Monthly Archives: August 2001

Congressional Redistricting

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It’s a hot button political issue with all the sex appeal of a Sears catalog. But just because it doesn’t sizzle like a political potboiler doesn’t mean it lacks suspense.

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The constitutionally mandated reapportioning of Congressional voting districts occurs every ten years. And this time, perhaps more than any in modern memory, the outcome could determine control of the US House. Republicans say they stand to gain as many as twelve new seats when voting lines are redrawn in 43 states. Democrats chalk that claim up to wishful thinking. No one knows for sure, but one thing is certain: Not enough voters are paying attention to the one issue that could change the political landscape for decades to come.


Ron Elving, Washington Editor, National Public Radio;
Thomas Finneran, Massachusetts Speaker of the House

The Business of Baseball

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Strange times for the national pastime. There are too many teams and two much money in the gloves of few. And while the faithful keep flocking to some ballparks, other stadiums, even those with winning teams, are shockingly empty.

Baseball still commands big profits, more than three billion a year, but if the sports prophets are right, the greatest show on dirt is being run into the ground. It’s a major league headache with no easy cure.


Michael Gee, columnist for the Boston Herald;
Andrew Zimbalist Professor of Economics at Smith College;
Bill Johnson, General Manager of the Nashua Pride.

Scrutinizing Japan's New Prime Minister

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Japan’s Prime Minister Koizumi is called the Japanese John McCain; a maverick who won his post in April on a platform of economic reform and record popularity. Today, though, Koizumi is under fire for visiting a controversial shrine that honors Japan’s war dead, including convicted war criminals.

The response from neighboring nations has been dramatic: Protesters in South Korea are slicing off their fingertips and mailing them to the Japanese embassy. In the Phillipines, elderly women who claim they were forced into prostitution by the Japanese military are demonstrating for compensation.

So why would a reformer who’s trying to bring Japan’s economy back to life and focusing on his country’s future get mired in a controversy that’s all about its past?


Richard Samuels, professor of political science, Director of the Center for International Studies, and Founding Director of the Japan Program at MIT;
Toshiaki Miura, Washington based political reporter and consultant with the Asahi Shimbun newspaper

Revisiting Benedict Arnold

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Benedict Arnold is a name that lives in infamy, even though these days, many historically-challenged Americans couldn’t tell you precisely what he did. They just know it was treason.

“BENEDICT JEFFORDS” screamed the New York Post headline when Senator Jim Jeffords of Vermont abandoned the Republican Party. Benedict Arnold’s name also turns up on sports pages when a player deserts to a rival team.

The true story of Benedict Arnold is more dramatic and complex. He’s famous as a traitor, but he was also a hero of the American Revolution. He led patriot troops to a crucial victory at Saratoga. That is what made his betrayal of George Washington and the American cause all the more stunning.


James Kirby Martin, author of “Benedict Arnold, Revolutionary Hero: An American Warrior Reconsidered”;
David Taylor, screenwriter.

White House Policy and Confidentiality

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The days of closed door and back room dealings in Washington DC were supposed to be over. Open government laws, passed in recent decades, aim to let in the light, to take the top off the White House, and let the People peer inside and see just how the sausage gets made.

But Vice President Dick Cheney is now arguing there’s got to be a limit to openness in government. He is refusing to give the General Accounting Office the names of outside advisors whom he consulted on the Administration’s energy policy.

Critics say Cheney is just shielding the big oil and coal interests who had a direct-dial to the White House. Cheney says policy-making requires privacy, and what requires scrutiny is not the process but the result.


Tom Fitton, President of Judicial Watch;
John Podesta, former chief of staff for President Clinton;
David Barron, assistant professsor of law at the Harvard Law School and former attorney advisor to the White House Office of Legal Counsel

High Stakes Publishing

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What do Bill Clinton and the Pope have in common? Big fat book advances, the kind that would topple down if you tried stacking all those dollars one on top of the other.

Adjusted for inflation, the Pope’s advance, an unprecedented eight and a half million dollars in 1994, just might beat the former president’s, a cool ten plus million dollars, landed just last week. Never mind that presidential memoirs don’t usually sell. Never mind that Knopf, the publishing house betting big on Bill, could face a financial tsunami if it’s wrong about the public’s seemingly insatiable appetite for Clintonian sagas.

What matters is that this is what publishing has become. A high stakes gamble where the only guarantee is that there are no guarantees.


Bridget Kinsela, Book News Editor, Publisher’s Weekly;
Eamon Dolan, Executive Editor, Houghton Mifflin.

The United States Vs. Microsoft

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In the aftermath of the government breakup of Microsoft, lots of people asked: Why didn’t Bill Gates settle the anti-trust case against him? Now, his stock is down. His famously loyal employees are demoralized and leaving him.

And there’s a big black cloud over Redmond, Washington. Bill Gates, was the high tech hero who invented the new economy, the embodiment of a new competitive spirit for a new age. But now he’s just another rich, arrogant, monomaniacal, corporate titan. Even with the appeals court case coming up this month, even with a new administration that might be more disposed to him, even without David Boies, the fix might be in for Bill Gates.

One of his colleagues said: “Vindication will be bittersweet. The company suffered too much. Before, people thought the world of us. Now, either the decision stands, in which people think we’re criminals, or the decision is over-turned and people think we got away with something.”
(Hosted by Christopher Lydon)


John Heilemann, author of “Pride Before The Fall: The Trials of Bill Gates and the End of the Microsoft Era.”

Moby Dick

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Herman Melville was just 32 years old when he unleashed “Moby Dick” 150 years ago, and the great white whale still pulls readers in its wake.

At the story’s heart is Captain Ahab, who lost a ship, and a leg, to Moby Dick, and who is now bent on revenge. He tells his crew, “It was that accursed white whale that made a poor pegging lubber of me forever and a day! I’ll chase him ’round Good Hope, and ’round the Horn, and ’round perdition’s flames before I give him up. And that is what ye have shipped for, men! To chase that white whale on both sides of land, and over all sides of earth, till he spouts black blood and rolls fin out.”


Andrew Delbanco, professor of English, Columbia University and author of a biography of Herman Melville, and an anthology of New England, “Writing New England”;
John Bryant, professor of English, Hofstra University, editor of “Leviathan: A Journal of Melville Studies,” and director of The International Melville Conference, “Moby Dick 2001.”

The Stem Cell Decision

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In his speech last night, President Bush gave a green light to federal funding for stem cell research on human embryos. It may be the most significant decision of Mr. Bush’s young presidency, and the most controversial.

Questions about when life begins and the limits of science have stirred debate around news rooms and dinner tables for months. Now that the President has made up his mind, the debate moves to Congress.

Ready or not, we’re driving into a brave new world, a frontier of science that could bring new cures and raises new ethical questions.


Adrienne Asch, Professor of Biology, Ethics, and the Politics of Human Reproduction at Wellesley College;
Mike West, CEO, Advanced Cell Technology;
Frank Foer, staff reporter for The New Republic.

Barry Goldwater

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“What has Barry Goldwater ever done for Culpepper?” Lyndon Johnson bellowed to the citizens of Culpepper Virginia, in the 1964 presidential campaign. In fact, Goldwater had just done something for a majority of the white voters in Culpepper and throughout the South. He had voted against the Civil Rights Act.

After signing that historic act that year, LBJ foretold the future in a remark to Bill Moyers: “I think we have just delivered the South to the Republican Party for a long time to come.” The big political story of the 1960’s, missed in punditry then and nostalgia since, was the rise of the right. From today’s perspective, the real winner of the ’64 election was Barry Goldwater.


Rick Perlstein, author of “Before The Storm”;
Robert Dallek, professor of history at Boston University and author of the Lyndon B. Johnson biographies “Lone Star Rising” and “Flawed Giant.”