Category Archives: Book Review

Librarians review books in the Brooklyn Law Library collection.

Understanding the Federal Deficit Debate

As the August 2nd deadline looms, the debate continues to rage over the federal government’s fiscal health.   If you would like to learn more about this issue, the BLS Library has several resources you can consult.

Alan J. Auerbach & William G. Gale, Brookings Inst., Tempting Fate the Federal Budget Outlook (2011).

Excerpt taken from the report’s abstract: 

We present new estimates of the budget outlook, based on the latest projections from the Congressional Budget Office and the Medicare and Social Security Trustee reports. The medium-term and long-term budget outlook have not changed appreciably since last year. Under reasonable assumptions, the federal government is likely to face deficits in excess of 6 percent of GDP by late in the decade, even with a strong economy, with the debt-GDP ratio reaching 98 percent by 2021. The long-term budget outlook is sensitive to assumptions about how health care spending will respond to recent legislation. However, even under the most optimistic assumptions regarding health care spending, the most likely estimate suggests a long-term fiscal gap of between 6 and 7 percent of GDP. Policy makers and the public will eventually be forced to address these issues, but addressing them sooner rather than waiting until a full-blown crisis hits would allow for more reasonable and gradual adjustments.

 U.S. Cong. Budget Office, Reducing the Deficit Spending and Revenue Options (2011).

Excerpt taken from the report’s preface:

The report begins with an introductory chapter that describes the current budgetary picture and the uses and limitations of this volume. Chapters 2 and 3 present options that would reduce mandatory and discretionary spending, respectively. Chapter 4 contains options that would increase revenues from various kinds of taxes and fees. The options discussed in this report stem from a variety of sources, including legislative proposals, various Administrations’ budget proposals, Congressional staff, other government entities, and private groups. The options are intended to reflect a range of possibilities rather than to provide a ranking of priorities or a comprehensive list. The inclusion or exclusion of a particular policy change does not represent an endorsement or rejection by CBO. In keeping with CBO’s mandate to provide objective, impartial analysis, this report makes no recommendations.

U.S. Nat’l Comm’n on Fiscal Responsibility & Reform, U.S. White House Office, The Moment of Truth Report of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility & Reform (2010).

 Excerpt taken from the report’s preamble:

As members of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, we spent the past eight months studying the same cold, hard facts. Together, we have reached these unavoidable conclusions: The problem is real. The solution will be painful. There is no easy way out. Everything must be on the table. And Washington must lead.

We come from different backgrounds, represent different regions, and belong to different parties, but we share a common belief that America’s long-term fiscal gap is unsustainable and, if left unchecked, will see our children and grandchildren living in a poorer, weaker nation. In the words of Senator Tom Coburn, “We keep kicking the can down the road, and splashing the soup all over our grandchildren.” Every modest sacrifice we refuse to make today only forces far greater sacrifices of hope and opportunity upon the next generation.

Daniel N. Shaviro, Do Deficits Matter? (1997).

Review from the Library Journal:

Federal budget deficits have long fueled public-policy debates. Law professor Shaviro traces these debates back several centuries, showing how they developed. Then, considering ways in which the deficit might matter, he presents the case both for and against its impact. Deficits have macroeconomic and generational influences, he concludes, but it is not clear whether these influences are positive or negative. Contrary to much commonly held opinion, Shaviro does not view deficits as necessarily bad. He argues that the deficit, a cash accrual measure subject to manipulation, is a flawed indicator of budgetary effects. He also discusses Social Security and the value of a balanced-budget amendment. The author’s background as a legislation attorney shows in his insightful analysis of political gamesmanship and the unintended consequences of legislation. Shaviro’s history, economics, and political analysis are right on the mark. Copyright © 1997, Reed Business Information Inc.

David P. Calleo, The Bankrupting of America: How the Federal Budget Is Impoverishing the Nation (1992).

Review from Kirkus Reviews:

An exacting audit by Calleo (European Studies/Johns Hopkins) of the federal government’s mismanagement of financial affairs, and of the resultant risks. Drawing on Washington’s own data, Calleo explores how and why budget deficits have grown to levels that make them engines of national decline. He sheds light on a wealth of ad rem subjects- -e.g., changes in spending priorities over the 1950-90 period; exploitation of the dollar’s international stature (i.e., borrowing abroad to avoid domestic adjustments); manipulative monetary policies (which relied on inflation to underwrite fiscal shortfalls); and the grave implications of current fiscal trends in the context of likely demographic, geopolitical, and socioeconomic developments. The author also puts the country’s income/outgo situation in perspective by comparing its not altogether analogous expenditure patterns after WW II with those of France and Germany. Calleo concludes that inefficiency and waste rather than excessively self-indulgent consumption are root causes of US problems, and he decries unregulated markets that, in his view, have proved wholly inadequate substitutes for a stable currency and allied common goods. While unpersuaded that a peace dividend will make any real contribution to genuine prosperity, Calleo remains sanguine on the prospects for US renewal. His remedial prescriptions, however, are appreciably less specific than his detailed diagnosis. If nothing else, though, Calleo’s principled plea for a more rational balance between the power to govern and the capacity of special-interest groups to obstruct merits consideration, as does his unabashed appeal that the electorate and its leaders embrace the generous, visionary ideals that long made America a tower of economic strength and a beacon of hope. A challenging, fully documented tract addressing the overleveraged and frequently dysfunctional state of the union. The text brims with helpful tabular material. — Copyright ©1992, Kirkus Associates, LP.

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Let’s Look at Law Student Study Aids

Hornbooks Series: Hornbooks are published by West Group. These are one volume mini‐treatises that summarize explain the law on subjects like criminal law, employment discrimination, property and real estate finance. Hornbooks provide an overview of the legal doctrines, principles, and rules, focusing only on the most important issues and cases for the area of law being covered. Brooklyn Law School Library has both Hornbook series practitioner’s edition and Hornbook series student edition.

Understanding Series: The Understanding series is published by LexisNexis and written by legal scholars.  They provide straightforward, clear analysis of a particular area of law highlighting important issues and citing leading authority. Like hornbooks, the Understanding series is written with law students in mind and tend to provide the most detail on the more complex issues. The Understanding series typically provides less treatment to each topic than hornbooks, but significantly more than Nutshells.  Brooklyn Law School Library has over fifty Understanding series titles covering administrative law, bankruptcy, conflicts of laws, criminal procedure, and evidence.

Examples and Explanations Series: Examples and Explanations series are published by Aspen, a branch of Wolters Kluwer Law & Business.  Each title begins with a general introduction to a topic and a basic explanation of the major issues specific to that area of law. Also included are a series of examples and corresponding explanations that provide analysis of the examples. The examples range from the simple to the more complex to help students apply their knowledge, and thus better understand complex concepts. Brooklyn Law School Library has a growing collection of this series covering many topics including trusts and estates, evidence, torts, criminal law, and civil procedure.

Nutshells Series: The Nutshell series is published by West Group and consist of short, one volume paperbacks that present a general overview of an area of law and provide citations to leading authority. Nutshells should not be used as a source of in‐depth treatment and analysis because they give just enough information to provide students with a general understanding of major concepts, polUnderstanding Law Student Study Aidsicies and relevant rules for any given topic.  Brooklyn Law School Library has over five hundred titles in this series dating back to the 1960’s. Library users will find Nutshells on many 1L subjects and also on more advanced subjects like toxic torts, elder law, sea law, electronic discovery and international human rights.

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The Poisoner’s Handbook

Discover the poisons that brought New York City to its knees in “The poisoner’s handbook : murder and the birth of forensic medicine in Jazz Age” by Pulitzer Prize-winning science writer, Deborah Blum.

The heroes of her book are Charles Norris, New York City’s first Medicinal Examiner, and Alexander Gettler, his able assistant and expert toxicologists. From the vantage of the New York City Medical Examiner’s Laboratory, it also becomes clear that murderers are not the only toxic threat–modern life has created a poisonous playground, and danger lurks around every corner.

“The Poisoner’s Handbook” is structured like a collection of linked short stories. Each chapter centers on a mysterious death by poison that Norris and Gettler investigate. Blum also focuses on the real villains – the poisons – and their deadly maneuverings through the body.

The chapters detail Norris’ death investigations and are classified according to the chemical compound detected in corpses by Gettler. Described are a suite of deadly substances including chloroform; bad booze because of Prohibition; industrial toxins such as radium; and carbon monoxide from illumination gas and automobile exhausts. In each chapter It is a contest between murder suspects and Gettler’s laboratory methods, which improved markedly during the decade.

Each case presents a deadly new puzzle and the need to create revolutionary experiments to tease out the wiliest chemical compounds from human tissue and perform trailblazing chemical detective work. Blum sets forth the facts of such cases, attentive to chemical clues the suspect overlooked but Gettler didn’t. Formative figures in forensics, Norris and Gettler become fascinating crusaders in Blum’s fine depiction of their work in the law-flouting atmosphere of Prohibition-era New York.

The fruits of their labors helped advance government policy and the science of forensics, and have saved countless lives from exposure to previously hard-to-detect toxic substances like thallium and to the then unknown deadly effects of radium, once a crucial ingredient in a popular health tonic called “Radithor: Certified Radioactive Water.”

According to the New York Times, “there is no music in Blum’s “Jazz Age,” a descriptor that feels tacked on to the subtitle by the marketing department, but there are “jazz-flavored cocktails” aplenty. After all, it’s Prohibition, and the government’s efforts to make alcohol less desirable by adding poisons to it constitute one of her most alarming and worthy plots. In this woozy speakeasy atmosphere, unforgettable stories abound. Take “Mike the Durable,” who initially survives even after his killers try numerous ways to do him in. There is also the lovers Ruth Snyder and Judd Gray, who inspired James M. Cain’s novels “The Postman Always Rings Twice” and “Double Indemnity.” Ultimately, “The Poisoner’s Handbook” fascinates.”

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Secret Lives of the Supreme Court: A Book Review (Posted by Karen Schneiderman)

Secret Lives of the Supreme Court: What Your Teachers Never Told You About America's Legendary Justices/Robert Schnakenberg
Secret Lives of the Supreme Court: What Your Teachers Never Told You About America’s Legendary Justices
Robert Schnakenberg, KF8744 .S3 2009

Several years ago, I had the privilege of being sworn into the United States Supreme Court Bar. It was the day after Justice David Souter was mugged.

As watched the justices take their seats, I was reminded that the justices were mere humans. They rocked back and forth in their large imposing chairs, tapped their fingers impatiently, and in one case, I saw a justice, who shall remain anonymous, take a short nap.

The humanity and the humor of the SCOTUS (Supreme Court of the United States) is captured in Robert Schnakenberg’s latest book, Secret Lives of the Supreme Court: What Your Teachers Never Told You About America’s Legendary Justices.

Schnakenberg exposes these wizards behind the bench. For example, in Secret Lives, we learn that Sandra Day O’Connor created the court’s first Jazzercise class; Thurgood Marshall was hooked on soap operas; and that one of the justices was a member of the KKK. To learn more fun facts, just pick up this title at Brooklyn Law School Library.

While it is true that some SCOTUS historians have panned Schnakenberg’s book, they seems to assume that this title is intended to be “serious literature.”

This book might be just what aspiring lawyers and hard working law school professors need. Especially to prepare for the Senate’s upcoming debate and vote on the nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court. I submit that this book is just the antidote: fascinating romp into the powerful halls of SCOTUS, filled with large doses of sophomoric humor. We all deserve a good laugh!

Robert Schnakenberg lives in Brooklyn, New York. He is the author of more than a dozen books, including Distory: A Treasury of Historical Insults, Sci-Fi Baby Names, Secret Lives of Great Authors, and The Encyclopedia Shatnerica—the world’s first A-to-Z guide to the life and career of William Shatner.

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Keeping Up With New Library Books (Posted by Linda Holmes)

Just keeping up with new (or new to you) websites, blogs and social networking tools, let alone your course work, can seem overwhelming.  Did you ever think about all of the new titles that the library acquires weekly?  How do you know what they are and where to find them?

First, all of the titles in the library’s collection, whether an older title or a new one, are cataloged and in SARA, our online catalog, which is accessible from the library’s web page.  You may search by keyword, title, author or subject.  But if you just want to find out what new titles the library has, there are two resources available through SARA.

One is the link to “Selected New Titles,” in the middle of the SARA search screen, which displays the covers of several new books and allows you to click on the cover and go directly to the bibliographic record for the title.   There you can get the book’s call number and go directly to the stacks to retrieve the book.

The “New Book Lists,” at the bottom of the SARA search screen, is another way to identify new books.  A new list is posted every two weeks and by clicking on the date of the posting, you go directly to a subject arrangement of the new books.  Click on the “Full Record” and you get the bibliographic record, including the call number, for that title.  Then you can go to the stacks to retrieve the book.   Most of the books that circulate are in the “Main Collection,” which is located in the library’s lower level.  These books may be charged out to students for four weeks at the first floor circulation desk.

Book jackets of new books are also displayed on the lower level bulletin board and a small selection of new books is displayed at the circulation desk.  These books are available for immediate check-out.

Finally, if you would like to recommend a title for the library to purchase, feel free to make your suggestion through the link at the bottom of the SARA search screen under “Suggestions.”  If you include an email address in your recommendation, you will get a response from the library.

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