, prosperity, confidence, and hope, and the beginning of a darker time." Id. at 489-490.).

Kagan, Donald, Thucydides: The Reinvention of History (New York: Viking, 2009) ("In 1947 the American Secretary of State George C. Marshall said: 'I doubt seriously whether a man can think with full wisdom and with deep convictions regarding certain basic international issues today who has not at least reviewed in his mind the period of the Peloponnesian War and the Fall of Athens.' Ever since, Thucydides' History has had a strong and continuing influence on those who think about international relations and war." Id. at 1 (citation omitted). "Since most people live in states, and it is states that determine how they will be educated and since politics controls even the most important human faculties such as strategy, economic management, and tactics of persuasion, politics, to some degree, controls all fields of knowledge. Politics, after all, lays down what people may or must do and what they may or must not do." Id. at 231-232. "Surely the twentieth century has demonstrated the decisive importance of whether we live under a totalitarian regime or under a democracy, whether we are at war or live in peace, whether we win the wars that we wage or lose them. One need not be an Aristotelian or even an ancient Greek to understand the centrality of politics to the human condition." Id. at 232. "Herodotus deserves the title of 'the father of history,' but Thucydides was the father of political history. . . . His History raises for the first time countless questions about the development of human societies that remain very relevant today. He looks deeply into the causes of war, drawing a distinction between those openly alleged and those more fundamental but less obvious." Id. at 232.).

Keegan, John, The American Civil War: A Military History (New York, Alfred A. Knopf, 2009) ("What makes this poem ["Come up From the Fields, Father"] of Whitman's so heartrendering is that everything in it entirely genuine. Whitman knew what happened to boys shot in the chest; he knew how such news affected families, since he often meet them on their visits to the hospitals; he knew what terrible truths the consoling letters sent to families concealed, since he had often written such letters himself. Even though he was not a witness of battle, he knew what results battles caused, since he saw them on the hospital wars. Whitman was a great poet of the Civil War, because he understood the purpose and nature of the war, which was to inflict suffering on the American imagination. The suffering . . . was felt particularly by those not present. The whole point of the war was to hold mothers, fathers, sisters, and wives in a state of tortured apprehension, waiting for the terrible letter from the hospital that spoke of wounds and which all too often presaged the death of a dear son, husband, or father. It was a particular cruelty of the Civil War that because neither side had targets of strategic value to be attacked . . . its effect had to be directed principally, indeed for years exclusively, at the man in the field and at the emotions of those who waited at home. Torturing the apprehensions of the non-combatants was a new development in warfare, produced by the rise of an efficient postal service. Before the days of rapid and reasonably certain postal communication, soldiers could be banished to the mind's recesses after they marched away, because the nearest and dearest knew that they would receive no news of their fate until the war was over, if indeed then. The only certain news of a soldier on the campaign came by default, when he did not return home. Whitman caught at the truth in an entry in one of his notebooks, 'The expression of American personality through this war is not to be looked for in the great campaign and the battle-fights. It is to be looked for . . . in the hospitals, among the wounded." Id. at 3i8-319. Now, of course, we have television, digital video recorders the internet, and You-tube. The war is constantly there, though many, lacking immediate family members on the line, chose to ignore it for quite a while. We may not romanticize the American War in Iraq or the American War in Afghanistan, but, for the most part, we view these from too far a distance. At least as long as it is someone else's father, mother, son, daughter, husband or wife that is in harm's way. Also, see the reviews "Exporting Warfare," The Economist, October 3, 2009, and James M. McPherson, "Brutal Terrain," The NYT Book Review, Sunday, November 1, 2009.).

Packer, George, Interesting Times: Writings from a Turbulent Decade (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2009) ("for most Americans, September 11 and all that it unleashed dominated the decade. This revealed, among other things, our besetting narcissism, the vice that leads us to imagine ourselves the best or the worst but at any rate the center of everything." Id. at x. From "Stop Making Sense": "Clarity and conviction are wonderful things; I wouldn't want to be told that I can never have them again. But a better test of mental health and civic responsibility just now may be whether you can endure inconsistency, hold a fact without manipulating its shape, use words that will expose the falseness of your own thoughts, and accept that you will be embarrassed tomorrow by much of what you think and say today." Id. at 22.).

Parker, Christopher S., Fighting for Democracy: Black Veterans and the Struggle Against White Supremacy in the Postwar South (Princeton & Oxford: Princeton U. Press, 2009) ("My central argument is that black veterans' willingness to challenge white supremacy and resist Jim Crow rested to a significant extent upon their military experiences. They drew, first, on their perception that their service in the military made them full members of the political community; it merited full citizenship. Second, they drew on their military experiences, which exposed them to opportunities that bolstered their sense of agency and opened their eyes to the possibility of black-white relations in which they were considered equals. Finally, the confidence they gained from serving during wars in which they were forced to fight against the enemy in the field at the same time that they battled racism in the ranks sustained their commitment to fight white supremacy as well as their confidence to do so." Id. at 4-5.).

Rosier, Paul C., Serving Their Country: American Indian Politics and Patriotism in the Twentieth Century (Cambridge. Massachusetts, & London, England: Harvard U. Press, 2009) (An interesting read, a juxtaposition, for those interested in foreign relations and foreign relations law. "[The] tension between racial nationalism and civic nationalism and American Indians' use of patriotic rhetoric to mediate it emerged most clearly during the Cold War. But since much recent scholarship on the intersection of race and the Cold War has ignored Native Americans, the story of Indian-white relations remains segregated from the narrative of twentieth-century American history and international history. Exploring the involvement on Native Americans with the local, national, and international politics of the Cold War era, I trace the evolution of Native Americans' contemporary identities in the crucible of the Cold War, from the end of World War II to the end of the Vietnam War. . . . The heart of this book considers where the Cold war took place for Native Americans, how they conceived of its relevance to their lives, through what institutions they mediated its pressures, and how it shaped their national and ethnic identities and thus their vision of American citizenship and patriotism. In addition, I trace connections between U.S. domestic Indian policy and U.S. Cold War foreign policy and examine how the struggles of Native Americans to preserve their ancestral lands helped to shape Americans' conceptions of the Cold War at home and abroad, in particular American citizens' awareness of their new global role in constructing an empire for liberty abroad and American politicians' engagement with Third World peoples intent on securing their independence from imperial rule." Id. at 7-8. Speaking of The American War in Vietnam: "As the novelist James Baldwin wrote in 1968: 'A racist society can't but right a racist war--this is the bitter truth. The assumptions acted on at home are also acted on abroad, and every American Negro knows this, for he, after the American Indian, was the first 'Viet Cong' victim.' Vietnam was not about politics so much as it was about 'racial hatred,' as Kipp put it." at 249. And then there is The American War in Iraq: "The frontier has gone restless now. . . . We'll ride 'em [Iraqis] down like Cherokee. --Second lieutenant in Iraq, 2004." Id. at 276.).

Sheehan, Neil, A Fiery Peace in a Cold War: Bernard Schriever and the Ultimate Weapon (New York: Random House, 2009) (See Michael Beschloss, "Missile Defense," The NYT Book Review, Sunday, October 4, 2009.).

Thompson, Nicholas, The Hawk and The Dove: Paul Nitze, George Kennan, and the History of the Cold War (New York: Henry Holt, 2009) (George Kennan to Dean Acheson: "'In international, as in private, life what counts most is not really what happens to someone but how he bears what happens to him. For this reason almost everything defends from here on out on the manner in which we Americans bear what is unquestionably a major failure and disaster to our national fortunes. If we accept it with candor, with dignity, and with resolve to absorb its lessons and to make it good by redoubled and determined effort--starting all over again, if necessary, along the pattern of Pearl Harbor--we need lose neither our self-confidence nor our allies nor our power for bargaining, eventually, with the Russians. But if we try to conceal from our people or from our allies the full measure of our misfortune, or permit ourselves to seek relief in any reactions of bluster or petulance or hysteria, we can easily find this crisis resolving itself into an irreparable deterioration of our world position--and of our confidence in ourselves.'" Id. at 126 (quoting from Robert Beisner, Dean Acheson (Oxford: Oxford U. Press, 2006), at 413). George Kennan: "'There was more respect to be won by superior performance in the part of the underling than mediocre performance in the role of the king.'" Id. at 235.).

Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War, Books I-II with an English translation by Charles Forster Smith (Loeb Classical Library)(Cambridge, Massachusetts & London, England: Harvard University Press, 1919, 1928, 2003).

Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War, Books III-IV with an English translation by Charles Forster Smith (Loeb Classical Library)(Cambridge, Massachusetts & London, England: Harvard University Press, 1920, 1930, 2005) (Hermocrates son of Hermon: "'The city of which I represent, Siceliots, is not the weakest, nor is it suffering most in the war; but I propose to speak in the general interest, declaring the opinion which seems to me the best for Sicily as a whole. As for the miseries which war entails, why should one by expressly stating all that can be said make a long harangue in the presence of those who know? For no one is either forced to make war through ignorance of what it is, or deterred from making it by fear, if he thinks he will get some advantage from it. What really happens is this, that to one side the gains appear greater than the terrors, while the other deliberately prefers to undergo the dangers rather than submit to a temporary disadvantage; but if it should turn out that these two lines of action are both inopportune, each for the side which adopts it, them some profit may come from exhortations which advise a compromise. And so with us at the present time, if we could be persuaded of the wisdom of this course it would be to our great advantage; for each of us began the war in the first place because we desired to promote our private interests. So now let us endeavour by setting forth our conflicting claims to become reconciled with each other; and then, if we do not after all succeed in securing, each of us, what is fair and just before we part, we shall go to war again.'" Id. at 309-311.).

Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War, Books V-VI with an English translation by Charles Forster Smith (Loeb Classical Library)(Cambridge, Massachusetts & London, England: Harvard University Press, 1921, 2006) ("But Athenagoras, who was a popular leader and at the present time most influential with the masses, came forward and addressed them as follows: * * * 'Some say that a democracy is neither wise not equitable, and that those that have property are more competent to rule the best. But I say, first, that democracy is a name for all, oligarchy for only a part; next, that while the wealthy are the best guardians of property, the wise would be the best counsellors, and the many, after hearing matters discussed, would be the best judges; and that these classes, whether severally or collectively, enjoy a like equality in a democracy. An oligarchy, on the other hand, gives the many a share of the dangers, but of the advantages it not merely claims the lion's share, but even takes and keeps it all. And this is what the powerful among you and the young men are bent upon--a thing impossible to attain in a great city.'" Id. at 251-257.).

Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War, Books VII-VIII with an English translation by Charles Forster Smith (Loeb Classical Library)(Cambridge, Massachusetts & London, England: Harvard University Press, 1923, 1935, 2003) ("When the news reached Athens, even though the actual soldiers who had escaped from the action itself gave a clear report, they for long refused to believe that the armament could have been so utterly destroyed. When, however, they were convinced, they were angry with the orators who had taken part in promoting the expedition--as though they had not voted for it themselves--and they were also enraged at the oracle-mongers and soothsayers and whoever at that time by any practice of divination had led them to hope that they would conquer Sicily. Everything indeed on every side distressed them, and after what had happened they were beset with fear and utmost consternation. For having lost, both each man separately and as a state, many hoplites and horsemen and the flower of the youth, while they saw none like it left them, they were heavy of heart; and again, seeing no ships in the docks in sufficient numbers nor money in the treasury nor crews for the ship, they were at the moment hopeless of safety. They thought that their enemies in Sicily would sail with their fleet straight for the Peireaus, especially as they had won so great a victory, and that their foes at home, now doubly prepared in all respects, would attack them at once with all their might both by land and by sea, and that their own allies would revolt and join them. Nevertheless it was their opinion that, as far as their present circumstances permitted, they should not give up, but should both make ready a fleet, providing timber and money from whatever sources they could, and put their relations with their allies, and especially with Euboea, on a safe footing; moreover, that they should reduce the expenses of the city to an economical basis, and should select a board of elderly men who should prepare measures with reference to the present situation as there might be occasion. In the panic of the moment they were ready, as is the way o with a democracy, to observe discipline in everything. And as they had determined, so they proceeded to act; and the summer ended." Id. 191-193.).

December 19, 2009


Waldfogel, Joel, Scroogenomics: Why You Shouldn’t Buy Presents For the Holidays (Princeton & Oxford: Princeton U. Press, 2009).

December 17, 2009


Doctorow, E. L., Homer & Langley: A Novel (New York: Random House, 2009) ("Or maybe it was those moon walks of our astronauts that made Langley give up painting as insufficient to his rage. Can you imagine the crassness of it, hitting golf balls on the moon? he said. And that other one, reading the Bible to the universe as he circled around out there? The entire class of blasphemies is in those two acts, he said. The one stupidly irreverent, the other stupidly presumptuous." Id. at 135.).

Moore, Lorrie, A Gate at the Stairs: A Novel (New York: Knopf, 2009) ("I went home and googled the n-word, opening up a sewer that went on forever." Id. at 238.).

Munro, Alice, Too Much Happiness: Stories (New York: Knopf, 2009).

Sanow, Anne, Triple Time (Pittsburgh: U. of Pittsburgh Press, 2009).

December 13, 2009


Bowen, William G., & Derek Bok, The Shape of the River: Long Term Consequences of Considering Race in College and University Admissions (Princeton: Princeton U. Press, 1998).

Bowen, William G., Matthew M. Chingos, & Michael S. McPherson, Crossing the Finish Line: Completing College at America’s Public Universities (Princeton & Oxford: Princeton U. Press, 2009) ("[E]ducational attainment in the United States today is highly consequential. Important are both overall levels of educational attainment and disparities in educational outcomes by race/ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic status (SES), and the kind of university a student attends. These outcomes and the forces that drive them are enormously important not only to prospective students and their parents, institutional decision makers, and policy makers but to all who care about both economic prospects for this country and its social fabric--which is so strongly shaped by the pronounced differences in educational levels seen in relation to how one grows up. In this study, we focus on patterns of educational attainment at public universities, which educate more than two-thirds of all full-time students seeking bachelor's degrees at four-year colleges and universities." Id. at xiii.).

Espenshade, Thomas J. & Alexandria Walton Radford, No Longer Separate, Not Yet Equal: Race and Class in Elite College Admission and Campus Life (Princeton & Oxford: Princeton U. Press, 2009) ("In this book we address the role of elite higher education in confronting issues of inequality on U.S. college campuses. Specifically, our aim is to draw back the curtain on the selective college experience and take a close look at how race and social class are intimately intertwined with the admission process and with the academic and nonacademic sides of campus life. We ask three central questions. First, to what extent is American elite higher education involved in promoting social mobility? We know, for instance, that the economic return to a college degree is increasing and that the return to a selective college or university education is rising even faster. Therefore, mobility chances in the population are deeply affected by exactly who is profiting from the kind of education selective colleges offer." Id. at 2. "A second set of questions revolves around the use of affirmative action by selective institutions." Id. at 4. "A third issue we address relates to campus life itself. Sometimes lost between a preoccupation with admission practices on the one hand and graduation rates on the other is a concern for students themselves--who they are, what they learn both inside and outside the classroom, and generally what happens to them while they are in college. We know one thing for certain. Every selective college and university values diversity in all its many forms and has taken deliberate steps to enroll a diverse freshman class. Unlike the broader adult society, diverse racial groups of students are in close contact on campus. Students from different backgrounds sleep in the same dorms; they eat in the same dining halls; they mainly wear the same clothing styles and carry the same backpacks; and they go to class together. College officials have seen to it that racial groups are no longer separate. But does this mean they are equal? There are different ways to anticipate an answer." Id. at 5-6.).

December 9, 2009


"As the amount of knowledge increases, so too does the relative amount of ignorance, for each person can know only a decreasing fraction of what can be known; that knowledge, as it becomes more specialized, also tends to become more potent, more capable of being used for good or ill. . . . It is to avert a Hobbesian outcome--a war of each against each in which everyone uses the knowledge he possesses for his own advantage, and pays a terrible price for the knowledge he may lack--that societies urge those occupations that impinge on the vital concerns of human being to tie their expertise to honorableness." Walter P. Metzger, "A Spectre Is Haunting American Scholars: The Spectre of 'Professionalism,' " Educational Researcher 16(6): 10-19, at 18. In reading this passage I found myself wondering whether there is a huge disconnect between expertise and honorableness in the legal profession generally, and legal academia specifically. At the risk of being the kettle calling the skillet black, I would probably answer in the affirmative.

December 8, 2009


Hunt, Lynn, Inventing Human Rights: A History (New York: Norton, 2007) (“As nationalism became more closely entwined with ethnicity, it fed into an increasing emphasis on biological explanations for difference. . . . Differences had to have a more solid foundation if men were to maintain their superiority to women . . . . In short, if rights were to be less than universal, equal, and natural, then reasons had to be given. As a consequence, the nineteenth century witnessed an explosion in biological explanations of difference.” Id. at 186. “Ironically, then, the very notion of human rights inadvertently opened the door to more virulent forms of sexism . . . . . In effect, the sweeping claims about natural equality of all mankind called forth equally global assertions about natural difference, producing a new kind of opponent to human rights, more powerful and sinister even than the traditionalist ones. The new forms of . . . sexism offered biological explanations for the naturalness of human difference. . . . . Women were not simply less reasonable than men because they were less educated; their biology destined them to the private, domestic life and made them entirely unsuitable for politics, business, or the professions. In these new biological doctrines, education or change in environment could never change the inherent hierarchical structures in human nature.” Id. at 187. “With the emergence of explicit arguments for the political equality of women, the biological argument for women’s inferiority shifted. Females no longer occupied a lower rung on the same biological ladder as males, making them biologically similar to males, even if inferior. Females were now increasingly case as altogether different biologically; they became the ‘opposite sex’.” Id. at 188.).

Nussbaum Martha C., Sex and Social Justice (New York & Oxford: Oxford U. Press, 1999) "The essays in this volume . . . articulat[e] a distinctive conception of feminism. The feminism defended here has five salient features: It is internationalist, humanist, liberal, concerned with the social shaping of preference and desire, and, finally, concerned with sympathetic understanding. These five elements are not usually found together, and some of them are widely thought to be at odds with others. I shall argue, however, that a coherent and powerful picture emerges from their combination. Among the advantages of the combination is an opportunity to link feminist inquiry closely to the important progress that has been made during the past few decades in articulating the elements of a theory of both national and global justice." Id. at 6. "In grappling further with these issues, we should begin from the realization there is nothing per se wrong with taking money for the use of one's body. That's the way most of us live, and formal recognition of that fact through contract is usually a good thing for people, protecting their security and their employment conditions. What seems wrong is that relatively few people in the world have the option to use their body, in their work, in what Marx would call a 'truly human' manner of functioning, by which he meant (among other things) having some choices about the work to be performed, some reasonable measure of control over its conditions and outcome, and also the chance to use thought and skill rather just to function as a cog in a machine. Women in many parts of the world are especially likely to be stuck at low level of mechanical functioning, whether as agricultural laborers or as factory workers or as prostitutes. The real question to be faced is how to expand the options and opportunities such workers face, how to increase the humanity inherent in their work, and how to guarantee that workers of all sorts are treated with dignity. In the further pursuit of these questions, we need, on balance, more studies of women's credit unions and fewer studies of prostitution." Id. at 297-298.).

Nussbaum, Martha C., Women and Human Development: The Capabilities Approach (Cambridge: Cambridge U. Press, 2000) (“Women in much of the world lose out by being women.” Id. at 298. “I shall argue that international political and economic thought should be feminist, attentive (among other things) to the special problems women face because of sex in more or less every nation in the world, problems without an understanding of which general issues of poverty and development cannot be well confronted. An approach to international development should be assessed for its ability to recognize these problems and to make recommendations for their solution. I shall propose and defend one such approach, one that seems to me to do better in this area than other prominent alternatives. The approach is philosophical, and I shall try to show why we need philosophical theorizing in order to approach these problems well. It is also based on a universalist account of central human functions, closely allied to a form of political liberalism; one of my primary tasks will be to defend this type of universalism as a valuable basis from which to approach the problem of women in the developing world.” “The aim of the project as a whole is to provide the philosophical underpinning for an account of basic constitutional principles that should be respected and implemented by the governments of all nations, as a bare minimum of what respect for human dignity requires. . . . I shall argue that the best approach to this ides of a basic social minimum is provided by an approach that focuses on human capabilities, that is, what people are actually able to do and to be -- in a way informed by an intuitive idea of a life that is worthy of the dignity of the human being. I shall identify a list of central human capabilities, setting them in the context of a type of political liberalism that makes them specifically political goals and presents them in a manner free of any specific metaphysical grounding . . . . And I shall argue that the capabilities in question should be pursued for each and every person: thus I adopt a principle of each person’s capability, based on a principle of each person as end. Women have all too often been treated as the supporters of the ends of others, rather than as ends in their own rights; thus this principle has particular critical force with regard to women’s lives. Finally, my approach uses the idea of a threshold level of each capability. Beneath which it is held that truly functioning is not available to citizens; the social goal should be understood in terms of getting citizens above this capability threshold.” Id. at 5-6. Nussbaum’s list of “central human functional capabilities”: (1) life; (2) bodily health; (3) bodily integrity; (4) sense, imagination, and thought; (5) emotions; (6) practical reason; (7) affiliation; (8) other species; (9) play; and (10) control over one’s environment both political and material. Id. at 78-80.).

December 7, 2009


Knapp, Caroline, Appetites: Why Women Want (New York: Counterpoint, 2003) (“By all accounts, I should feel free and entitled on the appetite front as anyone. . . . And yet by the age of twenty-one, I’d found myself whittled down to skeletal form, my whole being oriented toward the denial of appetite. And at forty-two, my current age, I can still find myself lingering at the periphery of desire, peering through those doors from what often feels like a great distance, not always certain whether it’s okay to march on in.” “That story, with its implicit conflict between the internal and external worlds, is in essence the story of appetite. It’s about the anxiety that crops up alongside new, untested freedoms, and the guilt that’s aroused when a woman tests old and deeply entrenched rules about gender and femininity. It’s about the collision between self and culture, female desire unleashed in a world that’s still deeply ambivalent about female power and that manages to whet appetite and shame it in equal measure. It’s about the difficulty a woman may have feeling connected to her own body and her own desires in an increasingly visual and commercial world, a place where the female form is so mercilessly externalized and where conceptions of female desire are so narrowly framed. It it’s about the durability of traditional psychic and social structure, about how the seeds of self-denial are still planted and encouraged in girls, about how forty years of legal and social change have not yet nurtured a truly alternative hybrid, one that would flower into feelings of agency and initiative, into the conviction that one’s appetites are good and valid and deserve to be satisfied in healthy and reasonable ways.” Id. at 19-20.).

Knapp, Caroline, Drinking: A Love Story (New York: The Dial Press, 1996) (“Of course, the problem with self-transformation is that after a while, you don’t know which version of yourself to believe in, which one is true. I was the hardened, cynical version of me when I was with James and Elaine, and I was the connected, intimate version of me when I was with Sam, and I was the genteel, sophisticated version of me when I was with my relatives, and honestly, after a while I didn’t know which was which, where one began or ended, whether the versions existed authentically within me or whether they needed outside people and circumstances to kick them into gear. For years my therapist said to me, ‘Sit with the feelings. What happens when you just sit still, by yourself? What happens when you just sit with the feelings?’ I suppose he was trying to get at those very questions: What kind of person was I, really? What was I afraid of, angry about? Who was I when I didn’t have other people to cue into? I couldn’t answer, of course, because I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t sit still for ten minutes without a drink. Without the anesthesia; I really couldn’t. Id. at 69-70.).

Knapp, Caroline, Pack of Two: The Intricate Bond Between People and Dogs (New York: The Dial Press, 1998) (The author and this book came up during a recent dinner conversation, so I obtained a used copy. Upon receiving the book, I thumbed through it and came across the following penciled-in on the inside back cover: “Out in the world with her I have found a path to others. At home with her, I have found a away to be alone without the ache.” And below that: “Dogs are children that do not grow up.”).

December 6, 2009


Collins, Gail, America’s Women: 400 Years of Dolls, Drudges, Helpmates, and Heroines (New York: William Morrow, 2003) (“The history of American women is all about leaving home—crossing oceans and continents, or getting jobs and living on their own. Some of our national heroines were defined by the fact that they never nested--they were peripatetic crusaders like Susan B. Anthony, Clara Barton. Sojourner Truth, Dorothea Dix. The center of our story is the tension between the yearning to create a home and the urge to get out of it.” Id. at xiii. "Giving women the right to vote did not have unanticipated consequences like Prohibition. In fact, the shock for suffragists was that it hardly seemed to have any consequences at all. Most women appeared to vote the way their husbands, brothers, and fathers did--not necessarily because they felt obliged to follow the men's lead, but because they shared the same loyalties to class, ethnic group, and region. . . . In 1920, when American women went to the polls across the nation for the first time, they made up an estimated one-third of the voters. Mainly, they voted for Warren Harding, who turned out to be one of the worst presidents in American history. He had stuffed his platform with female-friendly promises like equal pay for equal work, and end to child labor, and more women appointees to government positions. But his attraction was probably the same for both sexes--the promise of a return to 'normalcy' after the war and the turmoil that followed it." Id. at 338-339.).

Collins, Gail, When Everything Changed: The Amazing Journey of American Women From 1969 to the Present (New York & Boston: Little, Brown, 2009) (“Cowboy action series were the best-loved TV entertainment on 1960. Eleven of the top twenty-five shows were Westerns, and they underlined the rule that women did not have adventures, except the ones that involved getting kidnapped or caught in a natural disaster. ‘Women used to be the big stars, but these days it’s men,’ said Michael Landon, one of the leads in Bonanza, the long-running story of an all-male family living on a huge Nevada ranch after the Civil War. Perhaps to emphasize their heterosexuality, the Cartwright men had plenty of romances. But the scriptwriters killed their girlfriends off at an extraordinarily speedy clip. The family patriarch, Ben, had been widowed three times, and his three sons all repeatedly got married or engaged, only to quickly lose their mates to the grim reaper. A rather typical episode began with Joe (Landon) happily dancing with a new fiancĂ©e. Before the first commercial, the poor girl was murdered on her way home from the hoedown.” Id. at 14-15. “The effect of the civil rights movement was crucial for women, because their fight was unique. It was, as the sociologist Alice Rossi said, the only instance in which people being discriminated against lived in much more intimate association with the ‘enemy’ than with other members of their own group. Women’s interests were bound up with those of their fathers, husbands, brothers, and sons in every aspect of their lives. It was difficult for them to mount the kind of clear-cut fight that racial or ethnic minorities were able to make against an establishment that had discriminated against them. That was probably why the women’s movement always tended to ride on the wake of other fights for justice.” Id. at 104. “On a more positive note, [Palin] won over many voters who had tended in the past to be hostile to the whole concept of a woman in the White House. She had a special affinity with younger working-class men. They liked the way she talked about hunting and hockey, and introduced her husband as first dude. They say here as one of their own, rather than as an outsider parachuting in to tell them how to behave. Younger men with no college education were the people who had always been threatened by women in the workplace and often the one most resistant to any idea of being bossed by a woman anywhere. In a somewhat roundabout way, Palin made many of them converts to a new way of thinking. ‘They bear us children, they risk their lives to give us birth, so maybe it’s time we let a woman lead us,’ a former truck driver told a reporter during a Palin rally in North Carolina.” Id. at 391-392.).

December 4, 2009


Muller, Herta The Appointment (1997) translated from the German by Michael Hulse and Philip Boehm (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2001).

Muller, Herta, The Land of Green Plums (1993) translated from the German by Michael Hofmann (Evanston: Northwestern U. Press, 1998) ("When we don't speak, said Edgar, we become unbearable, and when we do, we make fools of ourselves." Id. at 242.).

Muller, Herta, Nadirs (1998) translated from the German by Sieglinde Lug (Lincoln: Bison Books/ U. of Nebraska Press, 1999).

Muller, Herta, The Passport (1986) translated from the German by Martin Chalmers ( London: Serpent’s Tail, 2009).

December 1, 2009


Goodall, Amanda H., Socrates in the Boardroom: Why Research Universities Should Be Led by Top Scholars (Princeton & London: Princeton U. Press, 2009) (“This is a book about leadership of experts. My focus is on heads of universities—although not exclusively so. I ask the question: does it matter to the performance of a research university if the president has been a highly cited scholar? Then, using evidence, I attempt to answer it. My conclusion is that better scholars make better leaders.” Id. at xiii. “'CEO is a command-and-control sort of position. I do not really see myself as a CEO. Rather, I like to think of myself as a managing partner. The senior partners are the faculty, and they are the lifeblood of an institution.'” Id. at 124 (Quoting Patrick Harker, former dean of Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, now President of the University of Delaware.)).