Law

All other persons

August 15, 2011
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All other persons

The Constitutional Convention took place from May 14th to September 17th, 1787. The delegates spent much of the early month of August adjourned as the Committee of Detail met to refine previously reached agreements, including the contentious role of slavery, before submitting what became an early draft of the U.S. Constitution. Though ten states had already outlawed the slave trade, three key Southern holdouts (Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina) threatened to leave the convention and stall progress if the trade were banned outright. Ultimately, delegates instead ratified the Three-Fifths compromise (Article 1, Section 2, Paragraph 3 of the Constitution), which created this federal ratio in order to assess slaves (“all other persons”) as three-fifths of their actual number for purposes of representation in the House and Senate. In A Slaveholders’ Union: Slavery, Politics, and the Constitution in the Early American Republic, George W. Van Cleve judiciously demonstrates that this Constitution was pro-slavery in its politics, its economics, and its law. Framing the development of a strong federal republic around the allegiance of the Southern states, A Slaveholders’ Union establishes this long-term protection of slavery as the consequence of Southern participation in the fledgling Union. Pulitzer Prize-winner Annette Gordon-Reed, in . . .

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Cultures of Border(less) Control

July 14, 2011
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Cultures of Border(less) Control

In a recent post for the Yale University Press blog, Eva Ledóchowicz (our shared sales representative for Eastern Europe) penned an article on the potential of the ebook as a “book without border,” linking the changing landscape of publishing (for better or worse) with developments in the European Union surrounding ID-free travel made possible by laws governing the Schengen area. The Schengen area came to be on March 26, 1995, when five original signatories (Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands) implemented the Schengen Agreement (1985, named for Schengen, Luxembourg, where the document was first signed) into law, allowing for what approaches a single state for international travel, with no internal border controls (harkening back to pre-World War I days, when one could travel from Paris to St. Petersburg without a passport). Two years later, and twenty-five countries were onboard. In recent years, concerns over the pressure to provide shared security for the entire Schengen region, along with the preferences of individual nations over migration, has led to a new vulnerability for Schengen, its member nations, and those travelers who come and go within its amorphous borders. In Cultures of Border Control: Schengen and the Evolution of European Frontiers, political . . .

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Eggs and Agencies

August 31, 2010
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Eggs and Agencies

You might want to finish your bibimbap before reading this post. The salmonella outbreak that led to the largest egg recall in American history has now led to a disturbing Food and Drug Administration report about conditions on the Iowa farms where the eggs originated. The Chicago Tribune notes that the report’s grisly details include horrors such as “barns with dozens of holes chewed by rodents that mice, insects, and wild birds used to enter and live inside the barns.… manure built up in 4- to 8-foot-tall piles in pits below the hen houses, in such quantities that it pushed pit doors open, allowing rodents and other wild animals access to hen houses.” The farms in question are among the largest in the nation, and nearly half a billion eggs have been recalled. Given the extent and nature of the problems the inspectors have documented, it is clear the facilities haven’t been visited by the FDA in a fairly long time. This kind of regulatory failure is the focus of Rena Steinzor and Sidney Shapiro’s The People’s Agents and the Battle to Protect the American Public: Special Interests, Government, and Threats to Health, Safety, and the Environment. Steinzor and . . .

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Interview with Robert K. Elder, author of Last Words of the Executed

August 5, 2010
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Interview with Robert K. Elder, author of Last Words of the Executed

Earlier today the New Yorker‘s Book Bench blog posted an interview with Robert K. Elder, author of Last Words of the Executed. In the interview Elder discusses how he came across the idea for his book and some of the fascinating historical and cultural insights it offers, including an interesting, albeit morbid, discussion of how various methods of execution—from the firing squad, to the gas chamber, to the electric chair, “a.k.a. Old Sparky”—influenced the final expressions of the prisoners. Read it online at the Book Bench blog. Read excerpts from the book. . . .

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Robert K. Elder’s Last Words of the Executed on WGN

July 27, 2010
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Robert K. Elder’s Last Words of the Executed on WGN

Robert K. Elder author of Last Words of the Executed discussed his book earlier this morning on WGN’s noontime news program. Check out the archived video below. The product of seven years of extensive research by journalist Robert K. Elder, Last Words of the Executed presents an oral history of American capital punishment, as heard from the gallows, the chair, and the gurney. The book explores the cultural value of these final statements and asks what we can learn from them. We hear from both the famous—such as Nathan Hale, Joe Hill, Ted Bundy, and John Brown—and the forgotten, and their words give us unprecedented glimpses into their lives, their crimes, and the world they inhabited. Organized by era and method of execution, these final statements range from heartfelt to horrific. Some are calls for peace or cries against injustice; others are accepting, confessional, or consoling; still others are venomous, rage-fueled diatribes. Even the chills evoked by some of these last words are brought on in part by the shared humanity we can’t ignore, their reminder that we all come to the same end, regardless of how we arrive there. Read excerpts from the book. . . .

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Last Words of the Executed in the Huffington Post

July 23, 2010
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Last Words of the Executed in the Huffington Post

The Huffington Post ran a short piece by Robert K. Elder, author of Last Words of the Executed talking about his new book and offering up a selection of some of the provocative “last words” from its pages. Check the Huffington Post website to read and post a comment, as well as check other reader’s reactions to the controversial issues Elder’s book raises. Also see Elder’s website for the book or read another selection of excerpts . . . .

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Supreme Court Overturns Chicago Hand Gun Ban, John Lott Applauds Decision

June 29, 2010
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Supreme Court Overturns Chicago Hand Gun Ban, John Lott Applauds Decision

On Monday, the Supreme Court ruled that the Second Amendment guarantee to bear arms trumps state and local gun control laws, rendering a Chicago hand gun ban unenforceable. This isn’t the first time the high court has ruled this way; just two years ago, it struck down a similar ban on hand guns in Washington, D. C. The ruling—considered, as the New York Times puts it, an “enormous symbolic victory for supporters of gun rights”—will set of heated debate over gun control, the right to bear arms, and public safety—and one book will be essential to understanding the ramifications of the decision: John R. Lott’s More Guns, Less Crime. The definitive study of the relationship between gun ownership and crime, More Guns, Less Crime relies on a wealth of data to demonstrate that, contrary to conventional wisdom, when citizens are free to carry guns, crime rates invariably fall. An updated third edition—which features an additional ten years of data, with specific attention paid to the Chicago and Washington DC gun bans and the effect of the end of the assault weapons ban and “stand your ground” laws—was published last month. The revisions bring the book fully up to date—and further . . .

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An interview with Rob Elder, author of Last Words of the Executed

June 10, 2010
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An interview with Rob Elder, author of Last Words of the Executed

I’m innocent! I’m innocent! I’m innocent! As guards dragged him into the gas chamber: Don’t let me go like this, God! —Robert Otis Pierce, convicted of murder, California. Executed April 6, 1956 I’d just like to say I’m sailing with the Rock and I’ll be back like ‘Independence Day’ with Jesus, June 6, like the movie, big mother ship and all. I’ll be back. —Aileen Wuornos, convicted of murder, Florida. Executed October 9, 2002 Some claim innocence. Others beg for forgiveness. At least three cheer for their favorite football teams. Through final utterances like these, author Rob Elder constructs a compelling oral history of American capital punishment ranging from women put to death during the Salem witch trials, to some of the most infamous criminal figures of the twentieth century like Ted Bundy and Illinois’ own John Wayne Gacy. And though there’s been a moratorium on the death penalty in Illinois for some time now, in an interview for The Onion A.V. Club, Elder discusses more of the famous last words of local convicts not lucky enough to escape the chair, the chamber, or the noose. From the interview: AVC: Any other Illinois big shots? RE: A gentleman who was . . .

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Two local papers review Last Words of the Executed

June 3, 2010
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Two local papers review Last Words of the Executed

Two reviews of Robert K. Elder’s new book Last Words of the Executed have appeared recently—one in the Chicago Tribune and the other in Chicago’s Newcity magazine. Both reviews praise the book’s author for his neutrality—Elder is a former staff writer for the Tribune—noting the book’s broad appeal regardless of one’s stance towards capital punishment. From the Tribune: Those with no interest in using the book to make the case against capital punishment (or, for that matter, to justify the death penalty) should still find it worthwhile reading. I hesitate to use the word “entertaining” to describe the text. “Compelling” is more appropriate. And from Newcity: He’s committed to neutrality here—just the facts, ma’am—to avoid “rubbernecking,” and successfully keeps the spotlight on the last words of the convicted without erring into self-righteous coyness. Read the reviews and see these excerpts from the book. . . .

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Robert K. Elder’s oral history of death row in Time Out Chicago

May 26, 2010
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Robert K. Elder’s oral history of death row in Time Out Chicago

This week’s edition of Time Out Chicago is running a review of Robert K. Elder’s new book Last Words of the Executed—a collection of the final words of inmates executed by the state. Some beg for forgiveness. Others claim innocence. At least three cheer for their favorite football teams. Documenting executions that range from 17th century women accused of witchcraft to some of the twentieth’s most infamous serial killers, as the Time Out article notes, Elder’s account remains surprisingly disinterested, asking only that readers listen closely to these voices that echo history. The result is a riveting, moving testament from the darkest corners of society. Read the review. Also see the author’s webiste for the book. . . .

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