Monthly Archives: May 2009

A critical moment for antitrust law

May 11, 2009
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A critical moment for antitrust law

Several sources reported this morning that the head of the Justice Department’s antitrust division under the Obama administration, Christine A. Varney, plans to toughen up on monopolistic and predatory business practices—especially by large enterprises attempting to exploit the weakened positions of smaller companies struggling through the current recession. A Bloomberg article quotes Varney suggesting that “a more vigorous antitrust policy in the financial markets may have helped avert the current economic crisis: ‘Is too big to fail,” she asks, “‘a failure of antitrust?'” According to the New York Times Varney’s plans would restore the same sort of Clinton-era antitrust policy that led to the landmark antitrust lawsuits against Microsoft and Intel in the 1990s, and which has since sparked heated debate in Washington about how best to foster a healthy economy that functions in the interests of consumers. Making an important contribution to that debate, William H. Page and John E. Lopatka’s 2007 book The Microsoft Case: Antitrust, High Technology, and Consumer Welfare offers the contrarian argument that consumers are, in fact, rarely served by antitrust intervention. Both the government and the courts, Page and Lopatka contend, were unduly influenced by the harms that Microsoft’s practices would have on its . . .

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Chocolate (New York) City

May 11, 2009
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Chocolate (New York) City

A little over a year ago, on a return flight from Boston, your correspondent became engaged in a conversation with her seatmate, who offered her samples of some kind of dark chocolate with seemingly miraculous health benefits. I began to fidget and reached for my book in the seat-back pocket in front of me when she procured a brochure from her carry-on and proceeded to tell me how I could make extra money each month selling these chocolates to my friends and coworkers. The marketing materials went unread and the chocolates uneaten. But, it turns out that others, including Real Housewife of New York City Jill Zarin have become chocolate acolytes. In a trend piece about the product, which has been turning up in the hoity-toity echelons of Manhattan society, the New York Times reported yesterday, “Xoçai (pronounced show-SIGH) is a cousin of the humble Amway products, among the newest in a seemingly endless series of network-marketing ventures.” To understand the new acceptance of this Tupperware-party-like marketing scheme in ladies-who-lunch New York, the Times turned to our very own Peter M. Birkeland: Peter M. Birkeland, an adjunct professor at the University of Chicago and author of Franchising Dreams: . . .

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The Press would like to thank the Academy

May 7, 2009
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The Press would like to thank the Academy

On April 20, the American Academy of Arts & Sciences announced its new class of fellows and foreign honorary members. Among the 231 newest members of one of the nation’s most prestigious honorary societies are some very famous folks, including Dustin Hoffman, James Earl Jones, Dame Judi Dench, Bono, Colin Powell, and Emmylou Harris. But these marquee names are nothing compared to the real celebs on the list: the University of Chicago Press author brigade! Congratulations to Andrew Abbott, Danielle Allen, Alice Kaplan, T. J. Jackson Lears, Steven Shapin, Mary Ann Caws, Robert von Hallberg, Ruth Bernard Yeazell, and honorary member Simon Goldhill. In other academy news, the Academy of Arts and Letters announced its annual awards on April 14. Among the many deserving honorees are a handful of University of Chicago Press authors. Phoenix Poets Michael Collier and Susan Stewart were awarded an Academy Award in Literature, given to encourage creative work. Sharon Cameron won a Harold D. Vursell Memorial Award in Literature in recognition of the quality of the prose in her recent book Impersonality: Seven Essays. And poet Peter Campion was awarded the Rome Fellowship in Literature, given to young writers of exceptional promise for a year’s . . .

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In a foreign language, in a foreign land

May 7, 2009
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In a foreign language, in a foreign land

The last issue of the Chicago Reader contains a special section on new Spring books with a couple of interesting articles profiling Asian American writers and their new works, including the latest from novelist and poet Ha Jin. The Writer as Migrant is a collection of three interconnected essays that draw both on his own experiences as a Chinese immigrant living in the U.S., as well as the writing of other famous literary exiles, including Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Lin Yutang, and Joseph Conrad, to illustrate the unique obstacles and opportunities that face those writing in a foreign language, and in a foreign land. The Reader article focuses on Jin’s personal struggles between feelings of alienation from his native Chinese language and culture, and the greater intellectual freedoms he has experienced writing in the U.S.: When he started writing, Jin says, “I viewed myself as a Chinese writer who would write in English on behalf of the downtrodden Chinese.” But how could he write on behalf of a people if he couldn’t also address them? Since his books often deal with the politics of modern China—his first volume of poems, Between Silences: A Voice From China, is based on his experiences in . . .

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Succeeding Souter: what about executive power?

May 6, 2009
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Succeeding Souter: what about executive power?

A conservative legal activist told the New York Times recently that same-sex marriage, gun rights, religious rights, and the death penalty are “the issues that are really in play” in the expected fight over the nomination of a Supreme Court justice to replace the retiring David Souter. No matter where one’s political affiliations lie, that list probably looks familiar. But Peter M. Shane, author of the new Madison’s Nightmare: How Executive Power Threatens American Democracy (excerpt) has noticed that such lists of issues that dominate debates about future Supreme Court Justices often leave out what are “undoubtedly the most important constitutional questions raised by the last Administration and perhaps the most important set going forward: issues surrounding the scope of presidential power.” We asked Shane to reflect on the issue in light of Souter’s imminent replacement: During the second Bush Administration, a change of one vote on the Supreme Court would have deprived military detainees of habeas corpus rights or extended procedural protections so minimal as to be laughable. The Supreme Court currently boasts a solid right-wing bloc of Chief Justice Roberts and Associate Justices Scalia, Thomas, and Alito, all of whom are strong defenders of executive power. What does . . .

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A Professional Perfectionist’s Best Friend

May 5, 2009
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A Professional Perfectionist’s Best Friend

The Subversive Copy Editor “may be the best copy editor’s companion since the CMS, the AP Style Guide and that dog-eared xerox of copy editing marks you keep tacked up on the cubicle wall,” is how Publishers Weekly begins its starred review of the magazine’s Web Pick of the Week. And PW is in the majority opinion. An article in Sunday’s Chicago-Sun Times also is full of appreciation for Saller’s “conversational style and insights into interactions between writers and copy editors,” which “make reading her book an entertaining trip even for those who never plan to lift a red pen or use the editing feature of a word-processing program.” That might sound surprising: editing guide as beside reading? But it will make perfect sense to anyone who’s had a taste of the indispensably helpful and pleasingly witty advice Saller has been dishing out for years for the Q&A feature of The Chicago Manual of Style Online. . . .

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Allan Meltzer warns about inflation

May 5, 2009
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Allan Meltzer warns about inflation

Since the Obama administration began to pump billions of dollars into some of the most troubled sectors of the U.S. economy including struggling financial institutions and automakers, the markets seem to be making a gradual but definite come back—a fact which some take as evidence that the administration’s plan will ultimately be successful in turning around, or at least stabilizing the economy. But in an editorial piece for last Sunday’s New York Times, Allan H. Meltzer, professor of political economy at Carnegie Mellon University and author of the multi-volume A History of the Federal Reserve, offers a thoughtful critique of the possible longer-term consequences of the Obama administration’s fiscal strategy. Meltzer argues that the Federal Reserve’s strategy of reducing interest rates while flooding the economy with cash from bailouts and government subsidies will cause inflation to rise over the next few years, potentially undoing many of the benefits of the administration’s plan. Read Meltzer’s piece online at the NYT website, or navigate to the press’s website to find out about Meltzer’s books, including History of the Federal Reserve, Volume 1: 1913-1951. The two books comprising the second volume of Meltzer’s work will be published later this year. . . .

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Beware contagious historical amnesia

May 4, 2009
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Beware contagious historical amnesia

Swine flu has been reported in 30 states and 20 countries, and face mask sales continue to soar. But this morning, health officials at the Centers for Disease Control remained “cautiously optimistic” that the swine flu virus is not as virulent as initially feared. All of the hysteria about the disease got scholar of English Renaissance literature Ernest B. Gilman thinking. Perhaps, he argues, we need to protect ourselves against something potentially more damaging than the H1N1 flu strain: historical amnesia. After all, plagues, he notes, “have devastated the human race almost without intermission from the time that we began to cluster in large groups and mingle our own microorganism with those of our domesticated animals” and they show no signs of abating. In his forthcoming Plague Writing in Early Modern England, Gilman explores the sermons, medical tracts, pious exhortations, satirical pamphlets, and political commentary written in response to the three epidemics of bubonic plagues that devastated London in the seventeenth century. By revealing how people made sense of such catastrophe, he holds up a distant mirror to reflect our own condition in the age of AIDS, super viruses, multidrug resistant tuberculosis, and the hovering threat of a global flu . . .

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Geoffrey Stone on Souter’s Resignation

May 1, 2009
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Geoffrey Stone on Souter’s Resignation

In a brief letter sent to the President Obama today, Supreme Court Justice David Souter announced his intention to retire from active service when the Court goes into summer recess. The New York Times reports that Obama has pledged to nominate a new justice in time for him or her to be confirmed by October, when the Court reconvenes. As speculation commences and the guessing game picks up steam, Geoffrey R. Stone, Edward H. Levi Distinguished Service Professor at the University of Chicago Law School and Press author (he served as coeditor, with Richard A. Epstein and Cass R. Sunstein, of The Bill of Rights in the Modern States, and with Lee C. Bollinger of Eternally Vigilant: Free Speech in the Modern Era; Stone has also edited the Supreme Court Review series since 1991) penned a tribute to the justice who once told him “he regarded himself as ‘the luckiest guy in the world’ because of the opportunity he had in this way to serve his country.” It was first published on the Huffington Post and the Faculty Blog of the U of C Law School. Professor Stone has graciously permitted us to reprint his words here: It would appear . . .

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Friday Remainders

May 1, 2009
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Friday Remainders

Last weekend Lennard J. Davis, author of Obsession: A History was interviewed on ABC Australia’s radio program Saturday Extra. In the interview host Geraldine Doogue talks to Davis about his new book which explores the role obsession plays in our 21st century lives. From obsessive aspects of professional specialization, to obsessive compulsive disorder and nymphomania, as Davis shows, obsession plays an important yet paradoxical role in the western mindset. Addressing the full spectrum of obsessive behavior, Davis’s graceful analysis describes the fascinating historical and contemporary role of obsession as both a pathology and a goal. Navigate to the Saturday Extra website to listen, or navigate to the press’s website to check out our own interviews with Davis—one in audio and another in text. A detail from an image of one of Norman Maclean’s favorite fly lures that graces the cover of A River Runs Through It and Other Stories, Twenty-fifth Anniversary Edition was featured in this week’s installment of the New Yorker Book Bench Blog’s covers contest in which reader’s try and guess the identity of a book based on small snippet of its cover graphic. You can play along by guessing what books the rest of the covers belong . . .

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