Monthly Archives: August 2002

Politics and Principles in the Middle East

Listen / Download

A 63 year-old ailing academic sits in Egypt’s Tora prison: Saad Eddin Ibrahim. He’s to serve seven years at hard labor for, among other things, tarnishing Egypt’s image.

Human rights activists say that it’s just another example of the Hosni Mubarak’s heavy hand, that in the judiciary, as in the streets, Egypt’s vaunted civil society is a farce. Now, President Bush is curbing additional aid to Cairo as a protest against the prosecution, the first time such pressure has been applied to America’s second largest aid beneficiary. But the administration may have a hard time being taken seriously, as it beats the drum for violent overthrow in Iraq and detains faceless prisoners of its own back home.

New tensions with the land of the pyramids.


Mustafa Kamel El-Sayed, professor of political science, Cairo University

Neil Hicks, Director of the Middle East program, Lawyers’ Committee for Human Rights

Edward “Ned” Walker, President of the Middle East Institute and former U.S. Ambassador to Egypt.

They Might Be Giants

Listen / Download

Few groups have flourished in university mode as long as They Might Be Giants – John Flansburgh and John Linnell: They Might be Pygmies if it weren’t for a certain now – famous telephone answering machine. Critters and philosophers, there’s no subject too small… or too big for their crossword-puzzle word play lyrics purple toupees, bird cages, President James K. Polk and racism. After 20 years, innumerable college gigs, late night television appearances, now a documentary and a profile in the current New Yorker, they’re in certain circles huge. An acquired taste perhaps Audio Pernod: sweet and bitter cloudy, cool, intoxicating. Vetting the verbiage and exploring the sheer quirkiness of They Might Be Giants.


John Flansburgh and John Linnell of “They Might Be Giants”

Suing the Saudis

Listen / Download

The new legal chapter on Sept 11th has 259 pages, dozens of defendants and one goal: bankrupting terrorism. A $100-trillion-dollar lawsuit filed yesterday in a U.S.District Court by over 600 relatives of victims aims at those they hold responsible for financing Osama Bin Laden. Named in the case: Saudi Arabian princes, banks and charities… the government of Sudan and more. It’s modeled on the seemingly successful case against Libya for the Lockerbie bombing inspired by billion – dollar settlements forced from Big Tobacco. It’s another blast against America’s alliance with Saudi Arabia and a new stage for exploring how nine-eleven came to happen. Big terrorism – deep pockets.


Allan Gerson, co-counselor for the plaintiffs in the Saudi case, and author of the new book “The Price of Terror: How the Families of the Victims of Pan Am 103 Brought Libya to Justice”

Alan Dershowitz, law professor at Harvard University and author of the new book “Why Terrorism Works.”

City Heat

Listen / Download

For a hundred years, Chicago’s greatest disaster was the spectacular fire that burned half the city to the ground in 1871. The heat wave of 1995 killed twice as many people, more than 700, the great majority of whom were elderly, African-American, and alone. Terribly alone.

The mayor called the heat wave a natural disaster, the sort of meteorological freak that inevitably claims random lives. But sociologist Eric Klinenberg documents that there was nothing random about the patterns of poverty that left certain parts of the city to die. The urban planning failure that missed the vulnerability goes hand in hand with race and class and isolation. The Social Autopsy of Disaster in Chicago, “Heat Wave,” and the deadly ripples of Human Nature.


Eric Klinenberg, author of “Heat Wave: A Social Autopsy of Disaster in Chicago”

Beryl Clemens, had a neighbor who died in the heat wave;Georgia Jackson, lives in the Ida B. Wells development on the South Side of Chicago.

A Question of Homeowner Rights

Listen / Download

You move to Shady Grove or Gladiola Park or Happy Acres because you like order. Everything’s planned, everything’s prescribed. Those are the bylaws of a homeowners association. Ten Thousand residents in Twin Rivers, New Jersey’s largest private neighborhood, gladly abide by the decisions that govern, the height and look of the grass, the size and variety of lawn ornaments, even the color of the front door: “white or beige.”

But some residents see only red when the rules collide with what they call the basic constitutional rights of political expression. And so now, they’re suing for free use of lawn signs and leaflets, saying the Home Owners Association needs to act more like a democracy, not a dictatorship.


Frank Askin, director of the Constitutional Litigation Clinic at Rutgers Law School

Dianne McCarthy, a resident of Twin Rivers, New Jersey for 22 years and one of the plaintiffs in the Twin Rivers case

Barry Goodman, lawyer representing Twin Rivers Homeowner Association

and Ronald Pearl, President-elect of the Community Association Institute Research Foundation

Crisis of Consumer Confidence

Listen / Download

The Economy is ever a wild horse that politicians mount in a risky quest for Eldorado, a focal point of presidential campaigns, and presidential Symposiums in the Texas borderlands. But more than ever, consumers are called on to prop up what many fear is an economy on its heels and reeling towards the “R” word, recession.

Call it the Tinkerbelle economy. If consumers just clap their hands, to their wallets, and make believe, and spend, that beautiful vision just might become real again. Visas and Master cards are getting a healthy workout, but there are rumblings that consumers are starting to wonder about what’s best for number one, and damn taking one more for the team.


Alfred Kahn, professor emeritus of political economy at Cornell University

Michael Kanell, national economics reporter, The Atlanta Journal and Constitution

Christopher Carroll, professor of economics at Johns Hopkins University and an expert on consumer confidence.

Golden Age for the Iraqi Kurds

Listen / Download

For centuries, Kurds have yearned for a homeland, an independent state. Instead, They’ve been united only in disunity; scattered between Iraq, Iran, Turkey, and Syria. I

It’s a stateless society of more than 25 million. The Kurds’ plight entered the world’s screen most powerfully in 1988 when Saddam Hussein gassed thousands of villagers in northern Iraq. Since the Gulf War’s end, the Northern no-fly zone has become a de-facto Republic, its relative freedom fostering a kind of Kurdish Golden Age.

All of that, some fear, is at risk if the United States declares war on Iraq. And that means major tensions in this ad-hoc mini-Kurdistan, flourishing at the mercy and whim of the West’s military might.


John Burns, reporter for the New York Times

Carole O’Leary, specialist on the Kurds at American University

Jalal Talabani, general secretary of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan;
Najmadin Karim, president of the Washington Kurdish Institute

A Piquant Dash of Ogden Nash

Listen / Download

Let us consider Ogden Nash, the poet of the sprinter’s dash. In his versifying days, he welded words in winning ways. He wrote funny. He wrote short. That form, some feel, today is, mort. All right, we can’t top Ogden Nash.
Who could beat the man who advised, “If called by a panther, don’t anther”? The poet who opined, “I don’t mind eels. Except as meals.” The sage stylist who offered, “Reflections on ice-breaking: Candy is dandy. But liquor is quicker.”

Nash, who was born a century ago this month, gloried at being, in his words, a “good bad poet,” eagerly, wryly taking in and taking on “the minor idiocies of humanity.” His genius was in his punning, his patter, his urbane, humane wit, and his almost crazed affection for the language.


Linell Nash Smith, daughter of Ogden Nash

Billy Collins, Poet Laureate of the United States

Douglas Parker, Nash biographer

Media and the Rape Stigma

Listen / Download

They are kidnap victims, and they are media celebrities. Jacqueline Marris and Tamara Brooks were abducted one day, and went on national television the next. Now the California teenagers are on the cover of People Magazine, defiant victims, 21st century heroines.

Their treatment in the press has triggered a firestorm of questions over how the media cover rape, and whether a heinous crime of aggression demands a cultural response that treats it like any other crime. Name the victim, not blame the victim. Media coverage may lead to catharsis, but whether celebrity status is an antidote to disempowerment is something else. And whether any publicity at all is appropriate is the real question.


Gail Abarbanel, founder, the Rape Treatment Center at the Santa Monica UCLA Medical Center

Kelly McBride, member of the ethics faculty at the Poynter Institute

Jane Schorer Meisner, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist

Little Red Riding Hood Uncloaked

Listen / Download

You know her. Wrapped in red cape, taking dinner to Grandma, traveling through the deep dark woods. Yeah, Red Riding Hood’s been around longer than your grandmother, and her grandmother. Her story has more teeth than any big old wolf.

Writer Catherine Orenstein says it’s a morality tale, not just for kids; that stories like Red’s wend their way through the collective unconscious, that as we evolve, the content of Miss Hood’s basket is food for the psyche, cherry pie for changing conceptions of gender and power.

Retold over hundreds of years in dozens of versions, the wolf dead or alive, granny eaten, hidden or triumphant. And Little Red, sex symbol, siren, or innocent.


Maria Tatar, professor of Germanic Languages and Literatures at Harvard University, and author of “The Annotated Classic Fairy Tales”

Catherine Orenstein, author of “Little Red Riding Hood Uncloaked”