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1. Three objections to the concept of family optimality

By Carlos A. Ball


Those who defend same-sex marriage bans in the United States continue to insist that households led by married mothers and fathers who are biologically related to their children constitute the optimal family structure for children. This notion of family optimality remains the cornerstone of the defense of the differential treatment of LGBT families and same-sex couples under the law.

There are three main objections to the family optimality claim. The first is a logical objection that emphasizes the lack of a rational relationship between means and ends. Even if we assume that the optimality claim is empirically correct, there is no connection between promoting so-called family optimality and denying lesbians and gay men, for example, the opportunity to marry or to adopt. It is illogical to think that heterosexual couples are more likely to marry, or to accept the responsibilities of parenthood, simply because the law disadvantages LGBT families and same-sex couples.

The second objection is one of policy that questions whether marital and family policies should be based on optimality considerations. The social science evidence shows, for example, a clear correlation between parents who have higher incomes and more education, and children who do better in school and have fewer behavioral problems. And yet it is clear that neither marriage nor adoption should be limited to high-income individuals or to those with college degrees. This is because such restrictions would exclude countless individuals who are clearly capable of providing safe and nurturing homes for children despite the fact that they lack the “optimal” amount of income or education.

Image Credit: Gay Pride Parade NYC 2013 - Happy Family. Photo by: Bob Jagendorf. CC-BY-2.0 via Flickr.

Image Credit: Gay Pride Parade NYC 2013 – Happy Family. Photo by Bob Jagendorf. CC-BY-2.0 via bobjagendorf Flickr.

It is also important to keep in mind that judges and child welfare officials do not currently rely on optimality considerations when making custody, adoption, and foster care placement decisions. Instead, they apply the “best interests of the child” standard, which is the exact opposite of the optimality standard because it is based not on generalizations, but on individualized assessments of parental capabilities.

Finally, the optimality claim lacks empirical support. Optimality proponents rely primarily on studies showing that the children of married parents do better on some measures than children of single parents (even when controlling for family income) to argue that (1) marriage, (2) biology, and (3) gender matter when it comes to parenting.

The “married parents v. single parents” studies, however, do not establish that it is the marital status of the parents, as opposed to the number of parents, which account for the differences. Those studies also do not show that biology matters because the vast majority of the parents who participated in the studies — both the married parents and the single ones — were biologically related to their children.

As for the notion that parental gender matters for child outcomes, it is the case that most single-parent households in the United States are headed by women. This does not mean, however, that the absence of a male parent in most single-parent households, as opposed to the absence of a second parent, accounts for the better child outcomes found by some studies that compare children raised in married households to children raised in single-parent ones.

In short, the family optimality claim does not withstand logical, policy, or empirical scrutiny. Family optimality arguments, whether in the context of same-sex marriage bans or any other, should be rejected by courts and policymakers alike.

Carlos A. Ball is Distinguished Professor and Judge Frederick Lacey Scholar at the Rutgers University School of Law. His most recent book on LGBT rights is Same-Sex Marriage and Children: A Tale of History, Social Science, and Law.

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The post Three objections to the concept of family optimality appeared first on OUPblog.

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2. Your good = my bad: When helping hurts

By Barbara Oakley

In a contrapuntal coincidence, November 13—World Kindness Day—coincided with the publication of Pathological Altruism.  Even pre-publication, this seemingly mild-mannered edited volume has served outsize duty in rattling the very foundations of our national culture of caring.

Mark Twain House and Museum controller Donna Gregor, for example, recently hit the news in a big way because she admitted to embezzling $1 million over eight years from one of Hartford, Connecticut’s major cultural institutions, where Twain had lived after the Civil War.  Gregor’s lawyer and her psychologist cited pathological altruism as a reason that Gregor, a 54-year old grandmother, should be spared prison.  Gregor was compelled to steal, they argue, by her obsession to help her deeply troubled, extended family.

Pathological altruism is, in a great sense, the study of the onramps to the well-intentioned road to hell. That is, it is the study of truly well-meaning behavior that worsens instead of improves a situation, or creates more problems than it solves.  Does the concept of pathological altruism then provide a license to steal—as long as it was done for a good cause?  Not so fast.  If Gregor personally profited from the embezzlement, instead of or in addition to, serving as a sort of nepotistic Robin Hood, she’s very probably a con artist.  Pathological altruism distinguishes such obviously self-serving behavior—and in any case, does not excuse it.

In fact, the new research area of pathological altruism provides a valuable new scientifically-based framework for understanding—albeit not justifying—some of the most important recent events now dominating the news.  Public union members protest that their salaries aren’t high enough?  On the face of it, their arguments sound reasonable—who could be against reasonable wages for teachers and police?  But by the time you add up all the “reasonable” wages, from hundreds of different unions, ignoring the union’s well-meaning attempts to protect their members, which block meaningful reform and allow for a wide range of incompetence and malfeasance, a state could become bankrupt.  In fact, by focusing on the individual “obviously” beneficial outcomes for each of the public unions, the much bigger, far worse outcome—a bankrupt state—is missed.  It’s rather like saying yes to every request for cookies from a small child—and ending up with an obese adult.  In just such a fashion, underpinned with many similar pathologically altruistic financial choices, the European Union is falling into disarray.

The concept of pathological altruism even explains why the concept of pathological altruism has itself been attacked.  Who, you might ask, could assail the common sense idea that self-righteous individuals can get carried away by their own convictions, losing sight of the harm they might cause through their efforts to help others?  Why, precisely those self-righteous sorts who form one aspect of pathological altruism!   These happy helpers are certain, at the deepest core of their being, that they are helping—the idea of objective analysis of the results of their efforts leaves them a queasy feeling.  In this sense, altruism has become a central dogma of a new stealth religion—religions, remember, are often based on dogma that is not to be questioned.

Modern psychology has made much hay of the fact that altruistic acts increase our own happiness in a profound way.  But psychologists ignore the corollary to this idea—that in today’s increasingly narcissistic world, many are focused on “altruism” that makes them feel good, and that allows them to ostentatiously flaunt their do-gooder status.  Such altruism isn’t really altruism at all—i

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3. The Magic of Milk

Milk A peasant’s utopia, as imagined in Giovanni Boccaccio’s Decameron, includes a mountain of grated Parmesan cheese. Peasants do nothing else except make macaroni and ravioli all day long in the imagined fairyland. In the book of Exodus, the Promised Land is one of “milk and honey.” And according to Hinduism, during the creation of the world, the Cow of Plenty emerged during the Churning of the Ocean – literally the changing of the white ocean into butter. Deborah Valenze explains in Milk: A Local and Global History, how the “elixir of immortality” changed from a staple of the gods to a staple of nutrition textbooks.

The Cow of Plenty is one of many sacred females associated with the “virtuous white liquor’s” powers. Valenze shows us various forms of ancient heavens and their inhabitants’ fascinating relationships with a Great Mother, or a “benevolent cow,” or a milk goddess. Isis, most famously a goddess of ancient Egypt, was “the source of the milk of life,” and the Virgin Mary modeled fecundity and piety for medieval women. Juno, the Roman queen of the gods, created the Milky Way when her breast milk was scattered accidentally when she woke up to a rather awkward situation: her husband, Jupiter, had attempted to feed his illegitimate son, Hercules, at her breast while she slept. Interestingly, Jupiter’s Greek counterpart, Zeus, nursed from the goat Althea as a baby.

Although “the culture of milk” lost some of its mystical qualities through history, in its secular role it was (and is) no less “magical.” Doctors admired it through the centuries, from George Cheyne’s milk diet (at one point the physician and writer weighed 448 pounds) in the early eighteenth century to the Victorians’ prescriptions of milk-soaked biscuits for their patients. The Dutch came the closest to actually reproducing Dairy-land here on earth during, appropriately enough, their Golden Age. With Cheesetopia finally realized, Dutch painting actually depicted the “mountains of food” – which included if not Parmesan at least other forms – that “stood as bountiful evidence of God’s providence.”

Even today, Valenze points out, milk still satisfies “[t]he wish for a miracle food” by some foodie camps. Its constant presence in our “dairy-rich Western countries,” she notes, is just as extraordinary as the food itself. We may not be able to produce endless quantities of butter, which was Saint Brigid’s first recorded miracle, but perhaps that’s just because mass-production has already beat us to the magic.

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4. THE Book on African-American Health

Reclaiming Our Health As part of our Health & Wellness series, YUP is proud to publish Dr. Michelle Gourdine’s Reclaiming Our Health: A Guide to African American Wellness. Drawing from cultural perspective, she approaches the issue of why, according to the Federal Office of Minority Health, African Americans are “affected by serious diseases and health conditions at far greater rates than other Americans”, and gives fresh insight into how African Americans’ health choices are influenced by beliefs and values. From her years of experience as a physician, she offers guidance and strategies for how African Americans can approach the health care system, armed with the knowledge that certain conditions like high blood pressure and diabetes affect African Americans in greater percentages than other ethnic groups. You can check out the full interview with Gourdine that has just run in the Philadelphia Daily News.

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5. When Does Truth Not Matter? A Study of Marx and Materialism

Eagleton 3D Over on the "Why Marx Was Right" blog discussion at Bensonian.org, Albert Lee responds to Chapter 6 of Why Marx Was Right, which is Terry Eagleton's response to: "Marx was a materialist."

 

 

 

Bensonian 2

 

 

 

 

Albert Lee

In the wake of the latest financial crisis of 2008 that brought the largest economies on earth to the brink of disaster and destroyed trillions of dollars in wealth worldwide, the public has been searching for answers in an environment of openness unprecedented in generations. Numerous public intellectuals have been re-thinking the dominance of the economic ideology and system of global capitalism. Literary critic Terry Eagleton has sought to revive the thought of Karl Marx as a counterweight to the prevailing economic order. What should we make of this man’s ideas, which have alternatively been lionized and demonized in myriad cultures for the past century? What are the consequences of bringing Marx’s work to bear on our current situation? This essay examines the popularly misunderstood materialism of Marx. Lee engages this specific idea of Marx and its implications through an examination of the relationship between ideology and practice, noting the ways in which his materialism — properly understood — is a brilliant and essential corrective to prevailing rationalist views of the human person, and yet expressing reservations about the violent assumptions underlying his views and consequences thereof.  Finally, Lee suggests a fundamentally more materialist alternative to Marx’s violent ontology.

Read more on Bensonian...

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6. Why Do We Work? Answers from Karl Marx, Wendell Berry, and Dorothy Sayers

Eagleton 3D Today's "Why Marx Was Right" blog discussion features an essay by Jake Meador on Chapter 5 of Terry Eagleton's Why Marx Was Right, addressing the claim: "Marxism reduces everything to economics."

Jake Meador

One of the most common dismissals of Marx accuses him of historical reductionism. “Marx creates a caricature of history in which every event is determined purely by class struggle or economic factors,” goes the critique. Eagleton addresses the refutation by clarifying what Marx actually said about historical causality and then explaining how his claims are not as simplistic or materialistic as some critics have suggested. Going beyond mere refutation, Eagleton then develops a Marxist theory of work that is far more holistic in nature than many of Marx’s critics might expect. In his response, Meador compares Marx’s theory of work and history to two other less conventional economic thinkers, British dramatist Dorothy Sayers and Kentucky farmer Wendell Berry. Through comparing these three authors we can avoid the more typical Marxist vs. Capitalist debate while also seeing both the overlap and the conflict between Marxist thought and the small-scale localism of Berry and Sayers. Read and discuss more on Bensonian...


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7. Representing Justice Contest Winner!

Representing JusticeWe have a winner for our Representing Justice contest! Congratulations to Cynthia (and her aspiring artist-judge daughter, Ashley) for this winning portrayal of Justice!! Represnting Justice Winner  Swiftly delivered from the gavel on-high, Justice is found for this particular criminal with what we can only guess will be a hard times sentence to follow. As we celebrate Women's History Month, be sure to check out Judith Resnik and Dennis Curtis's Representing Justice: Invention, Controversy, and Rights in City-States and Democratic Courtrooms for the history of the feminized Lady Justice and how various images of justice have contributed to our understanding of modern democracy.

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8. "Acting White" and What It Means for Everyone

The racial desegregation of schools in America prompted immediate action—a story of protests and violence, white flight, and painful new beginnings—as the forging of our contemporary educational system began. More than half a century after Brown v. Board of Education, questions about how students of all races can excel in desegregated environments remain a concern for parents and teachers alike.

For black children in particular, the term “acting white” has been used since to refer to classmates who mind their schoolwork. The removal of black schools managed by black communities and the colorblind recognition of the value of education left a strange legacy, and the term is a peculiar reminder of how separation becomes a comforting recourse even when the goal is integration.

Stuart Buck’s Acting White: The Ironic Legacy of Desegregation addresses these unintended consequences of desegregating schools. Writing for The New Republic, John Buck, Acting White McWhorter said: “Stuart Buck at last brings together all of the relevant evidence and puts paid to two myths. The first is that the ‘acting white’ charge is a fiction or just pointless marginal static. The other slain myth, equally important, is that black kids reject school as alien out of some sort of ingrained stupidity; the fear of this conclusion lies at the root of the studious dismissal of the issue by so many black thinkers concerned about black children.” McWhorter went on to further discuss the book and the problems it raises with Richard Thompson Ford for Bloggingheads.tv. Check out their discussion and read Buck’s book for his conclusive take on how we can improve our educational system with knowledge and awareness of the cultural impact that desegregation left.

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9. Follow Friday: January 21, 2011

Kelly jacket_Layout 1 Representing Justice Cartooning Bok, Exploring Happiness

 

 

 

 

 

 

@princetonupress is thinking about happiness this week on their blog, too. What can we say: our authors go together.

Representing Justice from coast to coast: @atrzop at Harvard chatted up Dennis Curtis and @SLSlib_newbooks at Stanford celebrates the new addition to their collection.

@Jason_M_Kelly is talking about his book The Society of Dilettanti: Archaeology and Identity in the British Enlightenment at IUPUI on April 7. Sign up now to reserve space and lunch.

@lynchcartoons ponders why a 3 year old post about Ivan Brunetti’s 1999 article “I Almost Drew Nancy” in Roctober magazine is getting more attention. Could be that people are getting anxious about to bookend Brunetti’s perspective and experience with the soon-to-be published, Cartooning: Practice and Philosophy?

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10. Excerpts and a Review from David Isenberg

Outsourcing War and Peace David Isenberg is posting excerpts from Laura A. Dickinson's Outsourcing War and Peace: Preserving Public Values in a World of Privatized Foreign Affairs on the Huffington Post as a lead-up to his review. Be sure to follow David for more updates.

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11. Boys, Boys, Boys

This morning, Ken Corbett, author of Boyhoods: Rethinking Masculinities, contributed to a segment on ABC’s Good Morning America called “Pageant Boys,” examining the increasing Boyhoods participation of young boys in beauty pageants. Corbett’s book adds to recent literature such as Judith Butler’s Gender Trouble and Mary Pipher’s Reviving Ophelia on expectations of gender conformity, and how early in life, gender roles begin to separate societal performances and practices.

 

 

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12. From Suffrage to Suffering? Modern Mothers’ Work

On August 18, 1920, the 19th Amendment was officially ratified, bringing fruition to the women’s suffrage movement and acting as a platform for modern day feminism. Since that time, commonly known as feminism’s first wave, women’s rights movements have progressed. During the early 1900s, suffrage was a primary concern of feminists. Today, though, the issue is quite literally closer to home – family life.

Neil Gilbert’s book, A Mother’s Work: How Feminism, the Market and Policy Shape Family Life, discusses the modern family and the choices faced by women today in terms of motherhood versus an occupation. He begins by prompting the question: is motherhood in decline? Articles appeared in newspapers all across the nation, talking about an “opt-out revolution”, or the story of women choosing to stay home and raise families instead of pursuing a career. Gilbert claims, however, an assumption that women are choosing family over work is misplaced. Gilbert 

He continues on by talking about the effects of capitalism on motherhood, addressing both a literal and what is known as a “psychic” income, the latter being any non-material changes that result from motherhood. In addition to this cost-benefit analysis, he asks the reader to consider feminist expectations. What is the true meaning of independence? Privilege, choice, and material possessions are all subjects that are broached, which prompt a deeper consideration of how our society affects our families.

To tie this back to voting, the issue of “family friendly” policies is one worth noting. Gilbert concludes his book that different policies may be conducive to certain lifestyles, but not others. Controversies such as day care are discussed. Ultimately, Gilbert encourages a new perspective on the pro-family debate—he advocates consideration for alternatives for balancing work and family life. He cites family/work policies of several other countries, saying that ultimately, women need to educate themselves and seek the changes that they desire.

13. Darfur Genocide Charges Filed

This Monday, the International Criminal Court in The Hague charged the President of Sudan, Omar Hassan al-Bashir, with three counts of genocide in Darfur, which is the worst crime in international law.  The charges come after a long legal process, during which al-Bashir was reelected for another term as president.  He was also charged in March 2009 with two counts of war crimes and five counts of crimes against humanity, and in response, al-Bashir expelled ten international aid organizations from Sudan.  Al-Bashir says he will not turn himself in, but the prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo believes that he will “face justice” eventually.  It is estimated by the United Nations that 2.7 million have fled their homes and 300,000 have died since 2003.

To better understand the genocide in Darfur, look no further than Ben Kiernan’s Blood and Soil: A World History of Genocide and Extermination from Sparta to Darfur.  Kiernan identifies four major theKiernanmes in the history of genocide: conflicts over agriculture and agricultural land, the influence of cults of antiquity such as Sparta, conflict over race, and conflicts over territory and power, all of which had their basis in ancient history.  Kiernan studied many of the genocides throughout history, starting with some of these ancient origins, telling the stories that surround them and finds the four themes in these stories.   He addresses the conflict in Darfur late in the book, describing a 1987 letter which was a clear precursor to the 2003 start of the conflict, when Ja

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14. The social economics of the spice trade

Freedman Tuesday's episode of NPR's Planet Money features an extended piece on the booming spice economy of the Middle Ages, which seems to hold some of the earliest lessons in global economics. Always in high demand in the West, spices were not only used to enliven the bland European cuisine of the time, but were also held as status symbols by royalty, who consumed them as ostentatiously as present-day moguls might quaff Cristal.

The introduction to Paul Freedman's Out of the East describes such displays of indulgence by referencing the series of lavish banquets that marked the marriage of Duke George “the Rich” of Bavaria with Princess Jadwiga of Poland in 1476. According to official records, the proceedings required "386 pounds of pepper, 286 of ginger, 207 of saffron, 205 of cinnamon, 105 of cloves, and a mere [sic] 85 pounds of nutmeg." Rich, indeed.

To read more about how spices became symbols of beauty, affluence, taste, and grace, click here to read the full introduction from Out of the East.

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15. On the inside: the American prison

Smith

Two recently published books from the Yale University Press deal with that most imposing of American icons—the prison—which continues to spark national debates over both rising corrections budgets and harsh treatments of prisoners. Each work takes a distinct perspective on the issue of incarceration, revealing our nation's unique fascination with captivity and its effect on those both "on the inside" and out.

Caleb Smith's The Prison and the American Imagination, which will be the topic of discussion at an event at Labyrinth Books today in New Haven, takes a textual approach to the culture of imprisonment, drawing upon legal, political, and literary texts including the works of Dickinson, Melville, and Emerson. Smith explains how these often dehumanizing representations of confinement continue to effect our society and our politics today. Smith's elegant website provides additional images and texts that inform his well-rendered argument.

Cox

Stephen Cox's The Big House, the newest installment in the Icons of America series, looks at the prison's alternately idealized and demonized depictions in popular culture. From analysis of historical accounts to popular films, Cox dissects these institutions of power and control, revealing how prisons can simultaneously exist as feared depositories for society's most dangerous members and, in the case of Alcatraz and other historical prisons, tourist destinations.

Readers may also be interested in Anne-Marie Cusac's Cruel and Unusual: The Culture of Punishment in America, which was featured in a recent discussion on Connecticut Public Radio's "Where We Live" program. Yale professor and philosopher Shelley Kagan also contributed to the broadcast.

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16. Innovation and Accolades

BreznitzDo the most innovative economic solutions come from the private sector or from the state? In the midst of an economic slowdown and an election year, the question is unavoidable. Concerned readers might find insights in Dan Breznitz's Innovation and the State, which was announced the winner of the 2008 Don K. Price Award for the Best Book in Science and Technology Politics at last weekend's meeting of the American Political Science Association.

In Innovation and the State, Breznitz uses case studies of Israel, Ireland, and Taiwan to analyze different approaches to developing Information Technology (IT) industries. His argument, supported by extensive research, indicates that the answer to that nagging question may not be simply a choice between private enterprise or the state. In fact, it may be both.

This is the second year in a row that a Yale University Press book has won the APSA's prestigious Don K. Price Award. In 2007, Yochai Benkler's treatise on globalization, individual freedom, and technology, The Wealth of Networks, earned the same distinction.

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17. Louisiana's "Good Pirates" carry on in Katrina's wake

WellsThree years ago today at 6:10 a.m. CDT, Hurricane Katrina made landfall in Plaquemines Parish, on the southeastern tip of Louisiana's Gulf Coast. The effects of the storm were felt as far north as Canada but nowhere more intensely than in St. Bernard Parish, just south of New Orleans. When Wall Street Journal reporter and Louisiana native Ken Wells convinced a National Guard Blackhawk helicopter pilot to airlift him into the stricken region just after the storm had landed, he wasn???t sure if he would find a way back. ???Getting there was crucial;??? he wrote, ???getting back would just have to work itself out.???

In his new book, Good Pirates of the Forgotten Bayous, Wells focuses not on the devastation Katrina left in its wake but rather on the salty characters who refused to give in to the mighty storm. You can hear Wells discussing fishermen Ricky and Ronald Robin, the main characters of his saga, on The Book Report, a radio program sponsored by Windows a bookshop in Monroe, LA. A podcasted edition of their discussion is available here.

Wells and the Robin cousins are also scheduled to be featured on NPR???s All Things Considered. Check NPR.org for your local broadcast schedule.

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18. Israel's Independence and Churchill's Zionism

9780300116090 As Israel, and its millions of supporters world-wide, celebrate its 60th birthday, few realize the important role that Winston Churchill played in the establishment of the State of Israel and the shaping of the modern Middle East.

Michael Makovsky’s groundbreaking Churchill’s Promised Land, brings this and much more to light in his careful and nuanced examination of Churchill’s complex relationship with Zionism.

In exploring Churchill’s evolving and ultimately romantic interest in Zionism, Makovsky offers a fresh, more complete and revealing understanding of this great statesman’s worldview. 

Churchill’s Promised Land won the National Jewish Book Award for History (2007) and was a finalist for the Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature (2008).

Read an excerpt, or view the table of contents. Click here to listen to an interview with Michael Makovsky on the Yale Press Podcast.

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19. The New Republic on Obama's economic guru and Gordin's yikhes

NudgeIn the March 12th issue of The New Republic, Noam Scheiber writes of the effect of Richard Thaler's economic theories on Barack Obama’s presidential campaign. Scheiber writes, "Thaler is revered by the leading wonks on Barack Obama's presidential campaign. Though he has no formal role, Thaler presides as a kind of in-house intellectual guru, consulting regularly with Obama's top economic adviser." Thaler and Cass Sunstein recently wrote Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness. Read more about Thaler's influence on Obama here.

The Jewish King LearElsewhere in that same issue of The New Republic, Stephen Greenblatt discusses the yikhes--"status or honor" in Yiddish--of playwright Jacob Gordin. Greenblatt positively reviews The Jewish King Lear: A Comedy in America, saying that "the late Ruth Gay's fine and lively translation of Gordin's most famous play, along with the richly informative accompanying biographical and interpretative essays by Gay and Sophie Glazer, enable readers without Yiddish to understand what stirred Gordin's original audience so deeply." Read the entire review here.

9780300116007 The New Republic also extensively reviewed The Origins of Reasonable Doubt: Theological Roots of the Criminal Trial by James Q. Whitman for their February 27th issue. TNR subscribers can read that review here.

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20. Jeal wins NBCC award for Biography!

Stanley The National Book Critics Circle awarded Tim Jeal first place in the category of Biography for Stanley: The Impossible Life of Africa's Greatest Explorer. The NBCC blog Critical Mass liveblogged the award ceremony:

7:06 p.m.: Art Winslow announces the winner for Biography. It's...

TIM JEAL, FOR STANLEY: THE IMPOSSIBLE LIFE OF AFRICA'S GREATEST EXPLORER!

7:10 p.m.: Tim Jeal takes the mike, and is "deeply grateful" to his wife for putting up with him. Says "gobsmacked," which is the best reason for putting anyone from the UK near a mike.

Read more about the award here.

Bookprizeslogo Jeal's been having a great week. Last Thursday he was named a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize in the category of Biography. The winner of that award will be announced in late April at the LA Times Festival of Books.

Tim Jeal is the author of two previous biographies, Livingstone and Baden-Powell: Founder of the Boy Scouts, both published by Yale University Press and both chosen as Notable Books of the Year by the New York Times and the Washington Post.

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21. Nudging Against Global Warming

In his Findings column for the New York Times, John Tierney wonders why Americans aren't changing their lives in reaction to climate change. "We need the right nudge," Tierney says, referring to the recent release from Yale Press authors Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein, Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness.

9780300122237 Taking a cue from Thaler and Sunstein, Tierney suggests a piece of jewelry that measures the wearer's carbon footprint and displays it to the world on a scale from red to green. Writing a blog post for TierneyLab, Tierney nudged his readers to help him out with this project: "Do you have a better name, or a better nudge of kind? The best suggestion will be rewarded with a copy of Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness by Richard H. Thaler and Cass Sunstein of the University of Chicago." Click here to read the entire post or enter the contest.

For more information about nudges, check out Nudge or the website for the book, www.nudges.org, with news, reviews, a blog and even a glossary.

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22. Remembering Dith Pran

Dith Pran, author of Children of Cambodia's Killing Fields: Memoirs by Survivors, passed away on Sunday in New Brunswick, N.J, as reported in the New York Times. He was a photojournalist for the New York Times and founder of the Dith Pran Holocaust Awareness Project.

9780300078732This extraordinary book contains eyewitness accounts of life in Cambodia during Pol Pot's genocidal Khmer Rouge regime from 1975 to 1979, accounts written by survivors who were children at the time. The book has been put together by Pran, whose own experiences in Cambodia were so graphically portrayed in the film The Killing Fields.

The testimonies related here bear poignant witness to the slaughter the Khmer Rouge inflicted on the Cambodian people. The contributors—most of them now in the United States and pictured in photographs that accompany their stories—report on life in Democratic Kampuchea as seen through children's eyes. They speak of their bewilderment and pain as Khmer Rouge cadres tore their families apart, subjected them to harsh brainwashing, drove them from their homes to work in forced-labor camps, and executed captives in front of them. Their stories tell of suffering and the loss of innocence, the struggle to survive against all odds, and the ultimate triumph of the human spirit.

Click here to read the entire New York Times obituary.

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23. NYT on professions and recessions: Sennett and Fraser

9780300119091 Writing for the New York Times Book Review, Lewis Hyde reviewed The Craftsman by Richard Sennett. He explains the book's ideas, saying that he enjoyed "the companionship of its inquiring intelligence." Hyde goes on to tell the readers, "There is much to learn here." Read the entire review here.

Defining craftsmanship far more broadly than "skilled manual labor," Richard Sennett maintains that the computer programmer, the doctor, the artist, and even the parent and citizen engage in a craftsman's work. Craftsmanship names the basic human impulse to do a job well for its own sake, says the author, and good craftsmanship involves developing skills and focusing on the work rather than ourselves. In this thought-provoking book, one of our most distinguished public intellectuals explores the work of craftsmen past and present, identifies deep connections between material consciousness and ethical values, and challenges received ideas about what constitutes good work in today’s world.

Click here to listen to an interview with Richard Sennett on the Yale Press Podcast. View the table of contents, or read an excerpt from The Craftsman.

9780300117554In an article on Wall Street-bound graduates and their nervousness about the recession, Louise Story of the New York Times asked Yale Press author Steve Fraser. Fraser, author of Wall Street: America's Dream Palace, also teaches an undergraduate seminar on Wall Street at the University of Pennsylvania.

In the beginning of the semester, Mr. Fraser noticed that students seemed to think the housing crisis was unrelated to their goals in finance and was caused mostly by irresponsible borrowers. But after the collapse of Bear Sterns, he said, they had "a great deal more sympathy for people who have already been affected by this crisis.

"There’s a sense in the class now that things are more worrying, that this may affect them."

Read the entire New York Times article here. Click here to listen to an interview with Fraser on the Yale Press Podcast.

Wall Street recounts the colorful history of America’s love-hate relationship with Wall Street. Steve Fraser frames his fascinating analysis around the roles of four iconic Wall Street types—the aristocrat, the confidence man, the hero, and the immoralist—all recurring figures who yield surprising insights about how the nation has wrestled, and still wrestles, with fundamental questions of wealth and work, democracy and elitism, greed and salvation. Spanning the years from the first Wall Street panic of 1792 to the dot.com bubble-and-bust and Enron scandals of our own time, the book is full of stories and portraits of such larger-than-life figures as J. P. Morgan, Cornelius Vanderbilt, and Michael Milken. Fraser considers the conflicting attitudes of ordinary Americans toward the Street and concludes with a brief rumination on the recent notion of Wall Street as a haven for Everyman.

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24. Hartford Courant profiles Brent and YUP's digital Stalin archive

The Hartford Courant profiled Jonathan Brent, editorial director of Yale Press' Annals of Communism Project, who received a $1.3 million Andrew W. Mellon Foundation grant to develop a digital documentary edition of Stalin's Personal Archive.

After sharing a story of Stalin's correspondences with director Sergei Eisenstein and novelist Upton Sinclair, the Courant said, "It is documents like the dispatch to Sinclair that distinguish Yale's Stalin archive." Read the entire article here.

The article in the Courant was picked up by the History News Network, as well as by RussiaTrek and cafe historia, who said, "This is surely what the web was designed to do. If only other institutions would follow suit."

120aoc_2_3 The digitization of Stalin's Personal Archive is a new initiative of Yale University Press' acclaimed Annals of Communism series, begun in 1992.  The digitized documents from this archive will become the basis for future scholarly research, while expediting traditional book publications on topics of great importance in understanding Soviet and twentieth-century world history.

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25. Morris's 1948 is a critics' favorite

9780300126969 Under the spotlight of the 60th anniversary of Israeli independence, Benny Morris's recent book, 1948, is a praised as a shining example.

Last Sunday’s New York Times Book Review features David Margolick's review, saying: "Morris relates the story of his new book soberly and somberly, evenhandedly and exhaustively."

The May 5th issue of The New Yorker hit newsstands on Monday with a feature piece by David Remnick. This piece on Israeli history centers around Morris and the publication of 1948, calling it "a commanding, superbly documented, and fair-minded study of the events that, in the wake of the Holocaust, gave a sovereign home to one people and dispossessed another."

Last Monday, David Holahan reviewed the book for the Hartford Courant. 1948, he said, is "a richly detailed and thoroughly researched primer.... A compelling 'aha' book, 1948 brings order to complex, little-understood subjects." He went on to compliment Morris on his "vivid narrative prose and masterly analysis."

Canada's National Post began running excerpts from 1948 on May 5, and will run a total of 5 installments. Read the second and third installments.

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