A compelling document of interest to anyone concerned with civil rights and an equitable system of justice.

PLEADING OUT

HOW PLEA BARGAINING CREATES A PERMANENT CRIMINAL CLASS

A full-throated denunciation of a judicial system grown lazy, complacent, and overly given to forcing confessions for its own convenience.

Civil rights attorney Canon, whose legal work helped secure nationwide marriage equality, argues that the plea-bargaining system on which courts rely originally served the ruling class by “dividing up America’s ever-growing working class before it got big enough to take over.” He opens with a 1972 case in which a Kentuckian caught up in a check-kiting scheme in the amount of $88.30 insisted on his innocence and rejected the prosecution’s offer of a five-year prison sentence without trial. That refusal earned him a life sentence, according to a statute that allows the prosecution to seek maximal penalties for the recalcitrant. Small wonder that so many accused Americans take plea deals, “a quotidian injustice that most of the public doesn’t know or care much about.” This injustice, Canon insists, is a feature and not a bug of a legal system that would otherwise have to bring cases to trial, which, he argues, would not be a bad thing, since it would force prosecutors to actually prove guilt before a jury. Of course, as the author also shows, the jury system is fundamentally flawed since it penalizes workers whose employers don’t make allowances for public service—workers who are mostly minority and working-class, which explains the overwhelming Whiteness of juries. Canon incisively demonstrates how the rise of plea bargaining is a way for prosecutors to decrease their workloads. “Expediency, not fairness, is the principal concern,” he writes. Since plea bargains usually carry mandatory jail time, the ploy explains why our population of the imprisoned and the criminal class is so much higher than that of other nations. There are cures, Canon argues at the end of his well-reasoned argument. For one, “prosecutors can voluntarily screen cases to streamline the docket rather than just scramble to resolve a high volume of cases in a short amount of time.”

A compelling document of interest to anyone concerned with civil rights and an equitable system of justice.

Pub Date: March 8, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5416-7467-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Basic Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 12, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2022

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A scattershot exercise in preaching to the choir.

THE WAR ON THE WEST

A British journalist fulminates against Black Lives Matter, critical race theory, and other threats to White privilege.

“There is an assault going on against everything to do with the Western world—its past, present, and future.” So writes Spectator associate editor Murray, whose previous books have sounded warnings against the presumed dangers of Islam and of non-Western immigration to the West. As the author argues, Westerners are supposed to take in refugees from Africa, Asia, and Latin America while being “expected to abolish themselves.” Murray soon arrives at a crux: “Historically the citizens of Europe and their offspring societies in the Americas and Australasia have been white,” he writes, while the present is bringing all sorts of people who aren’t White into the social contract. The author also takes on the well-worn subject of campus “wokeness,” a topic of considerable discussion by professors who question whether things have gone a bit too far; indeed, the campus is the locus for much of the anti-Western sentiment that Murray condemns. The author’s arguments against reparations for past damages inflicted by institutionalized slavery are particularly glib. “It comes down to people who look like the people to whom a wrong was done in history receiving money from people who look like the people who may have done the wrong,” he writes. “It is hard to imagine anything more likely to rip apart a society than attempting a wealth transfer based on this principle.” Murray does attempt to negotiate some divides reasonably, arguing against “exclusionary lines” and for Henry Louis Gates Jr.’s call for a more vigorous and welcoming civil culture. Too often, however, the author falters, as when he derides Gen. Mark Milley for saying, “I want to understand white rage. And I’m white”—perhaps forgetting the climacteric White rage that Milley monitored on January 6, 2021.

A scattershot exercise in preaching to the choir.

Pub Date: April 26, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-316202-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Broadside Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 5, 2022

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A deceptively slender but rich argument in favor of conserving liberal ideals—and liberal government.

LIBERALISM AND ITS DISCONTENTS

The renowned political scientist and philosopher considers classical liberalism and the broad range of enemies arrayed against it.

“By ‘liberalism,’ ” writes Fukuyama, “I refer to the doctrine…that argued for the limitation of the powers of governments through law and ultimately constitutions, creating institutions protecting the rights of individuals living under their jurisdiction.” Born of events such as the English civil war and the Enlightenment, this liberalism also encouraged diversity of thought, religion, and ethnicity, placing it squarely in the crosshairs of today’s authoritarian nationalists, not least Donald Trump. Fukuyama has often been identified with conservative causes, but his thinking here is democratic to the core, and he has no use for such pathetic lies as Trump’s insistence that the 2020 election was stolen. That said, the author notes that liberalism has many enemies on both the left and the right for numerous real yet correctable failings. The neoliberalism that has emerged over the past couple of generations has accelerated inequality, and numerous institutions have been eroded while others, such as the Electoral College, have been revealed to be anti-democratic. Both left and right, the author argues, have trouble accepting that governing over diversity, the hallmark of liberalism, means governing over many ethnic and national groups, strata of income, and competing interests. He adds, however, “Left-of-center voters…remain much more diverse” in political outlook. Essential to a liberal society, Fukuyama insists, is the right to vote: “Voting rights are fundamental rights that need to be defended by the power of the national government.” While he insists that individual rights take precedence over group rights, he also observes that the social contract demands citizen participation. To the conservative charge that the social contract is one thing but the “common moral horizon” another, he answers that yes, liberalism does not insist on a single morality—which “is indeed a feature and not a bug.”

A deceptively slender but rich argument in favor of conserving liberal ideals—and liberal government.

Pub Date: May 10, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-374-60671-8

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

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