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Five takes on U.S. past & present

| Saturday, Nov. 24, 2012, 9:05 p.m.

New titles of interest:

"Future Tense: The Lessons of Culture in an Age of Upheaval," edited by Roger Kimball (Encounter Books) - Encounter's publisher also is editor and publisher of The New Criterion, from which he draws this collection of essays that marks the beginning of the magazine's fourth decade of publication. The essays examine what Encounter calls "a time when many of the traditional assumptions about the shape and future of culture are suddenly in play" from various conservative viewpoints. Among the offerings are pieces by Victor Davis Hanson on patriotism and Pericles, Kevin D. Williamson on the welfare state, and Kimball on "culture's role in the economy of life and the fragility of civilization."

"Stalin's Secret Agents: The Subversion of Roosevelt's Government" by M. Stanton Evans and Herbert Romerstein (Threshold Editions) - The authors - a Human Events contributing editor (Evans) and the head of the U.S. Information Agency's Office to Counter Soviet Disinformation from 1983-89 (Romerstein) - promise new revelations, based on primary sources including what the publisher calls "formerly secret records," about Soviet spies and agents of influence who infiltrated the FDR and Truman administrations during and after World War II. They document such infiltration's extent, as well as "the rigging of at least two grand juries and the subsequent multilayered cover-up to protect those who let the infiltration happen."

"The Naked Constitution: What the Founders Said and Why It Still Matters" by Adam Freedman (Broadside Books) - A defense of the doctrine of originalism by a conservative legal scholar, this book explores the constitutional principles of limited government, federalism, separation of powers and individual liberty. It addresses how the Constitution's original meaning should apply to such current issues as presidential use of the military to wage war, presidential orders for spying on and assassinations of U.S. citizens, corporations' free-speech rights and ObamaCare. The author advocates a new constitutional convention "that will free the nation from capricious courts and idiosyncratic judges, and limit the growth of government for decades to come," according to the publisher.

"Who's the Fairest of Them All?: The Truth About Opportunity, Taxes, and Wealth in America" by Stephen Moore (Encounter Books) - The senior economics writer for The Wall Street Journal editorial page tackles the meaning of economic "fairness" - President Obama's self-proclaimed policy standard. Exploring whether "fairness" means equal opportunity or equal results, and whether government or markets should decide distribution of wealth, the author concludes that free-market systems - in which merit and achievement determine people's success - are the most fair economically. And though this book was released before the Nov. 6 election, its message arguably takes on even more importance because of that vote's outcome.

"The Second Nuclear Age: Strategy, Danger, and the New Power Politics" by Paul Bracken (Times Books) - A Yale University professor of management and political science and member of Defense Department advisory boards argues that U.S. thinking from the Cold War days dominated by two nuclear superpowers - focused on nukes having no actual usefulness, nonproliferation and deterrence - is outmoded in a world with nine nuclear powers including North Korea and Pakistan, a club likely to soon include Iran. He emphasizes how new nuclear-weapons realities affect the Middle East and Asia - and how America no longer can afford to assume that the Soviet Union's downfall permanently reduced the nuclear threat.

Alan Wallace is a Trib Total Media editorial page writer (412-320-7983 or awallace@tribweb.com).

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