Not entirely the partisan screed that you’d expect, not especially provocative, but enlightening and in some places...

RADICALS IN ROBES

WHY EXTREME RIGHT-WING COURTS ARE WRONG FOR AMERICA

Attempting to support his alarmist view of how life would degrade under the sway of extreme right-wing judges, Sunstein (The Second Bill of Rights, 2004, etc.) nevertheless presents a surprisingly balanced history of constitutional law.

Sunstein (Jurisprudence/Univ. of Chicago Law School) warns that legal fundamentalists, who interpret the Constitution according to the “original understanding,” that is, how the framers and ratifiers conceived it, would deprive us of many of the freedoms and protections that we now take for granted. Fundamentalist courts would, for example, overturn Roe v. Wade on the basis that the Constitution does not protect privacy, strike as unconstitutional key provisions of anti-discrimination laws such as the Civil Rights Act and environmental safeguards such as the Clean Air Act, permit states to bar women from practicing as doctors or lawyers, declare even modest gun control laws invalid, scale back the rights of the accused, shield commercial advertising from government regulation and poke giant doorways in the wall that separates church and state. In fact, states could establish official religions. Sunstein’s most compelling argument against fundamentalism is that the framers and ratifiers were only human, so the Constitution can’t be perfect. Sunstein, however, does not establish a strong one-to-one correspondence between fundamentalism and extreme right-wing politics, other than to say that Justice Antonin Scalia, the most conservative member of the U.S. Supreme Court, is a fundamentalist. Not until near the end does he state, without much support, “The constitutional judgments of fundamentalists are eerily close to the political judgments of conservative politicians.” His evidence that courts are generally shifting to the extreme right is also weak. Sunstein promotes a minimalist approach to constitutional law, which allows that it’s okay to nudge the law carefully in one direction or another (right or left) with incremental decisions, rather than overreach, as he believes the Supreme Court did in Roe v. Wade.

Not entirely the partisan screed that you’d expect, not especially provocative, but enlightening and in some places fascinating.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-465-08326-9

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2005

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However charily one should apply the word, a beautiful book, an unconditionally involving memoir for our time or any time.

I KNOW WHY THE CAGED BIRD SINGS

Maya Angelou is a natural writer with an inordinate sense of life and she has written an exceptional autobiographical narrative which retrieves her first sixteen years from "the general darkness just beyond the great blinkers of childhood."

Her story is told in scenes, ineluctably moving scenes, from the time when she and her brother were sent by her fancy living parents to Stamps, Arkansas, and a grandmother who had the local Store. Displaced they were and "If growing up is painful for the Southern Black girl, being aware of her displacement is the rust on the razor that threatens the throat." But alternating with all the pain and terror (her rape at the age of eight when in St. Louis With her mother) and humiliation (a brief spell in the kitchen of a white woman who refused to remember her name) and fear (of a lynching—and the time they buried afflicted Uncle Willie under a blanket of vegetables) as well as all the unanswered and unanswerable questions, there are affirmative memories and moments: her charming brother Bailey; her own "unshakable God"; a revival meeting in a tent; her 8th grade graduation; and at the end, when she's sixteen, the birth of a baby. Times When as she says "It seemed that the peace of a day's ending was an assurance that the covenant God made with children, Negroes and the crippled was still in effect."

However charily one should apply the word, a beautiful book, an unconditionally involving memoir for our time or any time.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1969

ISBN: 0375507892

Page Count: 235

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1969

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A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

AN INDIGENOUS PEOPLES' HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

Custer died for your sins. And so, this book would seem to suggest, did every other native victim of colonialism.

Inducing guilt in non-native readers would seem to be the guiding idea behind Dunbar-Ortiz’s (Emerita, Ethnic Studies/California State Univ., Hayward; Blood on the Border: A Memoir of the Contra War, 2005, etc.) survey, which is hardly a new strategy. Indeed, the author says little that hasn’t been said before, but she packs a trove of ideological assumptions into nearly every page. For one thing, while “Indian” isn’t bad, since “[i]ndigenous individuals and peoples in North America on the whole do not consider ‘Indian’ a slur,” “American” is due to the fact that it’s “blatantly imperialistic.” Just so, indigenous peoples were overwhelmed by a “colonialist settler-state” (the very language broadly applied to Israelis vis-à-vis the Palestinians today) and then “displaced to fragmented reservations and economically decimated”—after, that is, having been forced to live in “concentration camps.” Were he around today, Vine Deloria Jr., the always-indignant champion of bias-puncturing in defense of native history, would disavow such tidily packaged, ready-made, reflexive language. As it is, the readers who are likely to come to this book—undergraduates, mostly, in survey courses—probably won’t question Dunbar-Ortiz’s inaccurate assertion that the military phrase “in country” derives from the military phrase “Indian country” or her insistence that all Spanish people in the New World were “gold-obsessed.” Furthermore, most readers won’t likely know that some Ancestral Pueblo (for whom Dunbar-Ortiz uses the long-abandoned term “Anasazi”) sites show evidence of cannibalism and torture, which in turn points to the inconvenient fact that North America wasn’t entirely an Eden before the arrival of Europe.

A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8070-0040-3

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Beacon Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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