Monthly Archives: May 2005

Filibuster Compromise

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A little over 12 hours ago, both sides in the Senate were steaming towards a confrontation. But just as the politicians rolled up their sleeves for a lengthy session of bare-knuckle politics, a small group of moderate Senators produced a compromise.

Republicans will now press ahead with votes on the appointment of controversial conservative judges. And under this deal Democrats have agreed not to use the delay tactic of the filibuster, except in what they consider extraordinary circumstances.

Some in Washington say all the two sides have really done is postpone the confrontation for another day, while many voters are looking at the whole affair and wondering why there is all the fuss in the first place. That may turn out to be the key factor in the compromise, that politicians talking of nuclear options found no one else was listening.


Elaine Kamarck, lecturer in public policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School and former senior policy advisor to
Al Gore

David Nather, Senior Writer for CQ Weekly;Dan Schnur, Republican Political and Media Consultant

Planning Palestine

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Fiber-optic cables and high speed trains are rarely mentioned in discussions of a Palestinian state. And why would they be — it’s arguably foolish to map the future of a nation when its very existence is contingent on negotiating a peace that is far from assured. But the architect Doug Suisman has a different perspective. He says any nation-building needs a plan for the day after.

Working with the Rand Corporation, Suisman has drawn what he calls “The Arc” — a map of what a Palestine might be — complete with high-speed railway, power lines, parkland, toll roads, and train stations linking Jenin with Hebron and the Gaza strip.

The report has been praised as inspirational, and criticized as being a “fable for adults.” Can a logistical vision can be relevant in troubled and uncertain times?


Doug Suisman, Founder and Principal of Suisman Urban Design and lead author of the project The Arc: A Formal Structure for a Palestinian State;Jihad al-Wazir, Palestinian Deputy Finance Minister

Spreading Democracy American-Style

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If there’s one central theme to the foreign policy of President George W. Bush, it is the promotion of freedom and democracy. It is sure to come up when he meets Afghan President Hamid Kharzai today at the White House.

Kharzai is angry over reports of the U.S. military abusing Afghan detainees. It is the same anger that is heard throughout the Muslim and Arab world over similar reports from Guantanamo, and Abu Ghraib.

It all feeds into frustration with America’s push for democracy. Many say it is too inconsistent — talk of freedom, but on the ground, too much of a colonial or imperialist attitude. So how can the U.S. polish up its tarnished image? Some say the only way to promote freedom and democracy is quietly and behind the scenes.


Georges A. Fauriol, senior vice president, International Republican Institute

David Rohde, foreign correspondent for The New York Times, fellow at the Shorenstein Center on Press, Politics & Public Policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government

David Ignatius, columnist and associate editor for The Washington Post.

Star Wars

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A long time ago in a movie theater, far, far away, you may have lined up to see the original Star Wars in 1977. Or you may have been out there again yesterday lining up for the sixth and final installment — Episode III: Revenge of the Sith.

The film is now playing in a galaxy very near you. Whether you think “Boba Fett” is a Greek pastry or the prize of your toy collection, the cultural impact of Star Wars is impossible to ignore. 28 years after Luke Skywalker first wielded a lightsaber, the movies have made George Lucas a billionaire and reshaped the film industry.

For some die hard fans, Star Wars is a kind of religion. For others it represents the dark side of Hollywood, a saga that transformed movies into two hour commercials. Star Wars: the force that changed Hollywood.


Ty Burr, film critic for the Boston Globe

Dade Hayes, co-author of “Open Wide: How Hollywood Box Office Became an National Obsession” and Senior Editor of Entertainment Weekly

Col. Kaddafi's Detente

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He arrived on the world scene with the mystique of Che Guevara; but in the 36 years since Moammar Gaddafi seized control of Libya 3, he has been called everything from maverick and visionary to a terrorist and a madman.

Yet Colonel Gaddafi says he has now turned over a new leaf and he is now a pragmatist who has agreed to give up his nukes and chemical weapons in exchange for the warm embrace of the West.

President Bush has pointed to Libya as a model for reform for other rogue nations and weapons proliferators around the world, while others within his administration remain skeptical of this sudden transformation. Should a nation that has embraced terrorism as a tactic, be granted full diplomatic acceptance?


Ambassador Ali Suleiman Aujali, Chief of the Libyan Liason Office in Washington, DC

Michael Binyon, Foreign Correspondent, The Times of London.

The Future of Architecture

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Architecture of the 20th century reflected the changing way that people lived. Whether it was the Modernist towers of glass, the Frank Lloyd Wright inspired ranch houses, or the post-modern McMansions, these buildings were built to be lived in and around — and showed a respect for function over artistry.

Now, as the world heads on in to the 21st century, big changes in architecture are afoot. A new book highlighting the work of the 100 most exciting new architects gives us a preview of those changes.

One thing all these architects agree on is that practically anything is possible now — if you can trace it with a stylus, you can build it. So what does the triumph of form over function, the globalization of design, and radical new technologies, mean for who we are and how we live?


Philip Nobel, architectural critic and author of “Sixteen Acres: Architecture and the Outrageous Struggle for the Future of Ground Zero”

Karen Stein, Editorial Director of Phaidon Press and juror of the Pritzker Architecture Prize.

What to do with Luis Posada

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A decade ago, Luis Posada Carriles might have been treated as a hero in the U.S. The anti-Castro militant has been on the run since escaping a Venezuelan prison where he was held in connection with a 1976 airline bombing.

This week, after Posada held a press conference in Miami announcing that he is seeking political asylum in the U.S., but Immigration and Customs agents arrested him. Now the trick is deciding what to do with him. Fidel Castro and others are calling on the U.S. to extradite the man they say is a terrorist. But some Cuban exiles in Miami want the Bay of Pigs veteran to stay.

So Posada becomes something of a test case for deciding how Cold War relics fit into a post 9/11 world. President Bush has said that any country that harbors a terrorist, is itself a terrorist state, so what is America to do?


Ann Louise Bardach, author of “Cuba Confidential: Love and Vengeance in Miami and Havana”

Gary Marx, Havana Correspondent for The Chicago Tribune

Dennis Hays, Managing Director at Tew Cardenas law firm and former Coordinator for Cuban Affairs at the U.S. State Department

Larry Birns, Director of Council on Hemispheric Affairs, a liberal research group

Peter Kornbluh, Director of the Cuba Documentation Project at the National Security Archive

Stuart McLean

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To Stuart Mclean humor is kind of like Justice Potter Stewart’s description of obscenity — he knows it when he sees it. Or rather, he knows it when you hear it; when you laugh or snort or smile — or don’t.

McLean is one of Canada’s leading radio personalities — an even further northern version of Garrison Keillor. For years, he has been writing and performing stories about the characters whose lives revolve around the Vinyl Cafe — a small record store in a town somewhere in Canada with a sign on the wall that says, “We’re not big, but we’re small.”

McLean has twice been awarded Canada’s top prize for humor, but still he will admit he doesn’t know what makes something funny. McLean quotes, EB White who said that dissecting a joke is like dissecting a frog, the thing always dies in the end.


Stuart McLean, humorist and author of “Home from The Vinyl Cafe: A Year of Stories.”

Pop Culture as Brain Food

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“Cognitive labor” and “mental development” are not the words you would normally associate with TV entertainment. You certainly wouldn’t expect to find an author talking about the merits of West Wing or Fear Factor, which is exactly why Steven Johnson and his new book “Everything Bad is Good For You,” are getting that second look.

Johnson is squarely confronting the “Kill Your Television” crowd, claiming that there is value in today’s TV shows. Unlike the simplistic sitcoms of the 70s like “The Love Boat” and “Three’s Company,” today’s shows, he says, are far more sophisticated and complex, demanding some real mental gymnastics just to follow the plot line, and the characters. And despite what many believe, the blue light does not automatically make us stupid.


Steven Johnson, contributing editor to Wired, columnist for Discover magazine, and author of numerous articles and books including “Everything Bad is Good For You: How Today’s Popular Culture is Actually Making Us Smarter.”

Teaching Writers to Write

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The Iowa Writer’s Workshop has trained hundred of writers in its 70 year history, though it is only had a handful of directors. Most recently that was Frank Conroy, by his own admission, a tough and demanding teacher. Conroy died last month and one of his former students is about to take charge.

Lan Samantha Chang is the first woman to head the workshop and she is considerably younger than her predecessor Conroy. But they share a common belief in the power of words and a dedication to the idea that writing is not just some skill one is just born with, but something that can be taught.

More than just a teacher, Samantha Chang is an acclaimed author in her own right and a model for writers in her dedication to the craft. She joins the Connection to talk about writing, teaching and learning.


Lan Samantha Chang, author of “Inheritance” and “Hunger.”