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June 11, 2010

Michael Winship: The Supreme Court Says NO to the People - Again

(Photo by Robin Holland)

Below is an article by Public Affairs Television senior writer Michael Winship.

"The Supreme Court Says NO to the People - Again"
By Michael Winship

At a dinner party, an ever-so-proper aristocrat who had been at the British evacuation of Dunkirk 60 years ago, remained tightlipped despite intense questioning from the other guests about what he had seen there.

Finally, he shuddered at the memory and exclaimed, "The noise, my dear, and the people!"

An apocryphal story, perhaps, but the high-falutin' Supreme Court of the United States has the same attitude toward America - this would be such a great country if it wasn't for all the noise and people.

Bad enough that last week the court narrowly redefined Miranda rights in such a way that seems to say that if one of those aforementioned people is arrested and remains silent about their right to remain silent, anything you do say, if you say something, can and will be held against you. An interpretation as worthy of Lewis Carroll as it is George Orwell.

Continue reading "Michael Winship: The Supreme Court Says NO to the People - Again" »


September 4, 2009

Balancing Big Money and Free Speech

(Photos by Robin Holland)

This week on the JOURNAL, Bill Moyers spoke with two prominent legal experts about an important case regarding campaign finance restrictions and free speech that the Supreme Court will hear in a special session on September 9th.

The case, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, concerns a political film, HILLARY: THE MOVIE, that criticized Hillary Clinton during last year’s bruising race for the Presidency. The conservative group Citizens United had planned to make the film available through on-demand cable and advertise it on television but, because the group had accepted contributions from businesses, the Federal Election Commission ruled that such distribution would violate campaign finance laws that ban the use of corporate money to advocate directly for or against political candidates.

Citizens United challenged the Federal Election Commission with a lawsuit that reached the Supreme Court in March. After hearing arguments, the Court took the unusual step of requesting that the case be re-argued at the special session next week. Many observers fear that the Supreme Court will declare unconstitutional many of the laws that aim to prevent corporations and unions from using their vast funds to influence political campaigns.

Continue reading "Balancing Big Money and Free Speech" »


November 7, 2008

Tracking America's Shifting Political Coalitions

(Photo by Robin Holland)

This week on the JOURNAL, Bill Moyers spoke with economic and political critic Kevin Phillips about the results of the 2008 elections and what they tell us about the future of American politics.

Phillips, whose 1969 book THE EMERGING REPUBLICAN MAJORITY [PDF link] correctly predicted an era of dominance for the GOP, said:

"I think the Democrats are going to have enormous problems over the next four years [with] a coalition in which they represent new emerging demographic groups [like minorities and the under-30 vote] but also, based on contributions and political geography, represent the financial community now -- the upper-income groups. And how they straddle this, which is something they've never had to straddle before, especially in difficult times, I think will strain the demographics."

Pointing to the success of California's Proposition 8, which found strong support from minority groups in its bid to ban gay marriage, Phillips suggested that the victorious Democratic coalition might fracture in years to come:

"I think that only supports the division between the ordinary people and the financial elites, the fact that blacks and hispanics on some cultural issues are a lot more conservative than the suburbanites in Fairfield Country, Connecticut or Morris County, New Jersey... I can conceive that they would be more open to some of the black conservatives and Republicans who say 'you can't trust those people.'"

What do you think?

  • Will the Democrats' electoral coalition prove durable over the next several election cycles?
  • Over the next few decades, do you expect Democratic and Republican party platforms to change significantly from those of today?


  • February 29, 2008

    Election Ads, Narratives, and Political Discourse

    In her conversation with Bill Moyers on the JOURNAL this week, media expert Kathleen Hall Jamieson suggested that politicians' campaign ads and other media appearances are akin to puzzle pieces that together form a larger, albeit ambiguous, narrative of the candidates' lives, characters, and campaigns:

    "We elect a person, not a set of issues... The strength of an underlying biographical narrative is extraordinarily important. You can't underestimate its importance when you're attacked, as every candidate will be, with a counter story... One of the things that advertising is able to do is to make some things more important in your decision about who should be president. And so ads are always a contest about what is important as an issue and what is important as an attribute about the candidate... There's an element of emotion in all of this... And we shouldn't lose track of the fact that advertising doesn't exist in isolation. People are drawing material from news, from what they are talking with their friends about, from the front pages into advertising to create a composite message"

    What do you think?

  • Do you agree that Americans vote for candidates as people rather than for their "set of issues?"
  • Can sound bites and 30-second ads sufficiently inform citizens about the issues, the candidates, and/or the policy differences between them? If so, has this happened so far in the race to November?
  • How would you like to see candidates and issue groups use the media to elevate political discourse?


  • February 7, 2008

    Kathleen Hall Jamieson Answers Your Questions

    (Photo by Robin Holland)

    Last week, media expert Kathleen Hall Jamieson, accepted viewer questions regarding the road to November.

    Her response is as follows, and we invite you comment below:

    Continue reading "Kathleen Hall Jamieson Answers Your Questions" »


    February 1, 2008

    Power Reading

    On the CBS EVENING NEWS, Katie Couric asks candidates from both parties which book, other than the Bible, they would bring with them to the White House and posits:

    "It's true you can't judge a book by its cover, but you can tell a lot about a person by what he or she reads."

    Find out what the candidates said on the CBS NEWS Web site.

    What do you think?

  • Do you agree that you can tell a lot about a person from what he or she reads?
  • Were you surprised by what the candidates picked?
  • What one book do you want your next president to read?

    Greetings to all. This is Bill Moyers, and I want you to know I read every offering this evening. I wish that I could answer all of them because each one of you has made an interesting suggestion for a book. We'll give air time to a few next Friday night and put out a press release with a list of all the books recommended. I appreciate very much your taking the invitation seriously.

    Bill Moyers

    (Please note that due to your overwhelming response our "complete list" keeps growing and growing. We invite you to view our books feature, complete with slideshow of popular suggestions and video of authors, as well as, peruse all the suggestions on the blog.)

    View Bill Moyers' suggestion. Watch Video

    (Please note that due to your overwhelming response our "complete list" keeps growing and growing. We invite you to view our books feature, complete with slideshow of popular suggestions and video of authors, as well as, peruse all the suggestions on the blog.)

    Here are the current top titles.

    • Naomi Klein, THE SHOCK DOCTRINE

    • Howard Zinn, A PEOPLE’S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

    • Kim Michaels, THE ART OF NON-WAR

    • Jared Diamond, COLLAPSE

    • Chalmers Johnson, BLOWBACK triology

    • Tom Paine, COLLECTED WORKS/COMMON SENSE

    • Al Gore, ASSAULT ON REASON/AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH

    • David Cay Johnston, FREE LUNCH

    • George Orwell, 1984/ANIMAL FARM

    • Naomi Wolff, THE END OF AMERICA: LETTERS TO A YOUNG PATRIOT

    • Greg Mortenson, THREE CUPS OF TEA

    • Barbara Ehrenreich, NICKLE AND DIMED

    • Barbara Tuchman, MARCH OF FOLLY

    • Doris Kearns Goodwin, TEAM OF RIVALS

    • David Korten, THE GREAT TURNING

    • John Steinbeck, THE GRAPES OF WRATH

    • Ayn Rand, ATLAS SHRUGGED

    • John Dean, BROKEN GOVERNMENT

    • John Perkins, CONFESSIONS OF AN ECONOMIC HITMAN

    • James Carroll, HOUSE OF WAR

    • Thomas Friedman, THE WORLD IS FLAT

    • Lao Tzu, TE TAO CHING

    • Tim Weiner, LEGACY OF ASHES

    • Dr. Seuss (THE LORAX, HORTON HEARS A WHO, THE PLACES YOU'LL GO, IF I RAN THE ZOO)


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