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Short Cuts

David Bromwich: Springtime for Donald, 20 February 2020

... Watching​ Donald Trump’s State of the Union address on 4 February, I felt that we had crossed a line. This president was setting up as the benevolent ruler of – it wasn’t clear what. Not a constitutional democracy. A different kind of country. He had brought along, as guests, individuals who were given honourable mentions in his speech, people who looked up in gratitude as he scattered his gifts ...

Short Cuts

Frederick Wilmot-Smith: RBG’s Big Mistake, 8 October 2020

... praise America. The descendant of Jewish émigrés, she was about to become only the second female justice to join the US Supreme Court. But today the statement reads like an indictment: what became of her thirty years later could only happen in America too.Justices to the Supreme Court are nominated by the president and appointed, in accordance with Article ...

Better and Worse Worsts

Sadakat Kadri: American Trials, 24 May 2007

The Trial in American Life 
by Robert Ferguson.
Chicago, 400 pp., £18.50, March 2007, 978 0 226 24325 2
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... he might be the prophet that he resembled. Executions had been the primary spectacle of criminal justice in the Western world for hundreds of years, but during the quarter century before 1859 more than a dozen northern states enacted laws to conceal their hangings behind prison walls. The courtroom drama was replacing the gallows ritual in the public ...

Neurotic Health

Michael Shepherd, 17 December 1981

Becoming Psychiatrists 
by Donald Light.
Norton, 429 pp., £10.95, June 1981, 0 393 01168 2
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... them the departments of psychiatry in the medical schools. How this was effected is the subject of Donald Light’s book. Light is a medical sociologist who sets out to examine ‘what kinds of people choose to become psychiatrists, how their training experience alters their sense of illness, treatment and responsibility, how they cope with suicidal ...


C.H. Sisson, 27 September 1990

Collected Poems 
by Donald Davie.
Carcanet, 475 pp., £25, September 1990, 0 85635 875 4
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... What sort of a poet is Donald Davie? The factual answer, as with all poets, is to be found only in a volume such as the Collected Poems which he now lays before the public, but Davie himself appears to have worried more than most practitioners about what kind of poetry he was writing and – if one can put it that way – about the politics of style ...

Great Man

David Blackbourn: Humboldt, 16 June 2011

Nature’s Interpreter: The Life and Times of Alexander von Humboldt 
by Donald McCrory.
Lutterworth, 242 pp., £23, November 2010, 978 0 7188 9231 9
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... a stylish comedy that gently mocks Humboldt’s belief in an ordered and interconnected universe. Donald McCrory’s new biography, pious in tone and lumpishly written, could hardly be more different. Humboldt was part of a great flowering of German intellectual life in the decades either side of 1800, the period when Germaine de Staël called Germany the ...


Christian Lorentzen: The Democratic Convention, 11 August 2016

... My​ father voted for Bernie Sanders in the spring and says he’ll vote for Donald Trump in November. This places him in a magical category of voters who some believe will determine the election, but because he lives in Massachusetts his vote is unlikely to put Trump in the White House. He thinks of Hillary Clinton as a corporate shill, a politician ‘who’s never had a job in her life’, part of a dynasty that shouldn’t exist in America ...

The Mask It Wears

Pankaj Mishra: The Wrong Human Rights, 21 June 2018

The People v. Democracy: Why Our Freedom Is in Danger and How to Save It 
by Yascha Mounk.
Harvard, 400 pp., £21.95, March 2018, 978 0 674 97682 5
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Not Enough: Human Rights in an Unequal World 
by Samuel Moyn.
Harvard, 277 pp., £21.95, April 2018, 978 0 674 73756 3
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... Trump ordered strikes on Syria in April last year, Fareed Zakaria hailed the ‘big moment’: ‘Donald Trump,’ he said, ‘became president of the United States last night.’ As Trump dispatched his ‘shiny and new’ missiles to Syria a year later, Anne-Marie Slaughter, a former Obama apparatchik and president of the New America Foundation, tweeted ...

Farewell Sovereignty

Stephen Sedley: The Case for the Regicides, 9 February 2006

The Tyrannicide Brief: The Story of the Man who Sent Charles I to the Scaffold 
by Geoffrey Robertson.
Chatto, 429 pp., £20, October 2005, 0 7011 7602 4
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... through this shield, placing the worst crimes of rulers against their people within the reach of justice and beyond impunity. It may have been, as Robertson says it was, the ruling of the House of Lords that Spain could extradite Pinochet on charges of torture which turned the tide of head-of-state immunity on which Pol Pot, Idi Amin and a good many other ...

Lyrics and Ironies

Christopher Ricks, 4 December 1986

The Alluring Problem: An Essay on Irony 
by D.J. Enright.
Oxford, 178 pp., £12.95, October 1986, 0 19 212253 3
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Czeslaw Milosz and the Insufficiency of Lyric 
by Donald Davie.
Cambridge, 76 pp., £15, September 1986, 0 521 32264 2
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... By one of those coincidences which one is minded mindlessly to call ironical, both arms of Donald Davie’s Czeslaw Milosz and the Insufficiency of Lyric are also embraced in Enright’s book. Enright has a section on ‘Milosz and the Case Against’, a respectful wary circling which becomes incautious only at the moment when, with rhetorical ...

On with the Pooling and Merging

Neal Ascherson: The Incomparable Tom Nairn, 17 February 2000

After Britain: New Labour and the Return of Scotland 
by Tom Nairn.
Granta, 336 pp., £15.99, January 2000, 1 86207 293 0
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... has its allure too. It seems very good and native to me that the Chief Minister of Scotland, Donald Dewar, thought it natural to review Nairn’s book in a newspaper. Not that he liked it much. Nairn has no time for New Labour or Tony Blair, and – which vexes Donald Dewar – no gratitude either for the bold gift of ...

Who am I prepared to kill?

William Davies: The Politics of Like and Dislike, 30 July 2020

... 1930s is that we can all now potentially act as the pollster. Here’s my dog: like or dislike? Donald Trump is a fascist: agree or disagree? This is not the idealised classical or liberal public sphere of argument and deliberation, but a society of perpetual referendums. The perennial question, when it comes to so much up-voting and down-voting, is who can ...

Zero Is a Clenched Fist

Donald MacKenzie: Trading from the Pit, 1 November 2007

Out of the Pits: Traders and Technology from Chicago to London 
by Caitlin Zaloom.
Chicago, 224 pp., £18.50, November 2006, 0 226 97813 3
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... trading, but they didn’t. Out trades were typically settled quickly and efficiently on a rough-justice, split-the-difference basis, and opportunism was very rare. Perpetrators would be frozen out from subsequent trading: who would catch the eye of a known opportunist? Chicago’s pits were places of repeated interaction between people who knew each ...

How to Solve the Puzzle

Donald MacKenzie: On Short Selling, 5 April 2018

... covered by Ljungqvist and Qian’s paper ended up being investigated by the US Department of Justice or the Securities and Exchange Commission. Indeed, if you are British, it’s hard not to feel envious of the US when reading Ljungqvist and Qian’s study. ‘Angry directors … could go for you,’ a UK-based short seller says, and publishing in the UK ...

Against Passion

James Meek: Passionate Politics, 30 November 2017

The Once and Future Liberal: After Identity Politics 
by Mark Lilla.
Harper, 160 pp., £19, August 2017, 978 0 06 269743 1
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The Shipwrecked Mind: On Political Reaction 
by Mark Lilla.
NYRB, 166 pp., £9.99, September 2016, 978 1 59017 902 4
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... narrow and exclusionary self-definition’? The book belongs to the genre of responses to Donald Trump’s election in which liberal American academics turn their rage on their own intellectual-political class. Lilla argues that the pursuit of identity politics by liberal graduates, brainwashed by their teachers into a self-centred world-view that ...

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