Listened to S4 E1: Rich Man’s Revolt by John Biewen and Chenjerai Kumanyika from Scene on Radio

In the American Revolution, the men who revolted were among the wealthiest and most comfortable people in the colonies. What kind of revolution was it, anyway? Was it about a desire to establish democracy—or something else?

Expansive view of a colonial era plantation

By producer/host John Biewen with series collaborator Chenjerai Kumanyika. Interviews with Davy Arch, Barbara Duncan, Rob Shenk, and Woody Holton. Edited by Loretta Williams.

Music by Algiers, John Erik Kaada, Eric Neveux, and Lucas Biewen. Music consulting and production help from Joe Augustine of Narrative Music.

[Download a transcript of the episode. (.pdf)]

I had started a conversation this morning with my friend Will and I feel eerily like this episode was listening in on us and carried out many of our thoughts.

I love the subtleties that are brought up in the additional details about our shared history that aren’t as commonly known or discussed in the mythologized version of the founding of our country.

It was referenced briefly in the episode, but if you haven’t read/heard the Frederick Douglass speech What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July? I recommend you remedy the oversight quickly. There are several versions read by James Earl Jones, Morgan Freeman, and others readily available on the web.

Listened to Norm! from WNYC Studios

Another affront to executive norms, a new level of secrecy for CBP, and the 32-year story of one family's new life in America.

Attorney General Bill Barr appeared to spar with Donald Trump in the latest chapter of the Roger Stone case. On this week’s On the Media, why the apparent interference in the Justice Department’s work should cause concern. Plus, Customs and Border Patrol builds a new bulwark against disclosure and transparency. And, a family migration story three decades in the making. 

1. Dahlia Lithwick, writer for Slate, on what the latest Dept. of Justice news tells us about the fragility of American justice. Listen.

2. Susan Hennessey [@Susan_Hennessey], executive editor at Lawfare, on the latest threats to "prosecutorial independence." Listen.

3. Ken Klippenstein [@kenklippenstein], DC correspondent at The Nation, on Customs and Border Patrol (CBP)'s re-designation as a "security agency." Listen.

4. Jason DeParle [@JasonDeParle], author of A Good Provider Is One Who Leaves, on the 32-year process of reporting one family's migration story. Listen.

We really are allowing the very worst of us ruin so much of the basic values of being American. I worry that the “purity” requirements of both sides is going to be the downfall of us all.
Listened to Cancel This! from On the Media | WNYC Studios

The impeachment; coronavirus rumors go viral; the controversy around Joe Rogan's Bernie Sanders endorsement; and the perils of "cancel culture."

As the coronavirus continues to spread, the World Health Organization has declared a state of emergency. This week, On the Media looks at how panic and misinformation are going viral, too. Plus, a controversial endorsement for Bernie Sanders puts the spotlight on Joe Rogan, and has renewed the debate over "cancel culture." And, the impeachment proceedings continue to move toward a conclusion. 

1. Brooke [@OTMBrooke] reflects on the impeachment proceedings as they come to an anti-climactic ending. Listen.

2. Alexis Madrigal [@alexismadrigal] of The Atlantic explains how panic online is spreading faster than the coronavirus itself. Listen.

3. Devin Gordon [@DevinGordonX] talks about why Joe Rogan is so popular, and reflects on the controversy surrounding his tentative endorsement of Bernie Sanders. Listen.

4. Natalie Wynn, creator of the Youtube channel ContraPoints, lays out her criticism of "cancel culture" and takes an honest look at her own "cancellations." Listen.

The last two segments were particularly interesting reporting. Areas I was tangentially aware of, but missing portions of the deeper dive and perspective that they gave.
Listened to S1 E6: What Men Talk About When They Talk About Sports (Contested, Part 6 of 6) by John Biewen from Scene on Radio

Tens of millions of Americans, most of them men, tune in to sports talk radio. Is sports talk a haven for old-school guy talk, including misogyny and gay-bashing? For the final episode in our series on sports and society, “Contested,” host John Biewen listened in.

This episode was worth having listened to twice. It was included in Biewen’s subsequent series on men.
Listened to Episode 10: FOSDEM, CopyleftConf and Spritely by Chris Webber and Serge Wroclawski from Libre Lounge

Chris and Serge are back from FOSDEM and CopyleftConf. Chris has a grant to work on an exciting new ActivityPub application and the dynamic duo talk about recursive compilation and Lisp without parentheis.

Links:

Listened to The one thing I wish I'd done when I first started my design career by Craig BurgessCraig Burgess from getdoingthings.com

There's lots of things I wish I would have done when I first started my design career, but this one is a big one. The worst bit? It's taken me 15 years to realise it.

Jamie Tanna Bookmarked: The one thing I wish I’d done when I first started my design career ()

In this 9 minute podcast, Craig Burgess speaks about how he wished he’d got started on his Personal Website and doing more blogging early on in his career. Craig also speaks about the IndieWeb and why everyone should get involved.

Listened to S1 E5: A Level Playing Field? (Contested, Part 5 of 6) by John Biewen from Scene on Radio

Two families, both making big investments of time and money to involve their kids in sports. But the investments they’re able to make are very different. In Part 5 of “Contested,” our series on sports, society and culture: Sports and the American Dream.

Composite Photo: Thomas Schmidt, left, video still by Ian McClerin, and Jalani (“JT”) Taylor, video still by Hannah Colton.

This is an awesome and eye-opening episode. The misconceptions about sports as a “way out” are apparently even worse than I thought they were. The statistics about becoming an elite physician being better than being a pro athlete are just stunning. The availability heuristic we’re given with relation to sports constantly on television and in the media is apparently heavily hampering a lot of people specifically and society at large.

Very few people really make any money through sports. Less than 5,000 men and women all-in make a living by doing it.

There are more black cardiologists in the US than there are black men in the NBA. The odds of getting an elite job by going to medical school are infinitely better than trying to get into professional sports.

Listened to S1 E4: An Athlete Inside and Out (Contested, Part 4 of 6) by John Biewen from Scene on Radio

Tal Ben-Artzi didn’t worry about being an out bisexual athlete at Penn State. Maybe she would have if she’d known the school’s history. How much have times changed? In Part 4 of “Contested,” our series on sports, society and culture: stories of LGBTQ women athletes, past and present.

Photo: Tal Ben-Artzi practicing the shot put at Penn State University, March 2015. Photo by John Biewen.

Listened to The three C's of historical economic growth by Candace Manriquez Wrenn and David Brancaccio from Marketplace

The economic boom of the 19th century cannot be attributed to capitalism alone, according to Professor Homa Zarghamee.

This interview is part of our “Econ Extra Credit” project, where we read an introductory economics textbook provided by the nonprofit Core Econ together with our listeners.

For most of human history, the standard of living remained flat, not changing much from year to year, even century to century. Until the Industrial Revolution, that is, when the world population and standards of living skyrocketed.

Listened to What Econ 101 leaves out by David Brancaccio and Rose Conlon from Marketplace

The world is probably more complicated than your textbook told you. Feb 6, 2020

This interview is part of our “Econ Extra Credit” project, where we read an introductory economics textbook provided by the nonprofit Core-Econ together with our listeners.

A traditional introductory economics course might teach you that low unemployment drives up wages. And yet, even though unemployment in the United States is at a 50-year low, we’re not seeing historic wage growth to match. Many economists were surprised to find that the growth of average hourly earnings slowed in 2019, a time when it “should have” sped up.

It’s what University of Connecticut law professor James Kwak has been saying for years: those ubiquitous supply and demand curves aren’t as simple as Econ 101 lets on. Kwak has written about the issue for The Atlantic and in his book “Economism: Bad Economics and the Rise of Inequality.”

“The problem is not so much classical economics as an academic discipline, but I think the way first-year economics is taught, it focuses very heavily on the simple models, when in fact, the world is a lot more complicated,” Kwak told Marketplace’s David Brancaccio.

And if it’s the only economics class you take, Kwak thinks those simple models can be misleading. Take, for instance, the issue of raising the minimum wage, something a lot of 18-year-olds might walk into class supporting.

“When you learn about supply and demand curves, it gives you a very powerful picture that essentially argues that increasing the minimum wage will effectively just increase unemployment,” said Kwak, noting that economists remain split on whether this is true.

Part of the problem for Kwak is how compelling the economic models seem when they’re taught in Economics 101 under unrealistic assumptions, like pretending that people always act rationally or imagining two people trading on a deserted island. Professors can warn students about the limits of the models, but the models might be more memorable than the disclaimers.

“What I worry about is that after the final exam, or even worse, 20 or 30 years later when you’re a member of the House of Representatives, this is all you may remember about Economics 101,” Kwak said.

Since the Great Recession, there have been efforts among professors to improve introductory classes. There were several projects to write new introductory textbooks that ground economic models in real-world examples, one of which Marketplace is reading for our “Econ Extra Credit” project. Kwak said it’s an improvement.

“I think reading introductory economics is a great project. I think that it’s important to try to bring in context when possible,” he said.

“I think it’s important, and it’s more interesting to think about broader questions about how economic institutions work; about how technology increases living standards but also increases inequality,” Kwak said. “If you think about these kinds of questions at the same time that you’re learning the mathematical models, I think you’ll have a better experience and a better understanding.”

The next segment of Marketplace’s Econ Extra Credit is out today.
Listened to Fake news is # Solvable from The Rockefeller Foundation

Anne Applebaum talks to Renée DiResta about building a more trustworthy Internet.

Renée DiResta is the Director of Research at New Knowledge and a Mozilla Fellow in Media, Misinformation, and Trust. She investigates the spread of malign narratives across social networks, and assists policymakers in understanding and responding to the problem. She has advised the United States Congress, the State Department, and other academic, civic, and business organizations, and has studied disinformation and computational propaganda in the context of pseudoscience conspiracies, terrorism, and state-sponsored information warfare.

Many talk about the right to freedom of speech online, but rarely do discussions delve a layer deeper into the idea of the “right to reach”. I’ve lately taken to analogizing the artificial reach of bots and partisan disinformation and labeled the idea social media machine guns to emphasize this reach problem. It’s also related to Cathy O’Neill’s concept of Weapons of Math Destruction. We definitely need some new verbiage to begin describing these sorts of social ills so that we have a better grasp of what they are and how they can effect us.

I appreciate Renee’s ideas and suspect they’re related to those in Ezra Klein’s new books, which I hope to start reading shortly.

 

Listened to Episode 40: Adrienne Mayor on Gods and Robots in Ancient Mythology from Sean Carroll's Mindscape

The modern world is full of technology, and also with anxiety about technology. We worry about robot uprisings and artificial intelligence taking over, and we contemplate what it would mean for a computer to be conscious or truly human. It should probably come as no surprise that these ideas aren’t new to modern society — they go way back, at least to the stories and mythologies of ancient Greece. Today’s guest, Adrienne Mayor, is a folklorist and historian of science, whose recent work has been on robots and artificial humans in ancient mythology. From the bronze warrior Talos to the evil fembot Pandora, mythology is rife with stories of artificial beings. It’s both fun and useful to think about our contemporary concerns in light of these ancient tales.

Adrienne Mayor is a Research Scholar Classics and History and Philosophy of Science at Stanford University. She is also a Berggruen Fellow at Stanford’s Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences. Her work has encompasses fossil traditions in classical antiquity and Native America, the origins of biological weapons, and the historical precursors of the stories of Amazon warriors. In 2009 she was a finalist for the National Book Award.

I’d never considered it before, but I’m curious if the idea of the bolt on Talos’ leg bears any influence on the bolts frequently seen on Frankenstein’s monster? Naturally they would seem to be there as a means of charging or animating him, but did they have an powers beyond that? Or was he, once jump-started, to run indefinitely? Bryan Alexander recently called out his diet (of apples and nuts), so presumably once he was brought to life, he was able to live the same way as a human.
Listened to Mindscape Episode 28: Roger Penrose on Spacetime, Consciousness, and the Universe by Sean Carroll from preposterousuniverse.com

Sir Roger Penrose has had a remarkable life. He has contributed an enormous amount to our understanding of general relativity, perhaps more than anyone since Einstein himself — Penrose diagrams, singularity theorems, the Penrose process, cosmic censorship, and the list goes on. He has made important contributions to mathematics, including such fun ideas as the Penrose triangle and aperiodic tilings. He has also made bold conjectures in the notoriously contentious areas of quantum mechanics and the study of consciousness. In his spare time he’s managed to become an extremely successful author, writing such books as The Emperor’s New Mind and The Road to Reality. With far too much that we could have talked about, we decided to concentrate in this discussion on spacetime, black holes, and cosmology, but we made sure to reserve some time to dig into quantum mechanics and the brain by the end.

Listened to The (High School) Mascot Wars (Contested, Part 3 of 6) by John Biewen from Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University

Two small towns, one in Idaho, the other in Upstate New York, try to decide whether to change the nickname of their high school sports teams: The Redskins. Photo: Emblem in the main foyer at Teton High school in Driggs, Idaho. Photo by John Biewen.

Listened to Friends and Basketball (Contested, Part 2 of 6) by John Biewen from Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University

More from suburban St. Louis, post-Ferguson, on the popular notion that sports unites communities. Can the camaraderie of a team sport make race and class status “disappear” for the kids involved or their parents? Scene on Radio host and producer John Biewen hangs with a girls’ high school basketball team to test the idea. Photo: Pattonville High School basketball players