Outstanding in every respect.

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A WILD JUSTICE

THE DEATH AND RESURRECTION OF CAPITAL PUNISHMENT IN AMERICA

When the Supreme Court declined to accept the appeal of a 1963 rape case, Justice Arthur Goldberg published an unusual dissent questioning the constitutionality of the death penalty. From this small beginning, Mandery (John Jay College of Criminal Justice; Q: A Novel, 2011, etc.) skillfully traces the building momentum within the country and the court to question the legality of a punishment the Founding Fathers took for granted.

Indeed, by 1972, in Furman v. Georgia, the court struck down death penalty statutes so similar to those in 40 other states that executions nationwide came to a halt. Disagreement among Furman’s 5-4 majority—was the death penalty “cruel and unusual” punishment under the Eighth Amendment, or was its arbitrary application a violation under the 14th?—and a forceful dissent hinted at a blueprint for states to rewrite their capital-sentencing schemes. By 1976, 35 had done so. In Gregg v. Georgia and its companion cases, the court approved the revised statutes, opening the door to 1,300 state-sponsored executions since. Relying on interviews with law clerks and attorneys, information from economists, criminologists and social scientists, arguments from political and legal scholars, a thorough knowledge of all applicable cases and sure-handed storytelling, Mandery focuses on the strategies of the Legal Defense Fund, the remarkable attorneys who led the charge for abolition, to cover virtually every dimension of the capital punishment debate. The author is especially strong on the individual backgrounds, personalities and judicial philosophies of the justices, the shifting alliances among them and the frustrating contingencies upon which momentous decisions sometimes turn. Even those weary of this topic will be riveted by his insider information about towering figures, lawyers and judges.

Outstanding in every respect.

Pub Date: Aug. 19, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-393-23958-4

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: June 9, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2013

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Shallow and woefully clichéd.

LAND OF A THOUSAND EYES

THE SUBTLE PLEASURES OF EVERYDAY LIFE IN MYANMAR

Hackneyed reflections from an Australian journalist who spent about a year-and-a-half in Yangon, Myanmar (formerly Rangoon, Burma).

Although he was there in 2003–04 to train reporters for the rigidly censored English-language newspaper, The Myanmar Times, Olszewski, former editor of Australian Playboy and leader of the Australian Marijuana Party, has chosen to write about Myanmar from a nonpolitical perspective. His memoir concentrates on “ ‘ordinary’ people” and “the ‘Chestertonian’ trivialities of life” (the author’s arch use of quotation marks is just one of his irritating traits). In a country ruled by a brutally repressive military regime, Olszewski led a privileged expatriate existence: attending parties and opening nights of cultural events, gossiping in cafes and bars, bemoaning the lack of electricity and hot water, learning to chew betel nut, drinking hash beer and snake wine, eyeing the passing women. His worst experience was undergoing surgery for gallstones in a Yangon hospital that had no painkillers containing opiates. The author describes local festivals and Buddhist ceremonies; extols the beauty and demeanor of Asian women, whom he clearly admires; and rants against other expats, whom he sees as arrogant and ignorant. As Olszewski tells it, Myanmar is colorful and romantic, and its people—who just happen to be mostly very poor and singularly repressed—are delightful, charming and filled with a joyous zest for life.

Shallow and woefully clichéd.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2006

ISBN: 1-74114-507-4

Page Count: 264

Publisher: Allen & Unwin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2006

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THE PASSIONATE ATTACHMENT

AMERICA'S INVOLVEMENT WITH ISRAEL, 1947 TO THE PRESENT

A sweeping indictment that claims that America's political, military, and economic ties to Israel have obstructed the path to peace and run counter to both countries' interests. The authors—father George (The Past Has Another Pattern, 1982, etc.), a former undersecretary of state, and son Douglas (Financial Failure and Confederate Defeat, 1990—not reviewed)- -charge that Israeli leaders, through much of their nation's history, have subjected the American government to ``a mirage of untruths and bureaucratic obfuscation.'' Except for Eisenhower, who forced David Ben-Gurion to pull troops out of the Sinai during the Suez crisis, US Presidents have backed off from pressuring this US ally after initial protests against settlement policy or lack of military restraint (e.g., during the 1982 invasion of Lebanon). The authors' moral balance-scale sometimes seems unfairly stacked here: Arab terrorism, briefly mentioned, is labeled self-defeating, while Israeli attacks, explored in depth, are deemed attempts to wrest a people of their land, in violation of international law. Still, the Balls score points in arguing that America's ``passionate attachment'' (the phrase comes from Washington's farewell address) is imposing mounting costs, both fiscal ($3-4 billion in annual aid) and moral (Israel regularly defies Washington's attempt to slow the international arms bazaar). As recounted here, the Jonathan Pollard spy case, Israel's 1967 attack on the Liberty, and the nation's legal mistreatment of Arabs in the occupied territories are shocking, as is the authors' detailing of how leery US politicians are of the pro-Israel lobby AIPAC (in his presidential campaign, Walter Mondale returned five $1,000 checks from Arab-Americans to avoid offending this powerful group). Often too lenient on the Arab part in this deadly stalemate- -but a frequently convincing call for a new Middle East diplomacy, shorn of cold-war tensions and reconciling Israeli security with Palestinian desire for a homeland. (Maps & tables—not seen.)

Pub Date: Nov. 16, 1992

ISBN: 0-393-02933-6

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1992

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