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Ecuador, Chevron, and the Leftist Lawyer Who Stopped at Nothing

By 10.7.14

Law of the Jungle: The $19 Billion Dollar Legal Battle Over Oil in the Rain Forest and the Lawyer Who’d Stop at Nothing to Win It
By Paul M. Barrett
(Crown, 304 pages)

As Eric Hoffer observed, “Every great cause begins as a movement, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket.” In Law of the Jungle, Paul Barrett, an assistant managing editor and senior writer for Bloomberg Businessweek, tells the story of how a crusade to clean up oil pollution in the Amazonian jungle followed that inevitable trajectory, turning into a corrupt enterprise that appears to have failed to accomplish what it set out to do. That’s because the lawyer running the show, Steven Donziger, turned the case into a cause for which, as the subtitle has it, he stopped at nothing.     

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Malice Toward None

By 9.25.14

America was divided, seemingly irreconcilably so. On March 4, 1865, Abraham Lincoln took the oath to begin his second term as President of the United States. In the presence of an audience that included both his soon-to-be assassin John Wilkes Booth and the abolitionist, one-time slave Frederick Douglass, Lincoln delivered his second inaugural address. A speech that would exceed in eloquence even his own Gettysburg Address. Both are today inscribed on the walls of the Lincoln Memorial.

Jack E. Levin, whose first book Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address Illustrated was reviewed here back in 2010, has once again delivered a remarkable line-by-line examination of a Lincoln speech central to American values.

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The Book on Late-Talking Children

By 9.16.14

Anyone who knows what anxiety, and sometimes anguish, parents go through when they have a child who is still not talking at age two, three, or even four, can appreciate what a blessing it can be to have someone who can tell them what to do — and what not to do.

That someone is Professor Stephen Camarata of the Vanderbilt University Medical Center, whose recently published book, Late-Talking Children, gives parents information and advice that they are not likely to find anywhere else. And it does so in plain English.

Professor Camarata has been researching, diagnosing, and treating children with speech problems for decades. Moreover, he knows from personal experience what it is like to be a parent of a late-talking child, and he himself was three and a half years old before he began to speak. So he has seen this problem from many angles.

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Otto Confronts Slava

By 8.29.14

Slava Gelman emigrated to America from the Soviet Union when he was only a child. Though the rest of his family lives in South Brooklyn, he barely sees them; he lives alone in an almost empty apartment on the Upper East Side, where he desperately attempts to strip himself of his Russian Jewish roots. He does these things because he believes he will eventually be published in Century, the New Yorker-esque magazine where Slava works as an assistant for what seems to be their version of Andy Borowitz.

But one morning, Slava gets a call from his mother: his grandmother, who he loved best of his family and who he has barely seen for the past year, has died. She died alone in her hospital room, at a time when, even a year ago, Slava might have been with her. Though he is on the cusp of finally achieving publication at Century, it no longer matters; the person for whom he wanted that success is gone. He abandoned her for nothing.

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Semper-Fi on Four Legs

By 8.19.14

Reckless: The Racehorse Who Became a Marine Corps Hero
By Tom Clavin
(NAL/Penguin, 308 pages, $28.95)

Tom Clavin’s Reckless is a story of courage and sacrifice and suffering and of the remarkable bond that can develop between man and animals. It’s the story of brave Marines who gave their all in a brutal war that was called a “police action,” a war which few Americans paid much attention to, or gave much due to the warriors who fought it on their behalf.

There are many heroes in this book, Americans who can never be thanked enough for their sacrifice and their service. Central to the story is a 900-pound, female Marine with four legs, a former Korean racehorse named Reckless, who eventually ran for much higher stakes than she ever would have on any racetrack.

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Prosecutorial Injustice

By 7.18.14

Licensed to Lie: Exposing Corruption in the Department of Justice
By Sidney Powell
(Brown Books, 456 pages, $28.95)

The performance of the U.S. Department of Justice in the Ted Stevens and Enron prosecutions were hardly its finest hour. In fact, as Sidney Powell demonstrates, those efforts were marked by unethical tactics facilitated by vague laws that were used to charge conduct that was not criminal. Notwithstanding the outrageous prosecution tactics, some of the prosecutors who played fast and loose with their constitutional duty to disclose information to the defense have been promoted, leaving personal and corporate wreckage behind them.

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The Great Bow Tie View of History

By From the July/August 2014 issue

The Letters of Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.
Edited by Andrew Schlesinger and Stephen Schlesinger

(Random House, 631 pages, $35)

Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. never explored the sweeping plains of my native Australia—indeed, it is hard to imagine him doing so when there remained parts of Europe still untouched by an Ivy League mission civilisatrice. Schlesinger’s attitude toward all things antipodean probably represented a rare political concurrence with Henry Kissinger, who in 1991 appalled a Sydney business roundtable by admitting that “When I am shaving in the morning I am not thinking about Australian foreign policy.” Which brings us to the present question: A mere Australian presuming to discuss one of modern America’s most recognized public intellectuals? Cut to Ambrose Bierce: “Can such things be?”

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A Primer on Race

By 7.8.14

Back in the heyday of the British Empire, a man from one of the colonies addressed a London audience.

“Please do not do any more good in my country,” he said. “We have suffered too much already from all the good that you have done.”

That is essentially the message of an outstanding new book by Jason Riley about blacks in America. Its title is Please Stop Helping Us. Its theme is that many policies designed to help blacks are in fact harmful, sometimes devastatingly so. These counterproductive policies range from minimum wage laws to “affirmative action” quotas.

This book untangles the controversies, the confusions, and the irresponsible rhetoric in which issues involving minimum wage laws are usually discussed. As someone who has followed minimum wage controversies for decades, I must say that I have never seen the subject explained more clearly or more convincingly.