Review: Yoo, The Powers of War and Peace

April 10, 2006
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Review: Yoo, The Powers of War and Peace

The Claremont Review of Books recently reviewed John Yoo’s The Powers of War and Peace. Joseph M. Bessette praised the book in a lengthy review, in which he concluded that " makes a compelling case that Congress need not formally authorize many, perhaps most, military commitments abroad, for which the president possesses ample constitutional authority. It is rare that one scholar fundamentally recasts the debate on a constutional issue of pressing public importance. In The Powers of War and Peace, John Yoo has done exactly that." John Yoo, formerly a lawyer in the Department of Justice, here makes the case for a completely new approach to understanding what the Constitution says about foreign affairs, particularly the powers of war and peace. Looking to American history, Yoo points out that from Truman and Korea to Clinton’s intervention in Kosovo, American presidents have had to act decisively on the world stage without a declaration of war. They are able to do so, Yoo argues, because the Constitution grants the president, Congress, and the courts very different powers, requiring them to negotiate the country’s foreign policy. Yoo roots his controversial analysis in a brilliant reconstruction of the original understanding of the foreign . . .

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Review: Steven B. Smith, Reading Leo Strauss

April 6, 2006
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Review: Steven B. Smith, Reading Leo Strauss

Publishers Weekly recently reviewed Steven B. Smith’s Reading Leo Strauss: Politics, Philosophy, Judaism: "Though German philosopher Leo Strauss (1899-1973) is referred to as the father of neo-conservatism, Yale political science professor Smith argues that relationship is a ‘mountain of nonsense’ and that Strauss was ‘a friend of liberal democracy—one of the best friends democracy ever had.…’ Smith quietly builds a persuasive case that Strauss’s work ‘makes clear that the danger to the West comes not from liberalism but from our loss of confidence in it.’" Interest in Leo Strauss is greater now than at any time since his death, mostly because of the purported link between his thought and the political movement known as neoconservatism. Steven B. Smith, though, surprisingly depicts Strauss not as the high priest of neoconservatism but as a friend of liberal democracy—perhaps the best defender democracy has ever had. Moreover, in Reading Leo Strauss, Smith shows that Strauss’s defense of liberal democracy was closely connected to his skepticism of both the extreme Left and extreme Right. . . .

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Review: Rudwick, Bursting the Limits of Time

April 5, 2006
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Review: Rudwick, Bursting the Limits of Time

Nature features a nice review of Martin J. S. Rudwick’s Bursting the Limits of Time: The Reconstruction of Geohistory in the Age of Revolution. From the review by Stephen Moorbath: "Bursting the Limits of Time is a massive work and is quite simply a masterpiece of science history.… Rudwick’s text is beautifully written and grips the attention throughout.… The book should be obligatory for every geology and history-of-science library, and is a highly recommended companion for every civilized geologist who can carry an extra 2.4 kg in his rucksack.… Rudwick has amply fulfilled his stated aim of describing the injection of history into a science that had been primarily descriptive or causal. Indeed, thanks to Rudwick and his kind, we may rest assured that the future of the history of science is in safe hands." Bursting the Limits of Time is the culmination of a lifetime of study by Martin J. S. Rudwick, the world’s leading historian of geology and paleontology. In 1650, Archbishop James Ussher of Armagh joined the long-running theological debate on the age of the earth by famously announcing that creation had occurred on October 23, 4004 B.C. Although widely challenged during the Enlightenment, this belief in . . .

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Review: Monmonier, From Squaw Tit to Whorehouse Meadow

April 5, 2006
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Review: Monmonier, From Squaw Tit to Whorehouse Meadow

Publishers Weekly recently reviewed Mark Monmonier’s From Squaw Tit to Whorehouse Meadow: How Maps Name, Claim, and Inflame. From the review: "As the title of this slight but engaging treatise on the politics of place names indicates, a sufficiently detailed gazetteer offers plenty of material to rile up minorities, feminists and persons of refined sensibility. Geographer Monmonier gets a lot of mileage out of typing provocative words into a U.S. Geological Survey database and picking through the resulting ethnic slurs, body parts and scatological imprecations. The Rocky Mountain and Pacific Coast states, with their ripe mining-camp history, offer up the most offensive place names, but even staid Newfoundland has a village named Dildo situated next to Spread Eagle Bay.… Although general readers will find much of the procedural and bureaucratic details of official place-naming arcane, they will enjoy a trove of giggle-inducing lore." . . .

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"Incentives for Policy Pandering": an excerpt from Who Leads Whom?

April 4, 2006
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"Incentives for Policy Pandering": an excerpt from Who Leads Whom?

With contemporary politics so connected to the pulse of the American people, Who Leads Whom?: Presidents, Policy, and the Public offers much-needed insight into how public opinion actually works in our democratic process. Analyzing the actions of modern presidents ranging from Eisenhower to Clinton, Brandice Canes-Wrone demonstrates that presidents’ involvement of the mass public, by putting pressure on Congress, shifts policy in the direction of majority opinion. More important, she also shows that presidents rarely cater to the mass citizenry unless they already agree with the public’s preferred course of action. Integrating perspectives from presidential studies, legislative politics, public opinion, and rational choice theory, this theoretical and empirical inquiry will appeal to a wide range of students and scholars of the American political process. The March 2006 issue of Public Opinion Pros features an excerpt from Who Leads Whom?. Read the excerpt on the Public Opinion Pros Web site. . . .

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Author event: Harcourt at U of C Law School

April 4, 2006
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Author event: Harcourt at U of C Law School

On April 5 at 12:15 p.m., Bernard Harcourt will speak at the University of Chicago Law School’s Fourth Annual Chicago’s Best Ideas series. Harcourt will lecture on "Language of the Gun: A Semiotic for Law & Social Science." The event is free and open to the public. Harcourt is author of Language of the Gun: Youth, Crime, and Public Policy. Legal and public policies concerning youth gun violence tend to rely heavily on crime reports, survey data, and statistical methods. Rarely is attention given to the young voices belonging to those who carry high-powered semiautomatic handguns. In Language of the Gun, Bernard E. Harcourt recounts in-depth interviews with youths detained at an all-malecorrectional facility, exploring how they talk about guns and what meanings they ascribe to them in a broader attempt to understand some of the assumptions implicit in current handgun policies. In the process, Harcourt redraws the relationships among empirical research, law, and public policy. We will publish Harcourt’s new book, Against Prediction: Profiling, Policing, and Punishing in an Actuarial Age, later this year. See our earlier post about the subject of that book. . . .

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A Brain for All Seasons receives Walter P. Kistler Book Award

April 3, 2006
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A Brain for All Seasons receives Walter P. Kistler Book Award

Walter H. Calvin has received the 2006 Walter P. Kistler Book Award for his book A Brain for All Seasons: Human Evolution and Abrupt Climate Change. The award, presented by the Foundation For the Future, recognizes authors of science-based books that contribute to society’s understanding of the factors that may impact the long-term future of humanity. Mankind has recently come to the shocking realization that our ancestors survived hundreds of abrupt and severe changes to Earth’s climate. In A Brain for All Seaons, William H. Calvin takes readers around the globe and back in time, showing how such cycles of cool, crash, and burn provided the impetus for enormous increases in the intelligence and complexity of human beings—and warning us of human activities that could trigger similarly massive shifts in the planet’s climate. On April 6, at 7:00 p.m., the University of Washington will host an award ceremony for Calvin. He will be interviewed, participate in a Q&A session, and sign books. The event is free and open to the public. Read an excerpt. . . .

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Against National Poetry Month

March 31, 2006
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Against National Poetry Month

Charles Bernstein is one of America’s liveliest advocates and practitioners of radically inventive poetry. So why does he have a beef with National Poetry Month? A nationwide celebration of his craft during the entire month of April—what’s not to like? Plenty, says Bernstein. In an essay titled "Against National Poetry Month As Such&quot he writes: National Poetry Month is about making poetry safe for readers by promoting examples of the art form at its most bland and its most morally "positive." The message is: Poetry is good for you. But, unfortunately, promoting poetry as if it were an "easy listening" station just reinforces the idea that poetry is culturally irrelevant and has done a disservice not only to poetry deemed too controversial or difficult to promote but also to the poetry it puts forward in this way. "Accessibility" has become a kind of Moral Imperative based on the condescending notion that readers are intellectually challenged, and mustn’t be presented with anything but Safe Poetry. As if poetry will turn people off to poetry. Read the rest of "Against National Poetry Month As Such." Bernstein is perhaps best known as one of the founders of the L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poetry movement of the . . .

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Press release: Leon R. Kass, The Beginning of Wisdom

March 30, 2006
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Press release: Leon R. Kass, The Beginning of Wisdom

Examining Genesis in a philosophical light, Kass presents it not as a story of what happened long ago, but as the enduring story of humanity itself. He asserts that the first half of Genesis contains insights about human nature that "rival anything produced by the great philosophers." Kass here reads these first stories—from Adam and Eve to the tower of Babel—as a mirror for self-discovery that reveals truths about human reason, speech, freedom, sexual desire, pride, shame, anger, and death. Taking a step further in the second half of his book, Kass explores the struggles in Genesis to launch a new way of life that addresses mankind’s morally ambiguous nature by promoting righteousness and holiness.… Read the press release. Read an excerpt. . . .

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Review: Theodore Arabatzis, Representing Electrons

March 30, 2006
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Review: Theodore Arabatzis, Representing Electrons

Chemistry World recently reviewed Theodore Arabatzis’s Representing Electrons: A Biographical Approach to Theoretical Entities. From the review by Dennis Rouvray: "erhaps the most disconcerting message contains is that no experiement has indubitably established the existence of the electron. The author of this thought-provoking work is to be congratulated both for challenging some of our most cherished assumptions and for reminding us that the world of chemistry is not nearly as cut and dried as most chemists would have us believe." Both a history and a metahistory, Representing Electrons focuses on the development of various theoretical representations of electrons from the late 1890s to 1925 and the methodological problems associated with writing about unobservable scientific entities. Using the electron—or rather its representation—as a historical actor, Arabatzis illustrates the emergence and gradual consolidation of its representation in physics, its career throughout old quantum theory, and its appropriation and reinterpretation by chemists. As Arabatzis develops this novel biographical approach, he portrays scientific representations as partly autonomous agents with lives of their own. Furthermore, he argues that the considerable variance in the representation of the electron does not undermine its stable identity or existence. . . .

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