Author & Speaker

Archive for February 2008

The First Human Rights Courts

I don’t read many law reviews any more, but my eye fell on the current issue Yale Law Journal, which I cannot avoid as a former editor. This time, I was glad. There’s a fascinating article by Jenny Martinez, a Stanford law professor, “Antislavery Courts and the Dawn of International Human Rights Law.” http://yalelawjournal.org/117/4/martinez.html The…

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When A Signature Doesn't Mean Much

The leading presidential candidates have taken contrasting positions on the constitutionally dubious practice of presidential “signing statements” — when a president signs a bill into law, but issues a separate statement explaining that this or that provision is unconstitutional, wrong, or fattening. John McCain says . . . Never! He won’t do it. Hillary Clinton…

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Whither the Book?

A recent item in the Washington Post describes a new product called “BookSnap,” which allows the digitization of books at a rate of 500 pages per hour. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/02/12/AR2008021202754.html?sub=AR The cost? $2,600 for the equipment, more (presumably) to operate it. Though the reviewer found BookSnap clunky and not very effective, the technology will only improve. The…

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Make My Brown Eyes Blue

History often seems to me like some vast, overgrown garden, chock full of important wisdom and irrelevant factoids. Thanks to a recent post at townhall.com by Michael Medved, I can share with you some information that is both. How many U.S. presidents have had brown eyes, you wonder? Well, at least five, and maybe six,…

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Getting the Vice President Right, Part II

Picking a running mate is the most important first decision of the presumptive (McCain) and potential (Clinton and Obama) nominees for president. Though the first three Vice Presidents to ascend to the White House (Tyler, Fillmore, and Johnson) were a rum lot, we might have done worse. Richard Johnson of Tennessee (Van Buren’s number two)…

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The Vice President Matters . . . More Than You Think

With the Republican nomination mostly wrapped up, and the Democratic race down to two, it’s not too early to start thinking about vice presidential running mates. It’s one of the sad songs in American history. In the nineteenth century, three vice presidents succeeded to the presidency, and all were disasters. Worse yet, all adopted policies…

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Top 10 U.S. Political Trials, Part II

We’re up to the top half of this top ten, which must (i) have had significant political effect on the nation, and (ii) have been an actual trial. 5. Sacco/Vanzetti: Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti were convicted of shooting to death a paymaster and guard in the theft of a factory payroll in South Braintree,…

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Top 10 U.S. Political Trials: Part 1

Taking a breather from the book I’m writing on the impeachment trial of Andrew Johnson in 1868, I find myself wondering which are the top ten American political trials. My ground rules are simple: (1) there was an actual trial, and (2) the trial had a direct and powerful impact on the nation’s political life.…

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How History Lies

In a talk at the Bethesda Writer’s Center last night, I had a chance to air some of the dirty linen of the history writer: how do we know what actually happened, what people actually said, decades or centuries in the past? The issue was teed up in a recent conversation when two friends in…

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