A maddening indictment of a corrupt and corrupted judiciary.

THE SCHEME

HOW THE RIGHT WING USED DARK MONEY TO CAPTURE THE SUPREME COURT

A damning investigation of dark money by a senior member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The scheme of Sen. Whitehouse’s title concerns “regulatory capture,” in which a business infiltrates a government agency to undo any efforts to make that business obey the law. “A classic response by regulated entities has been to try to ‘capture’ the agency meant to be overseeing them,” he writes, and the practice has now been extended to wholesale “agency capture.” In this scheme, the federal court system is an object of capture, which is why it should come as no surprise that wealthy businesses and individuals spent millions of dollars to ensure that Donald Trump’s three Supreme Court appointees made it to the bench. The Founding Fathers, Whitehouse writes, “did not intend courts as an anti-majoritarian back door for billionaire anti-government donors frustrated that the public hates their ideology”—but that’s exactly where we are. The author traces the origins of this capture movement to Robert Bork’s unsuccessful Supreme Court bid during the Reagan administration, when conservatives devoted their energies to placing like-minded judges throughout the federal judiciary. One strong instrument of capture came with the Citizens United decision, which declared that corporations had individual rights; one strong instrument to curtail this capture, which Whitehouse has championed, would require disclosure of any campaign contribution of more than $10,000. “No surprise,” he writes, “Republican Senators have blocked it from becoming law.” Yet another instrument of capture is the appointment of individuals to legal positions even though the legal community at large has rated them to be unqualified, without—as in the case of Brett Kavanaugh—minimal due diligence. We don’t know all there is to know about the scheme, Whitehouse concludes in this closely reasoned argument, adding, “I expect history will dig out those sordid details.”

A maddening indictment of a corrupt and corrupted judiciary.

Pub Date: Oct. 18, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-62097-738-5

Page Count: 256

Publisher: The New Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2022

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Disingenuous when not willfully oblivious.

SO HELP ME GOD

The former vice president reflects warmly on the president whose followers were encouraged to hang him.

Pence’s calm during the Trump years has been a source of bemusement, especially during the administration’s calamitous demise. In this bulky, oddly uncurious political memoir, Pence suggests the source of his composure is simple: frequent prayer and bottomless patience for politicking. After a relatively speedy recap of his personal and political history in Indiana—born-again Christian, conservative radio host, congressman, governor—he remembers greeting the prospect of serving under Trump with enthusiasm. He “was giving voice to the desperation and frustration caused by decades of government mismanagement,” he writes. Recounting how the Trump-Pence ticket won the White House in 2016, he recalls Trump as a fundamentally hardworking president, albeit one who often shot from the hip. Yet Pence finds Trump’s impulsivity an asset, setting contentious foreign leaders and Democrats off-balance. Soon they settled into good cop–bad cop roles; he was “the gentler voice,” while “it was Trump’s job to bring the thunder.” Throughout, Pence rationalizes and forgives all sorts of thundering. Sniping at John McCain? McCain never really took the time to understand him! Revolving-door staffers? He’s running government like a business! That phone call with Ukraine’s president? Overblown! Downplaying the threat Covid-19 presented in early 2020? Evidence, somehow, of “the leadership that President Trump showed in the early, harrowing days of the pandemic.” But for a second-in-command to such a disruptive figure, Pence dwells little on Trump’s motivations, which makes the story’s climax—Trump’s 2020 election denials and the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection—impossible for him to reconcile. How could such a selfless patriot fall under the sway of bad lawyers and conspiracy theorists? God only knows. Chalk it up to Pence's forgiving nature. In the lengthy acknowledgments he thanks seemingly everybody he’s known personally or politically; but one name’s missing.

Disingenuous when not willfully oblivious.

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 2022

ISBN: 9781982190330

Page Count: 560

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Nov. 16, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2022

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A lovely, sometimes challenging testament to the universality of human nature.

HUMANS

The creator of the hit internet series Humans of New York takes it global, chasing down a panoply of interesting stories.

In 1955, Edward Steichen staged a show called “The Family of Man,” a gathering of photographs that emphasized the commonality of humankind. Stanton’s project seemingly has much the same ambition. “You’ve created this magic little corner of the Web where people feel safe sharing their stories—without being ridiculed, or bullied, or judged,” he writes. “These stories are only honestly shared because they have a long history of being warmly received.” The ask is the hard part: approaching a total stranger and asking him or her to tell their stories. And what stories they are. A young Frenchwoman, tearful, recounts being able to see things from the spirit world that no one else can see. “And it’s been a very lonely existence since then,” she says. A sensible teenager in St. Petersburg, Russia, relates that her friends are trying to be grown-up, smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol, whereas she wants to remain a child close to her parents: “I’d like these times to last as long as possible.” A few stories are obnoxious, as with a Dutch incel who has converted himself into a pickup artist and outright cad: “Of course it’s manipulation, but why should I care? I’ve been manipulated so many times in my life.” A great many stories, some going for several pages but most taking up just a paragraph or two, are regretful, speaking to dashed dreams and roads not taken. A surprising number recount mental illness, depression, and addiction; “I’d give anything to have a tribe,” says a beleaguered mother in Barcelona. Some are hopeful, though, such as that of an Iranian woman: “I’ve fallen in love with literature. I try to read for one or two hours every day. I only have one life to live. But in books I can live one thousand lives.”

A lovely, sometimes challenging testament to the universality of human nature.

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-11429-7

Page Count: 448

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

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