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Featured Acquisitions - October 2013

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Trying Biology: The Scopes Trial, Textbooks, and the Antievolution Movement in American Schools by Adam R. Shapiro
Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2013
Basement QH362 .S53 2013

In Trying Biology, Adam R. Shapiro convincingly dispels many conventional assumptions about the 1925 Scopes “monkey” trial. Most view it as an event driven primarily by a conflict between science and religion. Countering this, Shapiro shows the importance of timing: the Scopes trial occurred at a crucial moment in the history of biology textbook publishing, education reform in Tennessee, and progressive school reform across the country. He places the trial in this broad context—alongside American Protestant antievolution sentiment—and in doing so sheds new light on the trial and the historical relationship of science and religion in America.

For the first time we see how religious objections to evolution became a prevailing concern to the American textbook industry even before the Scopes trial began. Shapiro explores both the development of biology textbooks leading up to the trial and the ways in which the textbook industry created new books and presented them as “responses” to the trial. Today, the controversy continues over textbook warning labels, making Shapiro’s study—particularly as it plays out in one of America’s most famous trials—an original contribution to a timely discussion.


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Payback: The Case for Revenge by Thane Rosenbaum
Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2013
Balcony K5103 .R674 2013

We call it justice—the assassination of Osama bin Laden, the incarceration of corrupt politicians or financiers like Rod Blagojevich and Bernard Madoff, and the climactic slaying of cinema-screen villains by superheroes. But could we not also call it revenge? We are told that revenge is uncivilized and immoral, an impulse that individuals and societies should actively repress and replace with the order and codes of courtroom justice. What, if anything, distinguishes punishment at the hands of the government from a victim’s individual desire for retribution? Are vengeance and justice really so very different? No, answers legal scholar and novelist Thane Rosenbaum in Payback: The Case for Revenge—revenge is, in fact, indistinguishable from justice.

Revenge, Rosenbaum argues, is not the problem. It is, in fact, a perfectly healthy emotion. Instead, the problem is the inadequacy of lawful outlets through which to express it. He mounts a case for legal systems to punish the guilty commensurate with their crimes as part of a societal moral duty to satisfy the needs of victims to feel avenged. Indeed, the legal system would better serve the public if it gave victims the sense that vengeance was being done on their behalf. Drawing on a wide range of support, from recent studies in behavioral psychology and neuroeconomics, to stories of vengeance and justice denied, to revenge practices from around the world, to the way in which revenge tales have permeated popular culture—including Hamlet, The Godfather, and Braveheart—Rosenbaum demonstrates that vengeance needs to be more openly and honestly discussed and lawfully practiced.

Fiercely argued and highly engaging, Payback is a provocative and eye-opening cultural tour of revenge and its rewards—from Shakespeare to The Sopranos. It liberates revenge from its social stigma and proves that vengeance is indeed ours, a perfectly human and acceptable response to moral injury. Rosenbaum deftly persuades us to reconsider a misunderstood subject and, along the way, reinvigorates the debate on the shape of justice in the modern world.


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The American Illness: Essays on the Rule of Law edited by F.H. Buckley
New Haven: Yale University Press, 2013
Balcony KF389 .A44 2013

This provocative book brings together twenty-plus contributors from the fields of law, economics, and international relations to look at whether the U.S. legal system is contributing to the country’s long postwar decline. The book provides a comprehensive overview of the interactions between economics and the law—in such areas as corruption, business regulation, and federalism—and explains how our system works differently from the one in most countries, with contradictory and hard to understand business regulations, tort laws that vary from state to state, and surprising judicial interpretations of clearly written contracts. This imposes far heavier litigation costs on American companies and hampers economic growth.


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The Faithful Executioner: Life and Death, Honor and Shame in the Turbulent Sixteenth Century by Joel F. Harrington
New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2013
Basement HV8551 .H374 2013

Based on the rare and until now overlooked journal of a Renaissance-era executioner, the noted historian Joel F. Harrington’s The Faithful Executioner takes us deep inside the alien world and thinking of Meister Frantz Schmidt of Nuremberg, who, during forty-five years as a professional executioner, personally put to death 394 individuals and tortured, flogged, or disfigured many hundreds more. But the picture that emerges of Schmidt from his personal papers is not that of a monster. Could a man who routinely practiced such cruelty also be insightful, compassionate—even progressive?

In The Faithful Executioner, Harrington vividly re-creates a life filled with stark contrasts, from the young apprentice’s rigorous training under his executioner father to the adult Meister Frantz’s juggling of familial duties with his work in the torture chamber and at the scaffold. With him we encounter brutal highwaymen, charming swindlers, and tragic unwed mothers accused of infanticide, as well as patrician senators, godly chaplains, and corrupt prison guards. Harrington teases out the hidden meanings and drama of Schmidt’s journal, uncovering a touching tale of inherited shame and attempted redemption for the social pariah and his children. The Faithful Executioner offers not just the compelling firsthand perspective of a professional torturer and killer, but testimony of one man’s lifelong struggle to reconcile his bloody craft with his deep religious faith.

The biography of an ordinary man struggling for his soul, this groundbreaking book also offers an unparalleled panoramic view of Europe on the cusp of modernity, a society riven by violent conflict at all levels and encumbered by paranoia, superstition, and abuses of power. Thanks to an extraordinary historical source and its gifted interpreter, we recognize far more of ourselves than we might have expected in this intimate portrait of a professional killer from a faraway world.


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Grave Injustice: Unearthing Wrongful Executions by Richard A. Stack
Washington, D.C.: Potomac Books, 2013
Basement HV8699.U5 S484 2013

On September 21, 2011, the controversial execution of Georgia inmate Troy Davis, who spent twenty years on death row for a crime he most likely did not commit, revealed the complexity of death penalty trials, the flaws in America’s justice system, and the rift between those who are for or against the death penalty. Davis’s execution reignited a long-standing debate about whether the death penalty is an appropriate form of justice.

In Grave Injustice Richard A. Stack seeks to advance the anti–death penalty argument by examining the cases of individuals who, like Davis, have been executed but are likely innocent. By telling the stories of Jesse Tafero, Ruben Cantu, Carlos DeLuna, Cameron Todd Willingham, Larry Griffin, and others, Stack puts a human face on the ultimate and irrevocable tragedy of capital punishment.

Although polls indicate Americans favor death sentences approximately three to one, many respondents change their position when presented with the facts about capital punishment. Stack’s compelling descriptions of nineteen wrongful executions illustrate the flaws of the death penalty, which, he argues, is ineffective in deterring crime and costs more than sentences of life without parole. He demonstrates that racial disparities in implementation, procedural errors, incompetent defense attorneys, and mistaken eyewitness identification lead to an alarming number of wrongful convictions. But influencing public opinion is only part of the battle to end state-sanctioned killing. Stack profiles six anti–death penalty warriors, demonstrating the range of what can be done, and what remains to be done, to move toward a more compassionate society.


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Why Tolerate Religion by Brian Leiter
Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2013
Basement BL640 .L45 2013

This provocative book addresses one of the most enduring puzzles in political philosophy and constitutional theory--why is religion singled out for preferential treatment in both law and public discourse? Why, for example, can a religious soup kitchen get an exemption from zoning laws in order to expand its facilities to better serve the needy, while a secular soup kitchen with the same goal cannot? Why is a Sikh boy permitted to wear his ceremonial dagger to school while any other boy could be expelled for packing a knife? Why are religious obligations that conflict with the law accorded special toleration while other obligations of conscience are not?

In Why Tolerate Religion?, Brian Leiter argues that the reasons have nothing to do with religion, and that Western democracies are wrong to single out religious liberty for special legal protections. He offers new insights into what makes a claim of conscience distinctively "religious," and draws on a wealth of examples from America, Europe, and elsewhere to highlight the important issues at stake. With philosophical acuity, legal insight, and wry humor, Leiter shows why our reasons for tolerating religion are not specific to religion but apply to all claims of conscience, and why a government committed to liberty of conscience is not required by the principle of toleration to grant exemptions to laws that promote the general welfare.


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Dollarocracy: How the Money and Media Election Complex is Destroying America by John Nichols and Robert W. McChesney
New York: Nation Books, 2013
Basement JK1991 .N54 2013

Fresh from the first $10 billion election campaign, two award-winning authors show how unbridled campaign spending defines our politics and, failing a dramatic intervention, signals the end of our democracy.

Blending vivid reporting from the 2012 campaign trail and deep perspective from decades covering American and international media and politics, political journalist John Nichols and media critic Robert W. McChesney explain how US elections are becoming controlled, predictable enterprises that are managed by a new class of consultants who wield millions of dollars and define our politics as never before. As the money gets bigger—especially after the Citizens United ruling—and journalism, a core check and balance on the government, declines, American citizens are in danger of becoming less informed and more open to manipulation. With groundbreaking behind-the-scenes reporting and staggering new research on “the money power,” Dollarocracy shows that this new power does not just endanger electoral politics; it is a challenge to the DNA of American democracy itself.


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Killing by Remote Control: The Ethics of an Unmanned Military edited by Bradley Jay Strawser
Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2013
Basement UG479 .K55 2013

The increased military employment of remotely operated aerial vehicles, also known as drones, has raised a wide variety of important ethical questions, concerns, and challenges. Many of these have not yet received the serious scholarly examination such worries rightly demand. This volume attempts to fill that gap through sustained analysis of a wide range of specific moral issues that arise from this new form of killing by remote control. Many, for example, are troubled by the impact that killing through the mediated mechanisms of a drone half a world away has on the pilots who fly them. What happens to concepts such as bravery and courage when a war-fighter controlling a drone is never exposed to any physical danger? This dramatic shift in risk also creates conditions of extreme asymmetry between those who wage war and those they fight. What are the moral implications of such asymmetry on the military that employs such drones and the broader questions for war and a hope for peace in the world going forward? How does this technology impact the likely successes of counter-insurgency operations or humanitarian interventions? Does not such weaponry run the risk of making war too easy to wage and tempt policy makers into killing when other more difficult means should be undertaken?

Killing By Remote Control directly engages all of these issues. Some essays discuss the just war tradition and explore whether the rise of drones necessitates a shift in the ways we think about the ethics of war in the broadest sense. Others scrutinize more specific uses of drones, such as their present use in what are known as "targeted killing" by the United States. The book similarly tackles the looming prospect of autonomous drones and the many serious moral misgivings such a future portends.


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War Powers: The Politics of Constitutional Authority by Mariah Zeisberg
Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2013
Basement JK339 .Z45 2013

Armed interventions in Libya, Haiti, Iraq, Vietnam, and Korea challenged the US president and Congress with a core question of constitutional interpretation: does the president, or Congress, have constitutional authority to take the country to war? War Powers argues that the Constitution doesn't offer a single legal answer to that question. But its structure and values indicate a vision of a well-functioning constitutional politics, one that enables the branches of government themselves to generate good answers to this question for the circumstances of their own times.

Mariah Zeisberg shows that what matters is not that the branches enact the same constitutional settlement for all conditions, but instead how well they bring their distinctive governing capacities to bear on their interpretive work in context. Because the branches legitimately approach constitutional questions in different ways, interpretive conflicts between them can sometimes indicate a successful rather than deficient interpretive politics. Zeisberg argues for a set of distinctive constitutional standards for evaluating the branches and their relationship to one another, and she demonstrates how observers and officials can use those standards to evaluate the branches' constitutional politics. With cases ranging from the Mexican War and World War II to the Cold War, Cuban Missile Crisis, and Iran-Contra scandal, War Powers reinterprets central controversies of war powers scholarship and advances a new way of evaluating the constitutional behavior of officials outside of the judiciary.


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Wrap Contracts: Foundations and Ramifications by Nancy S. Kim
Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013
Balcony K840 .K55 2013

When you visit a website, check your email, or download music, you enter into a contract that you probably don't know exists. "Wrap contracts" - shrinkwrap, clickwrap and browsewrap agreements - are non-traditional contracts that look nothing like legal documents. Contrary to what courts have held, they are not "just like" other standard form contracts, and consumers do not perceive them the same way. Wrap contract terms are more aggressive and permit dubious business practices, such as the collection of personal information and the appropriation of user-created content. In digital form, wrap contracts are weightless and cheap to reproduce. Given their low cost and flexible form, businesses engage in "contracting mania" where they use wrap contracts excessively and in a wide variety of contexts. Courts impose a duty to read upon consumers but don't impose a duty upon businesses to make contracts easy to read. The result is that consumers are subjected to onerous legalese for nearly every online interaction.

In Wrap Contracts: Foundations and Ramifications, Nancy Kim explains why wrap contracts were created, how they have developed, and what this means for society. She explains how businesses and existing law unfairly burden users and create a coercive contracting environment that forces users to "accept" in order to participate in modern life. Kim's central thesis is that how a contract is presented affects and reveals the intent of the parties. She proposes doctrinal solutions - such as the duty to draft reasonably, specific assent, and a reconceptualization of unconscionability - which fairly balance the burden of wrap contracts between businesses and consumers.