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The book is well written and seems to be thoroughly researched. There are copious end notes detailing the sources the authors used, and the interviews they were granted. The authors leave no doubt that they believe that Anita Hill was sexually harassed. They also believe that Clarence Thomas should not be a supreme court justice. Perhaps someone better informed than I would be less easily persuaded, but I found their arguments convincing. That however is not the reason to read this book.
This book is worth reading for the amazing story of how aggressive and well organized the Republicans were, and how inept and naive the Democrats were. The Republicans spared no effort in organizing a national campaign to get their nominee approved, despite the fact that his only qualification was ambition. The cynicism is astounding. The Democrats on the other hand had no idea what was going on till it was too late. Even when Anita Hill presented them with an opportunity to derail the nomination of the reactionary Thomas they were too timid and passive to take advantage of it. The result was that the unqualified Thomas is now a supreme court justice, and Hill was savaged in the hearings.
The changes in the perception of sexual harassment as a result of these events are only briefly discussed. I would have liked to see more discussion of the after effects, and less of Thomas record at the EEOC.
i may be a littel biase becouse Jill Abramson was the first person to hold me after my mother and Jill Abramson is one of my moms best freinds but i like this book
This chronicle of the Thomas nomination places the Bush and Reagan administratons in an extremely unattractive light. However, as the two authors are senior editors with the "Wall Street Journal" this cannot be dismissed as a one sided liberal diatribe. "Strange Justice" is fair and balanced, and gives appropriate "credit" to the democrats for their timidity in failing to respond to the many opportunities to prevent Thomas's confirmation. There was bittersweet justice in that many of the "moderate" democrats who negotiated with the Bush administration due to imminent relection concerns ultimately ended up being defeated by constituents disgusted by their acquiescence in having allowed Thomas's approval.
"Strange Justice" does engage in a bit of pop psychology, drawing conclusions regarding how Thomas's childhood and career have molded his political philosophy. In summary, they describe an unhappy childhood resulting in a bitter, warped man with an immense chip on his shoulder. However, the Republicans made his origins fair game by selling Thomas on the basis of his noble, modest origins and "remarkable" success story. The authors are considerably more generous to Anita Hill, whose questionable judgement they attribute to naiviete. However, they also make a convincing case regarding an understandable reticience to respond to sexual harassment, as evidenced by the shameful way she was slandered by machinery of the Bush administration.
This is an important and chilling book. Unfortunately, it only leaves you more cynical about the machinations of our government.
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Mr. Gerber should be commended for presenting a balanced portrait of Justice Thomas's jurisprudence. Gerber dispells the myth that Justice Thomas is merely Justice Scalia's second vote.
Mr. Gerber also does a good job of exposing the intellectual dishonesty of Thomas's critics. The picture he paints is clear: the current civil rights movement hates Thomas because he fails to tow the liberal, collectivist line. He actually thinks for himself. How remarkable!
After reading this book there can be no doubt that Thomas is his own man. Of course those of us who have taken the time out to actually READ HIS OPINIONS already knew this to be the case.
The only fault that I can find with this book is Mr. Gerber's mischaracterization of originalism. On page 183 of his book Gerber writes that conservative originalism is a flawed method of constitutional interpretation, musing "Why that document? Why that framer?"
Originalism is not that simple. As noted by Justice Scalia is his recent book, A Matter of Interpretation, "It is curious that most of those who insist that the drafter's intent gives meaning to a statute reject the drafter's intent as the criterion for interpretation of the Constitution. I reject it for both. I will consult the writings of some men who happened to be delegates to the Constitutional Convention--Hamilton's and Madison's writings in The Federalist for example. I do so, however, not because they were Framers and therefore their intent is authoritative and must be law; but rather because their writings, like those of other intelligent and informed people of the time, display how the text of the Constitution was originally understood. Thus I give equal weight to Jay's pieces in The Federalist, and to Jefferson's writings, even though neither of them was a Framer. What I look for in the Constitution is precisely what I look for in a statute: the original meaning of the text, not what the original draftsmen intended." (see page 38)
It is interesting to note that Gerber's definition of "originalism" closely parallels the above-referenced quote by Justice Scalia. In a footnote on page 47, Gerber defines "conservative originalism" as maintaining that "the Constitution should be interpreted as the Framers themselves would have interpreted it."
The documents and Framers consulted by judges, or legal scholars, to interpret the Constitution are ONLY IMPORTANT to the degree that they shed light on how the words used in the text of the Constitution were understood by the men who drafted and ratified it. Originalism is not perfect, and it does not answer all constitutional questions or inquiries. But this method of constitutional interpretation works 95% of the time. The problem is that most judges are NOT looking for the answer to a constitutional question, they are looking for a way to justify their agenda. After writing this book and evaluating the superficial jurisprudence of other Supreme Court Justices (e.g. Stevens, Souter, etc.), I have a feeling that Mr. Gerber understands this reality all to well.
With that small criticism noted, I highly recommend this book. A job well done!
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Some quotes from contemporary sources found on page 207 of Larsen's book: Walter Lippman of the "New York World": "Now that the chuckling and giggling over the heckling of Bryan by Darrow has subsided it is dawning upon the friends of evolution that science was rendered a wretched service by that exhibition." The New Orleans "Times Picayune": "Mr. Darrow, with his sneering 'I object to prayer!' and with his ill-natured and arrogant cross-examination of Bryan on the witness stand, has done more to stimulate 'anti-evolution' legislation in the United States than Mr. Bryan and his fellow literalists, left alone, could have hoped for." The Vanderbilt University humanist and champion of evolution, Edwin Mims: "When Clarence Darrow is put forth as the champion of the forces of enlightenment to fight the battle for scientific knowledge, one feels almost persuaded to become a Fundamentalist."
As Larsen explains in "Summer for the Gods," Darrow's examination assumed the status of a legendary victory only after the release of the McCarthy-era morality play "Inherit the Wind," which took great dramatic license in depicting the examination as having "won" the Scopes Trial.
When a lawyer performs as mean-spirited an examination as Darrow did of Bryan, the lawyer's rabid fans are enthralled, his enemies are enraged, and those on the fence are encouraged to join the enemy. Darrow's examination of Bryan should be studied as a fine example of how not to perform a cross examination.
Moral of the Story: When there are primary documents available, such as this volume which provides the entire transcript of the trial as taking from the stenographers record, you are better served by reading them rather than secondary sources that tend to privilege a play/movie rather than what really happened.
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The novel is a grim portrait of the suffering of the poor, in spirit and in fact. Readers who recall the grand historical scope of "War and Peace" and the poignant personal drama of "Anna Karenina" will be struck by the modest presentation of this book. The plot development is minimal, and mainly consists of Nekhludov's interventions on Maslova's behalf with a variety of legal, military, and political persons. This privileged structure, contrasted with the suffering of the prison inmates, leaves a deep impression. Tolstoy's goal is spiritual maturity, and not revolutionary incitement. He writes graphically and realistically of the world. This novel was banned for a time in Edwardian England. It is an eloquent albeit modest summary to Tolstoy's career as a thinker.
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The book opens on the very first page with the view of Thomas's confirmation hearings through the perspective of the porn-store owner that alleges to have sold videos to Judge Thomas. Greenya writes that this owner was "excited" that one of "his customers" was being nominated to the Supreme Court. Yeah... I bet.
After that wonderful introduction, the book truly begins with Thomas's impoverished childhood in Pin Point, Georgia. Mr. Greenya moves quickly through this time period, as well as most of Thomas's young adult and college days. The majority of the 300-page book is taken up by quotes and opinions on Thomas, mostly concerning the Anita Hill ordeal and Thomas's rulings as a Supreme Court Justice. In these cases, the quotes opposing Thomas are without fail longer and preceding the quotes from the far fewer sources Mr. Greenya uses who are on Thomas's side. Mr. Greenya even goes so far as to uncritically reference the words of people such as Nan Aron and Eliot Minceberg of People for the American Way, an ultra-Left lobbyist group.
Mr. Greenya does not seem like a vindictive or vitriolic man, like many (not all, of course) of the people who attack Clarence Thomas for anything he does. But he is clearly slanted to a certain political side not in agreement with Clarence Thomas's views. In prefacing the lengthy passage he uses from Sarah Weddington, the lawyer who successfully argued the Roe v. Wade case, Mr. Greenya characterizes her as "a fierce protector of the right she worked so hard to win for all American women..." Political opinions aside, it is simple fact that there are tens of millions of American women who do not consider legalized abortion to be any "right" that human beings have, no matter what the law says... rather, they consider it morally appalling. In this simplistic statement Mr. Greenya gives away his political persuasion more than he does at any other point in this book. His explanation of what it means to "bork" a judge is also astoundingly false, according to the widely held understanding of the word, even as defined by Microsoft's Encarta dictionary, for one. Mr. Greenya almost seems to be painfully twisting things to meet an agenda at times.
I give the book 2 stars because Clarence Thomas rejected several requests, rightfully so, by Mr. Greenya to be interviewed for this book. I'm sure Judge Thomas's friends and fellow conservatives also knew what to expect and turned down Mr. Greenya as well, which had to be a major factor, beyond his control, in Mr. Greenya's lack of qualified, pro-Thomas sources throughout the book. But the slant and the errors are simply inexcusable in a purportedly neutral book, and accompanied with a boring narrative, this makes for one of the worst "biographies" I have ever read.
This is an almost impossible task as the early life of Justice Thomas is alive with passion. The hearings against him alive with the same and the voice of his detractors and his defenders alike brim with this emotion.
Greenya doesn't seem to want to make a decision. He lets the participants and the record do most of the talking. His final chapter allows people involved and uninvolved make their cases however he refuses to draw any conclusions. This might be a desision made in order to be fair (and for the most part he shows respect for both sides of the story) but it makes for a less interesting book.
The story of Thomas' early life and the story of the Hearings went fast and read well, they had what most of the book lacked, but that was due to the drama inherant in the facts, not the writers writing.
I would suggest reading this volume first before reading the acolates of the right or the birckbats of the left, in that sense it is a useful book.
This book may deserve a better rating than I gave it. Greenya is not trying to be Bernard Cornwell but I find I just can't do better than what I have.
Silent Justice is an unusually unbiased account compared with much that has been written about Thomas. Although the book allowed me to draw my own conclusions, I found John Greenya's treatment of the ways in which Thomas's opinions and style changed from his college days and throughout his years at the Equal Employment Opportunities commission and on the Federal bench to be particularly interesting. In addition, the description of Thomas's early life and the culture he grew up in provides a necessary backdrop for understanding his later life. The skillful blending of Thomas's professional and personal struggles, as well as the author's insights into the special challenges inherent in being a black man functioning at the upper levels of society and government is part of what makes this book so interesting.
I would definitely recommend Silent Justice to anyone who wants to understand what makes Thomas tick or who wants a greater perspective on the various ways people achieve power and prestige in American government and society.