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Lew Lukens: The Downgrading of Diplomacy
Lew Lukens became one of America's top diplomats through several decades in the Foreign Service, including postings as Executive Director for Secretary of State Clinton, Ambassador to Senegal/Guinea-Bissau, and DCM in London.
Lew offers candid observations about how the current Administration has jeopardized U.S. interests and values, and the practice of diplomacy around the world, in conversation with classmates Jack Weiss and Nils Muiznieks, the recent European Human Rights Commissioner.
Lew is now a Senior Partner in London with Signum Global Advisors, a New York-based independent advisory firm.
(The current Administration's assault on professionalism targeted Lew; you can read about that here: https://www.gq.com/story/trump-is-waging-war-on-american-diplomats)
|Jan 23, 2020|
Impeachment, from Ancient Greece to Modern Europe
Direct democracy in Ancient Greece included euthynai (plural; euthynē singular; "straightening"): a deterrence-based system of mandatory audits, investigations, and public trials of officials to prevent embezzlement, bribery, and malfeasance. Modern European states likewise provide systems for handling misconduct by elected officials and political parties.
Impeachment, My Smart Roommates-style, is a discussion about parallels to impeachment with scholar of the ancient world Dan Caner and European diplomat Nils Muiznieks.
Discussed in this episode:
Josiah Ober, The Athenian Revolution
Robert Harris, The Cicero Trilogy (Imperium, Lustrum, Dictator)
|Dec 10, 2019|
The Craft of Writing - Screenplays and History
A screenwriter, a scholar of the ancient world and a modern Russian historian discuss the craft of writing – a lot of the how, some of the why, and the difference between "small t" and "Big T" truths. With special guest Rod Barr and Indiana University Professors Dan Caner and Emma Gilligan.
Discussed in this episode:
The Sound of Freedom (soon-to-be-released motion picture)
David Brion Davis
Abbey Road Studios
|Oct 31, 2019|
Princeton Philosophy Professor Harry Frankfurt’s famed essay “On Bullshit” is the jumping off point for a discussion about a category of information that is not true but is also not technically a lie. Brandeis Russian Language and Literature Professor Dave Powelstock; Indiana University Near Eastern Languages and Cultures Professor Dan Caner; and Indiana University International Studies Professor Emma Gilligan trace the classical and literary roots of bullshit and antecedents such as sophistry and provide a framework for understanding a key component of the current assault on truth. Bullshit is an actual thing that permeates modern discourse and the roommates take a serious stab at providing definition for a concept that, because it is a dirty word, is often not taken seriously.
Discussed in this episode: Harry Frankfurt, On Bullshit; Wittgenstein, Personal Recollections; Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War; Aesop's Fables; Plato, Ethics, The Symposium; Herodotus, The Persian Wars; Homer, The Odyssey; Deborah Cadbury, Chocolate Wars.
|Aug 01, 2019|
The Grey Zones: Eastern Ukraine, Northern Cyprus with Nils Muiznieks
Former European Human Rights Commissioner Nils Muiznieks walks us through the grey zones of Eastern Ukraine and Northern Cyprus, where territory is legally part of one country but controlled by another in an uneasy state between war and peace. Nils discusses the current bloody conflict in Ukraine and the simmering modus vivendi in Cyprus as he recalls official visits to lands beyond the reach of most outside observers.
For more on the situation in Ukraine, see www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/ENACARegion/Pages/UAIndex.aspx
For more on the situation in Cyprus, see www.securitycouncilreport.org/un-documents/cyprus/
|Jun 21, 2019|
Nils, Rosie & Emma Define Success in Human Rights, Early Childhood Programs & the Soviet Dissident Movement (Defining Success Pt. 3)
Listener Brian Pass asked us to continue our conversation about defining success from the standpoint of the Smart Roommates' areas of expertise. Today we focus on how to measure success in human rights, programs for underserved children and at-risk families, and the Soviet dissident movement. Nils Muiznieks, Rosie Zweiback and Emma Gilligan round out our series on how to define and measure success.
Discussed in this episode: Paul Tough, How Children Succeed; Ludmila Alexeeva, The Thaw Generation; Anatoly Marchenko, My Testimony.
|Apr 25, 2019|
Defining Success 2: Poets, Greeks and Biology
Listener Brian Pass asked us to continue our conversation about defining success from the standpoint of the Smart Roommates' areas of academic expertise. How did the Ancient Greeks define success? What makes poems and poets successful from the standpoint of those who write and study poetry? How do biologists working on massive conservation programs measure success? Dan Caner, Dave Powelstock and Mace Hack dive into a conversation that takes us from Agamemnon to algae.
Discussed in this episode: Jared Diamond, Collapse; Jared Diamond, Guns, Germs, and Steel; Homer, The Iliad; Herodotus, Histories; Plato, Republic; Matthew Zapruder, Why Poetry.
|Apr 09, 2019|
Jeff Bezos Was In Our Class But We Never Met Him: Defining Success 1
Jeff Bezos - the founder of Amazon, the richest person on earth, the most commercially and financially successful human being ever - was in our college class and we never met him. Really. Jeff's success is the jumping off point for a discussion of how to define success and how our definitions have changed over time. Featuring Nils Muiznieks, Dave Powelstock, Dan Caner, Mace Hack, and Rosie Zweiback.
Discussed in this episode - Mikhail Bulgakov, The Master and Margarita; Michael Finkel, The Stranger in the Woods.
|Feb 21, 2019|
Migration Crises in Europe, with Human Rights Commissioner Nils Muiznieks
Nils Muiznieks served as the Commissioner for Human Rights at the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, France, from 2012-18. In this episode Nils explains the roots of the dramatic migration and refugee crises that impacted Europe during his tenure and still affect global politics today. Nils is joined in conversation with Indiana Professor Emma Gilligan and Brandeis Professor Dave Powelstock.
Discussed in this episode - United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), www.unhcr.org; Nils Muiznieks, Human Rights in Europe: From Crisis to Renewal, https://rm.coe.int/human-rights-in-europe-from-crisis-to-renewal-/168077fb04; Babara Honigmann, “Zohara’s Journey”; Jeremy Harding, Border Vigils; Gulwali Passarlay, The Lightless Sky.
|Jan 18, 2019|
“Everyday Ethics and Globalization,” Professor Emma Gilligan’s upcoming book, launches a discussion about how to make individual choices about the food we eat, the clothes we wear, and the non-profits we support. Featuring Mace Hack of The Nature Conservancy and Professors Dave Powelstock and Dan Caner.
Discussed in this episode: Hans Rosling, Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About The World and Why Things Are Better Than You Think; Peter Singer, The Most Good You Can Do: How Effective Altruism Is Changing Ideas About Living Ethically; Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway, Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming.
|Jan 04, 2019|
Early Monasticism and the Modern Academy
A chance encounter with a Bulgarian exorcist named Dmitri led Professor Dan Caner to decades of scholarly inquiry into the roots of monasticism and asceticism during late antiquity/early Christianity. Dan provides an overview of his work which leads the roommates to a discussion of parallels in the lives of modern academics. Featuring Professors Dave Powelstock and Emma Gilligan and former European Human Rights Commissioner Nils Muiznieks.
Discussed in this episode: Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov; Stories and Sayings of the Desert Fathers; William Dalrymple, From the Holy Mountain; W. Somerset Maugham, The Razor’s Edge.
Not discussed but essential: Daniel Caner, Wandering, Begging Monks: Spiritual Authority and the Promotion of Monasticism in Late Antiquity.
|Dec 07, 2018|
Language, Consciousness and You
Professor David Powelstock’s scholarship in nineteenth-century Russian poetry has led to his current work about the inner experience of self and the literary roots of contemporary concepts of selfhood. This episode features fascinating exchanges between Dave and Professor Dan Caner, an expert in late antiquity, on the evolution of literature and consciousness and the perspectives of writers and readers from the classical world to the Romantic movement. Dave gets into your head as we explore the connections between thought, the written word, and the inner world. Also featuring Professor Emma Gilligan and Nils Muiznieks.
Discussed this week: George Orwell, Politics and the English Language; George Lakoff and Mark Johnsen, Metaphors We Live By; Richard Wilson, Inciting Genocide with Words; Longinus, On the Sublime.
|Nov 23, 2018|
How To Talk About Climate Change - Mace Hack, Nature Conservancy
Mace Hack directs the Nature Conservancy in Nebraska. Like a country doctor making the rounds, Mace travels the state listening to and speaking with ranchers and farmers, finding common ground on resource and environmental issues. A biologist with years of field work studying zebras in Africa and wild horses off the coast of North Carolina, Mace’s talents as the great explainer of the natural world are joined in conversation with Professors Dan Caner, Emma Gilligan, and Dave Powelstock. Many care deeply about climate change; Mace has unique insights into how to persuade the skeptical and achieve sustainable conservation outcomes.
Discussed this week: www.ipcc.ch - Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the best source for current information on global climate change; www.globalchange.gov - US government site, relevant for climate change impacts to the US broadly and the region you live in; Brave New Arctic: The Untold Story of the Melting North, Mark C. Serreze; The All New Don't Think of an Elephant! George Lakoff; Metaphors We Live By, George Lakoff and Mark Johnsen.
|Nov 09, 2018|
European Human Rights Commissioner Nils Muiznieks (2012-18)
Nils Muiznieks grew up in the US the child of Latvian emigres; his parents spent seven years in displaced persons camps as teenagers after World War II and made their way to California. Nils majored in politics at Princeton and got his Ph.D. in political science at Berkeley. After the fall of the Soviet Union, Nils decided to make his life in Latvia. A scholar, government official, and human rights expert, Nils won a European-wide election and became the Commissioner for Human Rights at the Council of Europe in Strasbourg. In this episode we learn about Nils' amazing story and the human rights challenges he tackled during his six-year term. Featuring Indiana Professor Emma Gilligan and Brandeis Professor Dave Powelstock.
Discussed this week - Czeslaw Milosz, The Captive Mind; Timothy Snyder, On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century; Anatoly Adamishin and Richard Schifter, Human Rights, Perestroika, and the End of the Cold War; Andrei Sakharov, Alarm and Hope; “Human Rights in Europe: From Crisis to Renewal?” Strasbourg: Council of Europe Publishing, 2018; Special Issue (Fall 2009), Open Society News, Eastern Europe: Where Do Open Societies Stand 20 Years Later? https://www.opensocietyfoundations.org/sites/default/files/opensocietynews_11052009.pdf
|Oct 23, 2018|