THE SCHEME

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

A maddening indictment of a corrupt and corrupted judiciary.

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. 30, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2022

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ELON MUSK

Alternately admiring and critical, unvarnished, and a closely detailed account of a troubled innovator.

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A warts-and-all portrait of the famed techno-entrepreneur—and the warts are nearly beyond counting.

To call Elon Musk (b. 1971) “mercurial” is to undervalue the term; to call him a genius is incorrect. Instead, Musk has a gift for leveraging the genius of others in order to make things work. When they don’t, writes eminent biographer Isaacson, it’s because the notoriously headstrong Musk is so sure of himself that he charges ahead against the advice of others: “He does not like to share power.” In this sharp-edged biography, the author likens Musk to an earlier biographical subject, Steve Jobs. Given Musk’s recent political turn, born of the me-first libertarianism of the very rich, however, Henry Ford also comes to mind. What emerges clearly is that Musk, who may or may not have Asperger’s syndrome (“Empathy did not come naturally”), has nurtured several obsessions for years, apart from a passion for the letter X as both a brand and personal name. He firmly believes that “all requirements should be treated as recommendations”; that it is his destiny to make humankind a multi-planetary civilization through innovations in space travel; that government is generally an impediment and that “the thought police are gaining power”; and that “a maniacal sense of urgency” should guide his businesses. That need for speed has led to undeniable successes in beating schedules and competitors, but it has also wrought disaster: One of the most telling anecdotes in the book concerns Musk’s “demon mode” order to relocate thousands of Twitter servers from Sacramento to Portland at breakneck speed, which trashed big parts of the system for months. To judge by Isaacson’s account, that may have been by design, for Musk’s idea of creative destruction seems to mean mostly chaos.

Alternately admiring and critical, unvarnished, and a closely detailed account of a troubled innovator.

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2023

ISBN: 9781982181284

Page Count: 688

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 12, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2023

BEYOND THE GENDER BINARY

From the Pocket Change Collective series

A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change.

Artist and activist Vaid-Menon demonstrates how the normativity of the gender binary represses creativity and inflicts physical and emotional violence.

The author, whose parents emigrated from India, writes about how enforcement of the gender binary begins before birth and affects people in all stages of life, with people of color being especially vulnerable due to Western conceptions of gender as binary. Gender assignments create a narrative for how a person should behave, what they are allowed to like or wear, and how they express themself. Punishment of nonconformity leads to an inseparable link between gender and shame. Vaid-Menon challenges familiar arguments against gender nonconformity, breaking them down into four categories—dismissal, inconvenience, biology, and the slippery slope (fear of the consequences of acceptance). Headers in bold font create an accessible navigation experience from one analysis to the next. The prose maintains a conversational tone that feels as intimate and vulnerable as talking with a best friend. At the same time, the author's turns of phrase in moments of deep insight ring with precision and poetry. In one reflection, they write, “the most lethal part of the human body is not the fist; it is the eye. What people see and how people see it has everything to do with power.” While this short essay speaks honestly of pain and injustice, it concludes with encouragement and an invitation into a future that celebrates transformation.

A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change. (writing prompt) (Nonfiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-09465-5

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: March 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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