February 28, 2011


Dallek, Robert, The Lost Peace: Leadership in a Time of Horror and Hope, 1945-1953 (New York: Harper, 2010) ("The United States, the dominant global power for the last sixty-five years, has not been innocent of actions that violate human rights and cause suffering: Eisenhower's use of the CIA to topple popular governments in Iran and Guatemala; John Kennedy's unleashing of Cuban exiles at the Bay of Pigs to bring down Fidel Castro; Lyndon Johnson's failed war to rescue South Vietnam from Communist control; Richard Nixon's and Henry Kissinger's four-year extension of the Vietnam War and their aid in ousting Salvador Allende's democratically elected government in Chile; Ronald Reagan's machinations supporting the contras in Nicaragua; George W. Bush's determination to spread democracy across the Middle East by overturning Saddam Hussein's rule in Iraq are case studies in actions that ultimately served neither American nor international well-being." "It would be extraordinary if we could discern a common pattern in all these miscalculation by U.S. and foreign leaders. But the best we can say is that these disasters were not the result of inevitable forces beyond human control; rather they were the consequence of bad judgments and a misuse of historical experience by decision makers, who more often than not acted with the support of national majorities." Id. at 365-366.).

Dueck, Colin, Hard Line: The Republican Party and U.S. Foreign Policy Since World War II (Princeton & Oxford: Princeton U. Press, 2010) (Dueck argues, first, "that despite apparent oscillations between internationalism and isolationism, there has in fact been one overarching constant in conservative and Republican foreign policies for several decades now, namely, a hawkish and intense American nationalism. By this [Dueck] means that since at least the 1950s [that is, at least since the Korean War] , Republicans and conservatives have generally been comfortable with the use of force by the United States in world affairs, committed to building strong national defenses, determined to maintain a free hand for the United States internationally, and relatively unyielding toward potential foreign adversaries. The typical conservative Republican foreign policy approach for over half a century has been, in a word, hard-line--a long-term trend with considerable domestic political as well as international significance, especially since [according to Dueck] a majority of liberal Democrats began to abandon hard-line foreign policy views following America's war in Vietnam. Id. at 2-3. I wonder why? I doubt that any reader, regardless of his or her political leanings, will find much to disagree with Dueck on the huge divide between Republican and Democrats, or between conservatives and liberals, on questions of how hawkish American foreign policy should be and has been during Republican administration. Where the disagreement rests is in how net positive/negative to U.S. interests, and/or to the interests of those the U.S. intervenes with/against, these hawkish approach has been. But that is not the main thrust of this book. The main thrust is that Dueck purport to "demonstrate that certain particular conservative and Republican foreign policy tendencies have still been possible within the above framework, and that contrary to popular arguments centering on the importance of public intellectuals or economic interests, the crucial factor in shaping these specific policy tendencies has been presidential leadership.Presidents have acts as focal point for their party, and Republican presidents have been given remarkable leeway to redefine not only conservative foreign policies but what it mean to be a conservative in the United States." Id. at 3. I might suggest that the critical difference among the various Republican presidents since 1952 is in styles of governance and decision-making. Moreover, whether public intellectuals had any influence on particular administrations really turns on whether they had influence on public discourse generally. If they did, presidents and their administrations responded. If they did not, presidents and their administrations ignored them as well. The discussion of the whether, or rather the degree to which, the neoconservatives influenced George W. Bush's foreign policy is poorly developed. Everyone knows the neoconservatives had an influence in the rhetoric of administration, but that may be more a function of the fact that the 24/7 legitimate news cycle, 24/7 in-your-face-political-propaganda-media masquerading as news, and the Internet were something not available to George H.W. Bush, Ronald Reagan, Richard Nixon or Eisenhower. How does one measure, in the short time frame of a presidency, the impact of intellectuals generally? Yet, Dueck is right: the conservative and Republican have been hard-liners, not only in foreign policy but in domestic policy as well. And where has it gotten America? Have American values really taken hold around the globe? Is American respected, or merely feared as a rather large bully? Is democracy weaker or stronger in American today than it was before World War II?).

Leebaert, Derek, Magic and Mayhem: The Delusions of American Foreign Policy from Korea to Afghanistan (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2010) ("[America's foreign policy] profound successes are nonetheless surrounded by a host of dangerous self-deceptions that I sum up as magical thinking. I call it 'magical' because shrewd, levelheaded people are so frequently bewitched into substituting passion, sloganeering, and haste for reflection, homework, and reasonable objectives." Id. at 1. "[T]he six compelling illusions that typically are in play when the country lunges in dangerous directions that it never intended to go. . . area: [1] A sensation of urgency and of 'crisis' that accompanies the belief that most any resolute action is superior to restraint. . . . [2] The faith that American-style business management . . can fix any global problem given enough time, resources, and appropriately ;can-do,' businesslike zeal. [3] A distinctively American desire to fall in behind celebrities, stars, and peddlers of some newly distilled expertise who, in foreign affairs especially, seem to glow with wizardry--and whom we turn to for guidance while believing , for a fatefully long moment, that they only have to wave their wands for success to fall from the sky. [4] An expectation of wondrous returns on investment, even when this is based on intellectual shortcuts--in fact on lack of seriousness and mental flexibility. . . . [5] Conjuring powerful, but simplified, images form the depths of 'history' to rationalize huge and amorphously expanding objectives. . . . [6] The repeated belief that America can shape the destiny of other countries overnight and that the hearts and minds of distant people are throbbing to be transformed into something akin to the way we see ourselves." Id. at 6-8. "Another way the universities can contribute to better thought is to assess how 'national security,' let alone the new calling of 'homeland security,' is being studied in the first place. As much an academic field as a field of practice, 'national security' is troublingly unanchored. ''Might you want to consider anthropology or computer science or Arabic to then someday apply it to national security?' I ask students. . . . Usually not; they're eager to jump right into the mix and 'make policy,' playing for the highest of stakes before they have proved themselves at the humbler but harder-edged crafts upon which the structure rests. For the sake of seriousness, political science departments as well as public policy schools might drop degree specialization in 'security studies.' They can instead demand more rigorous concentrations, such as in international economics, with perhaps 'national security' being offered as as a minor It's also time for university presidents and provosts to examine the extent to which members of their own faculty get seduced by the excitement of 'security studies'--including all the consulting, conferencing, and punditry--at the price of lasting scholarship." Id. at 266-267.).

Mandelbaum, Michael, The Frugal Superpower: America’s Global Leadership in a Cash-Strapped Era (New York: PublicAffairs, 2010) ("The central task of American foreign policy, even as . . . economic challenges constrain it, is to preserve as many of the vital governmental services the United States supplies to the world as possible. The challenge for American policy in the second decade of the twenty-first century is to provide leadership on a shoestring--or at at least on a much reduced budget. There are to obvious strategies for doing so." "One is to discard some responsibilities, the better to sustain others. To govern is to choose, and in its capacity as the world's government the United States will have to choose for continuation the policies that make the most important contributions to its own and the world's well-being, while discontinuing other that, however worthy do less to promote American interest and a benign world order. The other strategy is to share the burden of furnishing global services with other countries." Id. at 62-63. "In the first decade of the twenty-first century, much of the world expressed . . . its disapproval of a series of American foreign policies, above all the war in Iraq. They generally considered such policies to be the result of the United States' having too much power. In the century's second decade the economic conditions in which the United States will have to operate will lead to what are all too likely to be far more disagreeable and globally damaging consequences of the United States' having too little power. One thing worse than an America that is too strong, the world will learn, is an America that is too weak." Id. at 194.).

Pfaff, William, Barbarian Sentiments: How the American Century Ends (New York: Hill & Wang, 1989) ("We are in an odd situation. At one level of intelligence, or consciousness, Americans--conservatives, liberals, the rest--know that their political language is false and that their ideas are sentimental and self-aggrandizing. People recognize perfectly well that the Lebanese, Iranians, Nicaraguans, Salvadorans, Filipinos, Africans--not to speak of the Europeans, Japanese, and Chinese--all lead lives more or less remote from the American national experience, with different perceptions and national ambitions, motivated by different values. This is evident to those who make American policy; it is the main obstacle to the success of that policy. There would be no problem . . . in any of the . . . places where the United States finds itself in collision with local feelings . . . if it were really true that American values are universally admired and sought, or would be if these were properly explained. That we are the norm of the world is simply and ancient and self-serving theme of American political rhetoric, of interest, these days, only to our ourselves." Id. at 10. "A fundamental difference between the United States and Western Europe . . . .arises from a different understanding of democracy. Americans really are democrats, however badly democracy is practiced; the national imagination does not run to any alternative. We obey the dictations of numbers, to the despair of American artists and intellectuals, who always lose to the masses, even when the mass market take them up (or most of all when it does so). The Europeans are not levelers. They believe in elites, even if from time to time they rise up and murder them. There has been a European taste for abstract truths in disregard of practical consequences, while Americans like ideas for their practical use, and will even supply the ideas--as we often do in foreign policy--to justify what we have already decided that we want to do. Europeans believe in democracy--or, at least, in republican government--but they have considered the alternatives, and continue to do so, and that scandalizes Americans." Id. at 22-23. "What was not evident to Europeans in . . . meeting with a mechanized America was the darkness in Americans' own self-perception, our vulnerability to a sense of national incompleteness as we constantly change our lives, our lack of inner security when out optimism begins to seem unfounded or betrayed. Our optimism is perhaps a necessary compensation for a pervasive insecurity, which derives from the physical and economic origins of American society--first on the frontier and then in immigrant life in cities. Hardly suspected in Europe is the profound and sometime anarchic pessimism that this insecurity can inspire in us." Id. at 51. "The American notion of the United States as the 'new' world, successor to the 'old' world, which is Europe, has affected the American approach to Asia, Africa, and the Middle East since the Second World War. We have chosen to call those states 'new nations,' and for a considerable time we tended to regard them as closer to us, in an important way, than the European states that had been their colonial rulers. Like us, we felt, they had cast off Europe to make for themselves a future that we had already explored, and toward which we led. But these supposedly new nations are actually much older than Western nations, even in terms of conventional linear history, and at the same time, by virtue of cultural differences, they exist on a different plane. The societies of Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Libya, Morocco, Turkey, India, Afghanistan, Burma, Cambodia, China, are fundamentally different from West societies today, and, indeed, they are not like what Western civilization ever has been. They are not following us, somewhere on a road we have already traveled. They are in a different place, with a different past, It is not wholly unreasonable to think that they may have a different future." Id. at 149. "Americans are at an axial point in the national relationship to the world, unwilling to admit that the United States is not a unique nation. We are ready to despise the world again, as we did in the past. . . . Id. at 185. "America's has been a fleeting empire, forced upon us in emergency, extended with idealism--already being abandoned. . . . America's has been an unserious empire, of unexamined ideas and uncalculated ambitions, a solipsistic nation's means for reacting to an external world whose very particularity has seemed threatening. Perhaps it is to America's credit that we never wholly abandoned ourselves to a real imperialism even while practicing it, hotly denying that we were anywhere outside our borders except for the briefest time and the most disinterested purpose. Even our imperial pomp was unconvincing. The militarized ceremonial of latter-day Washington provided neither Roman grandeur not Nuremberg menace. There has always been about it the air of show biz, evidence of the effort of Hollywood pals of our Presidents, a glimpse of drum majorettes and the high school band." Id. at 186.).

Pfaff, William, The Bullet’s Song: Romantic Violence and Utopia (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2004) ("Whatever the sentimentality, or kitsch, of its popular manifestations, the chivalric code held that what an individual or a society could licitly do to another was limited by a morality linked to the essential values of Western civilization. The First World War ended this, replacing it with a nihilism that men subsequently reacted to through codes of individual transcendence and collective will on the one hand, and on the other hand by utopias based on historical fictions. The fundamental problem remains unresolved today, and in some respects worsened when the dominant liberal democratic state became the international military hegemon acting under the influence of a myth of national mission." Id. at 6. "It has been the American as well as a certain French intellectual fashion in recent years to assert that 'truth' is a text, and human history a textual construction. This nihilistic ontology has represented an intellectual attempt to dispense with the past and claim the power to do away with the constraints of reality. On the other hand, modern governments, led by the United States, increasingly act with the dimensions of virtual reality their own propaganda or ideology has created, so that such constructs as 'Asian Communism' (in the 1960s) or later, 'rogue states,' 'Islamic terrorism,' or indeed 'terrorism' itself, treated as an autonomous phenomenon, acquire a power over political imagination and discourse, and official decisions, that is infrequently questioned." Id. at 17. "To go to war is not proposed as a choice for mot people, but for some it is, and for them it ought to be an existential moral choice, an act of responsible decision contributing to the making of oneself into what one is to be. The issue should be considered a moral one involving discrimination among comparative evils and the perceived consequences, and the inevitable prudential problem of intentions, doing evil in the intention of doing good, an ancient problem." "In practice, escape, the taste for adventure, or a straightforward patriotism are decisive factors. The influence of the twilight of chivalry can be seen among young men who read too much, but that is a superficial rather than deep influence in that chivalry, as an individual influence, reflects in considerable measure a notion of how one should be seen to conduct oneself." Id. at 128-129. "A gap has opened between what is said about the future in conventional public discourse and what people actually expect. . . . The political debate and popular discourse at the same time are framed as if progress and rationality remain reliable assumptions, despite the empirical evidence to the contrary provided by the events of the twentieth century, and the collapse of the intellectual foundations for such a belief." Id. at 300. "Naive or desiccated versions of the theory of historical progress provide a vocabulary in which the declarations of governments are still phrased, editorials written, and a good deal of the routine work of the academy is conducted. The downfall of Communism in 1989 was greeted as having vindicated the liberal version of Western optimism. Little that has happened since would validate that view, even in the rich and lucky societies. The United State itself, since September 2001, has, however improbably, considered itself under constant and terrifying threat from Islamic militants, failed states and contagious anarchy, and by rogue nations armed (or not armed) with mass destruction weapons, Its policies still put forward sentimental confidence in the inevitability and benevolence of global democracy (in ignorance or indifference to Aristotle's observation that democracy is justified only because oligarchy and tyranny are worse). " "This secular utopianism is the common belief among Western elites. It is scarcely possible to talk about politics, not to speak of life, outside a progressive conceptual scheme. Yet the intellectually most powerful figures of nineteenth- and twentieth-century European political thought, including Tocqueville, Burke, Burckhardt, Acton, Niebuhr, Aron, Arendt, Kennan--all were hostile to the progressive view of history, aware of the precarious role reason plays in political affairs and of the corruption of power and vanity. The real American conservatives are those who are most anxious about the country's future." Id. at 301. "There is an antiutopian tradition of political thought largely neglected in our day. It demands that one look for solutions within, rather than without, in experienced reality rather than imagination about the future, while admitting and accepting the human implication in violence a part of our nature-- to be transcended. This is the tradition I defend. It follows from the classical injunction that the human obligation is to cultivate virtue, from which the virtue of society flows--an injunction of reason, as Aristotle held." "This is a formulation that would have been familiar to the educated person in the nineteenth century. It is remote from contemporary advanced society (although it survives in the values systems of many nonmodern social groups). A solid contemporary defense can be made for it, whether virtue is considered in private or pubic, philosophical or theological, terms. However, it would be mistaken to argue that virtue 'pays,' since it often does not do so other than in its contribution to the general quality of society." Id. at 310-311.).

Pfaff, William, The Irony of Manifest Destiny: The Tragedy of America’s Foreign Policy (New York: Walker, 2010) ("The secular era has no divine reference, and frequently has constructed its substitute for that reference in the form of a synthetic religion whose god is the nation and people themselves. For that reason the modern political ideology has generally proven to be a project to control the world. The nature of an ideology is the purported discovery of the universal truth about society and history, implying a line of action necessary to conform to or exploit this discovery. A program is implied, and a national policy." "The United States has dramatically departed from the isolation of it colonial origins into the global arena to become the ideological expansionist military power it is today. Why and how this happened is important to understand, along with the historical and cultural circumstances that shaped this development. . . " Id. at 12-13. "In the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, only a narrow North American elite was part of the Enlightenment intellectual upheaval, experiencing its influence in the same way as Western Europe. The intellectual life of the United States in the colonial and federal periods was dominated by religious influences, despite the contrary impression given by the profundity and elegance of h nation's founders' published debates on the institutions of the new republic and their philosophies of f government." Id. at 48. "It seems fair to say that most American churchgoers from the eighteenth to the beginning of the twentieth century (and by and large, the religiously disposed or questing unchurched as well) have been opposed to what most Europeans considered fundamental tenets of the Enlightenment." Id. at 54. "The common Western assumption about history is that it moves toward an intelligible conclusion, a belief derived from Western religious eschatology. The Enlightenment rejection of religion resulted in an effort to discover autonomous ethical 'rules' and a secular pattern in history, leading toward historicist theories . . . ." "In the case of the theory, common to liberal as well as many conservatives, of universal progress toward democracy, the presumption made is the seeming self-evident superiority of democracy makes it the natural end point of history. A foreign policy of military intervention to speed progress toward this inevitable outcome logically follows. Liberalism in its American sense nearly always sees the increasing complexity and interdependence of modern society, and the advance of technology, science, and human knowledge, as evidence of positive change in the moral (and political) nature of humans--an assumption for which there is no evidence . . . Id. at 86-87. "The United States, as the last-born offspring of the Enlightenment, is the nation perhaps more susceptible to the notion that men and women are all natural democrats waiting to be freed. . . ." "It is evident that democracy on the American model is not going to be made to prevail in the contemporary world. This leaves the American government and public with an irreconcilable contradiction between the chaotic international realities and stubbornly unresolvable wars they see around them, and the theory on which the government asserts that its acts, and in the service of which it now is is engaged in further strengthening its military foreign political services. Id. at 101.).

Weber, Steven & Bruce W. Jentleson, The End of Arrogance: America in the Global Competition of Ideas (Cambridge, Massachusetts, & London, England (Harvard U. Press, 2010) ("All the talk in the wake of 9-11 about the 'war' of ideas just didn't click with us. . . ." "We felt that what all that talk did get right was the focus on ideas. Ideas matter. . . . Yet America's position in this global competition of ideas is less robust than most Americans think--and weaker than we need." ". . . More fundamentally, we saw across the political spectrum a shared sense that America would still provide the ideological leadership the world needed, and that aside from some outliers, that was what the world wanted." "That's the arrogance that concerns us. . . . Arrogant policies carry with them a strong sense of entitlement--an embedded belief that others should listen, understand, agree (more or less) and act in ways that the policies suggest. When arrogance fades, real and meaningful influence grows." Id. at ix-x. "As [E. H.] Carr eloquently said, the realm of international politics lacks authoritative legal mechanisms for getting to and enforcing agreements. Which means it really is politics, not law, that influences the course of human events from start to finish. And in politics, ideas and ideology are a critical currency." Id. at 7. "The central security dynamic for most states outside of a few particularly backward regions is now the problem of systems disruption. World politics today depends upon an elaborate and interweaving lattice of complex systems through which the stuff of political economy flows: money through transnational markets, goods and hydrocarbons through sea lines of communication, people through airports, ideas and commerce through the telecommunications networks. Disruption of those systems is the major security threat because it is the thing that places most at risk the safety and prosperity of states." Id at 119.).

February 27, 2011


Cumings, Bruce, The Korean War: A History (New York: Modern Library Chronicles Book/Modern Library, 2010) ("For Americans a discrete encapsulation limits this war to the time frame of June 1950 to July 1953. This construction relegates all that went before to mere prehistory, June 25 is original sin, all that after is postbellum" Id. at 65. The Korean War was (and is) a civil war; only this conception can account for the 100,000 lives lost in the South before June 1950 and the continuity of the conflict down to the present, in spite of assumptions that Moscow's puppets in Pyongyang would surely collapse after the USSR itself met oblivion in 1991. Id. at 66. "[David Halberstam's] The Coldest Winter is one of the best in a peculiar but common American genre: accounts of the war that evince almost no knowledge of Korea or its history, barely gets past two or three Korean names, focus on the American experience in a war where Koreans and Chinese were much more numerous and fail to question the accumulated baggage of 1950s stereotypes about the good guys and bad guys." "Nonetheless this genre exercises a strong influence in the United States, perhaps a subliminal one in that extensive knowledge of the war is nor required, perhaps a hegemonic one in that well-known analysts easily perform its logic in a few sentences. . . ." Id. at 71. "[Reginald] Thompson [author of Cry Korea] was appalled by the ubiquitous, casual racism of Americans, from general to soldier, and their breathtaking ignorance of Korea. Americans used the term 'gook' to refer to all Koreans, North and South, but especially North Koreans; 'chink' distinquished the Chinese. Decades after the fact many were still using the term in oral histories. This racist slur developed first in the Philippines, then travelled to the Pacific war, Korea, and Vietnam. . . ." Id. at 80. "The McCarran Internal Security Act, named for its sponsor, Patrick McCarran (D-Nevada)--the ignorant and corrupt inquisitor of China scholars, and the model for the senator in the film The Godfather, Part II--was passed on September 23, 1950, establishing among other things concentration camps for those construed as threat to American security. Iconic liberals such as senators Paul Douglas (D-Illinois)and Hubert Humphrey (D-Minnesota) voted for it; a bipartisan coalition passed the bill. U.S.News & World Report published 'rules for Communists' under the act: the government would not set up camps for Communists 'right away.' But, once they existed, who would go into them? 'Many Communists and fellow travelers. Others would be rounded up, too. The Ku Klux Klan would not count, however, because it lacked 'connections with the Communists.' Readers who hasten to point out that no one was ever placed in the camps might recall that no one could have known that in September 1950." Id. at 92. "In the second half of the twentieth century an entirely new phenomenon emerged in American history, namely, the permanent stationing of soldiers in a myriad of foreign bases across the face of the planet, connected to enormous domestic complex of defense industries. For the first time in modern history the leading power maintained an extensive network of bases marking a radical break with the European balance of power and the operation of realpolitik, and a radical departure in American history: an archipelago of empire. Id. at 218. "Eventually the Korean War will be understood as one of the most destructive and one of the most important wars of the twentieth century. . . . [I[t was this war and not World War II which established a far-flung American base structure abroad and a national security state at home, as a defense spending nearly quadrupled in the last six months of 1950, and turned the United States into the policeman of the world." Id. at 243. There is a real sense in which the American arrogant and misguided entanglement the Korean War, the political and intellectual apparatus involved, that leads to travelers needing to undergo full-body searches at airports. The American security state has a long history, a history started long before September 11, 2001. I suspect that many readers of this book will not recognize the America(ns) described. History, when done well and done honestly, is often painful to the thoughtful reader. This short chronicle of the Korean War is painful. Read it and cringe.).

February 26, 2011


Malcolm Gladwell, "The Order of Things: What College Rankings Really Tell Us," The New Yorker, February 14 & 21, 2011, at 68-75) (Efficacy versus Selectivity: "One common statistic used to evaluate colleges, for example, is called 'graduation rate performance,' which compares a school's actual graduation rate with its predicted graduation rate given the socioeconomic status and test scores of its incoming freshman class. It is a measure of the school's culture and teachers and institutional support mechanisms. . . ." "Another common statistic for measuring college quality is 'student selectivity.' This reflects variables such as how many of a college's freshman were in the top ten per cent of their high-school class, how high their S.A.T. scores were, and what percentage of applicants a college admits. Selectivity quantifies how accomplished students are when they first arrive." "Each of these statistics matters. . . ." "But no institution can excel at both. . . ." "There is no right answer to how much weight a ranking system should give to these two competing values. It's a matter of which educational model you value more--and here . . . U.S. News makes its position clear. It gives twice as much weight to selectivity as it does to efficacy. . .." Id. at 74. An interesting article, but no surprises for those in the academy, at least those not engaged in self-deception, pretending to aspire to (if not claiming to have, in fact, achieved) both efficacy and selectivity. Where the prospect of consumer fraud comes in is in claiming to be an educational-BMW, when what one is really is a Ford Pinto. In reality, the typical applicant to college, graduate or professional school does not have the full-spectrum of schools to apply. Just as the typical car-buyer is not a potential purchaser of every make and model car. Some car-buyers simply cannot afford a Porsche. Perhaps a Corvette is not the best car to use for pizza delivery. And a Mini Cooper is probably not quite right as the family car for a family of four. And, sex appeal may be important to some car buyers, but fuel efficiency matters more to others. One wantsthe car-ranking that is helpful given what one's needs are in a car. As to college, yes, if one has the money you can fill out applications for admissions to every school. Most applicants, however, apply to a relatively small numbers of schools based on reputation, programs, location (close to home, far from home; big city, suburb, or rural; east coast, west coast, north or south; near preferred outdoor or indoor activities; etc.) price (including financial aid), family connections, etc. So, the question is whether a particular ranking system helps the applicants weigh the relative pluses and minuses of the handful of schools they are interested. What Gladwell has explained is why U.S. News's rankings may not be helpful to those not interested in the elite schools, or those not trying to get into the most-elite school that they can (even if that school is not so elite). That is, the U.S. News's ranking is not all that helpful if the applicant does not place a high value on a school's selectivity and all that that entails. Even on three different ranking systems Gladwell uses to demonstrate different outcomes in the ranking of law schools depending on one's inputs, I suspect that Chicago would probably not make the third-tier of law schools were the ranking heavily weighted with 'being a party school.' Then again, some criteria should manner (e.g., intellectual life), while others should not (e.g., party life). Or, so one would think. And, I suspect that the U.S. News's 'selectivity', etc., is a pretty good,though not perfect, proxy for 'intellectual life.').

February 25, 2011


Shehzad Nadeem, Dead Ringers: How Outsourcing Is Changing the Way Indians Understand Themselves (Princeton & Oxford: Princeton U. Press, 2011) (This is an interesting read not only for the insights on the effects of outsourcing on Indians, but also on outsourcing impact on the American workforce. American workers, including professionals, should begin to see their own future in the situation of Indian workers: optimism with a bigger dose of boredom and cynicism. "An executive at a BPO specializing in legal services says that the quality of work 'is often better in India because Indian employees are more qualified than their U.S. counterparts.' Ph.D.s, for example, perform the work of American paralegals. (While salaries are comparable to a midsize law firm in India, the pay rate is 10-15 percent that of U.S. lawyers.) 'You are putting a higher skill level to the task,' he explains. While the life of a junior Indian law clerk is hardly to be envied, an M.B.A., at a legal outsourcing firm in India performs work that a similarly credentialed person in the developed world 'would never do.' . . ." Id. at 108.).

February 24, 2011


Aziz Rana, The Two Faces of American Freedom (Cambridge, Massachusetts, & London, England: Harvard U. Press, 2010) (This will be an uncomfortable read for strong believers in American Exceptionalism. For without necessarily challenging that particular American self-myth, The Two Faces of American Freedom underscores two pathologies of the American mind: its two-facedness and its schizophrenia. "Although the desire to encourage immigration west may have expanded who counted as a republican settler and generated a de facto open border for Europeans, it went hand in hand with the entrenchment of imperial prerogative power over nonsettlers. If most European immigrants, who were steadily incorporated into settler life, were free from deportation and enjoyed complete freedom of movement, imperial subjects benefits from no similar privilege. As described earlier, Indian tribes, such as the Cherokee, faced wholesale removal and expulsion. Fugitive slave laws, passed by Congress in 1793 and again in 1850, created administrative proceedings (with minimal judicial oversight) to forcibly return slaves to their owners. As for nonslave or free blacks, despite being formal citizens they too faced extensive restrictions on their movement. Slaves state generally barred the admission of free blacks who were not already residents. As for new opened land out west, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, and Oregon prohibited altogether the entrance of black populations into their territory.""Under the emerging framework, newly arrived immigrants (even prior to naturalization) had greater privileges than communities with long histories in the United States. Not only were free blacks denied entrance to some frontier states; they were explicitly barred form claiming property through western land grants. If the frontier was considered a national reserve for the benefit of all social members, including noncitizens Europeans, federal law denied blacks access to the public domain and this to economic independence and republican standing. In other words, formal citizens who had been on American soil for generations had fewer practical rights than alien immigrants who may have only recently arrived in the country, The treatment of Mexicans out west after the Mexican-American War powerfully underscored this feature of settler society. With the annexation of wide swaths of land through the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo, 80,000 Mexicans now found themselves subject of American congressional power. Under the treaty, those who chose to remain on their land were accorded formal status as citizens as well as property rights and suffrage. Yet, as Richard Griswold del Castillo writes, although Mexican proponents of the treaty assumed that the rights of these new U.S. citizens would be respected, 'They were wrong: American local, state, and national courts later ruled that the provisions of the treaty could be superseded by local laws.' California's very first state constitution denied voting rights for most Mexicans, stipulating that only white Mexicans were entitled to suffrage." "Moreover, Congress's 1851 California Land Settlement Act forced Mexicans to prove their land title in court. Since many had no formal titles or did not have the financial means for long-term litigation, they were either stripped of their property or forced to sell. The result was the nullification of most Mexican landholding and the transfer of property to white settlers, immigrant and native born. Akin to the importation of Africans to the New World, such transfer also strengthened internal settler egalitarianism by expanding property ownership among whites and by providing a dependent workforce of nonwhite tenant farmers. Thus formal citizenship for Mexicans, just as for free blacks, did not entail republic inclusion And as with Indian tribes, it made them legal, political, and economic outsiders on land they had long possessed while at the same time providing extensive rights and opportunities to new immigrants with no ties to that land and only limited ties to the United States." "In essence, slaves, Indians, free blacks, and Mexicans all persisted as subjects of a royally derived and discretionary prerogative power, one considered inappropriate for free settlers--immigrant or native born. . . . Id. at 118-119. "In many ways, the challenges of the present are the same as those that faced earlier Americans. . . . The promise of American freedom has long involved the possibility of expanding widely the capacities and experience of self-rule. . . . Perhaps the most ironic fact about the present is that today this fundamentally American promise seems to have escaped the attention of large segments of the country's actual citizens--and that one of the tangible opportunities that remains for sustaining these political and economic commitments lies with those that many assume to be unworthy of full inclusion. . . ." Id. at 347-348. From the bookjacket: "The Two Faces of American Freedom boldly reinterprets the American political tradition from the colonial period to modern times, placing issues of race relations, immigration, and presidentialism in the context of shifting notions of empire and citizenship. . . . America . . began as a settler society grounded in an ideal of freedom as the exercise of continuous self-rule--one that joined direct political participation with economic independence. However, this vision of freedom was politically bound to the subordination of marginalized groups, especially slaves, Native Americans, and women. These practices of liberty and exclusion were not separate currents, but rather two sides of the same coin." "However, at crucial moments, social movements sought to imagine freedom without either subordination or empire. By the mid-twentieth century, these efforts failed, resulting in the rise of hierarchical state and corporate institutions. This new framework presented national and economic security as society's guiding commitments and nurtured a continual extension of America's global reach. Rana [an assistant professor at Cornell Law School] envisions a democratic society that revives settler ideals, but combines them with meaningful inclusion for those currently at the margins of American life." This is a very worthwhile read, especially for those interested in issues of immigration, race, gender, labor, republicanism and democracy in America.).

February 23, 2011


Alessandro Portelli, They Say in Harlan County: An Oral History (Oxford & New York: Oxford U. Press, 2011) (From the bookjacket: "They Say in Harlan County is not a book about coal miners so much as a dialogue in which more than 150 Harlan County women and men tell the story of Harlan County from pioneer times, through the dramatic strikes of the 1930s and '70s, to the present. Alessandro Portelli . . . draws on 25 years of original interviews to take readers into mining communities and inside the lives of those who work, suffer, and die in them--from black lung, falling rock, suffocation, or simply from work that can be literally backbreaking. The book is structured as a vivid montage of all these voices--stoic, outraged, grief-stricken, defiant--skillfully interwoven with documents from archives and the author's own participating and critical voice. Portelli uncovers the whole history and memory of the United States in this one symbolic place, through settlement, slavery, civil war, industrialization, immigration, labor conflict, technological change, environmental and social crises, and resistance." "With rare emotional immediacy, gripping narratives, and unforgettable characters, They Say in Harlan County tells the real story of a culture, the resilience of its people, and the terrible human costs of coal mining." Over the several days of reading this book I followed the news reports on the looming threat of a shutdown of the federal government due to impasse on how to address the budget deficit--raise taxes or cut programs. However, the bigger story concerned the budget crisis at the state and local level. As reported this week and last in the New York Times, for example, the Republican governor of Wisconsin plans to cut collective bargaining rights and benefits for public workers. Real American history is not pretty; it is not neat; and, if it has an ending at all, it does not have a happy ending. The struggle in ongoing and constant.).

As America slips further into authoritarianism, it might do those who believe in political freedom and social justice to remember these lyrics. "They say in Harlan County, There are no neutral there. You'll either be a union man, or a thug for J. H. Blair." (Florence Reese, Which Side Are You On (1931). Corporate America, taking advantage of the prolonged economic crisis, is rearing its greedy head, beating down . . . just about everyone. America is becoming Harlan County writ large! Which side are you on?

February 22, 2011


Michael G,. Long, ed., Marshalling Justice: The Early Civil Rights Letters of Thurgood Marshall (New York: Amistad/Harper Collins, 2011) (From the book's Foreword, "Far From Optimism," by Derrick Bell: "Unjustified optimism in the face of unreconized obstacles is an ideological hazard that has often afflicted advocates of racial justice. Currently, it is manifested in the view that Barack Obama's election to the presidency marks the beginning of the post-racial era. Manifestations of similarly unwarranted euphoria were expressed when Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863. The expectation of a race-free America was predicted as certainty when the Supreme Court handed down its school desegregation decision in 1954. The Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 also prompted grateful prayers by black people that 'out day had come.' The assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., in 1968 was too high a price to pay for the widespread adoption of affirmative action programs in the years that followed, but those programs were also deemed certain to curtail if not eliminate still viable racial discrimination across a wide spectrum of American life." "It is significant that in the letters Thurgood Marshall wrote from 1935 through 1940--his early years as a civil rights lawyers--he rarely expressed optimism. . . . " Id. at xi. "Considered against current events, the message of Marshall's letters written more than seventy years ago suggests a future that echoes back to the infamous words of Thomas Jefferson: 'When I consider that God is just, I fear for the future of my country.' " Id. at xv. Thurgood Marshall, a rebellious lawyer in the early days.).


Chernow, Ron, Washington: A Life (New York: The Penguin Press, 2010) ("This is a magnificently fair, full-scale biography. Its judgments are lapidary. Mr. Chernow concedes that Washington's 'military triumphs had been neither frequent nor epic in scale. He had lost more battles than he had won. ' His achievement was to keep the Continental army in being, and so make victory possible." From the review "First Among Equals: George Washington," The Economist, October 23rd 2010, at 102. Also see Andrew Cayton, "Learning to Be Washington," NYT Book Review, Sunday, 10/3/2010.).

February 20, 2011


Garland, David, Peculiar Institution: America's Death Penalty in an Age of Abolition (Cambridge, Massachusetts, & London, England Belknap/Harvard U. Press, 2010) ("The aim of this book is not to challenge the legitimacy of American capital punishment or to show the death penalty being botched, unfairly imposed, or unjustly administered. Rather, it is to describe and explain the peculiar institution of American capital punishment in all its complex, controversial detail and to explore it relation to the society that sustains it." Id. at 7. "Capital punishment must make sense in the culture in which it operates. It has to be made intelligible, legitimate, and, if possible, compelling. This task is accomplished through narrative. . . . " Id. at 60. "In the abundant discourse that surrounds today's death penalty, five basic metaphors supply the institution with its dominant meanings. These are the metaphors of rules, of war, of order and balance, of healing, and of the people's will. Each of these metaphors is challenged by critics who propose counternarratives with which to frame the practice. But taken together, these five frameworks structure much of what gets said about the institution in the mainstream media and the political process. If capital punishment is a public text, these are the narratives that give that text its standard meanings." Id. at 61. "If capital punishment's early-modern mode was shaped by the overriding state purpose of maintaining rule, and its modern mode by the rationalized state purpose of governing crime, the late-modern mode is shaped not by any grand state purpose but by the partisan interests of political actors and their constituents. The day-to-day uses of the American death penalty are grounded in the microphysics of local politics--of group relations and status competition, professional rivalry--rather than being connected to the great ends of state. Petty functions have replaced grand ones, private uses have largely replaced pubic ones. In late-modern America, capital punishment has ceased to be an instrument of state rue or penal purpose and has become, instead, a resource for political exchange and cultural consumption. Id. at 311-312.).

February 18, 2011


Eric Metaxas, Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery (New York: HarperSanFrancisco, 2007) ("Just as most American today have never visited a slaughterhouse to investigate the grim details of how large animals become the shrink-wrapped frankfurters in their supermarkets, nor have ever witnessed the degradation and violence of life among the one and a half million people incarcerated in our prisons, so most Britons went about their lives with no idea of he universe of horrors that exited under the British flag or the nightmarish way of life of the slaves, whose existence was nonetheless intimately intertwined with their own way of life thousands of miles away." Id. at 70. "When there were no human executions to witness, a taste for grotesque spectacle could be satisfied by choosing from among every imaginable variety of cruelty to animals, the most popular of which was bull-baiting. This practice usually involved parading a bull through a town before staking it with a chain in a pit or designated area. A copious quantity of pepper was usually blown into the poor beast's nose, 'to render him the more furious,' and then dogs--usually one by one, but sometimes several at once--would be released to attack the bull and attempt to seize its sensitive nose and face in their jaws. The bull, for his part, would attempt to throw the attacking dog in the air with his horns. The fabled strength of a bull when applied to the weight of a dog would often result in the dog flying very high indeed. Dogs thrown high enough would break their necks or backs upon landing. If not permanently crippled, they would crawl back to have at the bull again, this being a large part of the spectacle." "Bulldogs were specially bred for bull-baiting, hence their name. Being mostly head and jaws with little body behind, a bulldog with his jaws fastened onto a bull's vulnerable snout would be nearly impossible to throw off. Then, according to a contemporary account, 'the bull bellows and bounds and kicks, all to shake off the dog. In the end, either the dog tears out the piece he has laid on, and falls, or else remain fixed to him with an obstinacy that would never end, did they not pull him off. To call him away, would be in vain; to give him a hundred blows, would be as much so; you might cut him to pieces, joint by joint, before he would let loose. What is to be done then? While some hold the bull, others thrust staves into the dog's month and open it by main force.' A man who had seen a bull-baiting as boy described it as 'the most barbarous act I ever saw. It was young bull and had very little notion of tossing the dogs, which tore his ears and the skin off his face in shreds, and his mournful cries were awful. I was up a tree, and was afraid the earth would open and swallow us all up." Id. at 75.).

February 16, 2011


Daniel Carpenter, Reputation and Power: Organizational Image and Pharmaceutical Regulation at the FDA (Princeton & Oxford: Princeton U. Press, 2010) ("No new drug can be legally marketed in the United States unless the [Food and Drug] Administration has explicitly declared it 'safe and effective' for its intended uses. This authority renders the FDA the gatekeeper of the American pharmaceutical marketplace, and it sustains a battery of vast powers. . . . Among the thousands of people who daily give painstaking attention to the agency's every utterance and movement, there is considerable disagreement about the Food and Drug Administration--it is venerated in one corner and bemoaned in another; it is targeted for expansion by one voice, for evisceration by a second--but there is no serious doubt about its reach or significance." "The Administration's formal powers engender a broader and more opaque set of informal forces. From one vantage, the agency's formal authority is limited to the jurisdictions and territories of the United States. It legally tends the boundaries of only one nation. From another vantage, however, the FDA rules the entire global pharmaceutical market. The United States is among the world's wealthiest nations and its pharmaceutical market is, at this time, by the far the world's largest. And it has exploded in recent decades; the American market accounted for $216 billion in spending on prescription drugs in 2006, more than five times the $40.3 billion spent in 1990. At this writing, furthermore, the United States is the only major world economy without explicit pharmaceutical price controls through national health insurance. Because admission to the U.S. market is the preeminent site of profit for the world's drug companies, the FDA's veto power over entry into the American health-care system translates into global economic and scientific reach. Beyond this, the Administration carries a stature that other agencies in foreign nations consciously emulate or resist. Pharmaceutical regulators in Australia, Brazil, Egypt, France, Germany, Great Britain, India, Israel, Japan, South Korea, Switzerland, and dozen of other countries and regions model themselves upon the FDA, and in some cases contrast themselves against it." Id. at 1-2. This book should be high on the recommended reading list, if not a required reading, for all law students. The typical law student graduates with little knowledge of the structure, power and politics of any administrative agency let alone this very broad, very powerful FDA. This history of the FDA would begin to fill a deep gap in the student's understanding of how regulation actually works. It will also underline the little secret that lawyers qua lawyers are not at the center of regulation.).

February 15, 2011


In episode five, A Day in the Life, of the NBC series Harry's Law, Harriet Korn is facing the real possibility of being permanently disbarred from the practice of law. In her defense, she engages in a pointed discourse on the failing of lawyers, judges, and legal system as a whole. In articulating the hearing court's ruling on whether Korn is to be disbarred, the chief judge refers to the problem of "fly-by-night law schools." Questions: What makes a law school a "fly-by-night law school"? And which schools in the real world would constitute such? I do not know whether the Harry's Law series will survive in the ratings. However, so far, and in its short run, it has raised numerous important questions about law, lawyers, and the legal system in America. Questions raised in the virtual world of television, yet begging for honest answers and real solutions in the real world of law.


William N. Eskridge Jr. & John Ferehohn, A Republic of Statutes: The New American Constitution (New Haven & London: Yale U. Press, 2010) (“In a series of (nonexhaustive) case studies, this book explores the process by which a superstatutory principle or policy becomes entrenched. Every superstatutory policy begins with an important public need and, usually, strong political demand, as through a social movement such as the civil rights, populist, women’s rights, and old-age assistance movements, but also the very different new capitalist . . . and national security . . . movements of the early twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, respectively. Enactment of ambitious statutes demanded by We the People is just the beginning, for many highly popular statutes do not have social legs. The process of implementation by administrators and judges and feedback from the citizenry is essential if a popular statute is to develop the supportive constellation of interests that [Max] Weber identified as a deeper source of power. Entrenchment usually entails the following three features. First, the statute’s strong supporters and administrators (an overlapping group of the statute is to succeed) have to figure out practical and cost-effective ways to implement the putative superstatute, with evidence that it is making progress toward its stated goal(s). Second, the statutory application has to avoid the disasters predicted by opponents and, even better, ought to find ways to appeal to the values and concerns held by opponents. Third, the emerging susperstatute must be sufficiently valuable to an important and expanding group in American society that it generates an enthusiastic and dynamic and growing base of popular support. If all three of these conditions are met, it is likely that a subsequent legislature will reaffirm the putative superstatute and expand upon its principles or policy. As illustrated by case studies of the pregnancy . . ., voting rights . . ., antitrust . . ., and social security laws . . . , federal superstatutes are consolidated after a new and differently constituted Congress reaffirms the original, ambitious statute initiative.” “Popular and ambitious laws mature into superstatutes through a process of entrenchment that is institutional, but without the rigid supermajoritarian process required by Article V; that is deliberative, but with the focus on agencies and legislatures rather than courts; and that is popular, but with feedback occurring over time in a series of episodes rather than in one big Constitutional poll. In short, rather than changing fundamental institutional structures and normative commitments through a big showdown requiring immediate supermajorities at both the national and state level, as the Article V model recommends, the superstatutory model produces change through a series of statutes, together with implementational feedback, that stick in our public culture over a period of time. . . ." Id. at 16-17. Should be on every law students planned reading list for the summer.).

February 14, 2011


De Waal, Edmund, The Hare with Amber Eyes: A Family's Century of Art and Loss (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2010) ("I've been reading the seventeen novels of Joseph Roth, the Austrian Jewish novelist, some set in Vienna during the last years of the Hapsburg Empire. . . ." The lives of my family in Vienna were refracted into books, just like Charles in Proust's Paris. The dislike of the Ephrussi keeps turning up in novels." "I stumble. I realize that I do not understand what it means to be part of an assimilated, acculturated Jewish family. I simply don't understand. I know what they didn't do: they never went to synagogue, but their births and marriages are recorded here by the Rabbinate. I know that they paid their dues to the Israelitische Kultusgemeinde, the IKA, gave money to Jewish charities. I've been to see Joachim and Ignace's mausoleum in the Jewish section of the cemetery, and worried about its broken cast-iron gate and whether I should pay to get it fixed. Zionism didn't seem to hold many attractions for them. I remember those rude comments from Herzl when he wrote to them for donations and got brushed off. The Ephrussi, speculators. I wonder whether it was plain embarrassment at the fervent Jewishness of the enterprise and not wanting to attract attention to themselves. Or whether it was a symptom of their confidence in their new homeland here on Zionstrausse, or on the rue de Monceau. They simply didn't see why others needed another Zion." "Does assimilation mean that they never came up against naked prejudice? Does it mean that you understood where the limits of your social world were and you stuck to them? There is a Jockey Club in Vienna, as in Paris, and Viktor was a member, but Jews weren't allowed to hold office. Did this matter to him in the slightest? It was understood that married Gentile women never visited Jewish households never came to leave a card, never visited on one of the interminable afternoons. Vienna meant that only Gentile bachelors, Count Mensdorff, Count Lubienskki, the young Prince of Montenuovo, left cards and were then invited. Once married they never came, no matter how good the dinner were, or how pretty the hostess. Did this matter at all? These seem such gossamer threads of rudeness." Id. at 151-152. From the bookjacket: "The Ephrussis were a grand banking family, as rich and respected as the Rothschilds, who 'burned like a comet' in nineteenth-century Paris and Vienna society. Yet by the end of World War II, almost the only thing remaining of their vast empire was a collection of 264 wood and ivory carvings, none of them larger than a matchbook." [] "The netsuke--drunken monks, almost-ripe plums, snarling tigers--were gathered by Charles Ephrussi at the height of the Parisian rage for all things Japanese. . . ." [] "In The Hare with Amber Eyes, Edmund de Waal unfolds the story of a remarkable family and a tumultuous century. Sweeping yet intimate, it is a highly original mediation on art, history, and family, as elegant and precise as the netsuke themselves.").

February 13, 2011


Jefferson Cowie, Stayin' Alive: The 1970s and The Last Days of the Working Class (New York: The New Press, 2010) (The early seventies' political confusion had its analogue in the discontent boiling up on the shop floors. Employees at the Wixom Ford Plant where Burton worked were a minor part of a national epidemic of industrial unrest in the first half of the 1970s. The fought with supervisors on the line, clogged up the system with grievances, demanded changes in the quality of work life, walked out in wildcat strikes, and organized to overthrow stale bureaucratic union leadership. Yet it was a conflicted set of movements. As Dewey [Burton] explained, workers were harnessed to union pay but longed to run free of the deadening nature of the work itself--and sometimes free of the union leaders who spoke on their behalf. 'Once you're there, there's no other way to make as much money and get the benefits. Ford's our security blanket. I'm a scaredy-cat. If I leave, I lose eight years of seniority,' he lamented. Chained to his paycheck, he dreaded his future at the plant. 'Each year I felt like I accomplished something. Suddenly I realized that I'm at a dead end and I'll probably be hacking in the line for 30 years.' . . . As one of his co-workers lamented, 'here's only three ways out of here. You either conform and become deader each day, or you rebel, or you quit." Id. at 7. "For Lasch, the roots of the problem went all the way back to the Fordist bargain. In the 1920s, Taylorism and Fordism removed the skill and the independence from the workplace. Workers' mental and physical labors were separated through advanced management techniques, leaving a decline from the all-around craftsman capable of designing and building a product to workers as modern day appendages to machinery. It was the very problem that caused the Lordstown workers to rebel and that Harry Braverman had brilliantly outlined as the 'degradation of work in the twentieth century' in his 1975 study Labor and Monopoly Capital (which influenced Lasch). In exchange for leaving their souls at the plant gate, workers were promised a cornucopia of consumption, Lasch explained in a letter to the White House. What Caddell had noted as the 'ennui of affluence' (quoting an editor at U. S. News & World Report) was actually a crisis of the collapse of the bargain based on consumption in exchange for soul-killing work--that is, the crumbling of an entire paradigm upon its own vacuity. The system urged gratification but could not deliver. To correct the course of the nation, Lasch urged 'a decisive turn to the left.' [President] Carter turned rapidly to the right." Id. at 305. "Bestial metaphors swirled around the press and white popular discourse to describe the looters and arsonists on the 'night of the animals.' Historian Herbert Gutman, writing in the New York Times, tried to remind the city that Jewish women taking part in a 1902 kosher meat riot had also been described as 'animals' and 'beasts,' 'vultures' and a 'jackal pack.' He was not even trying to create a direct comparison between the events, merely arguing that animal metaphors served to separate 'the behavior of the discontented poor (striking, rioting, looting, boycotting) from the conditions that shape their discontent.' He noted how 'history teaches us that a thin line connects the orderly and the disorderly, but the animal metaphor transmutes that thin line into a space--a crevice'--that separates 'us' from 'them.' The pile of letters arriving at the Times proved the city's white ethnic population would have nothing of the comparison. Their ancestors worked hard and made some thing of themselves,; their ancestors rose above; their ancestors' protests were moral acts. These people, came the white consensus, were different." Id. at 221. "Class, always a fragile concept in American civic life, died the death of a thousand cuts in the 1970s, but few problems sliced as deeply as how race and class were set against each other. Class and race are fundamentally intertwined social identities, mutually constructing each other, marbled together into a sociological whole, but a whole that has proven to be one of the most elusive identities in American history. White working people have typically chosen their race over their class; black workers have generally expressed themselves though a politics of racial oppression that has had more traction in American politics than class. Despite the Roosevelt coalition's linking of black and white working people politically, the tensions within the coalition ran very deep, and , in popular discourse, 'working class' still meant white. In the 1970s, race and class were often at odds, trumping any possibility of drawing together the class-based politics of the thirties with the racial freedom of the sixties into that most elusive of things in American history-- an interracial class identity. This is not to say that civil rights undermined the cohesion of class--far from it. I is to say that the nation proved incapable of speaking of both at the same time. Rather than synthesis, the seventies were a time of eclipse." Id. at 223. Nearly forty years later, we Americans remain unable to form an interracial (working) class identity. It will be interesting to see how class and racial/ethnic identities play themselves out in the second decade of the twenty-first century as American grapple with the realities of prolonged economic decline, as even more American workers and professionals are required to leave their souls at home.).

February 12, 2011


Foner, Eric, The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery (New York: Norton, 2010) (See James M. McPherson, "The Transformation of Abraham Lincoln," New York Review of Books, November 25, 2010/Volume LVII,Number 18, at 10; and David S. Reynolds, "Learning to Be Lincoln," NYT Book Review, Sunday, 10/2/2010.).

White, Ronald C., Jr., A. Lincoln: Biography (New York: Random House, 2009) ("The law had changed a great deal in the twelve years since Lincoln began practicing with Stuart in the spring of 1837. Formality in the courtroom began to replace the informality that had reigned during the 1830s and '40s. Legal precedent had become ascendant over argument. Spontaneous oratory, for the most part, had been replaced by careful preparation and presentation. Instead of the clear meaning of the law applying to all cases, now complex meaning of the law applied to specific cases." "A popular saying in Lincoln's day was that the Bible, Shakespeare, and Blackstone's Commentaries made up the foundation of any well-stocked legal library. The best lawyers in the first half of the nineteenth century were typically well versed in both literature and law. After the Civil War, the trajectory of law would point to professional training and specialization. From this perspective, some observers described pre-Civil War lawyers as wanting in their preparation, but from another point of view we can see that they approached law from the established traditions of Western literature and religion. One can find frequent descriptions of lawyers' eloquence in the pre-War courtroom, where literary and rhetorical expression had a high value. As for Lincoln, his growing eloquence sprang not from a knowledge of legal precedent, but from his familiarity with the classic resources of the Bible, works of history and biography, and literature, especially Shakespeare." Id. at 170-171. It is unfortunate that the 'professionalizing' of law has resulted in a decline in lawyers being well-grounded in the traditions of Western literature. It is amazing how poorly read lawyers are. Also see, William Safire, "Lincoln Monuments: A Review of New Lincoln Books, NYT Book Review, Sunday, 2/8/2009.).

February 11, 2011


Connelly, Karen, Burmese Lessons: A True Love Story (New York: Nan A. Talese/Doubleday, 2009) (From the bookjacket: "When Karen Connelly goes to Burma in 1996 to gather information for a series of articles, she discovers a place of unexpected beauty and generosity. She also encounters a country ruled by a brutal military dictatorship that imposes a code of censorship and terror. Carefully seeking out the regime's critics, she witnesses mass demonstrations, attends protest, interviews detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, and flees from police. When it gets too risky for her to stay, Connelly flies back to Thailand, but she cannot leave Burma behind.").

February 10, 2011


Tatar, Maria, Enchanted Hunters: The Power of Stories in Childhood (New York: Norton, 2009) ("In real life, children are far more like silenced subalterns than imperial adventurers and conquistadors. For them, mobility comes in the form of books, and reading oddly becomes akin to an exercise in moving from that position of silenced subaltern to sovereign imperial subject. Books enable children to read the minds of characters, become absorbed in their lives, see their worlds, and experience an exceptional intensity of feeling. But . . . there is far more to it than that. For the child reading, the threshold between reality and fantasy can mysteriously vanish. And what Walter Benjamin called a 'dance with words' stimulates, enlivens, and flips a switch so that the child returns to the real world with renewed curiosity. The marvel that leaps out from these fast-paced narratives lead readers to wonder not just about the world of fiction but also about the world they inhabit. As children read, they also become aware of how authors do things with words. . . . [T]hey too begin to appreciate the magic of words in a process that begins with enchantment and ends with an empowering form of demystification--an understanding that the magic is in you and in the words you use, and nowhere else." Id. at 137. "Stories help children develop intellectual curiosity about the world, and they arouse the exploratory energy that allows them to take some control over their own destinies." Id. at 157.).

February 9, 2011


Bergen, Peter, L., The Longest War: The Enduring Conflict Between America and al-Qaeda (New York: Free Press, 2011) ("The goal of this book is to tell a history of the 'war on terror' in one volume. The organizing principle of this history is to examine not only the actions and strategies of the United States and its key allies, but also those of al-Qaeda and its allies, such as the Taliban." Id. at xvii. "The 9/11 attacks were not the beginning of al-Qaeda's campaign against the United States. They were the climax." Id. at 50. "[W]hen the FBI director Robert Mueller was asked in 2008 if he was aware of any attacks on America that had been disrupted thanks to intelligence obtained through 'enhanced techniques,' Mueller replied: 'I don't believe that has been the case.' The CIA's inspector general arrived at a similar conclusion when he judged that: 'it is difficult to determine conclusively whether enhanced interrogations have provided information critical to interdicting specific imminent attacks,' which was the supposed standard necessary for the imposition of coercive measures on the al-Qaeda prisoners in the first place." Id. at 118-119. "Just as bin Laden made a large strategic error in attacking the United States on 9/11, so to President Bush--having presided over the campaign in Afghanistan that came close to destroying al-Qaeda--would make his own deeply flawed decision to attack Iraq, which breathed new life into bin Laden's holy war. Id. at 155. "[A] key reason the United States escaped a serious domestic terrorist attack had little to do with either the Bush or Obama administrations. In sharp contrast to sections of the Muslim populations in European countries such as Britain, the American Muslim community--generally a higher-skilled group of immigrants than their European counterparts--has overwhelmingly rejected the ideological virus of militant Islam. The 'American Dream' has generally worked will for Muslims in the United States, who are both better educated and wealthier than the average American. More than a third of Muslim-Americans have a graduate degree or better, compared to less than one in ten of the population as a whole." Id. at 246. "'The Taliban regime is out of business, permanently.' --Vice President Dick Cheney in March 2002." "'[The Taliban] have a dominant influence in 11 of Afghanistan's 34 providences.'--Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chief of Staff, in December 2009" Id. at 309. Certainly not the definitive one-volume history of the America War with al-Qaeda, but an interesting read and definitive for now. Also, see Thomas E. Ricks, "Determined to Strike," NYT Book Review, Sunday, 1/16/2010.).

Carter, Stephen L. The Violence of Peace: America’s War in the Age of Obama (New York: Beast Books, 2011) ("This book is a meditation on the morality of war--in particular, the views of Barack Obama about the morality of war." Id. at ix. "Some of my conclusions may be predictable. Others might be more troubling. President Obama's efforts to undergird America's military adventures abroad with a larger moral justification than self-interest is itself attractive. So is his emphasis in expanded research on future weapons systems. At the same time, his assertion of executive authority to prosecute warfare seem to me significantly broader than those of his predecessor, George W. Bush. President Bush, to take a single example, never claimed the power to target American citizens for assassination. President Obama has. He has also expanded the battlefield, both geographically and technologically, and is prosecuting America's wars with a stunning ferocity. Obama, like Bush, described the work of our military is doing abroad as defense of the American people. This claim, as we will see, already presses the boundaries of the traditional understanding of the just war. Obama has adopted many of the controversial tactics of his predecessor-assassinations, rendition of suspects to other countries, and, possibly, secret prisons--and here, too, important moral questions arise. Obama, moreover, may even have adopted a rarely articulate theory of the previous Administration that holds, in the bald and tragic terms of just war theory, that it is not possible to wage just war against the United States." "Yet none of this is necessarily a criticism of President Obama, It many instead be a signal that the vehement attacks on his predecessor were overblown. . . . I have chosen the title, The Violence of Peace because I believe President Obama has learned what so many of his predecessors were also brought unwillingly to accept: that America faces real enemies in the world, and keeping the nation at peace, ironically, sometimes requires battle." Id. at x-xi. I am not sure this book works as a 'meditation' on the view of Barack Obama, and their are better meditation on the morality of war generally. Still, an interesting read. Also see, James Traub, "The War Presidents," NYT Book Review, Sunday, 1/30/11, at 20. "Carter has positioned himself at a very usual place:
the intersection between the high ideals of Christian and secular moral philosophy and the exigencies of a very grim war. Most of us would rather ignore both the pull of those ideals and the ugly reality of that war. We want satisfying answers. Carter has no such answers to offer -- only difficult questions which, once posed, can no longer be ignored." Id.

Woodward, Bob, Obama's War (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2010) (See Bob Woodward's previous books on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq during the administration of George W. Bush.).

Booth, Martin, Islands of Silence: A Novel (New York: Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Press, 20003) ("'For just one moment,' Rupert continued, 'I disregarded the only factor that differentiates us from the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air. It is not self-determination or the ability to reason. It is not even the fear of death which I think is particularly human. It is morality.' . . . At that moment, I came to the realisation the nothing more substantial than a set of self-imposed guidelines for civilised behaviour kept order in our lives, breath in our lungs, a pulse in our veins." Id. at 25. "'The value of history is that it instruct. Warfare has never justified its morality. . . ." Id. at 137. "'This futility,' I continued, 'lies in the fact that whilst national borders may shift and kingdoms expand or contract, there is little else of benefit to be gained. Merchants may trade more widely in one land and less in another. A political or religious ideal may come to the fore at the expense of another declining, but, for the general citizen, war is nothing more than a change of master earned at the expense of human life and misery. War is the playground of kings and presidents, not for people.' . . . 'Whenever war is declared, the antagonists proclaim divine right on their side. No soldier has gone to war without the sure faith that his god is behind him, justifying his cause. The priests have condoned the killing in direct contravention of the holy commandment that all human life is sacred. Can the killing of a Muslim at the fall of Jerusalem in 1099 be claimed as a holy act? Or the death of a Christian crusader at Acre in 1291? The First Crusade had nothing to do with religious ideology. That was a hypocritical excuse, expressed by Pope Urban the Second. The real reason for the crusade was the fact that the population of Europe was expanding rapidly, causing the increasing demand for trade and the control of trade routes to the East. Religious zeal was merely used as a tool to mobilise fighters in the name of mercantile progress.'" Id. at 160-161.) .