A comprehensive, judicious and even alarming view of a constitutional crisis.

PRESIDENTIAL POWER

UNCHECKED AND UNBALANCED

The increasing authority of the president and the consequent imbalance of power threaten democracy, say Crenson and Ginsberg (both Political Science/Johns Hopkins Univ.).

Their book, which includes more than 40 pages of endnotes, is addressed to readers concerned with the political health of America and remains generally nonpartisan. The authors view the shift in balance as a crime and frame their argument using terms familiar to watchers of TV cop shows: motive, means, opportunity. An opening chapter provides outlines; the remaining ones examine factors more closely. Crenson and Ginsberg note numerous historical changes in the US method of selecting presidents. The early ones were Revolutionary heroes of several sorts; then powerful political parties emerged, and candidates became party animals; only fairly recently have we seen highly ambitious candidates use the mass media and the primary system to attract the spotlight. The authors describe an ever-expanding executive branch and the weapons at a president’s disposal: vetoes, executive orders, signing statements, regulations. Today’s presidents, they aver, possess “a capacity for unilateral action unforeseen in the Constitution.” Crenson and Ginsberg take a long look at the president’s increasing ability to make war, a power the Constitution specifically assigns to Congress. Near the end, they offer analyses of the decline of congressional power and the recent tendency of federal courts to support the executive branch when it scrapes against the legislative house. One reason they discern is that most federal judges used to have a legislative background; today, fewer than five percent do. As the authors demonstrate, the courts have consistently upheld the initiatives of the executive branch in matters of foreign policy and war and national emergency. They marvel at an apparent paradox: Even as a president’s popularity plummets, his power increases.

A comprehensive, judicious and even alarming view of a constitutional crisis.

Pub Date: April 1, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-393-06488-9

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2007

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

AN INDIGENOUS PEOPLES' HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

Custer died for your sins. And so, this book would seem to suggest, did every other native victim of colonialism.

Inducing guilt in non-native readers would seem to be the guiding idea behind Dunbar-Ortiz’s (Emerita, Ethnic Studies/California State Univ., Hayward; Blood on the Border: A Memoir of the Contra War, 2005, etc.) survey, which is hardly a new strategy. Indeed, the author says little that hasn’t been said before, but she packs a trove of ideological assumptions into nearly every page. For one thing, while “Indian” isn’t bad, since “[i]ndigenous individuals and peoples in North America on the whole do not consider ‘Indian’ a slur,” “American” is due to the fact that it’s “blatantly imperialistic.” Just so, indigenous peoples were overwhelmed by a “colonialist settler-state” (the very language broadly applied to Israelis vis-à-vis the Palestinians today) and then “displaced to fragmented reservations and economically decimated”—after, that is, having been forced to live in “concentration camps.” Were he around today, Vine Deloria Jr., the always-indignant champion of bias-puncturing in defense of native history, would disavow such tidily packaged, ready-made, reflexive language. As it is, the readers who are likely to come to this book—undergraduates, mostly, in survey courses—probably won’t question Dunbar-Ortiz’s inaccurate assertion that the military phrase “in country” derives from the military phrase “Indian country” or her insistence that all Spanish people in the New World were “gold-obsessed.” Furthermore, most readers won’t likely know that some Ancestral Pueblo (for whom Dunbar-Ortiz uses the long-abandoned term “Anasazi”) sites show evidence of cannibalism and torture, which in turn points to the inconvenient fact that North America wasn’t entirely an Eden before the arrival of Europe.

A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8070-0040-3

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Beacon Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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