My Smart Roommates
Prof. Stephen Cohen - An Appreciation
Season 1, Ep. 16
Stephen Cohen‘s classes on Soviet politics, Soviet foreign policy, and Russian history dominated course loads at Princeton for decades. Cohen‘s take on the Soviet Union and leaders such as Bukharin, Gorbachev, and Putin made him an outlier among America’s Russia scholars but it was thrilling to take his classes and engage him directly. This episode takes a look at what made Cohen a phenomenon; with Nils Muiznieks and Dave Powelstock (Cohen students who became Russia scholars).Discussed in this episode:Stephen F. Cohen, Bukharin and the Bolshevik RevolutionStephen F. Cohen, Soviet Fates and Lost Alternatives: From Stalinism to the New Cold WarKaren Dawisha, Putin's Kleptocracy: Who Owns Russia?
Covid-19 Slams Europe: Lew Lukens and Nils Muiznieks
Season 1, Ep. 15
Diplomats Lew Lukens and Nils Muiznieks discuss the immediate and long-term impacts of Coronavirus in Europe.Lew became one of America's top diplomats through several decades in the Foreign Service and is now a Senior Partner in London with Signum Global Advisors, a New York-based independent advisory firm.Nils, the recent European Human Rights Commissioner, is a European Affairs and Human Rights consultant based in Riga, Latvia.(Shortly after this episode was recorded on March 23, 2020, UK officials imposed a near-total nationwide lockdown.)
Lew Lukens: The Downgrading of Diplomacy
Season 1, Ep. 14
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)
Impeachment, from Ancient Greece to Modern Europe
Season 1, Ep. 13
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 RevolutionRobert Harris, The Cicero Trilogy (Imperium, Lustrum, Dictator)Thucydides
The Craft of Writing - Screenplays and History
Season 1, Ep. 12
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 DavisFlannery O'ConnorPeter BrownRonald SymeThomas MertonAbbey Road Studios
Season 1, Ep. 11
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.
The Grey Zones: Eastern Ukraine, Northern Cyprus with Nils Muiznieks
Season 1, Ep. 10
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.aspxFor more on the situation in Cyprus, see www.securitycouncilreport.org/un-documents/cyprus/
Nils, Rosie & Emma Define Success in Human Rights, Early Childhood Programs & the Soviet Dissident Movement (Defining Success Pt. 3)
Season 1, Ep. 9
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.
Defining Success 2: Poets, Greeks and Biology
Season 1, Ep. 8
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.