A keen, lively deconstruction of the American legal system’s seemingly countless flaws.

THE NONSENSE FACTORY

THE MAKING AND BREAKING OF THE AMERICAN LEGAL SYSTEM

A sweeping, vituperative examination of how the United States, a nation that prides itself on the rule of law, has devolved into an essentially lawless country.

“It’s not only possible, but likely, that all three branches of government are controlled by criminals,” writes Gibney (A Generation of Sociopaths: How the Baby Boomers Betrayed America, 2017), a former lawyer who is now a venture capitalist. “At a minimum, it cannot be proved otherwise, for the simple reason that no one truly knows what the criminal laws of the United States contain. The U.S. Department of Justice, charged with enforcing federal criminal law, can’t even count the number of criminal provisions.” Consequently, most nonlawyer citizens—and even many lawyers—cannot know precisely when they have crossed the line into criminal activity. In the early portion of his outside-the-box yet cohesive diatribe, the author constructs a philosophical foundation for his thesis. Then, chapter by chapter, he eviscerates the American criminal justice system, including police, prosecutors, public defenders, private defense attorneys, law professors, and judges. Gibney also focuses his penetrating gaze on the maze of noncriminal law, slamming arbitrary presidential powers, executive branch rule-making, trial and appellate courts, and the privatized proceedings known as arbitration. Regarding the presidency, he writes, “the greater executive power becomes, the larger the possibility for error. After decades of expansion, the presidency has become a near-impossible job, reposed in one beleaguered and often unstable person.” Throughout the readable text, the author illustrates his criticisms by skillfully employing relevant analogies and metaphors, and his humor is subtle and mostly effective. Defenders of the alleged rule of law in the U.S. often point to the concept of American exceptionalism; Gibney effectively attacks this idea with examples showing how laws are administered more clearly in other nations. At times, the book is eerily timely, as when the author discusses alleged national emergencies invoked by occupants of the White House.

A keen, lively deconstruction of the American legal system’s seemingly countless flaws.

Pub Date: May 14, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-316-47526-6

Page Count: 544

Publisher: Hachette

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2019

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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