A well-documented exposé of a broken system for policing errant federal judges.

An investigative reporter reveals flaws in how Americans hold federal judges accountable for sexual misconduct and shows how whistleblowers have brought some to justice.

Rogue federal judges have caused scandals at least since George Washington appointee John Pickering became the first to be removed from office by the Senate, which acted after he’d repeatedly taken to the bench “in a state of total intoxication” or mental “derangement.” Since then, secretive disciplinary procedures and toothless remedies (allowing quiet resignations with full pensions) have enabled further sins documented in alarming detail in this exposé. Olsen focuses on hair-raising abuses by Samuel Bristow Kent of the Southern District of Texas, the first judge impeached by the House of Representatives for sexual misconduct he lied about. He resigned rather than stand trial in the Senate. Two female court employees had alleged that, among other types of sexual assault or harassment, Kent tried to force them to perform oral sex on him in a federal courthouse—a charge his lawyer, Dick DeGuerin, attempted to refute by claiming his client suffered from erectile dysfunction. Olsen shows how—with Kent’s accusers understandably reluctant to go public with intimate experiences—she helped to break the story open in the Houston Chronicle, leading to a public outcry that contributed to his downfall. She also offers abundant evidence of egregious missteps by other federal judges, including Alex Kozinski, a mentor to Brett Kavanaugh. The writing here tends toward journalese (a whistleblower is “a sharply dressed soccer mom” and William Rehnquist, “the balding Wisconsin native”), but Olsen describes a serious oversight problem with vigor and credibility. She also gives deserved credit to courageous whistleblowers who were doubly victimized—first by their abusers and then by a legal system that required them to endure the pain of public exposure to obtain justice.

A well-documented exposé of a broken system for policing errant federal judges.

Pub Date: Oct. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-8070-0867-6

Page Count: 264

Publisher: Beacon Press

Review Posted Online: July 21, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021


An overdue upending of art historical discourse.

An indispensable primer on the history of art, with an exclusive focus on women.

Prominent 19th-century art critic John Ruskin once proclaimed, “the woman’s intellect is not for invention or creation, but for sweet ordering, arrangement, and decision,” and traces of this misguided and malignant sentiment can still be found over a century later in art institutions around the world. A 2019 study found that “in the collections of eighteen major US art museums, 87 percent of artworks were by men, and 85 percent by white artists.” There’s a lot to be mad about, but London-based art historian Hessel nimbly pivots that energy into a constructive, revelatory project. This book is not a mere rebuttal to the aforementioned discrimination; deftly researched, the text reveals an alternate history of centuries of artistic movements. With palpable excitement, the author shifts the focus from widely known male participants to the unsung female players of the time. Art aficionados will delight in Hessel’s sleight of hand and marvel at her wide, inclusive reach. Spanning from Baroque art to the present day, she effortlessly removes “the clamour of men” and, in a series of short biographical profiles, shapes a historical arc that still feels grounded even without a familiar male presence. Art history must “reset,” Hessel writes, and she positions her book as an important first step in that reconfiguration. While the author progresses mostly movement by movement, her broader tangents are particularly profound. One of many highlights is a generous overview of queer artists of the Weimar era. Hessel is occasionally uneven with how much content she allots each artist, and some perfunctory profiles feel like the result of trying to highlight as many names as possible. Nonetheless, even the shortest gloss provides enough intrigue to be a successful introduction to an artist who might otherwise be forgotten.

An overdue upending of art historical discourse.

Pub Date: May 2, 2023

ISBN: 9780393881868

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2023


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. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019