The First World War is one of history’s greatest tragedies. In this remarkable and intimate account, author G. J. Meyer draws on exhaustive research to bring to life the story of how the Great War reduced Europe’s mightiest empires to rubble, killed twenty million people, and cracked the foundations of the world we live in today.
I say it's very well written, easy to read, pegged at just the right level of detail, offers some really interesting digressions, and had both facts and insights I had not seen in books on the subject I had read previously.
The First World War in the Middle East is an accessibly written military and social history of the clash of world empires in the Dardanelles, Egypt and Palestine, Mesopotamia, Persia and the Caucasus. Coates Ulrichsen demonstrates how wartime exigencies shaped the parameters of the modern Middle East, and describes and assesses the major campaigns against the Ottoman Empire and Germany involving British and imperial troops from the French and Russian Empires, as well as their Arab and Armenian allies.
Also documented are the enormous logistical demands placed on host societies by the Great Powers' conduct of industrialised warfare in hostile terrain. The resulting deepening of imperial penetration, and the extension of state controls across a heterogeneous sprawl of territories, generated a powerful backlash both during and immediately after the war, which played a pivotal role in shaping national identities as the Ottoman Empire was dismembered.
This is a multidimensional account of the many seemingly discrete yet interlinked campaigns that resulted in one to one and a half million casualties. It details not just their military outcome but relates them to intelligence-gathering, industrial organisation, authoritarianism and the political economy of empires at war.
I had high hopes for this book, because it's an interesting aspect of the Great War that often gets short shrift in one-volume histories, and because I expect that much of today's mess in the Middle East can be traced back to decisions made by the British and French during and immediately after the war. Sadly, I did not find it very accessible. Instead, I found it very academic ... and not in a good way. There's an awful lot of "Historian Joe Bob said XY&Z about this, while Historian Jane Does said AB&S." It's pretty heavy going. On top of which, the Kindle edition has a lot of errors. So I confess to not having finished it. But YMMV.
I just finished the Wright Brothers, which I enjoyed, even though I don't think it's one of McCullough's best books. My main criticisms? The treatment of the events of December 1903 get relatively short shrift, especially compared to the elongated discussions of the Wright Brothers' adventures in France. Mainly, however, he provides almost no information about the patent lawsuits that preoccupied Wilbur until he died. I learned more about them from Wikipedia. Still, it's a good and fast read.
If you measure them by academic cachet, the answer is almost certainly no. But if you measure tham by influence on the bench and bar, the answer often is yes, Wendy Gerwick Couture explores this question in connection with the late great Alan Bromberg's treatise on securities regulation (which I suspect pales in influence besides the treatise he and my late friend Larry Ribstein co-wrote on partnership law):
Abstract: This essay is part of a symposium edition honoring the scholarly contributions of SMU Distinguished Professor Alan R. Bromberg. This essay focuses on the unique scholarly role of his treatise on securities fraud, which he first published as a single volume in 1967. In 1979, Lewis D. Lowenfels joined Professor Bromberg as a co-author, and in 2012, Michael J. Sullivan joined as a second co-author. Now, 48 years after the first volume was published, the treatise, re-titled Bromberg and Lowenfels on Securities Fraud, has reached eight volumes in length. The treatise has been cited nine times by the Supreme Court and extensively by lower courts and other scholars.
Treatises currently play a somewhat controversial role within legal scholarship. Historically, the writing of treatises was closely tied with American legal education. More recently, however, numerous scholars have documented the decline of treatise-writing by law professors, citing the rise of the realist movement and the waning prestige of treatises among legal academics. In addition, treatises often influence in the shadows, consulted but not cited by practitioners and courts. Finally, a treatise is uniquely ephemeral, with early insights lost as the treatise is updated to reflect primary authority, with the treatise’s role in shaping that authority lost in the process.
Against this backdrop, this essay argues that Professor Bromberg’s and his co-authors’ treatise on securities fraud demonstrates the important role that treatises can continue to play within legal scholarship. This essay revisits earlier versions of the treatise to identify factors that led to its importance and to trace its influence in shaping the modern law of securities fraud. In particular, Professor Bromberg created his treatise when securities fraud jurisprudence was in a dynamic state, and he promoted clarity by creating an interpretive framework and providing guidance therein. The treatise was thus poised to exert influence at pivotal moments in the development of securities fraud doctrine, such as in the creation of the widely-applied Cammer factors, and to serve as a springboard for other scholarly contributions.
Couture, Wendy Gerwick, Professor Alan R. Bromberg and the Scholarly Role of the Treatise (April 13, 2015). Southern Methodist University Law Review, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2594046
When the news makes me unhappy, as it has been doing lately, I find comic relief in Terry Pratchett. I rate Terry Pratchett's Discworld series just slightly behind The Lord of the Rings as best fantasy series ever and just slightly behind PG Wodehouse's Jeeves Stories as best humor series.
io9 has a good overview of the Discworld series here.
I've been cooking a lot lately out of the Slow Cooker Revolution. This weekend, for example, I made the Balsamic-Braised Chicken with Swiss Chard and the Short Ribs in Red Wine Sauce. Both were big hits. Deep, rich flavor. Easy to make, easy to like. I love this cookbook, so I just ordered Slow Cooker Revolution Volume 2.
One of the real advantages of this cookbook series is that they show you how to use your slow cooker to make a host of meals beyond the usual braises, stews, and soups. As the blurb for Volume 2 explains:
With this volume, we looked at this must-have appliance in new ways to truly maximize its potential. You'll learn how to make a host of dishes like Garlicky Shrimp, Chicken Soft Tacos, and Flourless Chocolate Cake--recipes you'd never expect to see coming out of a slow cooker. The moist heat of the slow cooker is tailor-made to serve up flavorful stews, chilis, and braises (and don't worry--we've included a good number of these), but with our smart strategies and clever ingredient selections, we were also able to pull off spice-rubbed roast chicken, ziti with meaty ragu, rare roast beef, poached salmon and even cheesecake.
With the sad passing of my friend and mentor Henry Manne, it seems appropriate to point out that he is one of the few American legal scholars whose works have been collected into a single set of three edited volumes. The Collected Works of Henry G. Manne consists of:
Volume 1, The Economics of Corporations and Corporate Law, includes Manne's seminal writings on corporate law and his landmark blend of economics and law that is today accepted as a standard discipline, showing how Manne developed a comprehensive theory of the modern corporation that has provided a framework for legal, economic, and financial analysis of the corporate firm.
Volume 2, Insider Trading, uses Manne's ground-breaking Insider Trading and the Stock Market as a framework for many of Manne s innovative contributions to the field, as well as a fresh context for understanding the complex world of corporate law and securities regulation.
Volume 3, Liberty and Freedom in the Economic Ordering of Society, includes selections exploring Manne's thoughts on corporate social responsibility, on the regulation of capital markets and securities offerings, especially as examined in Wall Street in Transition, on the role of the modern university, and on the relationship among law, regulation, and the free market.
I was honored to be chosen as the editor for the second volume. You can download my introduction, Manne on Insider Trading, from SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1096259
The Extraordinary Synod on the Family that just concluded has prompted me to reread Judge John T. Noonan's wonderful book A Church That Can and Cannot Change. Here's the gist, as summarized by Amazon:
Using concrete examples, John T. Noonan, Jr., demonstrates that the moral teaching of the Catholic Church has changed and continues to change without abandoning its foundational commitment to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Specifically, Noonan looks at the profound changes that have occurred over the centuries in Catholic moral teaching on freedom of conscience, lending for a profit, and slavery. He also offers a close examination of the change now in progress concerning divorce.
In these changes, Noonan perceives the Catholic Church to be a vigorous, living organism, answering new questions with new answers, and enlarging the capacity of believers to learn through experience and empathy what love demands. He contends that the impetus to change comes from a variety of sources, including prayer, meditation on Scripture, new theological insights and analyses, the evolution of human institutions, and the examples and instruction given by persons of good will.
Noonan also states that the Church cannot change its commitment to preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Given this absolute, how can the moral teaching of the Church change? Noonan finds this question unanswerable when asked in the abstract. But in the context of the specific facts and events he discusses in this book, an answer becomes clear. As our capacity to grasp the Gospel grows, so too, our understanding and compassion, which give life to the Gospel commandments of love, grow.
Noonan is a brilliant judge and lawyer and deploys his considerable skills as an advocate to great effect here. But he's not neutral. He has an axe to grind and does so at length. So while I recommend it very highly, I also recommend reading some of his critics. Avery Cardinal Dulle's review at First Things would be a good place to start. After reviewing each of the doctrines Noonan claims have evolved, Dulles concludes that:
Noonan has written a stimulating book dealing with questions of great importance. He shows himself to be knowledgeable about the history of the four problems here treated. He brings to bear many of the skills of a historian, a civil lawyer, a canon lawyer, and to some degree those of a theologian. Anyone who wishes to question Noonan’s conclusions must at least take account of the facts he has unearthed. He renders no small service in presenting the most powerful objections against continuity that can be raised.
The reader should be warned, however, that Noonan manipulates the evidence to make it seem to favor his own preconceived conclusions. For some reason, he is intent on finding discontinuity” but he fails to establish that the Church has reversed her teaching in any of the four areas he examines.
Lastly, one might ponder Cardinal Dolan's recent observation that:
A synod by its nature can hardly change the Church’s teaching. We Catholics pledge allegiance to what is called a “revealed religion” (so do Jews, other Christians, and Moslems). That simply means that we believe that God has told us (“revealed”) certain things about Himself and ourselves through the Bible, through our own nature, especially through His Son, all celebrated and taught by His Church. ...
Anyone who thought this synod could change that has not read Catholicism for Dummies. The Church does not change God’s revelation, but attempts to change us so we can live it.
Does Church teaching evolve? Adapt? It's an important and fascinating debate. Noonan and his critics provide plenty of food for thought.
I like Temple law prof Tom Lin's work a lot. He's an imaginative and creative scholar. So I read with great interest his new essay National Pastime(s) (September 29, 2014). Boston College Law Review, Vol. 55, No. 1197, 2014. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2502950. Here's the abstract:
In his new book, Baseball as a Road to God, New York University President and Professor of Law John Sexton submits that baseball can serve as a vehicle for living a more conscious life that elevates the human experience for lawyers and non-lawyers. This Essay examines the credibility of the book’s thesis in a world where human intelligence, human deliberation, and human action is being replaced by artificial intelligence, mathematical models, and mechanical automation. It uses the preeminent national pastime of baseball, and the less eminent pastimes of law and finance as case studies for the book’s thesis. It concludes that a more conscious and meaningful life is much harder to foster, but also much more important to cultivate in light of modern advances. This Essay ultimately offers a different narrative for lawyers and non-lawyers to think anew about modern law and society in light of ongoing changes in baseball, law, finance, and beyond.
I'm not a fan of the writing style Lin uses in this essay. Consider for example, these phrases:
"It considers Sexton’s ineffable path to hierophany in a world where human intelligence, human deliberation, and human action is being replaced by artificial intelligence, mathematical models, and mechanical automation."
"It reveals that conflicts between the ineffable and the deducible are a recasting of two familiar dualities in law and religion: certainty and doubt, along with rules and standards."
You can prove you're smart without being impenetrable. It's one reason I have always preferred Ronald Coase--who wrote with what one critic calls "the beautiful simple prose of the accomplished English essayist--to Oliver Williamson, whose writing style is jargon-filled and difficult to penetrate. In too many places, Lin's essay is closer to Williamson than Coase in style.
Having said that, there are some very interesting insights here. The treatment of parallels--but, more important, differences--between how technology and quantitative analytical methods have influenced baseball, finance, and law is very well done. And the conclusion he draws from them makes sense (albeit that some of us may need to read it with a dictionary in hand):
As science and technology reduce more of our lives into bits and bytes of data and code, the ineffable and irreducible components of the human experience have been made much harder to sustain, but also much more important to living a meaningful, spiritual, and balanced life for lawyers and non-lawyers.
Rather than surrender our doubts, our curiosities, and our humanity in whole or in part, we should leverage modern conveniences in ways that permit us to rededicate more of ourselves to experiencing the timeless, ineffable joys and wonders of learning and living.
In sum, recommended. But I also recommend some books likely to help a searcher find God (or, at least, the God in whom I believe).
The following is an excerpt from Chapter 8, Autonomy, from Berkshire Beyond Buffett: The Enduring Value of Values the full text of the chapter, which considers the case for Berkshire’s distinctive trust-based model of corporate governance, can be downloaded free from SSRN here.
Or you could just buy the book and support this blog at the same time:
The agency chapter of the Business Associations casebook I co-author with Bill Klein and Mark Ramseyer relies heavily on cases involving franchise relationships. Is the franchisee an agent of the franchisor? If the franchisee a servant or independent contractor of the franchisor? And so on.
The franchise cases can be problematic, because franchising is such a unique form of business relationship. As of this morning, however, I can't help wondering if the NLRB ruling that McDonald's and its franchisees can be treated as joint employers will affect the way we teach these cases?
McDonald's Corp. could be treated as a joint employer with its franchisees in labor complaints, according to a National Labor Relations Board legal determination that could have far-reaching implications for how restaurant companies deal with their workers.
The decision by the NLRB's general counsel, announced on Tuesday, came in response to complaints alleging that McDonald's and its franchisees violated the rights of employees involved in protests against the company.
McDonald's vowed to fight the decision, which business and labor groups both said could set a precedent for restaurants and retailers that rely on franchising. ...
Allowing companies to be treated as joint employers with their franchisees could crimp their ability to claim that they aren't responsible for the labor actions of those franchise partners, making companies like McDonald's more vulnerable to campaigns by labor groups for higher wages and improved conditions for restaurant and retail workers.
"This legal opinion would upend years of federal and state legal precedent and threaten the sanctity of hundreds of thousands of contracts between franchisees and franchisors," said Steve Caldeira, chief executive of the International Franchise Association, who called the decision "wrong and unjustified."
At the moment, the decision probably doesn't require Business Organization teachers to do anything. It may not hold up to court challenge. If it does hold up, it will initially be just a factor in NLRB cases. But might it not bleed over into employment law, especially employment discrimination? And might it eventually bleed into agency law?