Book Review – The Refugees, by Viet Thanh Nguyen

The Refugees by Viet Thanh Nguyen, Corsair 2017, £12.99, 209 pages

In this era of Syrian and Libyan refugees flooding Southern and Eastern Europe to escape war, millions of Rohingya fleeing ethnic cleansing in Myanmar’s Rakhine State, and threats to deport child immigrants in the United States (US), escaping into fiction about refugees seems counterintuitive. However, I am able to report that The Refugees, from Pulitzer Prize-winning author Viet Thanh Nguyen, is just the ticket.

Nguyen, himself a Vietnamese refugee and a professor at the University of Southern California, gives us eight short stories that will grab you in the moment and leave you thinking long after. Knowing there were only eight stories made me want to parcel them out, like a box of fine chocolates. Continue reading “Book Review – The Refugees, by Viet Thanh Nguyen”

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Book Review – Part II: Research Handbook on Transitional Justice

Research Handbook on Transitional Justice, Edited by Cheryl Lawther, Luke Moffett, Dov Jacobs, Edward Elgar Publishing, £195, 576 pages

In my previous post, I introduced the broad concepts discussed in Research Handbook on Transitional Justice (Transitional Justice), edited by Cheryl Lawther and Luke Moffett of Queen’s University Belfast and Dov Jacobs of Leiden University and commented on some of the strengths and weaknesses of the individual chapters. In this post, I will provide my views on the debates surrounding the topic of transitional justice and outline some of the challenges in achieving transitional justice that I have witnessed through my experience working in the field in post-conflict areas. Continue reading “Book Review – Part II: Research Handbook on Transitional Justice”

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Book Review – Part I: Research Handbook on Transitional Justice

Research Handbook on Transitional Justice, Edited by Cheryl Lawther, Luke Moffett, Dov Jacobs, Edward Elgar Publishing, £195, 576 pages

If you are planning on taking a course on transitional justice or are simply interested in knowing more about it (what it is or what it is claimed to be), or if you are working in the transitional justice field or its close cousin, the development field, I recommend Research Handbook on Transitional Justice, edited by Cheryl Lawther and Luke Moffett of Queen’s University Belfast and Dov Jacobs of Leiden University (Transitional Justice). Continue reading “Book Review – Part I: Research Handbook on Transitional Justice”

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Book Review Part 2 — The Force of Logic: Using Formal Logic as a Tool in the Craft of Legal Argument by Stephen M. Rice

 

The Force of Logic: Using Formal Logic as a Tool in the Craft of Legal Argument by Stephen M. Rice (National Institute of Trial Advocacy, 2017) 290 pages, $ 75.

Part 2                               

It is claimed that 90% of the legal issues raised in domestic United States cases can be resolved through deductive reasoning, where the conclusion is mandated through two propositions. I would say the same is essentially true with legal issues in cases before the international(ized) tribunals and courts. Continue reading “Book Review Part 2 — The Force of Logic: Using Formal Logic as a Tool in the Craft of Legal Argument by Stephen M. Rice”

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BOOK REVIEW Part 1 – THE FORCE OF LOGIC: Using Formal Logic as a Tool in the Craft of Legal Argument, by Stephen M. Rice

 

The Force of Logic: Using Formal Logic as a Tool in the Craft of Legal Argument by Stephen M. Rice (National Institute of Trial Advocacy, 2017) 290 pages, $ 75.

 Part 1

The lawyer’s job, when confronted by an argument with an errant logical structure, is to focus on the architecture of the argument. Herein lies the problem: many lawyers are not trained in formal logic enough to spot these logical errors. Even when they do sense the errors, they do not have language tools to talk about them. … The problem with an argument with an errant logical structure is neither a fact problem nor a law problem. Instead, it is a logic problem and many lawyers are not well armed to talk about logic: what logic is, what logic’s role is in legal argument, and importantly, how to describe and talk about problems of logical form.1Stephen M. Rice, The Force of Logic: Using Formal Logic as a Tool in the Craft of Legal Argument (National Institute of Trial Advocacy, 2017), Chapter 1.2. 

Stephen M. Rice

Professor Stephen M. Rice of Liberty University School of Law (Lynchburg, Virginia) correctly observes that while lawyers employ a variety of tools in describing why an argument misleads, distorts, ignores relevant facts, or mischaracterizes the law, few are equipped with the tools to describe the errors in the logical form of an argument. It is not as if every legal argument challenged will invariably entail a logical error, or that the application of logic is the be-all and end-all of legal argumentation, but it is another important, if not indispensable, weapon in the lawyer’s arsenal.   Continue reading “BOOK REVIEW Part 1 – THE FORCE OF LOGIC: Using Formal Logic as a Tool in the Craft of Legal Argument, by Stephen M. Rice”

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Footnotes   [ + ]

Book review: A Boy in Winter, by Rachel Seiffert

 

Where the light shines strongest, there is always shadow. … It is something I tell myself, you see. … I say to myself: where there is light, there will be shadow as well. There will always be darkness, and we must accept this. … Still, I know how it is, [s]ometimes it helps me and sometimes it doesn’t. … I get my orders.  I read them over, and I find myself asking: Is this necessary? … Must we do this? … Must it be like this? … Must it really be like this?  I do not like this … I do not like it any more than you do, … It is cruel, yes? … Is that what you are thinking? … I don’t claim to understand it … I only try to endure. I don’t know the answer. Perhaps we must all find our way. … There will be a time, you know, when all this is over. The war, I mean. And all the cruelties. … It is what helps me most, this thought: that there will be a time after. When all the fighting – when all of this – is done with. … Perhaps that might help you. To know that all this is passing. For them [several hundred detained Jewish civilians] too.


A Boy in Winter, by Rachel Seiffert, Virago Press, 240 pages, £14.99/Pa (pp. 129-132)

If you have room to squeeze in one more book while still vacating or before getting too bogged down in the grind of being back at work, I highly recommend Rachel Seiffert’s A Boy in Winter. Continue reading “Book review: A Boy in Winter, by Rachel Seiffert”

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Book Review: Scott Turow disappoints and affronts in Testimony

Few can match Scott Turow’s writing and storytelling abilities. Very few. Over the years he spoiled us with his prose, his canny insight, his attention to detail. His freshman work, One L, was a must-read for a generation of law students. Some of the courtroom scenes in Presumed Innocent are as riveting as they are authentic. And Identical, his last novel before his recently released Testimony, was a true masterpiece, capturing all the nuances of Greek and Greek-American culture.

So, with deep regret, I suggest that if you were looking to escape (or vacate as I put it) from the daily pressures with a good novel – especially one that may hit close to home – Turow’s Testimony is not one of them.  If you have yet to set off for the beach, pull it from your bag and grab something else (perhaps the new John Grisham novel, Camino Island) desist from buying it at the airport while waiting for your flight, and refrain from gifting it to a friend or colleague. Harsh warnings, but I think justifiable. Continue reading “Book Review: Scott Turow disappoints and affronts in Testimony”

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Book Review: International Criminal Justice by Gideon Boas and Pascale Chifflet

International Criminal Justice by Gideon Boas and Pascale Chifflet, Edward Elgar Publishing, 2017, 235 pages, £ 80.00

How does what has been done, and what is to come, leave the world? Can we really ameliorate the horror of mass atrocity; can our responses be seen as a normative shift toward more accountability and prevention? Or are we merely travelling in circles? (p. x) 

Reflecting on international criminal justice in the context of war crimes trials, Gideon Boas and Pascale Chifflet muse:

“[C]an it be said that war crimes trials are a successful method of achieving international criminal justice? Do they at least contribute to ending impunity? Are they really a deterrent for murderous dictators and would be genocidaires? Do they promote reconciliation in transitional communities? Or do they adversely impact on community rebuilding and on victims’ need to establish the truth, to be heard and to take control of their own narrative?” (pp. 7-8, italics added)

In International Criminal Justice, Boas and Chifflet attempt, among other things, to answer this set of questions, or better yet, to lay out and comment on the divergent views held on what is international criminal justice and how to achieve it. Balanced and measured in recounting the views of others, Boas and Chifflet interject their own nuanced and qualified views without imposing them on the reader, allowing space for reflection. If there are strengths to this text – and there are many – this one stands out. Continue reading “Book Review: International Criminal Justice by Gideon Boas and Pascale Chifflet”

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Book Review — A WORLD IN DISARRAY: American Foreign Policy and the Crisis of the Old Order.

Book Review

A WORLD IN DISARRAY: American Foreign Policy and the Crisis of the Old Order. By Richard Haass. 330 pages. Penguin Press, 2017. $28.00.

“There are risks and costs to a program of action. But they are far less than the long-range risks and costs of comfortable inaction.” John F. Kennedy, US President1   Speech delivered at Americans for Democratic Action convention, Washington, DC, 12 May 1961, quoted in “Times Call for Liberal Actions, Says Kennedy,” Lodi (CA) News-Sentinel, 13 May 1961.

Richard Haass

There is a reason why Richard Haass is serving a fourteenth term as President of the highly regarded, independent, nonpartisan US think tank the Council on Foreign Relations. It comes across when reading his latest book, A World in Disarray. His historical and political analysis is lucid and nuanced, offering thought-provoking advice on dealing with the most pressing events of our time. US President Donald Trump would be well advised to read this book and take heed of Haass’s views. Continue reading “Book Review — A WORLD IN DISARRAY: American Foreign Policy and the Crisis of the Old Order.”

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Book Review – The Rohingyas: Inside Myanmar’s Hidden Genocide

The Rohingyas: Inside Myanmar’s Hidden GenocideBy Azeem Ibrahim. 235 pages. C. Hurst & Company, 2016. $23.50.

The rejection of citizenship rights for Rohingyas, denial of freedom of movement, eviction campaigns, violence against Rohingya women, forced labour, expulsion from their lands and property, violence and torture have made Myanmar’s ethnic Rohingyas the most persecuted minority in the world. I humbly add my voice to the simple demand of the Rohingya people: that their rights as our fellow human beings be respected, that they be granted the right to live peacefully and without fear in the land of their parents, and without persecution on grounds of their ethnicity or their form or worship.


Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus, Foreword

In a few words, Muhammad Yunus encapsulates the plight of the Rohingyas and the essence of Azeem Ibrahim’s The Rohingyas: Inside Myanmar’s Hidden Genocide (hereinafter “The Rohingyas”).  Citizenship, or the lack of it, is at the center of all that troubles the Rohingyas in the northern Rakhine State (“nRS”) of Myanmar. The discrimination and persecution they have endured over the decades in no small measure is due to the question of their origin. Where are they from? When did they arrive in Myanmar? How did they arrive in Arakan (Rakhine)? Are they indigenous or recent transplants?  How far back must their existence in Arakan be established before they can be viewed and accepted as citizens of Myanmar?

Theories abound.  So what? Continue reading “Book Review – The Rohingyas: Inside Myanmar’s Hidden Genocide”

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