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1. Law 101: Everything You Need to
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2. Hard Green: Saving the Environment
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3. Actual Innocence : Five Days to
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1. Law 101: Everything You Need to Know About the American Legal System
by Jay M. Feinman
list price: $27.50
our price: $17.32
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0195132653
Catlog: Book (2000-05-01)
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Sales Rank: 10505
Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars
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Amazon.com

Thanks to TV cop shows, most Americans can probably recite the Miranda warnings, but do they know when the warnings do--and do not--apply? Tort reformers cite the $2.7 million in punitive damages a jury awarded a little old lady in Albuquerque when the cup of coffee she had set between her legs spilled and scalded her. These crusaders against "excessive" damage awards do not usually note that the trial judge reduced the award to $480,000, or that the coffee was 20 degrees hotter than competitors' coffee.

The law is all around. People continually invoke their rights, and every year millions of Americans are involved in formal legal proceedings. Yet most people are ignorant of even the basic concepts and organizing principles of U.S. law. Into the breach comes Jay Feinman's engrossing book Law 101: Everything You Need to Know About the American Legal System. Akin to a crash course in the first year of law school, Law 101 is a clearly written, eminently readable guide to the tenets of our legal system. It is structured around basic questions such as "If a contract is unfair, can a court refuse to enforce it?" and replete with clarifying examples--real and hypothetical. In explaining battery, Feinman writes: "If someone consents to a certain bodily invasion, he does not necessarily consent to any bodily invasion, however. When Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield are in a boxing match, Holyfield has consented to Tyson punching him in the nose ... but he has not consented to Tyson biting off a piece of his ear." Much clearer.

Law 101 won't instruct you on how to write your will or get divorced, but it will educate you at a more systematic level. It is also a great read. --J.R. ... Read more

Reviews (10)

5-0 out of 5 stars Every American should read this book
I heard about this book on a web page about good books to read prior to law school. I just finished reading it yesterday, and I am very impressed. The author writes in such a way that any reader can acquire a basic understanding of our legal system. He explores the foundational areas of our body of laws, and he describes both sides of hotly debated issues such as abortion and the death penalty. Most of all, the author emphasizes that the law is not something that ordinary people cannot understand. It is not just for lawyers, judges, and politicians. Rather, the law is determined by the way we shape our society, and it starts from the ground up.

5-0 out of 5 stars A Great Intro to the Basics - and a fun read!
I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn more about the basics of law but does not want to read through tedious, mind-numbing text. This book covers a lot of ground (basically all of the main doctrines of US law) and is entertaining at the same time due to the author's clear / concise narrative and numerous examples.

From the beginning, Feinman explains that "law is not in the law books" but that law "lives in conduct; it exists in the interactions of judges, lawyers and ordinary citizens". Law is how we interpret it to be at a given time - it is in and of the people. From this and other insights, Feinman has helped me gain a greater appreciation for the US legal system as well as making me a more legal savvy citizen. In this day and age this is important - at one time or another we will all have to consult a lawyer for something.

4-0 out of 5 stars Understand the law, but not how to write a will
Although I do not regret my decision, after deferring entry to law school for three years, to finally choose another vocation, I maintain a strong interest in legal philosophy and history, and comparative and international law. For me, Jay Feinman's book was an especially delightful find on the law section of a general bookstore. Few jurists, other than those like Alan Dershowitz and Richard Posner, seem to communicate clearly and effectively in non-specialist books which can satisfy curiosity outside of immediate needs such as writing wills or understanding consumer rights.

The claim of this book to provide "everything" you need to know about American law is undoubtedly exagerrated. This being said, Feinman provides a clear, thoughtful, and insightful coverage of the essentials of all that is covered in the first-year curriculum of a first-year U.S. law school program without the pain of wading through extensive case material - contracts, criminal law, torts, property, constitutional law, and legal procedure.

The strength of this book lies in its emphasis on the open nature of many legal issues -- where there are no straightforward answers. I especially enjoyed, in the section on constitutional law, the superb discussion of the scope of the justiciability doctrine which eshews intrusion of courts into the authority of other branches of government. But what exactly constitues a nonjusticiable political question which the courts should not decide?

An extract from the author's section on civil procedure underscores his invitation to the reader to avoid thinking about the law as cut and dried subject matter and process: "The lesson from all of this is that clear, rigid legal rules are often not what they appear to be. They either produce injustice as they are applied in varying fact situations, or they demand interpretations and exceptions - yet interpretations and exceptions cause complexity and uncertainty. Broad, flexible legal rules, on the other hand, give the courts great discretion, and discretion produces conflicting decisions and uncertain rules, which is another form of complexity and injustice."

The last one and a half pages are a tour de force in clarity and simplicity for those seeking to appreciate legal reasoning. It identifies a limited set of questions which can be applied to any layman's encounter with legal issues in newspapers or eleswhere, and give him some sense of what lawyers and judges have to do.

Readers show be aware that this book, while a good introduction to the frame of mind of a U.S. jurist, is not intended to be a comprehensive introduction to the U.S. legal system.

5-0 out of 5 stars A Pre-law student must
I was advised to read this book before I enter law school in the fall, and I'm glad I did. I knew little about torts, contracts, and all other aspects of introductory law before this book (I still know little, but know more than before). Feinman writes well and easy to understand. He explains the concepts and theories behind the law and fills almost every page with real life examples from previous cases. This is an excellent read even for those not going to law school. The laws and theories governing our everyday lives are contained in simple format here in this book. You can't afford not to read this book.

5-0 out of 5 stars Excellent intro to the law
I'm not an attorney, nor do I plan to attend law school. Nevertheless, this book is a sophisticated, but highly readable introduction to the law. Executives from all industries who need a legal primer should start here. ... Read more


2. Hard Green: Saving the Environment from the Environmentalists A Conservative Manifesto
by Peter Huber
list price: $15.00
our price: $10.20
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Asin: 0465031137
Catlog: Book (2000-11)
Publisher: Basic Books
Sales Rank: 215377
Average Customer Review: 2.78 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

A strongly-argued critique of environmentalism from the right - the conservative's answer to Al Gore's Earth in the Balance.

Libertarian activist Peter Huber argues that liberal or "Soft Green" environmental policies do exactly the opposite of what they intend, and lays out the conservative or Hard Green approach to the problem. While both groups share the larger objectives, the Hard Greens disagree with and reject most of what the Softs diagnose as the source of despoliation and environmental decay, and accordingly reject most of the solutions that Softs prescribe. Chapter by chapter, Hard Green takes on the big issues of environmental discourse from scarcity and pollution to efficiency and waste disposal. Designed to radically change the terms of environmental debate, Hard Green will be a manifesto for every conservative who cares about the environment.

This book sets out the case for Hard Green, a conservative environmental agenda. Modern environmentalism, Peter Huber argues, destroys the environment. Captured as it has been by the Soft Green oligarchy of scientists, regulators, and lawyers, modern environmentalism does not conserve forests, oceans, lakes, and streams - it hastens their destruction. For all its scientific pretension, Soft Green is not green at all. Its effects are the opposites of green.

This book lays out the alternative: a return to Yellowstone and the National Forests, the original environmentalism of Theodore Roosevelt and the conservation movement. Chapter by chapter, Hard Green takes on the big issues of environmental discourse from scarcity and pollution to efficiency and waste disposal. This is the Hard Green manifesto: Rediscover T.R. Reaffirm the conservationist ethic. Expose the Soft Green fallacy. Reverse the Soft Green agenda. Save the environment from the environmentalists. ... Read more

Reviews (46)

4-0 out of 5 stars Why We Disagree About Hard Green
I'm not surprised that the reviewers appearing in Amazon.com disagree profoundly on the whether this is a "good" book. I've read "Hard Green" closely several times, discussed my likes and dislikes with its author, and have written three published reviews, and I'm still torn over whether I like or dislike this book.

Huber is simply magnificent at debunking the myths of radical environmentalism. If you are a "true believer" or a fan of Brown, Carson, Capra, Colburn, etc. etc. this book is a must read. It will challenge you to go beyond the fundraising letters and newsletters that often constitute "research" for most environmentalists.

Huber's achievement, though, is compromised by two things. The first is noted by several other reviewers: a writing style that is often "flippant" and "strident," and the absence of source citations or other evidence of careful research and fact checking. Most of us would have preferred more footnotes and a more nuanced writing style.

The second shortcoming, not mentioned yet by other reviewers, is Huber's unexplained dismissal of free-market environmentalism (FME), an important new movement inside the environmental movement that calls for greater attention to sound science and market-based, rather than government-based, solutions to environmental problems.

Huber doesn't mention a single scholar who has been active in this field -- Terry Anderson, Richard Stroup, Jane Shaw, Fred Smith, Bruce Yandle, etc. Worse, he makes sweeping concessions to anti-market environmentalists on issues such as public goods that reflect little awareness of the current state of the debate. And while he is careful to avoid explicitly advocating public ownership of open space and wilderness areas on a massive scale, many readers will come away from this book believing that is part of his agenda.

For advocates of a new kind of environmentalism based on sound science and private, voluntary action, Huber's book is both a blessing and a curse. Recognizing its limits, I still urge everyone to read it and make up their own minds.

5-0 out of 5 stars Hard Green -- A Surprisingly Good Book
The issues addressed in this book gained popular attention with the publication of The Limits to Growth in 1972. Peter Huber begins by contrasting Theodore Roosevelt's concept of wilderness conservation with Al Gore's theory of a coming environmental "avalanche." Huber's assessment of the issues is incisive and the product of long deliberation by a very talented MIT engineering professor. Combined with his sophisticated knowledge of law, he writes analysis of the caliber that won Ronald Coase a Nobel Prize in economics. The reader is lead to a very convincing set of conclusions and gains confidence in reasonability. The material is suitable for either the environmental scientist with an advanced degree or the high school student wishing to read an informative and entertaining book. Peter Huber is such a good writer that no reader will wish to skip a single page.

1-0 out of 5 stars Neocon ramblings
Typical ramblings of a neocon internationalist. His shoddy arguments are easy to debunk, and reflect a poor understanding of the severity of the environmental crisis. Seek works by Pentti Linkola, Savitri Devi, and others for a more informed view of the roots of this crisis.

1-0 out of 5 stars Not Very Good
This book is just cynical rambling. It reads like a very, very long editorial. There really is no value to this book. Huber may have some interesting ideas, but they are not truly explored in detail or with examples. In fact, most of the book is just attacking what he calls radical, ignorant environmentalists. His manifesto at the back of the book are simply summaries of conservative envionrmentalist ideals. If you are doing any kind of research, skip it. This will not help you. If you just want to read a representive of conservative, right wing environmentalism, this will introduce you to some ideas, but it really is just garbage. I suggest you pick up an older text called Environmental Overkill by Dixy Lee Ray. It presents a stronger, more in depth argument without the cynical attitude.

3-0 out of 5 stars as reviewed in Environmental History, Jan. 2002
Since the mid-1970s there has been a movement to second-guess modern environmentalism. A recent book that makes extensive use of history in its critique is by Peter Huber, Hard Green: Saving the Environment from the Environmentalists, A Conservative Manifesto. Huber is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and writes regular columns for Forbes Magazine.

The title Hard Green comes from a basic distinction Huber makes between "hard green" and "soft green." Huber argues that environmentalism was invented by Teddy Roosevelt, who when
using the term "conservation" really meant "environmental policy." T.R. and his contemporaries had seen the loss of natural environments and the depletion of natural resources, and they experienced it as an aesthetic loss. This is hard green. Hard greens believe the only real scarcity results from loss of wilderness. Since humans live on the surface of the planet, conserving the surface is what counts, and human needs should be provided not by exploiting the surface but by mining materials from beneath the surface.

According to Huber, T.R.'s environmentalism was complete; nothing needed to be added. But then, according to Huber, there arose a new environmentalism in the late 1970s that is concerned
with invisible threats. This is soft green. Soft greens see threats in phenomena that are highly dispersed or distant in time, phenomena that can only be found by computer modeling. Soft greens follow the Precautionary Principle. They assume that if high doses of a substance are harmful, low doses must be harmful too.

However well intentioned it is, Huber argues, soft is not truly green, for it lacks a sense of proportion. Soft green programs are prescriptive and complex and must be administered by large bureaucracies. Soft green computer models over-predict harms. Soft green economic theories are unrealistic and conjectural. Soft green remedies, which spend resources to redress imaginary harms, do not in the end conserve wilderness; to the contrary, they reduce wealth, which is what truly produces green. Thus, ironically, soft green programs ultimately produce environmental degradation. Huber considers soft green morally corrupt, likening it to communism.

The hard green manifesto is to save the environment from the softs. In other words, the distinction Huber's makes is between 'right green' and 'wrong green.'

One of the pleasures in reading Hard Green is keeping up with Huber's hard-driving intellect. Huber offers very perceptive critiques of classic environmental theories, including Malthus'
population hypothesis, the tragedy of the commons, and the theory of externalities. Huber argues that these doctrines err, first by not recognizing that nature repairs itself, and second by not considering human adaptation through market processes. For these reasons, Huber argues, the projected environmental disasters have not occurred and will not in the future.

But Hard Green also contains unsettling discrepancies. For example, Huber presents the hard/soft distinction as a clean differentiation between traditional conservation and modern environmentalism. But this creates difficulty in knowing how to address modern environmental problems such as air pollution. Modern air pollution problems are categorically distinct in character from those that were recognized before the mid-20th Century. How does the hard green philosophy deal with modern air pollution? Not very well, actually. While Huber asserts that hard greens are concerned about pollution, he notes that their concern runs only to the aesthetics of pollution. That is, the reason pollution is unacceptable is that it is ugly. It also follows, taking his premise out to its logical extension, that unseen substances must be harmless. Thus, a hard green would be concerned about a visible smoke nuisance but not the toxicological effects of smoke's chemical constituents. Nor would a hard green be concerned about lead exhausted from leaded gasoline, toxic industrial emissions, or exposure to radiation, all of which have toxic properties that are not visible. All of these implications contradict what we have learned over the last fifty years.

To rescue the hard green concept from the observation that it is inapplicable to modern environmental problems, Huber admits that unseen substances might be harmful. But his rescue effort only digs itself deeper by arguing in addition that since one cannot know which substances are the harmful ones nothing should be done about them as a class and that their harm will be mitigated by dilution.

The only consistent thread running through this set of arguments is Huber's denial that modern environmental problems should be addressed as such. Taken literally, Huber's argument defines
them into nonexistence. Indeed, one gets the sense that since he doesn't like the remedies for modern environmental problems he has to deny their existence so that the remedies won't be
necessary. Defining away modern environmental problems makes it unnecessary to address the practical questions associated with them: how to determine the extent of such hazards? how to assign responsibilities? who shall be liable for breach of a responsibility? With modern environmental problems defined into non-existence, early 20th Century conservation approaches are all that is required.

And so, when one plays out Huber's argument one finds it difficult to accept for two fundamental reasons: (1) that modern environmental problems are categorically different in nature from early 20th Century conservation, and (2) that in consequence T.R. couldn't have meant "environmental policy" when he said "conservation" because the kind of problems that gave rise to environmental policy as we know the term now had not occurred yet. Thus, it is an anachronism for Huber to call T.R. an "environmentalist," at least as we use the term now, and that mistake leads to unwarranted inferences.

In all, Hard Green is a provocative work that because of its persistent application of central ideas to all manner of policy questions could become, as touted, a conservative manifesto. But
the historian is challenged to examine the quality of the factual premises upon which the whole construct is based. ... Read more


3. Actual Innocence : Five Days to Execution, and Other Dispatches From the Wrongly Convicted
by BARRY SCHECK, PETER NEUFELD, JIM DWYER
list price: $27.50
our price: $18.15
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 038549341X
Catlog: Book (2000-02-15)
Publisher: Doubleday
Sales Rank: 241433
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Amazon.com

The Innocence Project is a pro bono civil rights organization that helps innocent people who have been unjustly imprisoned win their freedom through DNA testing. Run by Barry Scheck and Peter Neufeld (known for their roles in the O.J. Simpson murder trial), the project has thus far managed to free 43 wrongly convicted people and has taken on the cases of over 200 more. In Actual Innocence, Scheck, Neufeld, and Pulitzer-winning columnist Jim Dwyer tell the stories of 10 of the men they have helped. How did these men wind up in prison--some on death row--for rapes and murders they didn't commit? The causes range from mistaken identification by the victims to sloppy police work--and, in some cases, outright dereliction of duty or fabrication of evidence. Far too often, cops lock on to their suspect early and decide that their instincts can't possibly be wrong--an attitude that can persist even after the falsely accused has been exonerated. "If he is innocent," says one investigator of a man who spent seven years in prison, "I wish him a good life, but I will have no remorse for him. I have no remorse for anyone that I have ever arrested."

Though the writing is not always graceful, what matters in Actual Innocence is not the quality of the prose but the importance of the Innocence Project's work. Scheck and Neufeld's commitment to justice is evident in each of these stories, and the problems they force us to address--not just concerning the imprisonment of innocent people but in restoring their lives upon release--cannot be ignored. ... Read more

Reviews (34)

5-0 out of 5 stars Do we jail and kill innocents in America?
This is a terrifying but important book that should be read by everyone with an interest in the American judicial system and a concern for justice. Regardless of your position on the death penalty or other artifacts of the tough on crime spree this country has seen over the last several decades, it's hard to see how you can object to attempts to ensure people are put behind bars only for crimes they are in fact guilty of.

Scheck and Neufeld have convincingly shown there are serious flaws in our judicial system which cause many people to be convicted of crimes they did not commit. They show this primarily by use of DNA testing and explain with compelling case histories how these convictions are obtained: faulty eyewitness testimony, lying snitches, coerced confessions, racism, falsified lab results, incompetent defense attorneys, and dishonest prosecutors. It doesn't help that we have a Supreme Court that seems more interested in expediting the process than in ensuring justice.

The current scandal with the Ramparts division of the LAPD is a vivid reminder of how bad matters are, even though it "only" involves lying police officers and prosecutors willing to accept "testilying".

The DNA evidence can't really be argued against. My guess is that defenders of the current system will try to ignore the work done by these two and others. We know that when finally forced to do pay attention the conviction of innocents, the morally and intellectually bankrupt argument is made that the fact of overturning the convictions is proof the system works. I predict that when DNA evidence finally does start freeing even more wrongly convicted, the argument will be that things are now cleaned up and we can safely conclude the problem to be solved. Of course, it won't have been. Only those few cases where DNA evidence is available will be cleared.

"Actual Innocence" closes with a series of suggestions for improving the system to decrease the number of innocent people convicted. They are sensible and it's hard to see how they could be argued against, except perhaps by saying it's too expensive to keep honest people out of prison. Or even alive, since we do have a death penalty in this country. Again, the likely prospect is that an attempt will be made to ignore the proposals.

The only possible improvement I can see to this book would have been a chapter dedicated to making a case for how many innocents are routinely being convicted. Careful and conservative estimates for how often this happens based on the data available might be a key piece in discussing the subject with others. The message is there if you're awake while you read the book, but can get lost in the specific miscarriages of justice described.

5-0 out of 5 stars A Crucial Message
There is not a more crucial time to read this book. The authors detail their work with DNA evidence in wrongful conviction cases through the Innocence Project at New York's Cardozo Law School. Typically, these are criminal cases which were tried prior to the type of DNA technology we currently possess. What this book brings to light though, is that for every conviction where actual innocence is later proven via DNA evidence, there are likely countless more situations of wrongful conviction where such evidence does not exist. Wrongful conviction is a serious problem in our criminal justice system today, as the State of Illinois demonstrates. Since reinstituting the death penalty, Illinois has executed twelve people and has released seventeen from death row due to later findings of actual innocence. Scheck's work is impressive and necessary; this book offers an excellent portrayal of it.

5-0 out of 5 stars Unjustly imprisoned
Actual Innocence is a very deep and detailed book that i am sure anyone would enjoy reading. We are talking about real cases of men who were put in jail for many years, being accused of crimes that they never did. Some were even send to death row,luckly the innocence project was able to help these men by testing their DNA. Reading these stories made me mad because how can someone be left in jail for so many years when they are innocent. I learned that many of these cases occurr because of mistaken eyewitness. The victim will accuse someone else that they think is the one. I really liked the book because i lets you know many things that go on in these types of cases. The best part of all is that now there is DNA that can prove someone guilty and hopefully this injustice can end.

4-0 out of 5 stars BUY THE PAPERBACK
I am primarily offended that the authors and Amazon publish the almost the exact same book in both hardback and paperback with different titles in order to sucker folks into buying both. Amazon outright recommends the purchase of both books - but you should only buy the paperback. It has all the text of the more expensive hardback plus one additional chapter.

The book graphically displays some of the problems with the justice system; it fails, however, to examine the proponents' take on the death penalty. By failing to make such an examination, people with little or no opinion or those who are pro-death penalty will likely make changes to their political thought without the necessary logical underpinnings.

5-0 out of 5 stars So true
this was a good book because it's so true. we always hear about the victims' side but it is seldom considered to hear the other side. i never understood how much DNA has revolutionized forensics and something that really shocked me was how unreliable eyewitness are. ... Read more


4. NYPD: A City and Its Police
by Thomas Reppetto, James Lardner
list price: $16.00
our price: $10.88
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Asin: 080506737X
Catlog: Book (2001-08)
Publisher: Owl Books
Sales Rank: 248797
Average Customer Review: 3.42 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

NYPD details episodes as fresh as the shootings of unarmed men that have triggered mass protests against Mayor Rudy Giuliani. It also tells of forgotten but no less compelling dramas such as the Becker-Rosenthal case, in which a police lieutenant went to the electric chair, and the death of Joe Petrosino, a New York City detective gunned down on the streets of Palermo, Sicily, after his cover was blown by the police commissioner.

James Lardner and Thomas Reppetto, who know the police world from the inside, throw today's headlines into vivid relief by taking us back more than 150 years through a succession of immigrant waves, long hot summers, and career-destroying crises and scandals. Fascinating as history, NYPD is also a telling look at the fears, the lore, the slang, the secrets, and the rituals of a chronically misunderstood profession.
... Read more

Reviews (12)

2-0 out of 5 stars You REALLY Can't Judge a Book by It's Cover
By reading the title and information on the dust jacket, I believed this was a history of the New York Police Dept. And, to an extent, it was.

If you can believe that prehaps 3 dozen men founded, organized, operated and developed the policies of the Department over the last 155 years, and that they were crooked, inept, stupid,and brutal, then you will find this to be a good read.

What I found was the stories of about 3 dozen men who had the qualities I mentioned above and whose exploits were detailed at length. And, no matter how these people behaved, the authors had to find something wrong with it. In fact, in several places they seem to contradict themselves as to what should have been the appropriate handling of a situation. And, there really never is any thesis to the book or follow up as to what the authors believed happened. It seems more to be a detailing of fact; little beyond that.

This would be a good book if it were titled, "NYPD: A History of Graft, Corruption and Stupidity" and it was used as a text book for a class at John Jay College in that subject area, but it is a book that is far from a representative of the history of the men in blue in New York.

In addition to those faults, I found the book difficult to read. One moment they are following a chronilogical sequence, then they are following a different line. It made it tough to keep track of the people detailed.

If you want a good book about the New York Police Department history, find it elsewhere. If you are a historian and wish to add one small peice of the story to your collection then maybe this book would be a good buy.

5-0 out of 5 stars Nypd : A City and Its Police An Historical Home Run!
A remarkably complete and concise history of New York City and it's remarkable police department. It is full of facts that are facinating for police officers, police buffs, & interested citizens alike.

3-0 out of 5 stars Needed Inspiration
I bought this book in a shop in the mall of the World Trade Center; four days later 23 NYPD officers died in and around the those towers. As I prepared to read this book, I grumbled, "There better be no cop-bashing in here." And at the first sign of negative criticism of the force, I put the book down and didn't start again until two years later. I'm glad I did: I might not have given it a fair reading or review back in 2001.

Having said that, Reppetto and Lardner have put together a decent history of the NYPD. And yet, I finished the book with an empty kind of feeling. Considering that Reppetto is a retired NYPD cop, I thought I'd get something deeper, more probing than this. For anyone familiar with New York history or the NYPD, there's nothing really new here. A lot of known ground is rehashed: the Police Riot of 1857, Teddy Roosevelt's reforms, the attempts to fight Organized Crime, and the lurid corruption scandals that seemed to recur with every new generation of cops. The cast of characters can be found in any book on the seamy side of New York City history: Alexander "Clubber" Williams, Detective Byrne, Lt. Becker, Serpico, etc. What I'm saying is that I had expected a book that would explain how the department evolved and detail its daily processes and procedures, and not a collection of anecdotes accumulated over 150 years of department history.

What is redeeming is the authors' willingness to admit to these episodes of graft and other crimes. Still, the point is clear that no matter how many corruption scandals have surfaced over the years, the ratio of honest cops compared to the dishonest ones is so disproportionate in favor of honest cops.

There are several sections that describe some of the lesser known heroes and heroics of individual police officers. These were enjoyable and, sometimes, inspiring. But nothing could be more inspiring than the sacrifices those 23 police officers made on September 11, 2001.

Rocco Dormarunno,
author of The Five Points

1-0 out of 5 stars WHY?
NYPD is a history of New York City and its police department. It does not relate the story of either very well. The specific weaknesses of NYPD are several: It's hard to follow. While presented in a decade by decade format, the chronology is still confusing. Accounts of various incidents end abruptly, or merely tail off to no conclusion. Characters appear, disappear and like magic appear once again. Too much attention is given to past riots and "disorders". NYPD also concentrates far too many pages to corruption. This subject is way too old and common to rate the space the authors have devoted to it. Honest cops by comparison are downplayed. We are rarely placed "in the street" with the cops on the beat. The reader gets virtually no sense of tradition, honor, or bravery that many, if not all, policemen routinely display. Also conspicuous by its' absence is HUMOR! Cops must encounter howlingly funny situations all the time, yet the authors ignore this obvious subject. A final objection to the tale is the extreme tediousness of the portrayal of the department up until the great Depression years. The tone of NYPD improves after that but not enough to save itself. Non-NYC residents will receive no feel, no local flavor. It fails on that score too. The recommendation from this reviewer is to "search" elsewhere for superior political AND better police portrayals. ...It's depressing that a lifelong NYC native has to present such negative review. The answer to the question at the top is not why buy NYPD but why was it written in the first place?

5-0 out of 5 stars A GREAT READ
NYPD is great storytelling and a great read of the history of the
how the NYPD evolved from 1830 to the present. While the book
does spend more time recounting scandals and villains than heroes,the scandals do make entertaining reading. What makes
it great history is how the writers show how politics, economics,
events and men (both great and small) shaped and molded the profession. Despite its breezy, entertaining anecdotal style, I found the book had considerable insight into the events that shaped and molded the police department as it has evolved today. Unfortunately, given the size of the NYPD, and the times they lived in , there have been a history of headline scandals followed by "reforms", that leaves you with the feeling "the more things change the more they remain the same" . . . . I did not feel NYPD was negative about the department-I felt the focus of the book was to show the evolution of the profession- which like every other profession has its villains, heroes, smart guys and dopes, much like the politicians who ruled them and the people they served -- finally - to be fair to the writers, sometimes scandals are a helluva lot more entertaining, funny and complicated than everyday good works --- my only critique perhaps is that the book seems to rush through the events of the last 30 years--(but most of these events were more familiar to most readers anyway) ... Read more


5. The Power to Destroy
by William H. Nixon, William V. Roth
list price: $23.00
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0871137488
Catlog: Book (1999-04-01)
Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Pr
Sales Rank: 528873
Average Customer Review: 3.16 out of 5 stars
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When Senator William V. Roth Jr., the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, initiated an oversight investigation of the Internal Revenue Service in 1996, it was the first time in two generations that the agency had been subject to serious review. The proceedings brought to light horror stories of taxpayers subjected to the IRS's unrelenting bureaucracy, stories recounted in the pages of The Power to Destroy. The book also discusses how these hearings led to the passage of the Internal Revenue Service Reform and Restructuring Act of 1998, which "brings greater balance to the relationship between the IRS and the taxpayer--offering tools that taxpayers can use to ensure fairness for themselves and tools the Service can use to better police and protect the integrity of its operations." But, as Senator Roth and his executive assistant admit, this can only be the beginning of continued reform. ... Read more

Reviews (19)

4-0 out of 5 stars Cancer of Corruption in a Mountain of Malfeasance
Roth's book reveals much about the world's most feared, most hated, most powerful, and most corrupt criminal organization. While some of the material is dated, the underlying problems are still with us.

The book, due to its date of publication, doesn't reveal, for example, the OMB finding that IRS employees stole over 4300 government computers in 2001 nor does it reveal the results of a 2003 investigation that shows when they aren't busy stealing computers, IRS employees are spending over half their Internet time at the office visiting porn and gambling sites. Because of the date of the research, Roth doesn't include references to many news articles about how IRS employees devote themselves to terrorizing American citizens, selling confidential information, breaking laws with impunity, and running scams like the famous Hoyt Fiasco (well-documented online).

Yet, the book is very useful and important. In it, Roth reveals how individual managers in the IRS are completely unaccountable to any civil authority. He gives case after case of horrendous abuses.

Roth also reveals the steps taken to reign in some of the abuse, and he explains some things ordinary citizens can do to protect themselves. But he also leaves us with an awareness that the IRS is still too powerful, too unaccountable, and too corrupt.

The book should be required reading. An update is long overdue.

1-0 out of 5 stars Unbridled Imagination
As a later GAO investigation revealed, Senator Roth's 1997 hearings on the IRS were a farce. The witnesses' stories of abuse were exaggerated at best, falsified with the connivance of the Senator and his commitee staff, at worst. His book, ghost written by a staffer, (I didn't know the Senator was literate!) should be listed here under "fiction." Its all bull - pandering to marginal and disaffected losers who wear aluminum foil inside their hats. Thankfully, the good citizens of Delware voted the rascal out in 1999, sending him and his horrible toupee back to the obscurity to which he so deservedly belongs.

3-0 out of 5 stars Horrifying Problem - Worse Prognosis
I read this book as an ancillary to my study of government abuses that primarily focused on the abuses of the Department of Justice. What I found out was that the FBI, ATF and other heavily armed law enforcement agencies that violate our rights from time to time are relative wimps compared to the pervasive and unbelievably egregious wrongs committed by the IRS.

The author of the book is a US Senator that headed a congressional oversight hearing looking into the problems in the IRS from '96 to '99. What he found will make you mad as hell and twice as frustrated. Basically he found out that the IRS has become a law unto itself that has grown into a mean-spirited 800 lb. gorilla that cannot now be controlled under the present form of the law.

Roth admits that this mess is the fault of the Congress in its shameful lack of oversight. He notes that basically Congress has given the IRS increasingly sweeping powers without accountability to the point now that they can break the law with impunity.

The book cites many horrifying anecdotes of IRS abuse of citizens' rights and basic human decency all in the name of "making the numbers". The IRS is nothing more than a legalized gang of shakedown artists who use intimidation, fear and nasty mean-spiritedness to squeeze every penny out of the taxpayer that they see as an enemy that must be brought to its knees.

What I found worse than the realization that the government is basically a criminal organization and that the representatives have allowed it to go on was the fact that they now have limited ability to control or reform the IRS. Like a Frankenstein monster that has broken loose and cannot be controlled, the IRS is now so well equipped with sweeping powers that the courts, Congress and certainly we are helpless to its whim despite so called sweeping IRS reform bills passed by Congress in the last four years.

So, in effect, the author shows us what a mess he and his political cohorts have made over the last fifty or so years and then admits that there isn't a heck of a lot that can be done other than limit your profile so the IRS doesn't notice you in the first place. He also talks about your "rights" and how you should act politely and professionally while the IRS is sticking it in and breaking it off even though the preceding 2/3rd of the book were about how the IRS basically ignores taxpayers' rights. While practical in a clinical sense this advice bothered me because it reminded me of the advice you'll get from cops sometimes regarding crime in general: "just give them what they want and they might not hurt you".

Come on! Why the hell aren't these thugs in jail? How can a US Senate committee sit there and hear this kind of testimony, see the figures and get admissions from the IRS itself that this kind of crud is going on and not start slapping on the cuffs? I was really disgusted by this book and it basically sums up what I feel is wrong with our government in general. Forget about "jack-booted thugs" with machine guns kicking down your door in the middle of the night; worry about some bureaucratic piss ant from the IRS with a calculator deciding that you are an easy mark to make his numbers for the month.

Man, what a mess!

5-0 out of 5 stars Much painful truth in a book with title off target
A friend just faxed me the review by Robert Cole III Three Cheers for Robert. As valuable as this book is to read, its title prompts me to state this book has the power to mislead. Robert hits the nail on the head. The Federal Crime Family (IRS) does not legally have the power implied by the title of this book. What logic would there be to giving power to an agency to administer their collection tasks under a law based on self assessment and voluntary compliance? The author paid the price of not getting re-elected after five consecutive terms in the Senate.

4-0 out of 5 stars Preliminary Review - POWER TO DESTROY
I confess that I have yet to finish reading this book but I feel it is important to share my opinion of the title. As appropriate as it is, readers should be aware that the destructive powers the IRS employs on a very large scale are not provided the agency by statute. In defense of their destructive actions they are likely to refer to statutes granting the powers in question to the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms. They exercise powers thus usurped with little restraint. Members of the legal profession and "public servants" as well as tax preparing professionals have a vested interest in ignoring this fact. Law enforcement and Justice Department personnel are inhibited if not intimidated. It is no secret that fear and intimidation plays an important role such that a majority of citizens who "volunteer" to file, assess themselves and pay even if they may be aware that the IRS is only and "administrative" agency of the Department of the Treasury. Large cash rewards offered to anyone who can show that laws exist, requiring record keeping, filing returns and paying the "voluntary" income tax are not uncommon. ... Read more


6. The Lost Art of Drawing the Line : How Fairness Went Too Far
by PHILIP K. HOWARD
list price: $22.95
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0375504222
Catlog: Book (2001-04-24)
Publisher: Random House
Sales Rank: 192157
Average Customer Review: 3.47 out of 5 stars
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Author Philip K. Howard returns with the same storytelling style and supreme reasonableness that made his first book, The Death of Common Sense, such a smash hit in 1995. He begins The Lost Art of Drawing the Line by noting the damage predatory litigation has done to the communal fabric of the United States: "Social relations in America, far from steadied by law's sure hand, are a tangle of frayed legal nerves." He tells how seesaws have started to vanish from playgrounds, how teachers are banned from touching students, and how emergency-room staff are blocked from attending to patients off hospital grounds--even if they can see them bleeding to death just 30 feet away. These aren't just speculations, a parade of hypothetical horror stories--they are actual trends and events that Howard describes and documents. The ability to weave dozens of anecdotes like these into his narrative is one of Howard's great strengths, and it allows him to make important points in entertaining ways.

Yet the book is much more than a collection of outrageous stories or a mere broadside against the legal system--though the legal system does come in for plenty of criticism. Instead, it's a meditation on the meaning of freedom, why freedom cannot exist outside of authority, and why individuals in positions of authority should have the ability to make decisions based on sound judgment. There is a temptation to secure liberty by restricting authority through the law, but this can be overdone, and it carries a high price: "Put law or any other formal construct in the middle of daily dealings, and people will start looking to the law instead of to one another." Then things get much worse: "The more our common institutions fail us, the more Americans want to limit their authority. Through a downward cycle of distrust, legal controls, [and] worse failure ... we drive Americans' governing institutions further into the bureaucratic maw." That is a terrible place to be, where no one is held accountable and antisocial behavior rules. And it has nothing at all to do with freedom. --John J. Miller ... Read more

Reviews (19)

5-0 out of 5 stars Gets to the core of what's wrong with our legal system
This book is much more than just a call for tort reform. Anyone can say that our society has become overly litigious but Howard goes a step beyond. The Lost art of Drawing the Line presents the full picture of what is wrong with our legal system, how it got that way and what we can do to fix it.

Howard traces the roots of our current legal problems back to the late 19th Century when the political spoils system was replaced with an impartial legal and bureaucratic approach. By replacing politics with a system of rules it was hoped that governmental dealings would be fairer. As anyone who has ever had to deal, or much worse work, with the stifling bureaucracy that grew out of this movement knows it is clear that somewhere along the way fairness went too far.

Howard uncovers the paradox of how our quest for individual rights has actually resulted in a diminution of our freedom. True, we can still do what ever we want by ourselves but we must walk on eggshells when dealing in groups, afraid to offend lest someone take us to court. Howard bravely goes one step further and examines the detrimental effects that the law has had on race relations. He notes that the ticking bomb of the race card has created a minefield of fear and bitterness in the modern workplace.

Whether intentional or not, The Lost Art of Drawing the Line serves as an excellent companion book to Robert Putnam's Bowling Alone. By getting to the core of why coming together to work for the common good has become such a risky proposition The Lost Art of Drawing the Line answers the question of why one would choose to bowl alone.

The book is not all doom and gloom. We still have a government of the people. And, as Howard proposes, if as a nation we are able to gather the national will to fix our system, no government can get in our way.

Read this book. And then recommend it to your friends.

4-0 out of 5 stars Excellent book with some horrid editorial aspects.
Philip K. Howard, The Collapse of the Common Good (Ballantine, 2001)

Howard's first book, The Death of Common Sense, should be required reading in high schools and law schools across the nation. Instead, it's supported by a select few and most of the country has never heard of it, despite our best efforts. So Howard releases another book, and I pick it up.

The Collapse of the Common Good takes much the same refrain as The Death of Common Sense, but turns its focus from governmental process to the fallacy of individual rights. What is important here is not what Howard says (which is, naturally, common sense), but in how he says it. His arguments are persuasive and worded so that the average joe can understand what Howard is on about. As with The Death of Common Sense, this is a book that should be required reading.

I do have one problem with the book, and that is the way that the endnotes are handled. Endnotes (as opposed to footnotes) are annoying enough, and publishers should realize that the endnote is archaic (now that students have access to computers, footnotes are easily achieved by even college freshmen; the use of endnotes by professional book publishers looks even more amateur), but The Collapse of the Common Good takes this annoyance to a whole new level by not including endnote numbers in the text; the exhaustive section of endnotes has them referred to only by page number. Perhaps I should have said "exhausting" endnote section. The complete unprofessionalism of the way what should have been footnotes are handled loses the book a full point.

Other than that, though, another must-read from Howard. I think I'm going to start giving them as christmas gifts, and keep giving them until people get the message. ****

5-0 out of 5 stars A book that will really make you think
As an immigrant to the US (from Mexico), one of the hardest things for me to get used to was the skewed sense of freedom and entitlement that is sometimes expressed in this country. On my own I had been trying to come to grips with the ideas of extreme lawsuits, political correctness, and limits on authority. While I'm in favor of the basic ideas expressed in all these principles, I constantly get a feeling that many people don't understand the true meaning of their rights and simply abused their privileges.

This book validated my beliefs, but more importantly, helped me to better understand how we have come to act this way. It also helped me express all my feelings about this subject in a simple way: Our over emphasis on our individual freedoms and (supposed) entitlements is putting in jeopardy our common good, and we are ultimately hurting ourselves.

I think this book should be read by anyone who wants to be a true contributor to the common good.

4-0 out of 5 stars Gets you thinking
I thought this book was an easy read. Howard does his best to light a fire under you to get you thinking. People are so worried about their individual rights, common sense gets thrown out with the bath water!!! This is a good motivational book for any elected official to read. I actually read this book for an assignment, and the book opened my eyes on really how inhumane or shallow our culture is becoming.

5-0 out of 5 stars Great book
Every politician, every lawyer, every judge, and especially every citizen in America should read this book. It explains clearly and concisely how bad laws and frivolous lawsuits are undermining our country. Everything has to have warning labels, everything has to be dumbed down, anything remotely dangerous (such as the teeter-totter or playground slide) has to be eliminated, and teachers aren't allowed to punish bad kids for fear of being sued. Government unions make it impossible to fire incompetent workers, and anti-discrimination laws cause the very discrimination that they are supposed to prevent. After reading this book, you will understand better why government, corporations, and society are not working as good as they should. How can they, with the guillotine of potential lawsuits hanging over our heads? ... Read more


7. Justice Talking: School Vouchers: Leading Advocates Debate Today's Most Controversial Issues
by Kathryn Kolbert
list price: $24.95
our price: $24.95
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 1565847164
Catlog: Book (2002-01)
Publisher: New Press
Sales Rank: 715855
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Book Description

Prominent attorneys debate web censorship and school vouchers in a compelling new book-and-CD series inspired by the popular National Public Radio program Justice Talking. The New Press is proud to announce a major new collaboration with the National Public Radio series Justice Talking, an acclaimed radio program that features leading attorneys debating controversial contemporary issues. In book-and-CD sets that include the complete audio recordings and transcripts of the Justice Talking shows, overviews of the legal and other arguments relating to each issue, and a variety of primary source materials, the Justice Talking series of publications are unparalleled introductions to the leading debates of our time.

One of President George W. Bush's priorities has been the expansion of the controversial school voucher program, which ostensibly gives children who attend failing public schools the ability to obtain a better, private education elsewhere. Denounced by its opponents as a thinly disguised attempt to fund parochial schools, the voucher program has become a flash point for anger over public education in general and for how students are being educationally shortchanged. In a fascinating overview of this roiling controversy, Barry Lynn of America's United for Separation of Church and State and Clint Bolick of the Institute for Justice debate the merits of school vouchers in the audio component of this innovative book-and-CD set. Originally aired on National Public Radio as part of the Justice Talking series, the recorded debate is presented here in its entirety. An accompanying book includes a complete transcription along with a summary of the pro and con arguments, both legal and educational, and a range of relevant primary source materials. An incomparable guide to a cutting-edge debate, Justice Talking: School Vouchers offers a roadmap for parents, teachers, community leaders, and others to a complicated yet crucial issue. ... Read more


8. Shark Tales : True (and Amazing) Stories from America's Lawyers
by Ron Liebman
list price: $25.00
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0684857286
Catlog: Book (2000-09-01)
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Sales Rank: 124827
Average Customer Review: 3.25 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

QUESTION: How many lawyers does it take to finish the roof of a two-thousand-square-foot house with dormers?

ANSWER: Depends on how thin you slice them.


Lawyers, and, more to the point, lawyer stories, have been sliced, diced, and presented for consumption for centuries. Ever since Dick the Butcher suggested in Shakespeare's Henry VI Part 2 that "the first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers," the profession has exhibited a strong appeal for readers...to say nothing of an enduring image problem. Today, stories about life on the front lines of the nation's courtrooms fuel everything from the novels of John Grisham and Scott Turow to television shows like The Practice, Ally McBeal, and L.A. Law. Now in Shark Tales comes a remarkable collection of witty, eccentric, and astounding war stories -- guaranteed to be mostly true -- supplied by hundreds of attorneys and displaying the nitty-gritty of life in court.

To create Shark Tales, famed Washington lawyer Ron Liebman solicited stories from hundreds of colleagues in America and Britain...and not just any stories. He asked them to supply humor, of course, but also to describe the day on which they were proudest to be lawyers, and the day when they were most ashamed. He asked for stories of wild divorces and tragic losses. He asked them to describe the worst judges and best witnesses they'd ever encountered. He reviewed actual court transcripts, and found material like the following:

QUESTION: Doctor, how many autopsies have you performed on dead people?

ANSWER: All my autopsies have been on dead people.


Here is the tale of a case settled not by a fingerprint left behind at the scene of the crime, but an entire finger. Here is a lawyer agreeing to defend a client accused of passing bad checks...a client who promptly bounced the retainer check. Here you'll meet a proud son, having won his first case, telling his father -- also a lawyer -- that "justice has triumphed," to which the father replied, "Appeal at once." And here is a senior partner in a Washington law firm meeting with a group of Japanese corporate clients with whom he seems compelled to reminisce about the first time he saw Tokyo: as a bomber pilot in 1945.

Funny, revealing, sad, poignant, and even exciting, Shark Tales is a hugely entertaining book for legal junkies -- authentic slices of life that reveal what really makes the law everyone's obsession. ... Read more

Reviews (4)

3-0 out of 5 stars A Bathroom read...Not bad though
This book is one that has many entertaining stories, as well as some that are just plain insignificant and stupid. The author uses every story he could get his hands on that has some element of humor or interesting facts and puts it in the book. However, while many of the stories are outrageously funny, a majority are just filler.

One aspect that made this book easy to read was that the book is composed of over 50 very short "tales" or stories about individual incidents. This is why I refer to this book as a bathroom read. You can read a story and read another one a week later and you haven't missed anything. It is entertaining but not very informative.

If you are looking for a fun and quick read, this book will help fulfill those needs. It does provide some insight into the behind the scenes of the legal profession. If you are looking for a real in-depth look at how lawyers work, this is not the book for you.

An entertaining and casual read, but not very informative. Just three stars but a fun book.

3-0 out of 5 stars A Bathroom read...Not bad though
Thios book is one that has many entertaining stories, as well as some that are just plain insignificant and stupid. The author uses every story he could get his hands on that has some lement of humor ow interesting facts and puts it in the book. However, while many of the stories are outrageously funny, a majority are just filler.

One aspect that made this book easy to read was that the book is composed of over 50 very short "tales" or stories about individual incidents. You can read a story and read another one a week later and you haven't missed anything. It is entertaining but not very informative.

If you are looking for a fun and quick read, this book will help fulfill those needs. It does provide some insight into the behind the scenes of the legal profession. If you are looking for a real in-depth look at how lawyers work, this is not the book for you.

An entertaining and casual read, but not very informative. Just three stars but a fun book.

3-0 out of 5 stars A few laughs; a few chuckles; some filler.
This is a quick read, and some of the funny stories will make you chuckle -- if not laugh -- out loud. But, sadly, there is a lot of unfunny filler--tales of young lawyers whose representation of their trusting clients was poor indeed. Moreover, some of the material--the amusing excerpts from court and deposition transcripts--come from a book published by a court-reporter association ("Disorder in the Court") and have been on the internet rounds for so long that the excerpts have fairly heavy beards.

Perhaps the most poignant selection, however, is the recollection by a South Carolina lawyer of his lawyer-father's observation that the more a thief stole the better he was treated by the court and the more lenient his punishment--ranging from the ... crook to the ... embezzler. That tale, of course, echoes, sadly, what the law is all about: summarized by Swift centuries ago when he said that the law was like a cobweb that ensnared small flies but let the hornets through.

All in all, Shark Tales is worth the flitting moments of time it takes to read.

4-0 out of 5 stars Things Lawyers Talk About in Bars
Lawyers don't have the reputation of being particularly funny. This comes from the requirement that lawyers maintain a stern or inscrutable demeanor when a witness splits his pants wide open leaving the witness stand. However in lawyer bars across the land, alone with our own kind( don't ask ), lawyers tell "war stories," collected here by Ron Liebman.

Parts of this book, my own contribution excepted, are truly funny. Imagine the elder statesman of a major firm, addressing a gaggle of Japanese businessmen (prospective clients no less) in Tokyo, by reminiscing about the last time he had seen the city... from the air... as a World War II bomber pilot...or join the young lawyer trying his first case watching as a juror suddenly exits the jury box during his closing argument. Theyoung man's mouth might still be agape had not his more senior colleague rose to say "Personally Judge I didn't think he was that bad."

OK, so Jay Leno is in no trouble here, but if you are at all curious about what we really talk about, Liebman let's you know. ... Read more


9. A Trial By Jury
list price: $25.00
our price: $25.00
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0375420398
Catlog: Book (2001-09-11)
Publisher: Random House Audio
Sales Rank: 844492
Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars
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Amazon.com

Historian D. Graham Burnett writes about his experience as the foreman of the jury in a murder trial in New York City, what he calls "the most intense sixty-six hours of my life." There was nothing especially spectacular about the case; it was not a famous one, and while A Trial by Jury holds interest, it's not a John Grisham potboiler. Yet Burnett uses the experience to illuminate the heavy responsibilities of jury duty and all the maddening frustrations associated with determining something as deceptively simple as reasonable doubt.

"The jury room is a remarkable--and largely inaccessible--space in our society, a space where ideas, memories, virtues, and prejudices clash with the messy stuff of the big, bad world," Burnett writes in this elegant chronicle. His primary characters--his fellow jury members--come alive on these pages: "a clutch of strangers yelled, cursed, rolled on the floor, vomited, whispered, embraced, sobbed, and invoked both God and necromancy." He grows to like some, and "loathe" others. ("Are there some citizens not clearly able to distinguish daytime television from daily life?" he asks at one point.) Parts of the book are funny, as when he describes the small steps he took to encourage the trial lawyers to strike him out of the jury pool: "I promised to give any healthy prosecutor hives. I brought along a copy of The New York Review of Books just in case." Alas, Burnett found himself in the courtroom, and eventually he became foreman. This allows him to wrestle through the contradictory evidence presented by both sides--and forces him to conclude that even the truth can resemble a muddle when presented in court. He has trouble making up his own mind about the case--this is no Twelve Angry Men update, though its insights on jury-room dynamics are just as instructive. Burnett also ruminates on his own profession: "I realize now that for me--a humanist, an academic, a poetaster--the primary aim of sustained thinking and talking had always been, in a way, more thinking and talking. Cycles of reading, interpreting, and discussing were always exactly that: cycles. One never 'solved' a poem, one read it, and then read it again--each reading emerging from earlier efforts and preparing the mind for future readings." Jury duty, of course, demands an awesome finality--and the conclusion to the trial involving Burnett is one that haunts the author after the gavel falls. --John Miller ... Read more

Reviews (42)

3-0 out of 5 stars Honest Portrayal of Jury Life, but Lacks Courtroom Tension
D. Graham Burnett, an assistant Princeton history professor, brings us a lively, honest look at the inner world of juries in the slim volume entitled, A Trial by Jury.Burnett's writing style is casual and easily accessible in describing the jury he joyfully found himself leading.

The Manhattan murder trial has the defendant claiming self-defense.The burden of proof lies on the state to prove Monte Milcray did not act in self-defense after stabbing Randolph Cuffee twenty-odd times.Milcray's story about the hot August night changes several times.Erroneous facts spring forth as key elements begin to slowly seep into the story: a rendezvous encounter with a transvestite via the dating phone service.Unfortunately, the author decides to reveal the verdict in the opening pages of the book.Burnett then back peddles to the beginning: a week of jury selection, two weeks of evidence and then the four days of closed deliberations.

Clearly those who need instant gratification will love the author's choice for the up-front verdict.This reader would have preferred more tension in the vein of 12 Angry Men; the movie magnificently portrays the inherent conflict of twelve disparate people dissecting evidence to reach a conclusion.That balled-up tense feeling one gets in the gut is sadly absent here since we know the outcome early on.

However, there are many keen insights and fine discussions about law and justice.The juror Adelle says,
"I realized that what I keep wanting here is for us
to figure out some way to do justice, but I am
starting to realize that the law itself may be a
different thing.What is my real responsibility?
The law?Or the just thing?I'm not sure what the
answer is?We've been told that we have to uphold
the law.But I don't understand what allegiance I
should have to the law itself.Doesn't the whole
authority of the law rest on its claim to be our
system of justice?So, if the law isn't just, how
can it have any force?"

Burnett effectively brings us the emotions felt within the sealed jury room. The writing is palpable and quickly sparks one's imagination. The reader is privileged to the endemic shortcomings of the court. A Trial by Jury enables you to be the proverbial fly on the wall, listening and watching twelve individuals from various backgrounds decide a man's fate.

Bohdan Kot


4-0 out of 5 stars We the jury
Judges have become too powerful; they tell juries what evidence is admissible and which pieces of evidence must be discarded; judges instruct juries on the meaning and intepretation of the law; juries attempt to appease the judges by closely following the instructions and intrepretations in finding a verdict, their civic duty; the more constrainted the rules of law and admissible evidence the more influence the judge has over the outcome of the verdict;juries don't receive great threatment or financial compensation for their time and can be forced to remain silent, feed mediocre food, forced too appear in court with little regard too their personal considerations, and sequestered by confinement too a hotel.

I praise the author's courage in pointing out that juries have a responsibility to Justice and law secondary. Justice is the responsibility of the people.People's law guarantees liberty, justice, and truth. A jury is the people's last defense against a tyrancal government. If rules and evidence can be controlled, the final verdict of the jury can become predictable.I say, a jury should have the power too decided what evidence is admissible, a jury should have the power too decide, if a law is unconstitutional and have the right to dismiss the law according to their conscience.

A jury represents the finest power given too the people to administer Justice. Expediency is a power oriented goal for the law.Should a computer be given the power too decide guilt or innocence?The goal of law must always be too seek Justice. Objectivity and impartiality does not necessary guarantee justice. In any serious charge the defendant should always have the right to a jury.The power of Judges too administer Justice needs too be contracted and constrainted and the jury power expanded - maintaining the power too see Justice is served.Therefore, it seems the Judge and Jury are at odds with each other; the judge seeking more control over the jury by increasing his power and capability and the jury reliquishing its discernment power and confining itself too the boundaries of the law as explained by the judge. Can a judge rule on verdicts more wisely than a jury? Historically, for serious crime the English common law brought the King as a party in the criminal case?How did the crime hurt the king?Why did the king entangle himself into the criminal case? Is prosecuting crime really about forced collection of money?

An eye for an eye mean compensation for injury not revenge.The parties have the right to work out a negotiation for compensation. An eye for an eye did not mean two people walked around blind.Does the law sometimes attempt to be so objective that both parties walk around blind?Where is the discernment power?Should juries be given the power too discern guilt or innocence?Has law become too much like a business negotiation between a big company and the small business?

The power migration to the Judges must swing back towards the Jury. The defendant is entitled too defense counsel, a speedy trial, and an impartial jury for an serious charge.The state uses tax money to pay for courts and attorneys to represent the state's interest. It is in the best interest of the state to prosecute crime because crime is big business.When the defendants rights are forfeited, Justice is not served; Justice can not be fair if the power is removed from the people too decide what is Just.

The fact that the State becomes entangled in serious crimes where party one wrongs party two seems unconstitutional. The case should be between the parties involved in the crime. A fee should be paid to the court for usage of the facility.A jury should be selected from among individuals the parties know. A jury member should be able to bring insight and information to other jury members about the circumstances of the case.

The law should not be revengeful, instead it should only offer compensation for damage. In the Milcray case, the law measured "intent" equivalent with "depravation of human life"; so, if the defendant demonstrated by a reasonable doubt - heinous disreguard for human life, he could be charged with 2nd degree murder. The test for mental intent did not necessary have to be proven.

1-0 out of 5 stars Avoid This Book
This is a terrible book by an atrocious author.The author is not very likable; at the start he has made up his mind about the case, so he makes fun of the other jurors for being stupid, especially the ones that don't support his position.His arrogance comes through easily, making long winded speeches to his fellow jurors and "putting them in their place" when they say things he doesn't like (despite his being younger than most of them).

He says early on that it was his goal to "hang the jury," and the only rationale he gives for that is that his whole experience in life has been academia, where the discussion essentially never ends, and he just doesn't have it in him to make such a final decision.How odd!

There are no real insights into the criminal justice process, just lots of very high-brow language that sounds almost put-on.Also, he exerpts from his diary at one point--showing that even in his personal life, this fellow can only write pretensiously.

Avoid this book!

4-0 out of 5 stars Listen to the recorded version
For those who found (or think they may find) this book pretentious or smug, I strongly suggest you listen to the recorded version. It's recorded by the author himself. I suspect that in the printed version, what Burnett intended to be self-deprecating or self-parodying did indeed come across as self-important. When you hear the author's voice and intonations, though, it's clear that he is aware of his own flaws. In fact, these flaws are part of the story, as much as are the quirks of any of the other characters (jurors). The last lines of the book could not be more clear about the author's awareness of how far he fell short of his duty.

I thought his ruminations on justice, his insight about the difference between literature and law, were perceptive and fascinating -- as were the glimpses into the strange bonding experience of jury duty.Well worth a read -- or a listen.

2-0 out of 5 stars Aargh!! Keep academics off your jury
This book is painfully overwritten and the greatest blessing is its short length.

As a trial attorney I give it two stars because it does cover an interesting topic and a murder that is typical in its quirkiness.
But the story could have been told much more compellingly if the author had taken time after the trial (or during deliberations for that matter) to find out his fellow jurors true thoughts on the matter.As it turns out the book portrays the verdict as somewhat a trial by a judge .. with Judge D. Graham Burnette presiding.

For those who are fans of the courtroom drama or true crime novels, this is not your flavor.More autobigraphical and introspective than insightful into discovering the truth of the crime or what the other jurors really thought. ... Read more


10. REASONABLE DOUBTS : THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM AND THE O. J. SIMPSON CASE
by Alan M. Dershowitz
list price: $13.00
our price: $10.40
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 068483264X
Catlog: Book (1997-02-19)
Publisher: Touchstone
Sales Rank: 114373
Average Customer Review: 3.17 out of 5 stars
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Reviews (12)

4-0 out of 5 stars Good exposition, bad case
It seems to me that Dershowitz really had two literary objectives with this book:

1) To explain to the American public what it really means to have a burden of proof of "beyond reasonable doubt," and that this sometimes leads to unexpected results without there being a miscarriage of justice. In this respect, he succeeds masterfully - this is a must-read for anyone who feels moral outrage when seemingly guilty defendants are acquitted on "a technicality."

2) To persuade "thoughtful" readers that the OJ Simpson case was a good example of well-founded "reasonable doubt," that, in effect, the planted evidence story was plausible enough to sow reasonable doubt in the public's mind. I (somewhat uncharitably) suspect that Dershowitz of wanting to ingratiate himself with his public who resented the outcome of the criminal trial by casting the case in this light.

This seems to me an unnecessary rationalization of what really is Dershowitz's job as an advocate for his clients - it makes no difference whether OJ is guilty or not - he is entitled to a vigorous defense by the best lawyers he can find, and Dershowitz is perfectly within his right to accept and stick with an assignment as OJ's lawyer. I think that Dershowitz did fine until he included the hypothetical argument on appeal at the end. It was articulate and masterful, but served only to impress me that he's a great attorney and little else. I remain convinced that OJ got away with murder.

3-0 out of 5 stars Stimulating, but not compelling
Dershowitz raised some very interesting and important issues, but for the most part tries (unsuccessfully) to justify his own lack of integrity. Everyone alive during the Simpson trial knows he's guilty as sin and ought to rotting away in prison. No amount of explanation/interpretation is going to change that. He's guilty. Dershowitz thinks people are so upset because they don't understand all the issues. But that's not true. What so infuriates the general public is that we know he's guilty, we know his defense team knew he was guilty and yet he's free. What disgusts so many people about Dershowitz (and other defense attorneys) is not that he's white and defended a black man, or that he defended someone who mudered a fellow Jew, but that he worked so hard to suppress the truth and set a guilty man free. He didn't strive for truth or justice; he was only concerned with winning. Everyone, no matter how much evidence there is against them deserves a fair trial. But Dershowitz and most other defence attorneys don't want a fair trial. They look for ways to subvert the truth and hide the evidence--and there's no way anyone can call that justice.

1-0 out of 5 stars Deaf, Dumb and Blind
Alan Dershowitz is deaf, dumb and blind and anyone who doesn't realize this needs help quickly. He has twisted and turned facts so that he can justify his stance with the OJ deal. OJ murdered Nichole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman. Anyone who can have their brain muddeled by the ravings of this Dershowitz lunatic, needs a dose of reality. OJ was found not guilty in the criminal trial because of, 1.The shenanigans by Johnny Cochroach, Flea Bailey, Carl Douglas, Barry Sheick (spelled wrong) and most importantly Judge Ito, 2. The ignorant, and uneducated jurors who couldn't find their way out of a brown paper sack. Folks, I hate to break the news to you, but there is no "Tooth Fairy"....

5-0 out of 5 stars This is a "must read" book
I watched a ridiculously large amount of the trial of the century and the associated talking heads. I was in utter disbelief when the jury acquitted O.J.

Since then I have carefully evaluated the evidence that the jury had to consider. I now believe that, although O.J. probably did the crime, the jury came out with the proper decision.

This book is excellent if you are interested in the trial or just want to know more about our judicial system. Professor Dershowitz clearly lays out the rules the jury had to operate under and isolates the information I had seen on television against what the jury was allowed to hear.

3-0 out of 5 stars Jury did okay
The jury did all right in the OJ Simpson case because there was no murder weapon, no confession and no eyewitness. How coincidental that Furman found both gloves. The DNA data was impossible to understand.

Why was a detective walking around with a vial of blood so long after he should have turned it in as evidence? How sloppy could a blood taker (Paratis) be in determining how many cc's he'd drawn? How strange that blacks and whites seemed to be overseeing two different trials. I paid too much attention to the talking heads at the time of the trial, but now I understand that most of the jury did not trust the police with good reason. ... Read more


11. The Island of Lost Maps : A True Story of Cartographic Crime
by MILES HARVEY
list price: $14.95
our price: $10.17
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0767908260
Catlog: Book (2001-09-04)
Publisher: Broadway
Sales Rank: 78694
Average Customer Review: 2.88 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

The Island of Lost Maps tells the story of a curious crime spree: the theft of scores of valuable centuries-old maps from some of the most prominent research libraries in the United States and Canada. The perpetrator was Gilbert Joseph Bland, Jr., an enigmatic antiques dealer from South Florida, whose cross-country slash-and-dash operation had gone virtually undetected until he was caught in 1995–and was unmasked as the most prolific American map thief in history. As Miles Harvey unravels the mystery of Bland’s life, he maps out the world of cartography and cartographic crime, weaving together a fascinating story of exploration, craftsmanship, villainy, and the lure of the unknown.
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Reviews (64)

4-0 out of 5 stars A Journey of Both Epic and Mundane Proportions
Miles Harvey in The Island of Lost Maps (A True Story of Cartographic Crime) takes the story of a recent map thief, aptly named Gilbert Bland, and uses this story as a way to map a journey that winds and weaves its way through history, map-collecting, library security and a mixture of biography and autobiography. The wonderful aspect of this is that most of it is quite interesting and will capture most readers quickly and take them easily and pleasureably through its pages, even if one never thought he had an interest in this topic. The most fascinating aspects revolve around the subjects of map-making history and the more recent business of map collecting. Both of these were fascinating and eye-opening. The ending chapters are a little weaker as the book runs slowly out of steam but the reader should be exhausted and thrilled by that point, at any rate. A wonderful first non-fiction book.

2-0 out of 5 stars The Island of Miles Harvey's Ego.
The Island of Lost Maps should have been an excellent book. The subject matter - retracing the exploits of Gilbert Bland, a large-scale thief of rare maps from university libraries - held the interest. The many digressions - related to the construction of maps, history of cartography and discussinos with map dealers and collectors - were fascinating. But Harvey labored under the tragic misconception that the reader should care about his many hours of research, or want to read his first-person recounting of his staring at maps until they magically sucked him into their ancient or imaginary world. If that sounds trite, that's because it is. Once or twice would have been acceptable, but the second half of the book ends up being more about Harvey than about Bland. Fine, Bland didn't grant Harvey an interview and had very little personality. So write a shorter book. Harvey seems to have thought he was the first author to ever do research on a boring criminal, and he was terribly impressed with the results of his detective work. The final effect is to diminish the worth of the book - call it a four-star book cut to two through the author's hubris.

2-0 out of 5 stars Island of content in an ocean of padding.
2 and a half stars.

Here is a diverting magazine article - maybe a few pages - blown out into a pretty average book. You can see where this journalist would have thought he was onto something - the basic story of the sheer volume of valuable maps stolen by one guy is interesting. Moreover not many of us know about the ins and out of the map trade, and obviously many of the first maps of an area have a story behind them. It's like someone who's put a fair bit of work into their honours thesis and thinks, "Hey, I reckon I could just push this a bit further and pull out a Ph.D."

This is where a good supervisor/editor could have stepped in and reintroduced some reality: "Mate, that'd be an excellent story, but you'll never spin it out into a whole book."

Harvey could have pushed his case. This is potentially interesting stuff, and he's a decent enough writer: the style is palatable and carries you along ... BUT, dammit, we need some better content. The book hinged hugely on whether or not his central figure was interesting enough. Gilbert Bland, however, was not only essentially unremarkable - he wasn't even available to be interviewed! At this point Harvey should have admitted defeat, cut his losses and got onto something else . Instead we get chapters of absurd padding - interviews with wildly speculating psychologists - none of whom have exchanged two words with their subject - about the unconscious motivations of collectors and thieves. Was it his difficult family background? Trauma from his years in Vietnam? Joke is after all this even Harvey himself comes up with the earth-shattering theory that Bland stole the maps because they were worth money and he was greedy.

Well, stone me - who would have thought it?

Even if Harvey had have managed to get the interview he constantly begged Bland to grant, it's dubious whether Bland would have had much interesting to say. He was a dishonest guy who stole things - it could have been computers or hardware - the only reason he was even worth an article was that he stole rare maps.

Sure, there is some engaging material in relating some of the ripping yarns of the original cartographers. But this is wholly undermined by Harvey's at times excruciatingly contrived attempts to parallel them to his own 'quests' and 'discoveries' in his search for the material to make a decent book. You'll get something like, "Magellan had to navigate his way right around the globe ... just like I was navigating my way around the globe of Bland's life," - and he'll spin this sort of spurious metaphor out for pages, investing it with some absurd synchronistic spiritual significance. While the rest of the book is mildly diverting if taken in small doses, his attempts to make some sort of powerful coherence by poring over his journey in creating the book are, well, bad. They make bad reading, they make you groan and roll your eyes.

In a sense, though, I suppose, good luck to him. He has turned all the work he'd invested in a nice idea that didn't pan out (through no fault of his own) into a completed (and successful) book. Not a bad trick given the ultimate paucity of his material. Better for him than just throwing it into the bin once he realised he wasn't going to get the interview with Bland, and the book was never going to be really good. Like a researcher whose tests didn't result in the cataclysmic results he'd hoped for, he's professionally written up and published the results anyway rather than just shrivel up. However, from the reader's perspective there are plenty of other books out there where the results did come up - where the central figures ARE fascinating. The Island of Lost Maps won't hurt you, but there are better stories to spend your time on - ones that (unlike me with this one) you won't find yourself putting aside two thirds of the way through. Let me suggest, for example, William Dalrymple's From the Holy Mountain: A Journey in the Shadow of Byzantium (1998) - where the author, similarly, follows a hunch that there's a book in an interest of his, but much more successfully pulls off the mix of striking history, personal experience and novel contemporary characters.

2-0 out of 5 stars About as Bland as a Local Road Map
I must agree with many of the reviews posted here already. This book was a little hard to slough through as it is not so much a journey as a random wandering. In claiming to tell the story of a notorious map thief (whom, the author admits very early on, wouldn't even give him an interview for this work), the book bumps around, pinball fashion, talking about history, cartography, librarians and whatever else seemed to be on the author's mind at the moment. An outline may have helped. Focusing on presenting the material in an orderly fashion may have helped. Cutting about 100 pages may have helped immensly. Sticking to a the main theme of the work may have been of great benefit to the reader (other than the "how he got caught" story, the profile of Bland doesn't begin until almost 200 pages into the work). This isn't a bad book. It just suffers from lack of focus and can be very frusterating reading at times. If you are interested in cartography, maybe give this a try. If you are a casual observer interested in Bland's crimes, good luck finding the well hidden pertinant material. This book just seemed to bear too much of a resemblence to a college thesis with too shallow a premise that had to be padded to fill the required pages.

2-0 out of 5 stars A good editor could have made this an excellent 100 pg. book
This book went off track so many times; by the end, I was able to just sense what paragraphs I could skip completely in order to keep some kind of narrative flow going. The author's description of his own obsession, his fantasies about ghosts of librarians past,and his assumptions about Gilbert Bland's history took away from solid information he did have. I learned some about map collecting and the industry, and I enjoyed that. That, along with a description of the crime and its affect on the industry would have made an excellent read. ... Read more


12. Freedom to Die: People, Poltics, and the Right-To-Die Movement
by Derek Humphry, Mary Clement
list price: $14.95
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0312253893
Catlog: Book (2000-04-01)
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Sales Rank: 210775
Average Customer Review: 3.33 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

Over the last decade, America has served as the battleground for a major political, social, cultural and reigious war over one of the most fundamenta questions we fae: the right to die. Much like aboriton in the 1970s, the right to die has emerged as one of the most urgent social issues for the coming years.
The strength of the right-to-die movement was underscored as early as 1991, when Derek Humphrey pbulished Last Exit, the movment's call to arms that inspired literally hundreds of thousands of Americans who wished to understand the concepts of assisted suicide and the right to die with dignity. Now Humphrey has joined foces with attorney Mary Clement to write Freedom to Die, which places this civil rights story within the framework of American social history. More than a chronology of the movement, this book explores the inner motivations of an entire society. Reaching back to the years just after World War II, Freedom to Die explores the roots of the movements and answers the question: Why now, at the end of the twentieth century, has the right-to-die movement become part of the mainstream debate?
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Reviews (3)

4-0 out of 5 stars The Right To Die
Great book. Our society makes it a "sin" to help terminally ill people end their lives without further pain. Thats the sin! When you're well, a book such as this might seem ridiculous but when you're walking in death's shoes from a painful, degenerating disease, its complete inhumane torture to allow the patient to suffer past his/her wishes.

1-0 out of 5 stars "Right-to-die": killing disabled people for economic reasons
Chapter 21 of this book, titled "The Unspoken Argument," advocates the economic benefits of euthanasia, as follows: "Similar to other social issues, the right-to-die movement has not arisen separate and distinct from other concurrent developments of our time. In attempting to answer the question Why Now?, one must look at the realities of the increasing cost of health care in an aging society, because in the final analysis, economics, not the quest for broadened individual liberties or increased autonomy, will drive assisted suicide to the plateau of acceptable practice."

Derek Humphry and other right-to-die leaders, time after time, have demonstrated the same willingness to promote this final "solution" to the problems of people with disabilities. Taken together, these words and deeds mark a clear and consistent pattern - one that includes promotion of euthanasia and extermination of people with disabilities.

Nevertheless, leaders of the pro-euthanasia movement still often falsely claim that their concerns are only for those with terminal illness. Their messages are tailored to specific audiences and vary greatly depending on the immediate political climate. The Hemlock Society, its leaders and its allies, need to come forward, to clearly state their complete agenda and open it to honest debate.

Credit: Not Dead Yet! -- Disability activists opposed to the legalization of assisted suicide

5-0 out of 5 stars Incredible
This book truly made me re-think my attitude towards the subject. Mr. Humphrey and Ms. Clement should be commended for this masterpiece. ... Read more


13. Law and Disorder in Cyberspace: Abolish the Fcc and Let Common Law Rule the Telecosm
by Peter W. Huber, Peter Huber
list price: $30.00
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0195116143
Catlog: Book (1997-09-01)
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Sales Rank: 703432
Average Customer Review: 5 out of 5 stars
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Amazon.com

Has the Federal Communications Commission's capability to coordinate and manage technology kept up with the astonishing universe of computers and communications links that have sprouted in our midst? Peter Huber, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, doesn't think so. In this polemic, Huber traces the history of U.S. telecommunications and regulation in this century. His conclusion: the FCC should have been closed down long ago.

In fact, Huber doesn't believe the FCC should have been created in the first place. It all began with President Herbert Hoover's love of order. Hoover, being an engineer who despised messy solutions when a neat one was possible, didn't want the broadcasting business to go through the chaos that the telephone industry had endured before its regulation. Rather than letting conflicts be resolved gradually through the courts, Hoover had order imposed almost from the start by nationalizing the airwaves and putting them under the protection of the FCC. Huber maintains that a free-market solution, complete with long court battles and a decade or two of inconvenience, would have produced a far better outcome in the long run.

According to Huber, the FCC tends to protect monopolies, blocks streamlined use of the airwaves, aids in censoring free speech, dilutes copyright, lessens privacy, and weakens common carriers. Huber isn't pulling any punches here. In part he blames the large bureaucracy of a government agency and the inherent mindset involved. The FCC, Huber argues, just doesn't respond to rapidly changing technology efficiently and quickly.

Huber prefers to see telecommunications policies develop through common law, letting precedent settle issues of private property, anticompetitive business practices, and privacy. He's emphatically against a top-down infusion of inflexible mandates that he believes just aren't doing the job. His book isn't meant to be a mandate either but rather to prod public policy debates and to get us thinking about how we're going to manage communications resources in the next century. --Elizabeth Lewis ... Read more

Reviews (1)

5-0 out of 5 stars Abolish the FCC?
On the recommendation of a good friend, I read this book to bone up for my internship at the FCC. Peter Huber presents a good history of the FCC, and why it never should have existed. His thesis is simple and compelling: of all things, communications technology doesn't need top-down regulation, but rather the evolutionary flexibility of the common law.

He has a point. Look at the success of an open standard like Wi-Fi. Allow that slice of the spectrum to be free and the free-market will add value to it. But hey, the FCC ain't going nowhere any time soon. The best we can hope for is as much un- and deregulation as possible.

I recommend this very well researched and passionately written book! ... Read more


14. Passion for Islam: Shaping the Modern Middle East: The Egyptian Experience
by Caryle Murphy
list price: $27.00
our price: $17.01
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0743235789
Catlog: Book (2002-10-22)
Publisher: Scribner
Sales Rank: 142415
Average Customer Review: 4.33 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

"Islam's revival is reshaping Egypt and other Arab countries in ways beyond violent politics. The yearning for personal solace, a just political system, indigenous lifestyles, and relevant theology all await satisfaction....Just as the Nile runs through Egypt for almost eight hundred miles, giving it life, so also the Straight Way, the way of Allah, runs through it, beckoning its people. The search by Egypt's Muslims for a modern understanding of the Straight Way is the essence of today's passion for Islam." -- from Chapter 1, "First Verses"


Written by a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, this authoritative and enthralling primer on the modern face of Islam provides one of the most comprehensive accountings for the roots of religious terrorism and Middle Eastern strife.

Over decades, a myriad of social, political, and religious factors has made today's Middle East a combustible region and has contributed to Islam's new power and turmoil. Passion for Islam uses one particular country, Egypt, as a lens through which to show how these forces play out across the area, allowing terrorism to gain a foothold.

Through the personal experiences and observations of individual Egyptians encountered during her five years as the Washington Post's Cairo bureau chief, veteran journalist Caryle Murphy explores how Islam's contemporary revival is unfolding on four different levels: "Pious Islam" highlights the groundswell of grassroots piety that has created more Islamic societies; "Political Islam" examines how Islamists, using both violent and peaceful means, are reshaping the region's authoritarian secular political order and redefining Islam's role in the public arena; "Cultural Islam" looks at Egyptian efforts to resist a ubiquitous Western culture by asserting an Islamic identity; "Thinking Islam" reveals how intellectuals are reexamining their theological heritage with the aim of modernizing Islam.

Representing years of exhaustive research, Passion for Islam also looks at how the tortured Israeli-Palestinian conflict has contributed to the region's religious ferment and political tumult. By revealing the day-to-day ramifications of all these issues through the eyes of Egyptian intellectuals, holy men, revolutionaries, and ordinary citizens, Passion for Islam brings an unparalleled vitality and depth to Western perceptions of Middle Eastern conflict. ... Read more

Reviews (6)

5-0 out of 5 stars A great focused look by an on-the-scene observer
Passion For Islam is a great book for anyone interested in learning something about the rise of various Islamic movements in Egypt over the years. One of the books strengths is its focus on the specific experience of Egypt, where the author lived and worked as a journalist for several years during the 1990's. Murphy doesn't attempt to assess or explain what's happening in the Islamic world in general, or to draw broad conclusions on matters beyond the specific scope of the book, i.e. the Egyptian experience.

Murphy works in historical details in a very clear fashion, mixing them with current-day journalism and interviews with people from all levels of the Egyptian social and political scenes. You get to hear from people inside or aligned with various movements, people in the Egyptian government, and most importantly, the ordinary people in the middle whose lives are affected by these forces. She shows in great detail the complexity and diversity of thought and feelings at work, and how what's happening cannot be understood in simple black-or-white interpretations.

I found that my own understanding of the situation was greatly enhanced by reading this book. Murphy's book does not provide solutions as much as a look at what is happening and a warning. These rising movements are not monolithic in their beliefs or in their goals, and should not be treated as such. And they do not occur in a vacuum. Unless the climate in which they have sprung up -- a poor country under a corrupt, inept faux-democratic government that suppresses all discussion and dissent -- is changed, they will only continue to grow as the only alternative available.

5-0 out of 5 stars Good Cure for Secret Ignorance
I have long been secrety embarrassed by my lack of knowledge about Egypt beyond the usual touristy stuff -- even though I spent some weeks there once seeing the sights and even though, more recently, I've recognized in sidelong ways that Egypt's modern history and in particular its struggle to cope with repeated waves of Islamicist extremism within its borders offers a lesson very relevant for those of us now trying to understand the Post-9/11 world. Murphy cured me of my ignorance with her compelling descriptions and analyses of the forces -- political, religious, cultural -- that have shaped that land.She does so in part with smart use of colorful characters she got to know during her time covering the region as a Washington Post reporter, and from scads of research... Cleanly organized, thorough, insightful. A very helpful and yet enjoyable read.

3-0 out of 5 stars No hope
Murphy talks about the past glories of Islam. When Napoleon invaded Egypt in 1798 he found a subsistence society of 2.5 million living in the ruins of past civilizations. He landed on a beach that had once been the city of Alexandria. Napoleon defeated the slave soldiers, the Mamelukes, who had ruled Egypt for over 500 years. The Pharaoh's ruled a splendid civilization with a population of 5 million. The Ptolemaic Greeks added to Egypt's greatness with beautiful cities, libraries, and art. Between the Moslem conquest of Egypt in 641 and Napoleon's invasion Islam contributed 1,157 years of history unencumbered with progress. Worse, they destroyed and defaced the monuments left by superior civilizations. Egyptians were ignorant of their past glories and couldn't read the old hieroglyphics. As V.S. Naipaul says, "Islam seeks as an article of faith to erase the past; the believers in the end honor Arabia alone... Islam requires the convert to accept that his land is of no religious or historical importance; its relics were of no account; only the sands of Arabia are sacred."

Murphy sees four forces contending in Egypt today; pious Islam, political Islam, cultural Islam and thinking Islam. Murphy admits that the intolerant Wahhabi interpretation of Islam is very influential. They want to remove all vestiges of the West and destroy all secular and liberal Moslems. She cites the murder of the writer Farag Foda and the attempted murder of Novelist Naguib Mahfouz as examples along with murders of Coptic Christians and foreign tourists. The "pious" intention is to install an Islamic state and implement shar'ia - the primitive Islamic legal code. Murphy hopes that "thinking Islam" will lead an Islamic reformation. Not a chance. The complexity of the infighting is exceeded only by its irrelevance. The fanatics will win. In Islam they always win.

Murphy observes that the Egyptian population is growing rapidly. One third of the population is under 15 years old. The combination of Western medicine with the Islamic policy of keeping women ignorant and pregnant has resulted in a population explosion. The economy can't keep up and there is increasing poverty which fuels the growth of intolerant Islamic fundamentalism. Anwar Sadat supported radical Islamic groups like the Muslim Brotherhood until they killed him. The Egyptian government is made up of old men holding on to power. They alternately try to placate the terrorists or repress them. These tactics will fail. Osama Bin Laden's chief deputy is Egyptian Ayman al-Zawahari. Egypt, like the rest of the Moslem world, is headed back to the good old days of the Mamelukes.

5-0 out of 5 stars The Passion of Caryle Murphy
In Passion for Islam Caryle Murphy, the Washington Post's Cairo Bureau Chief from 1989 to 1994, introduces us to an astonishing cast of characters, a diverse people, desperate, determined and united in their mission to find the role that will restore the self-respect and the greatness that were once theirs by right of intellectual, social and cultural brilliance

In Passion for Islam we meet the leaders, the followers and the innocent by-standers of that quest for respect from without and within: terrorists, saints, mystics, idealists, technocrats, torturers, torture victims, tour guides and taxi drivers. We are subjected to an eloquent babel of opinion, opposed in its methodologies but united in its quest for an Islamic future that will be as brilliant as its past.

Delving into the recent past, Caryle Murphy explores the reasons for Islamic decline: the clash of a recently decadent but once great civilization with the irresistible force of an industrial revolution it might once have led, the lack of democracy without which no society can evolve in concert with rapid and unpredictable cultural and technological change, more than a century of meddling by the western powers into the affairs of nations they cannot understand, the failure of quest upon quest for modernity to a point where that quest has been all but abandoned and, most recently, the inability of fundamentalised Islam to accommodate to any but the most destructive elements of the progress that was once one of the most brilliant jewels in its crown.

Fearless (in 1991 she spent 28 days as an undercover reporter in Iraqi-occupied Kuwait) open minded, insatiably curious, indefatigably non-judgemental but never naïve (her family lost two loved ones in the September 11 attacks) Caryle Murphy seeks out the diverse and often contradictory aspirations of the Islamic mind. Guided by her sympathy, her good-humour and, when necessary, her moral outrage we are the privileged witnesses of the benign but penetrating interrogation of a people who must reach a truce in their war with themselves before they can make peace with the rest of the world.

For those who would understand Islam not crush it, for those who would accommodate with rather than fight a vast segment of humanity that was brilliant once and seeks to be brilliant again, for those who would learn about Islam through the voices of its people, for those who would visit the Islamic world as tourists, traders, diplomats, distributors of aid or would be conquerors, Caryle Murphy's Passion for Islam, wittily and beautifully written, is the essential guide to one of humanity's most complex and poorly understood cultures.

5-0 out of 5 stars Excellent Study of Arab and Islamic Worlds
Ms. Murphy's considerable expertise and experience with the Arab World resoundingly comes through in this wonderful book. Ms. Murphy combines the intellect of Albert Hourani, the passion of Karen Armstrong and the travel narrative of William Dalrymple in bringing to light an intimate view of Egyptian society. Spanning a wide breadth of information, the reader is treated to a comprehensive history and background of the Islamic reform movement in Egypt, providing biographies of the movement's luminaries. Continuing with a cause-effect assessment of Egyptian and Islamic issues, Ms. Murphy offers insight as to what the future holds for the Islamic world. Moving effortlessly between the personal and the analytical, this book is a must read for Muslims and non-Muslims alike if they are interested in this region and its people. ... Read more


15. The Tobacco War: Inside the California Battles
by Stanton A. Glantz, Edith D. Balbach
list price: $21.95
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Asin: 0520222865
Catlog: Book (2000-03)
Publisher: University of California Press
Sales Rank: 68693
Average Customer Review: 5 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

Tobacco War charts the dramatic and complex history of tobacco politics in California over the past quarter century.Beginning withthe activities of a small band of activists who, in the 1970s,put forward theradical notion that people should not haveto breathe second-hand tobaccosmoke, Stanton Glantz and Edith Balbach follow the movement through the 1980s, when activists created hundreds of city and county ordinances by working throughtheir local officials, to the present--when tobacco is a highly visible issue in American politics and smoke-free restaurants and bars are a realitythroughout the state.The authors show how these accomplishments rest on thegroundwork laid over the past twodecades by tobacco control activists who haveworked across the U.S. to change how people viewthe tobacco industry and itsbehavior.

Tobacco War is accessibly written, balanced, and meticulouslyresearched. The California experience provides a graphic demonstration of thesuccesses and failures of both thetobacco industry and public health forces.It shows how public health advocates slowly learned tocontrol the terms of thedebate and how they discovered that simply establishing tobaccocontrolprograms was not enough, that constant vigilance was necessary to protectprograms from a hostile legislature and governor. In the end, the California experience proves that it is possible to dramatically change how people thinkabout tobacco and the tobacco industry and torapidly reduce tobaccoconsumption. But California's experience also demonstrates that it is possible to run such programs successfully only as long as the public health communityexertspower effectively. With legal settlements bringing big dollars totobacco control programs in everystate, this book is must reading for anyoneinterested in battling and beating the tobacco industry. ... Read more

Reviews (3)

5-0 out of 5 stars Putting a Face on a Faceless Industry
The tobacco industry is one of the most evil industries allowed to operate in America. From child labor to seductive advertising to distribution of a deadly product and ending in mountains of money in political bribes, The US Tobacco Industry has just about every imaginable negative attribute of corporate America, all rolled into one, neat package.

Tobacco War puts a face on a faceless industry, and it is not a very pretty face. From exposing the hidden truths of the seductive advertising schemes and the green blood that flows through the veins of America's political system in every level, Tobacco War doesn't simply archive news stories, lawsuits and events, but connects the dots and presents the reader with a realistic picture of how big tobacco operates.

Likewise, tomorrows activist are reading this book today to gain the edge in a climate of misinformation. Provides grass-roots information for activists to develop and deploy campaigns.

Think your cigarette maker cares about you? They have you hooked, and you are the least of their worries. They are working to reel the next generation of smokers in for the kill.

And so far, the catch is coming in... wallet and all.

5-0 out of 5 stars An eye-opening "Must Read" manual for activists
"The Tobacco War" is part social and political history, part "how-to" manual. Not a dry catalogue of events, but written with a sense of the human drama surrounding each twist and turn of the tale. Co-author Stan Glantz, involved so deeply in the movement, offers the most incisive, comprehensive, and definitive perspective on the California anti-tobacco effort available. I was astounded to read of the intrigue and jaw-dropping audacity of the Tobacco Industry and its allies in the State government on one hand, and the incredible courage and tenacity of those fighting it in the most aggressive and effective way in history on the other. The growth in political savvy and will of the American Lung Association, the American Heart Association, and the American Cancer Society is catalogued in detail, as are the machinations of the State legislature, the governor's office, and lobbyists and pressure groups when money comes up for grabs. This is an outstanding text for the social or political scientist, activists of any type, and anyone in state local politics. It is a remarkable and practical instruction manual for anyone in tobacco use prevention today. These heroes have not left the field. Their enemy, the Tobacco Industry, is immortal.

5-0 out of 5 stars Best Political Science Book of the Year
I could hardly put this book down. The battle being fought is truly a life and death matter, alliances and strategies evolve on both sides, and the Tobacco Industry uses their multi-million war chests to mislead the public over and over and over again. Even when you think you can relax after a victory by the anti-tobacco forces, in the next chapter the Tobacco Industry is lurking behind yet another door with a butcher's cleaver, which ends up being wielded by tobacco funded politicians and the California Medical Association to cut tobacco education funds and to weaken the anti-tobacco media campaign. Really this book is about much more than California and its battle with the tobacco industry. It is the best book I've ever read about why we need campaign finance reform and effective sunshine laws. You are shown all the nitty-gritty details, the back room deals, the closed-door bargaining. You'll emerge from this book well-prepared to detect lies in future wars, and to read between-the-lines in daily newspaper coverage. ... Read more


16. Legalize This!: The Case for Decriminalizing Drugs
by Douglas N. Husak
list price: $18.00
our price: $12.24
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Asin: 1859843204
Catlog: Book (2002-08)
Publisher: Verso
Sales Rank: 155058
Average Customer Review: 5 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

There are currently nearly half a million drug offenders incarcerated in US jails, more than the entire EU prison population. Added to the financial consequences of current drug policy there is the enormous human cost. Police corruption, organized crime, contempt for the law and drugs made dangerous because they are illegal and thus not subject to proper controls are other consequences of current drug policies. Politicians from all sides of the political spectrum are now beginning to ask: is it worth it? In this trenchantly argued book both students and the general public will find a clear statement of the case for the decriminalization of recreational drugs. For instance, more than half of high school seniors take drugs, yet the US is not overrun with drug-crazed addicts. Indeed, psychological tests show that adults who have experimented with drugs but are not addicts are better adjusted than either abstainers or heavy users. Horror stories of the dangers of drug use abound, but the truth is more prosaic; although recreational drugs are sometimes bad for users, there are between 80 and 90 million US citizens who have used illicit drugs without ill effects.

About the Practical Ethics Series: Providing clear analysis of a number of central moral issues and written by experts, the titles in Verso's new Practical Ethics Series will appeal to the student while being lively and topical enough to make them attractive to a wide general public. ... Read more

Reviews (2)

5-0 out of 5 stars Truly Awesome and Important Analysis
THIS IS AN EXTREMELY IMPORTANT BOOK.
Here's a splendid, novel, thoughtful view of prohibition that not only teaches readers a ton about the drug war but also educates them about how to think. Unlike other books that focus primarily on the costs and benefits of decriminalization, Husak's work turns to the moral question: Is it just to punish recreational drug users? No matter where you stand on the issue, you will find Husak's accessible, enjoyable prose gets you thinking about morals, justice, drugs, and people in ways you've never thought before. He has a writing style that pulls you right in, making you feel as if you're just having a beer with a buddy. He defends his conclusions so logically and so well that it seems impossible for any rational person to disagree!

5-0 out of 5 stars Drug policy is a convoluted mess...
Many get the terms legalization and decriminalization confused; although each term has many variations of definition, the denotation of each term has a definite political, moral, and/or social end -- and this is where the most profound difference lies between them. An important thing to remember is that legalizers want drugs to be legally regulated and accessible to citizens just as alcohol is available, whereas decriminalizers support a policy that does not punish drug users as criminals for carrying and/or using personal amounts of drugs for recreational purposes; nonetheless, they still favor the criminalization of drug producers and drug dealers. Even this dichotomy between legalizer and decriminalizer is oversimplified.

The complexities of drug policy and all the human aspects that are involved in policymaking are both fascinating and intimidating. Douglas Husak is an articulate arguer for the position of decriminalization. He attempts to clarify some of the legal complexities in this excellent, well reasoned argument. He addresses many basic tenets of criminal theory and applies them to how drug users are being treated in this country. Unlike those who embrace the rigid attitude: 'If you're not with us, you're against us,' (meaning good v. evil) a convenient dialectic you will most likely find informing the minds of the current 'drug warrior' regime leaders, you will not find this authoritarianism in Husak's treatise. If he cannot be categorized as a legalization proponent, he is like them in one respect, he is highly disturbed by the inane drug policies of this country and is part of an ever growing population of dissenters who see a need for change.

High recommendation; good start to understanding the issue as whole. An even higher recommendation goes to "Drug War Heresies: Learning from Other Vices, Times & Places" by Robert J. MacCoun and Peter Reuter (2001). This is an excellent, exhaustive, and disinterested study of drugs use in our society and is easy for those not well versed in the complexities of public policy issues (which is most of us) ... Read more


17. Terrorism and the Law: Bringing Terrorists to Justice
by Peter Latham, Patricia Latham
list price: $19.00
our price: $16.15
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Asin: 1883560128
Catlog: Book (2002-01-14)
Publisher: JKL Communications
Sales Rank: 603636
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Book Description

Americans agree that the terrorists responsible for the September 11 attack must be brought to justice. But to what justice will they be brought? That is the important question explored in this book. Options for delivering justice include: the field of battle, America's courts, and military tribunals. The book provides interesting examples of justice delivered in each of these ways, including the shooting down of Admiral Yamamoto's plane by American Army Air Force planes in World War II, the federal court trials of Timothy McVeigh and the 1993 World Trade Center bombers, and finally the use of military tribunals in the Revolution, Civil War and World War II. President Bush's authorization of military tribunals to try suspected terrorists is reviewed. Is the authorization appropriate and lawful? Our laws and history provide answers. This book shows why military tribunals may be the forum for delivering justice to the terrorists. ... Read more


18. Irreparable Harm: A Firsthand Account of How One Agent Took on the CIA in an Epic Battle Over Free Speech
by Frank Snepp
list price: $17.95
our price: $17.95
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Asin: 070061091X
Catlog: Book (2001-04-20)
Publisher: University Press of Kansas
Sales Rank: 250292
Average Customer Review: 3.71 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

Among the last CIA agents airlifted from Saigon in the waning moments of the Vietnam War, Frank Snepp returned to headquarters determined to secure help for the Vietnamese left behind by an agency eager to cut its losses. What he received instead was a cold shoulder from a CIA that in 1975 was already in turmoil over congressional investigations of its operations throughout the world.

In protest, Snepp resigned to write a damning account of the agency's cynical neglect of its onetime allies and inept handling of the war. His exposé, Decent Interval, was published in total secrecy, eerily evocative of a classic spy operation, and only after Snepp had spent eighteen months dodging CIA efforts to silence him. The book ignited a firestorm of controversy, was featured in a 60 Minutes exclusive, received front-page coverage in the New York Times, and launched a campaign of retaliation by the CIA, capped by a Supreme Court decision that steamrolled over Snepp's right to free speech.

In the wake of Snepp's harrowing experiences, his legal case has been used by Presidents Reagan, Bush, and Clinton to narrow the First Amendment freedoms of all federal employees, especially "whistle-blowers." Such encroachments make it clear that Snepp's very personal story has a great deal of relevance for all of us and certainly for anyone who has grown increasingly distrustful of the federal government's "national security argument." ... Read more

Reviews (7)

4-0 out of 5 stars Absorbing Description of Life After the CIA!
One of the aspects of organizational whistle-blowing that makes it such a hazardous choice for the individual wanting to tell the explosive truth he has to share with us is the fact that too often he or she must pay a terrible personal price for the singular act of selflessness the whistleblowing represents. So here in the case of former CIA analyst Frank Snepp, who used his considerable writing skills to such advantage in the best-selling book "Decent Interval", which details the manifest ways in which the American government deliberately misled, betrayed, and deceived the government and people of South Vietnam by deciding to withdraw all American forces and then allow the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) to execute what would almost certainly be a fatal sweep southward to envelop and overwhelm the Army of the Republic Of Vietnam (ARVN).

In the present book Snepp describes the ways in which his former employers, the Central Intelligence Agency, used its considerable influence, powers, and resources to derail his effort to publish the book, and upon the failure of that effort ("Decent Interval" was published in 1977), to then punitively pursue confiscation of all of the monies earned by Snepp in association with the book's overwhelming sales success in order to punish Snepp for his trangression of the rules forbidding publication of any materials by former employees without express permission by the CIA. The law suit subsequently filed by the CIA went through all of the appropriate venues, finally landing in the Supreme Court and, according to Snepp, an audience that was quite sympathetic to the Agency's argument. Thus, although he was defended well by a then little-known Harvard lawyer by the name of Alan Dershowitz, Snepp lost the case to the CIA.

Of course, given his personal involvement and the loss of a substantial sum of money as a result, one suspects Snepp is less than objective in his analysis of the case. He admits as much by way of an extended critique of himself and his own actions, which he readily admits may have had the inadvertent and ironic effect of increasing the degree of governmental restrictions on information, acting to further bias the government's restrictions on free speech, open government, and secrecy itself. This is a very interesting read, although it hardly for the faint of heart. I recommend it for anyone interested in the ways in which the bureaucracy works and operates. Enjoy!

1-0 out of 5 stars 5 stars as post-modern fiction, 0 as history!
There's some Augie March here, a bit of Pnin, maybe some Bech, and one is always waiting for the author to fall in love with a cow a la Ike Snopes, but the analog which kept returning to me is The Sot-Weed Factor. You have to love these features: the author laments that women can't stop falling in love with him (and, incidentally, giving him money); he is bewildered as to what other people do when they don't have any money (hint: like those 130,000 VN refugees, maybe get a job, Frank?) He is offended by an opposing lawyer who 'hid out' in law school during the VN era (uh, Frank, you hid out in grad school yourself.) Over and over, he is betrayed by friends and lovers; hilariously, he seems to be the only one not to see why nobody likes him. Try this: he even reports suffering flashbacks of VC in the treeline! (Earth to Frank: try to remember, you never actually spent a night on the ground . . .) Despite his pretense of self-investigation, this fellow is markedly less introspective than Rabbit Angstrom himself. Conclusion: were it fiction, this would be a work of genius; as autobiography, it ranks with Zsa Zsa and her ilk.

5-0 out of 5 stars Important Revelations
This ex-CIA agent provides the most detailed account to date of the operations of the CIA inside South Vietnam. Giving a first hand account of high-level disagreements. Replete with important disclosures.

3-0 out of 5 stars Raises interesting questions, but be wary
Frank Snepp portrays an ugly picture of the warped sense of loyalty which allows ordinarily honorable individuals to perform dishonorable deeds in the name of national security. Every reader will be left with a sense of dismay at the things the CIA has done to protect itself from detractors.

Regardless, I think it is important that readers not take everything Mr. Snepp says at face value, especially his interpretation of events. Often, he is either coloring events to appear more noble (as we are all wont to do) or is incredibly naive about the way the world works. How could one of the top CIA press briefers in Vietnam not know about the politics of national security? Whether over editorializing or naive, clearly there is more to the story than the reader sees.

5-0 out of 5 stars Amazing achievement.
Frank Snepp was a CIA analyst in Vietnam who witnessed the abandonment of those who had helped us there during that war. Snepp, although part of the deception himself, tried to warn his superiors of the signs of the impending doom. This is his heartrending account of his attempts to clear his own conscience and make the truth known.

Irreparable Harm is written with quiet, beautiful understatement. I consider its publication a tremendous achievement. I think that few who haven't experienced first-hand in their own lives the sort of driven need to stand by one's own highest principles of truth and honor as Snepp, and who haven't been thus harrassed and persecuted for it, could grasp the monument Snepp has built. Snepp writes a meticulously detailed and researched, blow-by-blow account of the events that led the CIA to shun him, leading him to produce his first book, Decent Interval, and of the aftermath of its publication. He makes vividly clear his own moral dilemmas and suffering. Finally, he puts happened, events so mind-boggling and incomprehensible out of context.

The book is a template. It impresses on us the images of corruption and deceit and shows us the difficult way out of them. It is a road few will voluntarily travel ... Read more


19. Censorship (Library in a Book)
by Gail Blasser Riley
list price: $45.00
our price: $45.00
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Asin: 0816033730
Catlog: Book (1998-02-01)
Publisher: Facts on File
Sales Rank: 1701114
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20. No Island of Sanity : Paula Jones v. Bill Clinton: The Supreme Court on Trial (Library of Contemporary Thought)
by VINCENT BUGLIOSI
list price: $15.00
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Asin: 0345424875
Catlog: Book (1998-02-17)
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Sales Rank: 459168
Average Customer Review: 2.89 out of 5 stars
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Amazon.com

Vincent Bugliosi, the former L.A. County prosecutor who chronicled hissuccessful efforts to put Charles Manson away in Helter Skelter, isn't afraid to let people know what he thinks. Others might be content to label a Supreme Court decision "incomprehensible and terribly flawed," butfew would go on to raise the question of whether that decision reflected "near-pathological dizziness and irrationality" on the part of thenine justices as Bugliosi does in No Island of Sanity, a spirited, 132-page essay that launches Ballantine's monthly Library of Contemporary Thoughtseries.

Although it takes 30 pages of a general rant against modern society for Bugliosi to address the case of Paula Corbin Jones v. William Jefferson Clinton, once he starts, he gets right to the crux of the matter: What onearth compelled the Supreme Court to decide that Paula Jones's private lawsuitagainst Bill Clinton was of a higher priority than serving the public interestby having a chief executive undistracted from his work? The problem, as hedemonstrates, is that Clinton's lawyers tried to convince the Court that alawsuit against an incumbent President was a violation of constitutionalseparation-of-powers doctrine, in that it would allow the judiciary branch ofthe government to have undue influence on the executive branch's fulfillment ofits duties. The president's team never tried to argue that the public interestwas better served by delaying the Jones suit until after Clinton left the WhiteHouse.

There are individual points on which one might quibble with Bugliosi--for example, whether America really deserves to be taken seriously by foreignerswhen scandals such as Clinton's alleged sexual conduct erupts. But Bugliosi'scentral thesis, that Bill Clinton's request to have Jones's lawsuit delayed wasnot an extraordinary request, and that consideration both of legal precedent andthe public interest ought to have led to the granting of that request, isconvincingly argued with passionate rhetoric and vigorous factual support. ... Read more

Reviews (19)

3-0 out of 5 stars A strongly felt, if not entirely convincing, argument
It should be noted from the beginning that Vincent Bugliosi is not afraid to give opinions, particularly about himself. While it was refreshing that no punches were pulled, it quickly became tiring when Bugliosi used the first 30 pages of the book as an opportunity to tell everyone how clever he is. Even more wearying was the way Bugliosi used this book as an opportunity to sell his most recent book Outrage: The Five Reasons Why O.J. Simpson Got Away With Murder. In the first four pages of No Island of Sanity, Outrage is explicitly mentioned 10 times. I believe it was Isaac Asimov who was quoted as saying "many have called me arrogant, few have called me wrong," and so Bugliosi's self-congratulation is not necessarily a reason to discount his primary argument.

Bugliosi makes two points in this essay. First, and primarily, is that the Supreme Court's ruling - that Paula Jones civil trial against Bill Clinton should not be postponed until after the completion of his term - is so illogical as to defy belief. Bugliosi's secondary point is that only in a world that (in his opinion) is slipping into insanity can this ruling be shrugged off as an anomaly and that this is a sign that the Supreme Court is not immune to the malaise that is afflicting the world at large.

Bugliosi's argument that the Supreme Court was in error is both exhaustive and compelling. Whatever one might think of the author as a personality, one would be hard-pressed to read this book and not come away agreeing with him. Example after example shows how Clinton is not "just another citizen" but rather a man with incredible power and an even more incredible responsibility.

The author's second argument that the world is going to hell in a handbasket is a little harder to accept, mostly because of the examples he uses to support the proposition. I may be biased by the fact that my wife is covered with ink and has her share of piercings but I find it difficult to take the fact that "girl[s] today wear rings not only on their ears and fingers, but unbelievably on their noses and tongue, even their navels" as a sign of Armageddon. In recommending this book I temper it with a warning that it might be best to just skip the "introductory" (read: "let me tell you how clever I am") chapter. Start with page 31 and simply stipulate that Vincent Bugliosi is a brilliant guy.

4-0 out of 5 stars Interesting
Good book, makes you think of how ridiculous things are in the states with regard to litigation. One wonders if this case interrupted Clinton s presidency enough to distract him from perhaps eliminating the master mind of 9/11 -> namely osama bin laden, since he did have a chance to assasinate him at one point.

3-0 out of 5 stars not a classic;makes its point
Bugliosi begins with an irrelevant social commentary.When he gets to the subject,he makes his point well.The Jones v. Clinton decision of the Supreme Court was a tragic mistake,a travesty of justice that has forever altered the balance of power in the three branches of government,and may do untold harm in the future.

Any fair reading of the FERERALIST PAPERS leads one to conclude that the founders could not have intended for a federal district judge to have the power to compel a sitting president to answer a civil suit.Bugliosi uses Fed.69,by Hamilton,to argue that a sitting president could not even be arrested for murder without first being impeached and removed from office.
Bugliosi correctly sketches the true meaning of the case.The Supreme Court now views itself as the "first among equals" and wields the power of judicial review to assert iteslf against the other two branches,with no repect for precedent or original intent.
Bugliosi also takes on the question ignored by Mr. Clinton's lawyers:the need of Mrs. Paula Jones' interests to be balanced against the interests of all other Americans.Even a soldier undergoing basic training enjoys "temporary immunity" from lawsuits,but the President apparently does not.
On the negative side,Bugliosi's writing style is colloquialistic and unfocused.He can sometimes depart from sober analysis and launch into hyperbolic editorialism in the very same sentence.There is too much slang,and too much "tough guy language",and this does not serve to support his thesis in a meaningful way.
I believe that the Rehnquist Court has waged war against the rights of private citizens and against the traditional balance of the separation of powers.Bugliosi argues convincingly that the latter is,at least,the case.This book was written before the Clinton Impeachment.A revised edition is now in order.However,the legal reasoning would be the same.

1-0 out of 5 stars Vincent Bugliosi Is Not Sane
This book starts out giving Bugliosi's rather skewed view of the world, in which the problems of our society can evidently be traced to the fact that naughty girls where short skirts. Then he promptly proves how smart he is by telling us how right he was in his assessment of the OJ Simpson case. Given that he is obviously an unbiased source, how can one doubt? Of course, one might wonder what this has to do with the Supreme Courts decision in the Paula Jones case, and the answer is, of course, absolutely nothing. Bugliosi, truth be told, has no interest in the issue at hand, he is just excited about tooting his own horn and making himself seem important. Really, his whole argument in the Clinton matter is simply this, he is brilliant and everyone else is an idiot and we should feel blessed that he deigned to make any argument beyond this at all, given that he so much smarter than everyone else. I did not pick up this book expecting an unbiased discussion of the issues surrounding the Supreme Court's decision to let the Paula Jones case move forward, but I did expect it to be reasonable. It certainly is not. Bugliosi's argument (in as much as it exists at all beyond the 'I'm so smart' posturing) despite his denials is; The President Is Above The Law, no more and no less. He never seems to acknowledge that even if the Presidency is as important as he asserts (and it certainly is not clear that it need be) it does not automatically follow that the President himself is irreplaceable. What would have happened if Clinton had handed the reigns of government to Gore (who after all, was duly elected along with Bubba) to concentrate on the Paula Jones case? Would the World have been turned on its head? It seems unlikely, considering the similarities of their outlook. Worse than the weakness of his arguments, of course, is his colossal arrogance, evidently all the justices of the Supreme Court are idiots, as is anyone else who disagrees with his assessment of the issues. Such dismissive arrogance makes the book insulting and frankly unreadable. Better he just published a book that said simply, I AM RIGHT and YOU ARE AN IDIOT, it would be more honest, and frankly more interesting.

1-0 out of 5 stars Disappointing!
I thought OUTRAGE was so good and objective, I was really looking forward to this book. But Bugliosi has no objectivity at all! For one thing, he points out the true statistic that the vast majority of journalists vote for Democrats. But then he says, "For some reason, even though they vote liberally, they write from a conservative-Republican viewpoint. The idea of a liberal media is a myth." The idea that the media is conservative in it's view is INSANE! And so is Bugliossi...or so I thought a few times when I read his delusional free-association ranting. ... Read more


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