Lakeland Book Club

Reading good books with good friends in North Idaho

The Appeal / Not On Our Watch | August, 2008 August 1, 2008

Filed under: Reading List — lakelandreads @ 12:00 pm

The Appeal by John Grisham and Not On Our Watch: The Mission to End Genocide in Darfur and Beyond by Don Cheadle and John Prendergast

Selected by Rachel Maughan


From (The Appeal):

In a crowded courtroom in Mississippi, a jury returns a shocking verdict against a chemical company accused of dumping toxic waste into a small town’s water supply, causing the worst “cancer cluster” in history. The company appeals to the Mississippi Supreme Court, whose nine justices will one day either approve the verdict—or reverse it.

The chemical company is owned by a Wall Street predator named Carl Trudeau, and Mr. Trudeau is convinced the Court is not friendly enough to his interests. With judicial elections looming, he decides to try to purchase himself a seat on the Court. The cost is a few million dollars, a drop in the bucket for a billionaire like Mr. Trudeau. Through an intricate web of conspiracy and deceit, his political operatives recruit a young, unsuspecting candidate. They finance him, manipulate him, market him, and mold him into a potential Supreme Court justice. Their Supreme Court justice.

From (Not On Our Watch):

An Academy Award-nominated actor and a renowned human rights activist team up to change the tragic course of history in the Sudan — with readers’ help.

While Don Cheadle was filming Hotel Rwanda, a new crisis had already erupted in Darfur, in nearby Sudan. In September 2004, then-Secretary of State Colin Powell termed the atrocities being committed there “genocide” — and yet two years later things have only gotten worse. 3.5 million Sudanese are going hungry, 2.5 million have been displaced by violence, and 400,000 have died in Darfur to date.

Both shocked and energized by this ongoing tragedy, Cheadle teamed up with leading activist John Prendergast to focus the world’s attention. Not on Our Watch, their empowering book, offers six strategies readers themselves can implement: Raise Awareness, Raise Funds, Write a Letter, Call for Divestment, Start an Organization, and Lobby the Government. Each of these small actions can make a huge difference in the fate of a nation, and a people — not only in Darfur, but in other crisis zones such as Somalia, Congo, and northern Uganda.

These books were selected because:

The Appeal:

I choose this book because of the Citizen’s United case, as well as several others, including the Caperton v Massey case (Massey lost a $50 million verdict and then contributed millions to elect the appeals court judge that would hear the appeal, “buying his reversal”) that Grisham loosely based his idea on, that were making their way through the courts at the time.  I am horrified at the thought that someone can game the system if they have enough money, and am cynical enough to recognize that it happens all too often.  I strongly believe that the judicial appointments and elections process is in serious need of overhaul to prevent these types of situations.  I believe that the current process disenfranchises the individual citizenry and allows those with power and wealth to buy verdicts.

For anyone who doesn’t know what the Citizen’s United case is: it is a controversial case that reached the Supreme Court in January, 2010, where the Court ruled that the government cannot limit the speech of corporations and unions.  The impact of this can be seen in the political process where individual candidates are still limited in accepting large donations, but political action committees (PACs) are not limited.  This will change politics as we know it going forward and will virtually guarantee the candidate with the most money, and wealthy friends, the election.  I’m not happy about it, yet on it’s merits, I have to agree with the Courts that the Constitution doesn’t specify anyone with regards to speech or limit it only to individuals, it just states that speech cannot be restricted.  At the time, I was wondering what would happen if you could stack the courts to get you the verdict you want.  Writing this now, in 2012, the very verdict I was afraid of came down from the Court, and it could be argued that the Court was stacked with the addition of Roberts and Alito… but that can always be argued both ways!

I also choose this book because it illustrates why women need to take a more active role in US politics.  I don’t want to spoil the book, so I won’t go into more detail, but it is critical that women become more informed and involved.

Not On Our Watch:

I selected this book because we often say: “It can never happen again” or “We would never let the Holocaust happen if we had been there.”  However, atrocities very similar to the Holocaust are still happening every day, and people are looking away every day, and I’m not okay with that.  I try to never miss an opportunity to educate myself on what I can personally do to make sure that no one is harmed either by my actions or, more importantly, by my inaction.  While I realize that I can’t change the world by myself, together we can accomplish a lot, and if I only change myself, at least I’ve changed the life of one person.


The Appeal                             Not On Our Watch