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Allow Me To Retort: A Black Guy's Guide to the Constitution

par Elie Mystal

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18312146,704 (4.57)1
"According to commentator and lawyer Elie Mystal, Republicans are wrong when they tell you the First Amendment allows religious fundamentalists to discriminate against gay people who like cake. They're wrong when they tell you the Second Amendment protects the right to own a private arsenal. They're wrong when they say the death penalty isn't cruel or unusual punishment, and they're wrong when they tell you we have no legal remedies for the scourge of police violence against people of color. In fact, Mystal argues, Republicans are wrong about the law almost all of the time, and now, instead of talking about this on cable news, Mystal explains why in his first book"--… (plus d'informations)
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Depressing. Thinking through the Constitution from a black person’s perspective exposes it for a poor designed and poorly maintained document—that is if you are anything other than a white man.
1 voter BookyMaven | Dec 6, 2023 |
I have been an Elie Mystal fangirl since he started writing for Above the Law back in 2008 or 2009 -- it was during the recession and I was an attorney recruiter watching the last vestiges of respect for non-monetizable excellence in private legal practice crumble. When I started practicing law in 1989 it was not unusual for partners to say things like "law is not just a business, it is a calling." in 2008 people stopped saying that. At the request of several client firms I started doing outplacement work for laid off lawyers (there had never been lawyer layoffs before) and every day I was an agent structuring and perpetuating the stealth layoff. It was a difficult time for me (and for the people fired, obviously) and Elie Mystal stepped up with the keenest of minds, the finest of educations, a sense of humor sharper than a Ginsu knife, and an honest sense of decency in an indecent world. Every day Elie kept me sane. (The way he dealt with racist ATL commenters alone was grounds for reverence.) Many years later when I moved back to New York I was at a professional event hosted by Breaking Media, and he was there and when I met him I was so excited I almost started crying. (In later encounters I did much better, and I have always hoped he did not remember that first meeting.) A couple years after we first met Elie left to be a legal commentator for The Nation. I stopped running into him at events and I followed his work at the Nation only sporadically. Though he was no longer a regular part of my intake, I followed him more than most pundits and continued to think him one of the smartest legal journalists working. So I went into this book with high expectations, and Elie did not disappoint.

Allow me to Retort is an amendment by amendment takedown of the Constitution, both as written and as interpreted, and a frontal attack on the "intent of the framers" crowd. As Mystal points out the document was drafted by slaveholding misogynists who intended keep down everyone not a landholding straight man of European descent. If you interpret the document based on the intent of the framers, women and people of color remain powerless, because that was the framers' intent. Mystal's legal and Constitutional knowledge is prodigious, and so he is able to show how the courts have consistently applied the law not in the right way, but in the way that most effectively keeps power in the hands of white men, and he provides solutions for how to patch the problems until we can just get rid of the Constitution. This was smart and challenging and a real pleasure both to argue with and to incorporate into my own thinking. I disagree with a number of Elie's points, and unlike him I love the Constitution and many of the amendments. The Constitution is an elegant document, and one written to be able to applied as the country modernized. If the framers had wanted specific rules on how things would be done forever and ever we would have a code based system as do most countries. The advantage of a Constitution is that it is adaptable and so these racist asshole strict constructionist are actually defying the framer's intent every time they choose not to interpret the guideline's in accord with the needs of the country as it is, rather than as it was (that is my opinion, not Elie Mystal's btw.) My point is that we disagree on elements of Constitutional interpretation, on the worth of the foundational document, and on many points he makes about what he believes would be best for America (his court-packing argument for instance, while moving, also fails to consider the downsides of a bloated court and is, IMO, wrong.) I don't read though to get the perspectives of people whom I agree with. I read to get the perspectives of people smarter, better informed, and more articulate than I. I got that here. I feel better informed, more equipped to argue for certain types of change, and also I came out of this shifting my opinions on a number of things. Go in knowing that this has a point of view, that it is written to persuade. It is not even-handed in the least, but it is also not rant -- it is a factually-supported position piece in a time where our doom will come, ironically, from the fact that facts are missing from most political discussion.

One note, I started this in audio and quickly changed to Kindle. Elie is a shouter. I did not like being shouted at by Bernie Sanders or Donald Trump, I do not watch CNN or MNBC in part because I don't like all the shouters, and I don't like being shouted at by Elie Mystal. I greatly preferred the print, but YMMV. ( )
  Narshkite | Jul 30, 2023 |
This was just the right mixture of righteous indignation, snark, and great legal arguments for me at this moment. I've always enjoyed listening to Elie Mystal on various shows and this was just like a super long form version of that. His legal arguments are smart but accessible to someone who has not studied it but feels well-informed. He is angry where needed and knows how to throw in a few spicy comments to make his point. I look forward to more.
1 voter amyem58 | Jul 14, 2023 |
Really interesting deconstruction of conservative and originalist arguments regarding what the US Constitution and its amendments mean. ( )
  coprime | Jun 19, 2023 |
best book I’ve read in ages

I read this in under a week. It’s clear, concise, funny, and entertaining. I learned a lot and now feel I can take down any racist/misogynist in a debate over US law.

I wish there had been something like this book in my high school history class. I hope parents have their kids read this.

If you, like me, are angered by what the GOP is doing to America, are enraged by the reversal of Roe v. Wade, then you should read this. This book will give you hope. It will let you know what to demand from Democrats to fix this madness. ( )
  MahuaCavanagh | Sep 21, 2022 |
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Six months after this book came out in hardcover, Republicans and the religious right achieved their most essential victory against American women: six conservative justices voted to revoke reproductive freedom for women and pregnant people. -Preface, Originalism Aborts Progress
Our constitution is not good. It is a document designed to create a society of enduring white male dominance, hastily edited in the margins to allow for what basic political rights white men could be convinced to share. -Introduction
In 399 BCE, the Athenian philosopher, Socrates, was tried and convicted of impiety toward the Gods of Athens, and corruption of Athenian youth. Cancelling Trash People Is Not a Constitutional Crisis, Chapter 1
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"According to commentator and lawyer Elie Mystal, Republicans are wrong when they tell you the First Amendment allows religious fundamentalists to discriminate against gay people who like cake. They're wrong when they tell you the Second Amendment protects the right to own a private arsenal. They're wrong when they say the death penalty isn't cruel or unusual punishment, and they're wrong when they tell you we have no legal remedies for the scourge of police violence against people of color. In fact, Mystal argues, Republicans are wrong about the law almost all of the time, and now, instead of talking about this on cable news, Mystal explains why in his first book"--

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