Bill Moyers interviews John Grisham, best-selling author of The Firm, The Pelican Brief, and The Rainmaker, in a far-ranging conversation that gives viewers insight into the beliefs and background that influenced Grisham’s work and provides an unexpected look at his views about the state of the nation.
Bill Moyers Journal
January 25, 2008
Critics have acclaimed John Grisham’s novels for their detailed portrayal of the intricacies of our legal and political systems — with a sinister twist. Grisham’s ability to portray the worlds of law and politics comes from experience — he has been both a trial lawyer and served in the Mississippi House of Representatives from January 1984 to September of 1990. As Grisham notes “All my books are based, in some degree on something that really happened. There’s an element in truth in all these books.”
After 18 novels, John Grisham turned to non-fiction for the first time in his career. THE INNOCENT MAN was Grisham’s investigation into why Ron Williamson and another man were wrongly convicted of a 1982 murder, and why he spent eleven years on death row before D.N.A. evidence finally set him free.
Who’s Picking Your Judges?
When you get your day in court, would you rather your judge were a Republican or a Democrat? Would you rather the money for their election campaign came from business groups or lawyers? How about a religious group?
These are not questions Americans are used to asking themselves. Yet, if you live in a state where judges are elected, you might start.
Few people stop to think about how a judge becomes a judge. The most visible process is the US Supreme Court, whose members are appointed by the president for life terms. But the states are different. Almost every one uses a unique combination of systems to select judges for each level of the court. Many states use some form of merit selection, 21 states hold popular elections for their supreme court, and eight of those use partisan elections.
Winning the Vote: Campaign Ad Spending
It’s no secret that during the campaign season the candidates are pulling out all the stops — and a lot of cash — in order to win your vote. Indeed, the 2008 campaign season is breaking the record for political advertising — a record set in 2004.
But what are the viewers of these ads really getting from all that advertising?
Consider the stats below:
- Spending on TV ads 2008: an estimated $2.5 billion. That’s two-thirds more than the 1.6 billion they spent in 2004, which set the previous record.
- The Presidential race will account for at least 1/3 of the total — some $800 million.
- If you’d watched every single ad that the candidates ran Before the Iowa caucuses it would have taken more than 15 days.
- Scholars found that local TV news coverage in 2004 spent just 86 seconds on each political story — much less than on weather, sports, and crime. And nearly half of all campaign reporting was of the “horse-race” standings.
Take a journey through campaign ads of the past, learn how to fact-check current ads online and then tell us what’s getting your attention this campaign season on the blog.
Katherine Newman on the Downturn on the Homefront
The possibility of a lasting economic downturn is the talk of the globe. From the gathering of the world leaders at the World Economic Summit in Davos, Switzerland, to the 24-hour cable market analysts, to the White House and all those on the campaign trail, reassurance, blame and proffered solutions are a dime a dozen. Many of the new headlines seem to focus on the big players — banks, countries, corporations and markets — not individuals. Sociologist Katherine Newman returns to THE JOURNAL to talk about how Americans all over the economic spectrum are affected by the ups and downs of the global economy.
Katherine S. Newman
Katherine S. Newman is the Malcolm Forbes Class of 1941 Professor of Sociology and Public Affairs and the Director of the Institute for International and Regional Studies at Princeton University. Formerly the Dean of Social Science at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University and the Malcolm Wiener Professor of Urban Studies in the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Newman has also taught at Columbia University.
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