Listened to S4 E3: The Cotton Empire by John Biewen and Chenjerai Kumanyika from Scene on Radio

In the decades after America’s founding and the establishment of the Constitution, did the nation get better, more just, more democratic? Or did it double down on violent conquest and exploitation?  

Reported, produced, written, and mixed by John Biewen, with series collaborator Chenjerai Kumanyika. The series editor is Loretta Williams. Interviews with Robin Alario, Edward Baptist, Kidada Williams, and Keri Leigh Merritt.

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

Photo: Cotton bale, Old Slater Mill Historic Site, Pawtucket, Rhode Island. Photo by John Biewen.

Listened to The Field: An Anti-Endorsement in Nevada | The Daily from New York Times

The state’s largest labor union has fought hard for health care. And now it’s fighting Bernie Sanders.

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.

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.

Listened to How Rush Limbaugh Paved The Way For Trump from On the Media | WNYC Studios

And transformed the GOP.

A lot was reported about Tuesday night's State of the Union address. President Trump's characteristic self-congratulation, the fact-checking of his error-filled speech, and Nancy Pelosi's sensational paper rip stunt. Tuesday night also solidified Rush Limbaugh's ascent to Republican royalty. By awarding him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Trump inducted Limbaugh into a gilded class of American history, featuring Norman Rockwell, Maya Angelou, Thurgood Marshall, and Martin Luther King Jr. According to Matt Gertz, a senior fellow at Media Matters for America, the award could be seen as the culmination of the GOP's transformation, precipitated by Limbaugh and solidified by Trump.

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.