I caught a program on NPR this afternoon for the first time and it had me absorbed for the entire hour. It was the third in a series called “Intelligence Squared U.S.”, and it was an hour-long abbreviation of a public “Oxford-style” debate held in New York recently. The format includes a moderator, a single motion for the night, and a panel of three speakers in favor of the motion and three speakers in opposition to the motion. A live audience is polled on entrance to the auditorium in regards to their positions on the motion. All six panelists make their opening statements and then the audience is given a chance to ask questions of the panelists. After the questions, each side makes their closing arguments and then the audience is polled again about their positions on the motion.

The proposal debated in this particular program was “A democratically elected Hamas is still a terrorist organization.”

For the motion were Daniel Ayalon, Israel’s ambassador to the U.S., Steven Cook, a Mideast expert at the Council on Foreign Relations, and John O’Sullivan, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute. Against the motion were Stanley Cohen, a lawyer who has representated Muslim and Palestinian activists and imams, Mohamed Mohamedou, of the Harvard Program on Humanitarian Policy and Conflict Research, and Mark Perry, co-director of the Conflicts Forum.

Judy Woodruff moderated this particular debate, but each of the three held so far have had different moderators. The program as aired lasted an hour, but the full one hour and 27 minute debate can be listened to at the program’s website.

Previous shows have debated the following proposals: October 3, “We must tolerate a nuclear Iran”, and October 26, “Freedom of expression must include the right to offend.”

Upcoming shows include: December 13, “Hollywood has fueled anti-Americanism abroad”, February 7, “America is too damn religious”, March 14, “Global warming is not a crisis”, April 18, “Better more domestic surveillance than another 9/11”, and May 16, “Beware the dragon: A booming China spells trouble for America.”

I know, I know, just what I needed, more stuff to go listen to. But hey, at least you can stream this on your computer while you’re working on something else.