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With Liberty and Justice for Some: How the…
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With Liberty and Justice for Some: How the Law Is Used to Destroy Equality…

by Glenn Greenwald

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"The poorest laborer stands on equal ground with the wealthiest millionaire, and generally on a more favored one whenever their rights seem to jar." - Thomas Jefferson

The United States of America was intended to be a nation of laws, not of men. Liberty and justice for all. That was then.

In 1965 six large banks petitioned congress for retroactive immunity after an illegal merger. It was opposed by Senator Robert Kennedy and Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach said their proposal was "nothing more or less than a private relief bill for the banks". That was then.

“If the president does it, that means it's not illegal.” - Richard Nixon.
That's history. This is now.

"The people are dead but the money keeps talking." goes a line in a song ("The Fries") by rapper Mr. Lif. This line has said more to me than anything else I can think of. When people pretend that part of the same evil is "the lesser of two evils" I think of this. Government officials moving seamlessly between the public and private sector to set up legislation and self administered blow jobs I think of this. What are they gonna do? Take all of that money with them? The USA can't mean anything to them. I don't know what it means to me, either. I don't THINK it means Goldman Saks.

Let's look forward, rather than back. That's now. That's been then for a long time too. President Ford's reasoning for his pardon eerily comes up again and again when other politicians are let off the hook for their crimes. He's been punished enough. The Obama administration have used his "look forward" enough times. Like Obama, Clinton forgot about taking his predecessor to task after setting foot in the oval office (call me a cynic, but I think it was long before then).

Glenn Greenwald's book With Liberty and Justice For Some: How the Law is used to Destroy Equality and Protect the Powerful is well stated look at our now two-tier governmental system. The have your cake and we'll eat it too tier with the private sector and the government as the happy couple on top. I don't know who wears the pants. I know they both write the checks. It isn't really anything that one wouldn't already know from news not going too far before the current generation's memory. Apologists don't try to deny that the Bush administration were rampant law breakers, or anything. They say that it doesn't matter. We the public are apparently okay with it (I'm not). I liked Greenwald's book because it's not going to tell me any lesser of two evils shit. You KNOW what the country was supposed to be all about. It's not about that and if you know it or not, it can't be said enough if that's what it takes to get out of a "This is just how it is" spoon-fed lie. Mariah Carey shows you one side of her cheek for the photo-ops depending on what the public wants on that polling day. It's the same ass (probably a butt double). Nothing changes, just this time the guy has the desired "D" by his name. Retroactive immunity for telecom companies who illegally spied on citizens (if you had nothing to hide...). Americans can be killed without suspicion if they say they thought you were a terrorist (comfortingly they are extending this to include gangs and drugs). Torture is illegal but it wasn't illegal when we did it. Look, Russia arrested people for what people get arrested for here. No need for congress. If you are one of the powerful then the rules do not apply to you. Bailouts, drones. That's what they call worker bees too. Blue dogs pay for cake too. It's that donkey's birthday party and he lost your tail. The devil and the sheep all have cloven hooves. The rich don't have to face the same laws as the rest of us. They should have been in prison. They should have been held accountable. They are not. This is now. Liberty and justice for SOME. The rich one percent. Who doesn't know that figure? There's a chart illustrating how almost everyone has stagnated at 1979. I was born in 1979. The richest one percent go into the future. Unemployment hasn't been this high since the 1940s. This is now. Greenwald's book covers the immunity, the too big to jail, immunity by presidential decree. You know it, you know now.

One out of one-hundred American citizens are in prison (and that's not including probation and parolees). Twenty-five percent of the world's prison population are incarcerated in the USA. Legislation laws that make big money for the people who made the mandatory sentencing laws (thereby tying a judge's hands to consider individual circumstances in a given case). Sentences are three times longer in the USA than they are in Canada. The government guys have been punished enough by getting their names in the paper. I was with Greenwald when he bitterly writes that the poor people must belong in prison. Why are they banking for harsh drug laws when the laws don't even apply to them? Oh yeah, it's money. They are making billions. Prisons for cash. There's big money in private prison contracts. More people in jail means more money for them. Greenwald's book lists examples of people who did not belong in prison. The list could be endless. One seventeen year old boy who had oral sex with his fifteen year old girlfriend went for ten years. A mom went for two years for throwing a soda into a car. The law couldn't see them as people but their guys are too good to face up to their own crimes?

Because the laws do not apply to them, because the laws serve to serve their own interests and not the interests of the people, the united states is fucked. That's the smart term for it. Or you could say "oligarchy" and "plutocracy". It's an empty suit filled with cash that no one is going to take with them. Sure, there will be more suits to fill the spots, forcing homeless citizens across the river styx. I wonder if they'll let them keep the coins over their eyes. Of course they won't. They write laws to serve their own purposes. They get even richer. Let's just look forward.

Indeed, those who abuse state power virtually always follow the same playbook. By initially targeting new abuses at groups that are sufficiently demonized, they guarantee that few will object. But abuses of power rarely, if ever, remain confined to these demonized groups. Rather, degraded principles of justice, once embraced in limited circumstances, in time inevitably come to be applied more broadly.

The town that I live in has at least twice been ranked as one of the top five in the country as the cruelest towards the homeless. I believe it (the homeless shelter is capped at I think 125 meals a day). We may have been yet higher for economic disparity in a single city (the community planners may have forgotten there is a poor side). Every day I see homeless people and I do not help them because I am terrified of being arrested. Every day I feel the weight in my soul and I don't do fuck all to help because I am scared of the law. The law doesn't mean anything to big brother. In the state of Florida if you give food or money to a homeless person they can arrest you if you don't have the proper permit (in Orlando a church group was recently arrested for helping without papers. It isn't looked over. After all, government funding goes to he who fulfills the most statistics). I'm not going to protest in front of a federal agent any time soon. I could probably protest in my bedroom. They don't have a permit requirement for me there yet. The media maintain that it is the public who are okay with this. Greenwald cites a USA Today poll if Rove should have been forced to testify. It was 71% yes to a 21% should not. What the regular people want doesn't matter.

This is something that Greenwald wrote in an article that I love:
The fact that a certain behavior is common does not negate its being corrupt. Indeed, as is true for government abuses generally, those in power rely on the willingness of citizens to be trained to view corrupt acts as so common that they become inured, numb, to its wrongfulness. Once a corrupt practice is sufficiently perceived as commonplace, then it is transformed in people's minds from something objectionable into something acceptable.

Indeed, many people believe it demonstrates their worldly sophistication to express indifference toward bad behavior by powerful actors on the ground that it is so prevalent. This cynicism – oh, don't be naive: this is done all the time – is precisely what enables such destructive behavior to thrive unchallenged.


I don't feel worldly. I feel scared and helpless. I see "The people are dead but the money keeps talking" facelessness with no reason other than more money for some statistic. I guess if they made everyone else into statistics of 25% of the world in prison then they are also just a number. I really don't want that. I like Glenn Greenwald. He wrote his book about all of this stuff that I knew was going on and looked at it not from some journalistic complacency place, a look at what they are doing place (I know people who seem to care only as a reason to get mad. I wonder if they really feel it affects them). He's a real person and, as powerful as they are, they are citizens too. It shouldn't be justified. They broke the law. Equality was supposed to mean something! It didn't then either. But that doesn't mean it shouldn't. I gotta wonder if the give up cynicism doesn't come out of a "Well, since no one else did it for me..." place. I'm confused but I feel less like laws and country don't mean anything when I have some kind of context. All of those people in prison who shouldn't be there! Kids killed with drones. Fill the suit. Look at what they are doing. It matters now. Don't believe the media when they tell you that everybody is okay with it. We're not. It still really, really sucks. They do what they want and no one is going to stop them. If they did, they'd just get a pardon.

Greenwald is a constitutional lawyer. He used to write a column for salon.com before moving over to (online and sometimes print editions) The Guardian in the uk (he also writes for papers where he lives in Brazil about their news). ( )
  marswins | Feb 17, 2014 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
At the time of this book's publication in 2011, Glenn Greenwald had become a highly- respected journalist, known to most readers through his columns at Salon magazine. With his ongoing publication of the NSA files taken by Edward Snowden, Greenwald has emerged as the foremost independent journalist of our time.

"With Liberty and Justice for Some" is a scathing indictment of the US justice system. Heavily based in fact and replete with information, it is a devastating account of the two -tiered system that judges the indigent harshly while letting the wealthy and well- connected off the hook for crimes -- financial and otherwise -- that are far more damaging and dangerous to society. As thoroughly documented, the legal offenses (including the use of torture and targeted murder) extend to the top of the US political system in the administrations of both GW Bush and Barack Obama. In reading this book, I found myself continually outraged, and my copy is now full of underlinings, marginal notes, and bent-down page corners. Since other reviewers have summarized the nature and content of Greenwald's arguments, I won't duplicate their efforts. I strongly recommend this work to anyone who cares about social justice and to anyone interested in learning of how the law is abused to protect privilege and power in violation of equality, liberty and justice for the many.

Note: As of this writing, this book has received 61 reviews at Amazon, 57 of which awarded one of the highest two ratings. That may be unprecedented for a politically- oriented book, and speaks powerfully for the strength of Greenwald's work and the high regard in which he is held. ( )
2 vote danielx | Nov 18, 2013 |
Although many consider it little more than a holiday with fireworks, July 4 is meant to celebrate the final approval of the Declaration of Independence and its precepts. One of its key elements is epitomized in the phrase "that all men are created equal." Granted, there was an inherent contradiction with the existence of slavery in America, but the concept was a bit more specific. As many contend, the phrase stands for the proposition that there was to be no inequality before the law, that the law would be blind to a person's status or position.

In With Liberty and Justice for Some: How the Law Is Used to Destroy Equality and Protect the Powerful, Glenn Greenwald argues that the reality is the opposite in today's justice system. In fact, he says, "like the term rule of law, equality under the law has become merely a platitude." His contention that different rules apply to the politically and economically powerful isn't new but the book makes a good case for the claim.

Greenwald focuses on several specific events in making the case. One is a rather detailed look at the revelation of the George W. Bush's domestic warrantless domestic wiretapping program and the eventual action by Congress to provide full retroactive immunity -- both civil and criminal -- to giant telecommunications companies for their violations of federal law. He also examines the actions of that administration's actions in the "war on terror" and, in a chapter called "Too Big to Jail," the failure -- or refusal -- of the government to prosecute bank officials and others responsible for the financial crisis beginning in 2008. In so doing, With Liberty and Justice for Some repeats often made criticisms of the current state of affairs, particularly the role of money and lobbyists in government. But one of Greenwald's main points is the coalescence and almost seamlessness of government and private elites.

He often points to the so-called revolving door between politics and private industry. Yet he argues that there is far less separation between the two than the concept might imply. Instead, whether in telecommunications or the health or financial industries, "the U.S. government and industry interests essentially form one gigantic, amalgamated, inseparable entity -- with a public division and a private one." And rather than simply make these assertions, Greenwald's examples point to specific instances of this occurring during the last several decades.

Greenwald points to some key phrases that seem to epitomize the situation during that time. Once is Richard Nixon's statement several years after his resignation that "When the president does it, that means it is not illegal." There are often subtle echoes of it in most administrations -- and entirely unsubtle in the expansive position of the George W. Bush administration on executive power. Another phrase the tends to echo and serve as justification for even egregious activities is that we need to move forward to get past what has occurred, rather than looking back and dwelling on events. As Greenwald points out, though, "given that 'looking backwards' is, by definition, what any investigation entails, it [is] a motto of pure lawlessness."

Some critics might claim Greenwald is largely going after the George W. Bush administration. But With Liberty and Justice for Some doesn't exempt the Democrats, Barack Obama or his presidential administration for its critiques. The book points out that, contrary to campaign promises, Obama supported the telecom immunity bill, as did most Democrats. Additionally, Obama's administration has not been afraid to invoke the "need to look forward" mantra in foregoing meaningful investigations of private individuals in the financial crisis or Bush administration officials in its torture and similar policies. The book argues that perhaps the real reason behind not investigating is that doing so would mean finding those responsible.

Greenwald does not limit his analysis and criticisms to political and industry leadership. He believes the established media are part and parcel of the problem. They tend to support the powers that be or to avoid focus on these issues for fear of losing access. Access, after all, is power in the Beltway.

While it might be somewhat easy to argue that Greenwald's examples are the exception and not the rule, one of his most telling points comes when he explores how the less or least powerful in American society are treated before the law. With various statistics and graphs, With Liberty and Justice for Some points out the increasing prison terms in the United States, some of the reasons behind it and its often disparate impact. In fact, a "Rule of Law Index" published in 2010 designed to measure justice systems from the perspective of the ordinary citizen placed the United States 20th out of the 25 nations surveyed. Among other things, it found that only 40 percent of low-income individual found the justice system fair, while 71 percent of the wealthy respondents did. Not only was it the largest gap among developed nations, it compares to a five percent gap in France and basically no gap in Spain.

Ultimately, the book leaves the impression that the last several decades have seen increased institutionalization of disparate legal treatment. While undoubtedly more fair than repressive regimes, the fact government and private industry have skewed the American justice system unfairly -- or at least have created that strong impression -- would be considered by those signing the Declaration of Independence as entirely antithetical to that document's principles.

(Originally posted at A Progressive on the Prairie.)
2 vote PrairieProgressive | Aug 25, 2012 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This is an ER review.

Glenn Greenwald is a constitutional lawyer and columnist for Salon.com. I've followed his blogs for 6 or 7 years, and he is always informed (and informative), factual, logical, and often frightening in his analyses of the assaults on our democracy and civil liberties. This, his third and most recent book, is no exception.

The central principle of the founding of the United States was that it was a nation of laws, not men. The fundamental requirement for a rule of law is uniform application of the law to everyone, including leaders. When law is applied only to the powerless, it becomes a tool of oppression, rather than a safeguard of liberty.

Greenwald's thesis is that not only is it the case that the powerful enjoy some advantages in the application of law in our judicial system, but that the powerful are now routinely allowed to break the law with no repercussions whatsoever. In clear, straight-forward language Greenwald lays out the history of this erosion, beginning with the crimes surrounding the Watergate break-in and coverup. Nixon, who inarguably committed serious felonies, was shielded from all legal consequences by the pardon of his handpicked vice president. Ford's statement, "Our long national nightmare is over..", and the reasons he advanced for the pardon, have been repeated so often since then that they have almost become cliche:

--Prosecution mires us in the divisive past when we should be looking forward;
--It's wrong to criminalize policy disputes;
--Political elites who commit crimes while carrying out their duties are well-intentioned and acting for the overall good;
--Being forced out of office with damaged reputation is punishment enough.

With incontrovertible facts, Greenwald also guides us through the Iran-Contra affair in which White House officials clearly and knowingly broke specific laws and lied to Congress. In fact, when the International Court of Justice ruled in favor of Nicuaragua and ordered the payment of compensation, Reagan refused to comply, and used the US's veto power on the UN Security Council to prevent efforts by the United Nations to enforce the judgement. Geenwald also details the documented crimes committed by the Bush administration--torture, warrantless eavesdropping, CIA "black holes" and renditins, politicized prosecutions, obstruction of justice, Scooter Libby, etc.--and the reasons advanced for ignoring them.

From these and other crimes the idea of "elite immunity" has emerged--some people are just so indispensable to the running of America that giving them immunity is not only in their best interest, but is in our best interest too. This idea has carried over into immunity for those in the private sector who are "too important" to prosecute. For example the wireless companies who were complicit in the violations of FISA were granted retroactive immunity by Congress--a nearly unprecedented departure from the norms of the rule of law. The rationale was that these companies were motivated solely by their feelings of patriotic duty, despite the fact that the one company that refused the government's requests to break the law was threatened with the loss of government contracts while compliant companies were paid millions. Elite immunity has become further embedded because of the revolving door that exists between government officials and private industry. Its latest manifestation is the failure for there to be any consequences for those who perpetrated the financial melt-down of 2008, and the ensuing mortgage foreclosure scandals.

Obama has continued policies eroding the rule of law, although he campaigned on promises to restore the rule of law. Almost immediately after taking office, he blocked and suppressed all investigations of the Bush administration with the excuse that the country needs to look forward, not backwards. Obama has gone so far as to threaten Great Britain with withholding US intelligence regarding terrorists if Great Britain investigated claims of torture by a British resident who was held captive at Guantanamo for 6 years. He also closed the investigation of the destruction by the CIA of videos relating to the torture of terror suspects it was expressly ordered to keep.

Most of the facts set forth in this book are and have been readily available, and are probably well-known to those who follow politics and law and are interested in the truth. The book is stunning in that it sets forth cogently and logically the story of how much our democracy has eroded. While an initial reaction to reading the book might be to close one's eyes in despair, knowledge is the first step to correcting these inequities. I urge you to read this book. Even if it sounds as though the book is on the opposite political spectrum from yours, this book is important if we are again to become a nation of laws. 4 stars ( )
4 vote arubabookwoman | Jun 18, 2012 |
What a profoundly relevant and necessary book about the two tiered justice system in American politics.Greenwald's take is that todays gross misconduct to protect the politically powerful started when President Ford pardoned President Nixon. He used the same line about looking forward not backwards that President Obama used to not only condone but retroactively immunize President Bush wiretapping , banking crisis, mortgage crisis and torture crimes and the Obama administrations own crimes. For make no mistake the waterboarding continues.This chain of events eventually led to how the private banking sector as well as the telecoms received immunity.The way the auto companies were given strict regulations for bailout money but the banking sector couldn't be stopped giving large bonuses. Why were the auto employees benefits taken then?Greenwald makes a very strong case in his explanation with direct quotes from Eric Holder, the press and politicians WHY the political and financial elite escape with no attempt of justice. Apparently in the spirit of bipartisanship you don't want the next political office to investigate your own administration.The hypocrisy doesn't end there as the not looking back but forward doesn't hold true for other nations who give their powerful immunity.Then you can't move forward without charging criminals.Greenwald also covers America's vast prison state and increasingly harsher sentencing that is "bipartisan" and the financial sector who runs the prisons which has a hand in shaping our drug laws.Last but not least the vast disparity in the Obama administration to go after whistleblowers but never the criminals themselves.If you follow his blog at all you'll be familar with this topic but despite some criticisms that he repeats himself people need to read this. Too many people actually aren't aware of torture convention and really do think torture of non prisoners of war is legal because of the Geneva convention.I recommend this book to everyone. I'm a regular follower of Greenwald's column at salon.com. He's fair, well researched and never gives over to hyperbole. America never had a problem with a rich class but when the laws don't apply to them and they write the laws with an agenda to lengthen prison sentences then we are no longer a country of laws but rule of man. ( )
2 vote peptastic | Jun 1, 2012 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0805092056, Hardcover)

From "the most important voice to have entered the political discourse in years" (Bill Moyers), a scathing critique of the two-tiered system of justice that has emerged in America

From the nation's beginnings, the law was to be the great equalizer in American life, the guarantor of a common set of rules for all. But over the past four decades, the principle of equality before the law has been effectively abolished. Instead, a two-tiered system of justice ensures that the country's political and financial class is virtually immune from prosecution, licensed to act without restraint, while the politically powerless are imprisoned with greater ease and in greater numbers than in any other country in the world.

Starting with Watergate, continuing on through the Iran-Contra scandal, and culminating with Obama's shielding of Bush-era officials from prosecution, Glenn Greenwald lays bare the mechanisms that have come to shield the elite from accountability. He shows how the media, both political parties, and the courts have abetted a process that has produced torture, war crimes, domestic spying, and financial fraud.

Cogent, sharp, and urgent, this is a no-holds-barred indictment of a profoundly un-American system that sanctions immunity at the top and mercilessness for everyone else.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:58:51 -0400)

Argues that the American legal system is set up in such a way that the politically powerful escape justice despite wrongdoing, while the disadvantaged fill the prisons.

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