Read and weep—especially because there are few vacancies for a moderate administration to fill, so that for the foreseeable...



A measured denunciation of what the author deems an ongoing conservative effort to pack the American judiciary with hard-right judges.

Schwartz (Law/American Univ.; ed., The Rehnquist Court, 2002) is plainly displeased by a system that makes William Rehnquist appear to be a judicial moderate, but he is seldom moved to outrage. Instead, he patiently constructs historical and judicial trends, showing that the advances in progressive legislation and interpretation thereof in the New Deal era have been steadily turned back in subsequent years. Schwartz outlines three great transformations in American society in the 20th century, the first two of which came from the New Deal and its liberal successors to institute “a change in the relationship between the federal government and the American people, which established a major role for the government in American economic life.” Much of the conservative backlash has been posed in economic terms: Why, Rehnquist himself once asked, should the government have any right to dictate to whom a business owner can serve a meal? (“It is about time the Court faced the fact,” a young Rehnquist would write, “that the white people in the South don’t like the colored people.”) Whereas Rehnquist often sat alone in upholding, say, school segregation and the rights of employers over employees, he has been joined by countless like-minded peers, thanks to the efforts of Bush administrations I and II to pack the courts: by the time he left office in 1992, Bush I had seen to it that “Republican judges comprised 80 percent of all federal judges and 75 percent of the appellate bench,” leaving little for Bush II to do save to plumb the depths of reaction by nominating to the federal circuit one judge whose consistency in voting to the right surprised even Sen. Orrin Hatch, and another who told Congress that clean air and water regulations were unconstitutional.

Read and weep—especially because there are few vacancies for a moderate administration to fill, so that for the foreseeable future, “the judiciary will be permanently titled toward the extreme right.”

Pub Date: June 1, 2004

ISBN: 1-56025-566-8

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Nation Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2004

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A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...

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A neurosurgeon with a passion for literature tragically finds his perfect subject after his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer.

Writing isn’t brain surgery, but it’s rare when someone adept at the latter is also so accomplished at the former. Searching for meaning and purpose in his life, Kalanithi pursued a doctorate in literature and had felt certain that he wouldn’t enter the field of medicine, in which his father and other members of his family excelled. “But I couldn’t let go of the question,” he writes, after realizing that his goals “didn’t quite fit in an English department.” “Where did biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?” So he decided to set aside his doctoral dissertation and belatedly prepare for medical school, which “would allow me a chance to find answers that are not in books, to find a different sort of sublime, to forge relationships with the suffering, and to keep following the question of what makes human life meaningful, even in the face of death and decay.” The author’s empathy undoubtedly made him an exceptional doctor, and the precision of his prose—as well as the moral purpose underscoring it—suggests that he could have written a good book on any subject he chose. Part of what makes this book so essential is the fact that it was written under a death sentence following the diagnosis that upended his life, just as he was preparing to end his residency and attract offers at the top of his profession. Kalanithi learned he might have 10 years to live or perhaps five. Should he return to neurosurgery (he could and did), or should he write (he also did)? Should he and his wife have a baby? They did, eight months before he died, which was less than two years after the original diagnosis. “The fact of death is unsettling,” he understates. “Yet there is no other way to live.”

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8840-6

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.


“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.

It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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