Listened to S4 E4: The Second Revolution by John Biewen and Chenjerai Kumanyika from Scene on Radio

After the Civil War, a surprising coalition tried to remake the United States into a real multiracial democracy for the first time. Reconstruction, as the effort was called, brought dramatic change to America. For a while.

Reported and produced by John Biewen, with series collaborator Chenjerai Kumanyika. The series script editor is Loretta Williams. Interviews with Victoria Smalls, Brent Morris, Eric Foner, Kidada Williams, Bobby Donaldson, and Edward Baptist.

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

Photo: Historian Bobby Donaldson of the University of South Carolina, at the South Carolina State House, Columbia, SC. Photo by John Biewen.

To those who have been–and here I wish I had an appropriately charged word or name for the horrors and atrocities America has inflicted:

#acknowledgement

Listened to S4 E2: “The Excess of Democracy” by John Biewen Chenjerai Kumanyika from Scene on Radio

In the summer of 1787, fifty-five men got together in Philadelphia to write a new Constitution for the United States, replacing the new nation’s original blueprint, the Articles of Confederation. But why, exactly? What problems were the framers trying to solve? Was the Constitution designed to advance democracy, or to rein it in?

By producer/host John Biewen with series collaborator Chenjerai Kumanyika. Interviews with Woody Holton, Dan Bullen, and Price Thomas. The series editor is Loretta Williams.

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

I’m sure I’d heard of Shays’ Rebellion before too, but couldn’t have given these sorts of specifics. I’m sure the version I learned in US History class was also pretty sugar coated and sparse.

Read Gopher: When Adversarial Interoperability Burrowed Under the Gatekeepers' Fortresses by Corey Doctorow (Electronic Frontier Foundation)
When Apple's App Store launched in 2008, it was widely hailed as a breakthrough in computing, a "curated experience" that would transform the chaos of locating and assessing software and replace it with a reliable one-stop-shop where every app would come pre-tested and with a trusted seal of...

The Gopher story is a perfect case history for Adversarial Interoperability. The pre-Gopher information landscape was dominated by companies, departments, and individuals who were disinterested in giving users control over their own computing experience and who viewed computing as something that took place in a shared lab space, not in your home or dorm room.
Rather than pursuing an argument with these self-appointed Lords of Computing, the Gopher team simply went around them, interconnecting to their services without asking for permission. They didn’t take data they weren’t supposed to have—but they did make it much easier for the services’ nominal users to actually access them. 

Annotated on February 23, 2020 at 08:39AM

Today’s Web giants want us to believe that they and they alone are suited to take us to wherever we end up next. Having used Adversarial Interoperability as a ladder to attain their rarefied heights, they now use laws to kick the ladder away and prevent the next Microcomputer Center or Tim Berners-Lee from doing to them what the Web did to Gopher, and what Gopher did to mainframes. 

Annotated on February 23, 2020 at 08:40AM

Legislation to stem the tide of Big Tech companies’ abuses, and laws—such as a national consumer privacy bill, an interoperability bill, or a bill making firms liable for data-breaches—would go a long way toward improving the lives of the Internet users held hostage inside the companies’ walled gardens.
But far more important than fixing Big Tech is fixing the Internet: restoring the kind of dynamism that made tech firms responsive to their users for fear of losing them, restoring the dynamic that let tinkerers, co-ops, and nonprofits give every person the power of technological self-determination. 

Annotated on February 23, 2020 at 08:42AM

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 OTM Presents: U.S. of Anxiety's "40 Acres in Mississippi" from On the Media | WNYC Studios

Our WNYC colleagues fact-check a family legend about "40 acres and a mule," and find a story about the promise and peril of the American Dream at the end of Reconstruction.

Elbert Lester has lived his full 94 years in Quitman County, Mississippi, on land he and his family own. That’s exceptional for black people in this area, and some family members even say the land came to them through “40 acres and a mule.” But that's pretty unlikely, so our WNYC colleague Kai Wright, host of The United States of Anxiety, went on a search for the truth and uncovered a story about an old and fundamental question in American politics, one at the center of the current election: Who are the rightful owners of this country’s staggering wealth?

- John Willis is author of Forgotten Time

- Eric Foner is author of The Second Founding

The National Memorial for Peace and Justice is located in Montgomery, Alabama. For more information about documented lynchings in Mississippi, and elsewhere, visit the Equal Justice Initiative's interactive report, Lynching in America. You can navigate to each county to learn about documented lynchings there.

Listened to Corporations Were Always People from On the Media | WNYC Studios

Ten years ago Citizens United declared that corporations are people and that their money is speech. A historian tells us actually, it was ever thus.

No discussion of money and politics is complete without a tip of the hat to Citizens United, the landmark Supreme Court ruling of 10 years ago that recognized corporations as people and their money as speech. 

That ruling was followed a few years ago by the Hobby Lobby decision, giving business owners the right to flout federal law based on their religious beliefs. To many Americans, particularly on the left, both rulings were bizarre and ominous expansions of corporate rights. But, if you think this is the novel handiwork of a uniquely conservative Supreme Court, you haven't been paying attention to the past three or four hundred years of court cases and American history.

Adam Winkler, professor of law at UCLA, is the author of We the Corporations: How American Business Won Their Civil Rights. He told us in 2018 that the principle of corporate rights has been litigated forever and predates our very founding. 

To even out the playing field we should definitely prevent corporate interests from dominating the discussion. Certainly they may need some protections in law where it comes to owning property and some of their basic functions, but allowing them outsized influence in governance is not necessary.

This episode has some fantastic historical discussion. It is painfully disappointing to hear corporations taking advantage of the 13th and 14th amendments that African Americans weren’t able to appreciate in the same way at the same time.

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 Picture-Perfect Democracy from On the Media | WNYC Studios

The history of the American primary; the first town to vote; and New Hampshire reporters do some self-reflection.

The sloppy roll-out of Iowa results prompted disinformation and confusion over the mechanics of the caucus system. This week, On the Media looks at the origins of the nomination process to explain how we got here. Plus, local reporters in New Hampshire examine the power struggle at the heart of the upcoming contest. 

1. Galen Druke [@galendruke] on the history of America's unique primary system. Listen.

2. Stranglehold reporters Jack Rodolico [@JackRodolico], Lauren Chooljian [@laurenchooljian], and Casey McDermott [@caseymcdermott] on Dixville Notch's mythical status. Listen.  

3. Lauren Chooljian [@laurenchooljian] examines how New Hampshire's local press benefits from being a first-in-the-nation primary. Listen.

Read - Want to Read: The Lives of the Twelve Caesars by Gaius Suetonius TranquillusGaius Suetonius Tranquillus
As private secretary to the Emperor Hadrian, the scholar Suetonius had access to the imperial archives and used them (along with eyewitness accounts) to produce one of the most colourful biographical works in history. The Twelve Caesars chronicles the public careers and private lives of the men who wielded absolute power over Rome, from the foundation of the empire under Julius Caesar and Augustus, to the decline into depravity and civil war under Nero and the recovery that came with his successors. A masterpiece of observation, anecdote and detailed physical description, The Twelve Caesars presents us with a gallery of vividly drawn—and all too human—individuals.
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.
Read Humane Ingenuity 14: Adding Dimensions by Dan Cohen (buttondown.email)
In HI12 I mentioned Ben Shneiderman’s talk on automation and agency, and he kindly sent me the full draft of the article he is writing on this topic. New to me was the Sheridan-Verplank Scale of Autonomy, which, come on, sounds like something straight out of Blade Runner:
Watched Hans Rosling's 200 Countries, 200 Years, 4 Minutes from The Joy of Stats - BBC Four | YouTube

Hans Rosling's famous lectures combine enormous quantities of public data with a sport's commentator's style to reveal the story of the world's past, present and future development. Now he explores stats in a way he has never done before - using augmented reality animation. In this spectacular section of 'The Joy of Stats' he tells the story of the world in 200 countries over 200 years using 120,000 numbers - in just four minutes. Plotting life expectancy against income for every country since 1810, Hans shows how the world we live in is radically different from the world most of us imagine.

More about this programme: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00wgq0l

I really love the visualizations here! There’s so much to pull apart and analyze. I do wish I had a more focused view on some of the time lapse. There are some countries moving around in interesting ways and I’d love to be able to watch what they’re doing and match them up with various historical events. Watching Japan, for example is fascinating. The near-global dip for large portions of the connected world in 1918 was particularly interesting to see as well.
Annotated Unequal Scenes - USA (unequalscenes.com)

"Some inequality of income and wealth is inevitable, if not necessary. If an economy is to function well, people need incentives to work hard and innovate.The pertinent question is not whether income and wealth inequality is good or bad. It is at what point do these inequalities become so great as to pose a serious threat to our economy, our ideal of equal opportunity and our democracy."
—Robert Reich

An important observation. What might create such a tipping point? Is there a way to look back at these things historically to determine the most common factors that would create such tipping points?
Bookmarked The Federalist with Letters of "Brutus" by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, John Jay, Terence Ball (Cambridge University Press)

The Federalist represents one side of one of the most momentous political debates ever conducted: whether to ratify, or to reject, the newly drafted American constitution. This authoritative new edition presents complete texts for all of the eighty-five Federalist papers, along with the sixteen letters of "Brutus", the unknown New York Antifederalist. Each paper is systematically cross-referenced to the other, and both to the appended Articles of Confederation and U.S. Constitution. Terence Ball's editing skills enhance the accessibility of a classic of political thought in action.

More and more I find myself wanting to go back and read all of these.