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Adding one more item to her already considerable résumé, a few years ago Ruth Bader Ginsburg became the first Supreme Court Justice to attain the status of Internet meme. Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg by Irin Carmon and Shana Knizhnik, is an joyful exploration of the life and career of the woman behind the diadem-topped icon that launched a thousand Halloween costumes.

To those who know Ginsburg as a meme first and a Justice second, Carmon and Knizhnik’s cannily researched book serves as an invaluable introduction to an extraordinary women, written with admiration, savvy, and wit. To those already well versed in RBG’s legal and judicial accomplishments, it’s a delightful and elegantly designed visual guide to the cultural impact one determined warrior for social justice can have when she becomes the stuff memes are made of.

You can read an excerpt below. The book is available for purchase hereRead our full review of the book here.

Of all of her clients, RBG was fondest of Stephen Wiesenfeld, a single father whose wife had died in childbirth. Bringing his case to the Supreme Court was a chance to show that sexism hurt everybody. While Stephen “played homemaker,” as the letter that brought him to RBG’s attention put it, his wife, Paula, had worked as a teacher and paid into Social Security. But only widows could get “mother’s benefits.” The law, RBG wrote in her brief to the Supreme Court on Wiesenfeld’s behalf, “reflects the familiar stereotype that, throughout this Nation’s history, has operated to devalue women’s efforts in the economic sector.”

Her argument went even further. “Just as the female insured individual’s status as breadwinner is denigrated,” RBG wrote, “so the parental status of her surviving spouse is discounted. For the sole reason that appellee is a father, not a mother, he is denied benefits that would permit him to attend personally to the care of his infant son, a child who has no other parent to provide that care.” Then she twisted the knife. Their young son, Jason Paul, RBG wrote, was another victim of a law that “includes children with dead fathers, but excludes children with dead mothers.”

RBG found out she won her case by flipping through her car radio on her way to Columbia. “My first reaction was that I have to get hold of myself or I’ll have an accident,” she told a reporter that day. “Then when I got to Columbia, I went running through the halls kissing the students who had worked with me on the case. And I am normally a very unemotional person.” She told another friend it had made her cry.

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“Given the purpose of enabling the surviving parent to remain at home to care for a child, the gender-based distinction of [the law] is entirely irrational,” Brennan wrote. Rehnquist, still a women’s rights skeptic, concurred, saying he was voting to strike down the law because it harmed the baby. At least he had taken that half step. RBG wrote of the case, “Wiesenfeld is part of an evolution toward a policy of neutrality—a policy that will accommodate traditional patterns, but at the same time, one that requires removal of artificial constraints so that men and women willing to explore their full potential as humans may create new traditions by their actions.”

She had perplexed and even angered some of her allies by bringing so many cases with male plaintiffs. After all, it was the Women’s Rights Project, not the men’s rights project. Much later, people would say RBG was a genius for presenting the male-dominated court with their brethren. The truth was more complicated. The choices men like Stephen Wiesenfeld made baffled, even angered the justices. Why would he want to act like a woman? In a way, it was easier to understand why a woman would want to act like a man. RBG firmly believed that for women to be equal, men had to be free. Decades later, an unnamed guest at a dinner party told the New York Times that RBG had fiercely interrupted another guest who mentioned she’d worked on behalf of “women’s liberation.” “She turned on him and said, ‘It is not women’s liberation; it is women’s and men’s liberation.’ I’d never seen her exercise such strength and vehemence.”

Nor was she interested in letting only one or two women into the old boys’ network. RBG firmly believed that more women in public life would benefit everyone, including men. “Men need to learn, and they do when women show up in their midst in numbers, not as one-at-a-time curiosities,” RBG remarked at the twenty-fifth anniversary of women at Harvard Law School in 1978. “Men need the experience of working with women who demonstrate a wide range of personality characteristics, they need to become working friends with women.”

Excerpted from Notorious R.B.G.: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg by Irin Carmon and Shana Knizhnik, published in October 2015 by Dey Street Books. Copyright © 2015 by Irin Carmon and Shana Knizhnik. All rights reserved.

If you enjoyed this excerpt, purchase the full book here.

Read our full review of the book here.


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  • 1.Why did Trump choose to hide certain specific files and not others at Mar-a-Lago? What were the criteria that Trump used to keep some files concealed and not others? Who selected those files? Did Trump consult or direct anyone in his selection of secret files? Trump was notorious for being too impatient to read his briefing papers, even after they had been drastically shortened and simplified. Is there the slightest evidence that he spirited these papers away so that he could consult or study them? Who besides Trump knew of the presence of the files he had concealed at Mar-a-Lago?
  • 2. Mar-a-Lago has an infamous reputation for being open to penetration even by foreign spies. In 2019, the FBI arrested a Chinese woman who had entered the property with electronic devices. She was convicted of trespassing, lying to the Secret Service, and sentenced and served eight-months in a federal prison, before being deported to China. Have other individuals with possible links to foreign intelligence operations been present at Mar-a-Lago?
  • 3. Did members of Trump's Secret Service detail have knowledge of his secret storage of the files at Mar-a-Lago? What was the relationship of the Secret Service detail to the FBI? Did the Secret Service, or any agent, disclose information about the files to the FBI?
  • 4. Trump's designated representatives to the National Archives are Kash Patel and John Solomon, co-conspirators in the investigations into Russian interference in the presidential election of 2016, the Ukraine missiles-for-political dirt scandal that led to the first impeachment in 2019, and the coup of 2020. Neither has any professional background in handling archival materials. Patel, a die-hard Trump loyalist whose last job in the administration was as chief of staff to the Acting Secretary of Defense, was supposedly involved in Trump’s “declassification” of some files. Patel has stated, “Trump declassified whole sets of materials in anticipation of leaving government that he thought the American public should have the right to read themselves."
  • The White House counsel failed to generate the paperwork to change the classification markings, but that doesn’t mean the information wasn’t declassified.” If Pat Cipollone, the White House legal counsel, did not “generate the paperwork,” was he or anyone on his staff aware at all of the declassifications? The White House Staff Secretary Derek Lyons resigned his post in December 2020. Did his successor, who held the position for a month, while Trump was consumed with plotting his coup, ever review the material found in Trump’s concealed files for declassification? Or did Patel review the material? Can Patel name any individual who properly reviewed the supposed declassification?
  • 5. Why did Trump keep his pardon of Roger Stone among his secret files? Was it somehow to maintain leverage over Stone? What would that leverage be? Would it involve Stone's role as a conduit with the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers during the coup? Or is there another pardon in Trump’s files for Stone, a secret pardon for his activities in the January 6th insurrection? Because of the sweeping nature of the pardon clause, pardons can remain undisclosed (until needed). Pardons are self-executing, require no justification and are not subject to court review beyond the fact of their timely execution. In other words, a court may verify the pardon was valid in time but has no power to review appropriateness. A pardon could even be oral but would need to be verifiable by a witness. Do the files contain secret pardons for Trump himself, members of his family, members of the Congress, and other co-conspirators?
  • 6.Was the FBI warrant obtained to block the imminent circulation or sale of information in the files to foreign powers? Does the affidavit of the informant at Mar-a-Lago, which has not been released, provide information about Trump’s monetization that required urgency in executing the warrant? Did Trump monetize information in any of the files? How? With whom? Any foreign power or entity? Was the Saudi payment from its sovereign wealth fund for the LIV Golf Tournament at Trump’s Bedminster Golf Club for a service that Trump rendered, an exchange of anything of value or information that was in the files? If it involved information in the files was it about nuclear programs? Was it about the nuclear program of Israel? How much exactly was the Saudi payment for the golf tournament? The Saudi sovereign wealth fund gave Jared Kushner and former Trump Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin $2 billion for their startup hedge fund, Affinity Partners. Do the Saudis regard that investment as partial payment for Trump’s transfer of nuclear information? Were Kushner or Mnuchin aware of the secret files at Mar-a-Lago?
  • 7.Did Trump destroy any of the files? If so, when? Did those files contain incriminating information? Did he destroy any files after he received the June subpoena?
  • 8.Were any of the secrets of our allies compromised? Has the U.S. government provided an inventory of breaches or potential breaches to our allies?
  • 9.Does the resort maintain a copying machine near the classified documents that Trump hid? Were any of the documents copied or scanned? Are Trump’s documents at Mar-a-Lago originals or copies? Were any copies shown or given to anyone?
  • 10.Trump’s lawyer Christina Bobb has revealed that a video surveillance system covers the places where Trump hid the files at Mar-a-Lago, and that the system is connected to a system at his other residences at the Bedminster Golf Club in New Jersey and Trump Tower in New York City. According to Bobb, Trump and members of his family observed the FBI search and seizure of his files at Mar-a-Lago, “actually able to see the whole thing” through their surveillance system. Who has that surveillance system recorded entering the rooms where the files were kept?

Kevin Bacon, right, in "The Following"

The aftermath of the August 8, 2022 search of the Mar-a-Lago club, former President Donald Trump’s Florida home, isn’t the first showdown between the FBI and a cult leader.

The Following, a 2013 Fox Pictures series, played out in similar fashion. Three seasons was enough for the producers and it’s been nine years since our introduction to Joe Carroll, English professor-novelist-serial killer, so there’s a spoiler risk -- but not enough to prevent the comparison.

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