Justin's Reviews > With Liberty and Justice for Some: How the Law is Used to Destroy Equality and Protect the Powerful

With Liberty and Justice for Some by Glenn Greenwald
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Jul 14, 2011

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Read from September 03 to October 17, 2012

I love Glenn's work but it does take some adjustment reading him in book format as opposed to his blog, now hosted on the Guardian's web site. While he has more room to state his case and develop his arguments here, it took an awful long time for that argument to get going. He spends a bit too much time discussing things in terms of what the Founding Fathers believed and would have wanted. That may work for strict constructionists and conservatives, but many others outside that camp don't necessarily think 18th Century intentions should be imposed on a contemporary America.

The good news is once he does move into contemporary politics and gets to the meat of this book, it really takes off. He draws an extremely compelling line from Ford's pardon of Nixon through to Obama's present day, ongoing shielding of Bush administration war criminals as the new MO for the elite political class. Even better (and more outrageous), he looks at how this elite immunity complex has been transferred not only to political elites but also corporate ones. The discussion of the infamous retroactive immunity for telecom companies secret wire tapping was particularly strong. The obvious other example of the ongoing financial crisis and relatively few executives who have been made to stand for their alleged crimes, particularly as it relates to mortgage foreclosures was dealt with far too briefly, unfortunately.

Greenwald then moves on to the second tier of justice for how non-elites are increasingly being incarcerated for longer and less serious offenses. The statistics and anecdotes he provides here are sobering and depressing, although it isn't quite as compelling as the rest of the book, namely because he doesn't spend as much time working out a rationale for this development in the same way he does for elite immunity, other than pointing to the rise of "law and order" politics.

This is a great read for those looking for a truly critical perspective on the political class as a whole, rather than an argument that takes partisan sides. Greenwald hammers just about every president from Nixon to Obama, and spends quite a lot of time focusing on the decisions of our current President. There are some flaws, but this is an important, engaging argument that is almost completely ignored by mainstream political reporters.
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