Monday, August 17, 2009

Book Reviews

Supreme Conflict by Jan Greenburg is an excellent book. It is a great look at all the major events in the life of the Supreme Court from the Reagan Administration to the appointment of Samuel Alito. Greenburg has a lot of inside information that really gives one an inside look. I highly recommend this book if you are interested with one word of caution. You will probably lose a lot of respect for the Supreme Court.

Greenburg keeps her personal views out of this book, which is a nice change of pace. But if I were guessing I think she favors those on the court who moderate it, and as she describes it "have no overarching judicial philosophy." Those include O'Conner, Kennedy, and Souter. The book really makes O'Conner look awful, but clearly it was on accident. The book starts with a glowing account of O'Conner, but it is later revealed that she voted conservative the first few years because Justice Blackman upset her with a caustic remark during conference. Then she began to vote liberal when Scalia was too rough on her during a written dissent. Of course this does not bode well for the first female on the court, but that is never brought up. O'Conner's hypocrisy is not mentioned either as she actually mentioned Justice Thomas by name over a dozen times in one opinion from the court. That was the sort of behavior that she found unacceptable if it was directed at her. The insights this book gives into the thinking of each justice and the work of the court is great, but you will soon realize the court is not such a great place after all.

Holy War by Karen Armstrong, author of A History of God, is absolutely awful. Avoid it at all costs. Armstrong starts off the book by thoroughly demonstrating she knows nothing about Christainity, Islam, or Judaism. Armstrong breaks her own back trying to make Islam into religion of peace. A few examples are worth noting. Armstrong thinks that Mohammed led an unarmed group of people from Medina to Mecca because their "swords were sheathed". Who cares a sword that is not sheathed and does that not make them armed? Of course Jihad is written off as something that Islam abandoned until the Crusades made them have to take it up again. She does admit however that Islam always had a "few token Jihads". What on earth is a "token" Jihad, and why does that not count? The battle of Tours where the Islamic invasion of Europe is written off as "raids" rather than an actual attempt to takeover Europe or France. The source for this claim . . . the fact that Islamic historical records do not discuss it much and because many Islamic people had not liked the climate of Europe. Really this book is that bad.