Left Anchor

By Ryan Cooper & Alexi the Greek

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Philosophy, politics, and the left.

Episode Date
Episode 173 - The Organizer Ben Fletcher, with Peter Cole

Today we're bringing back Peter Cole to talk about the second edition of his book Ben Fletcher: The Life and Times of a Black Wobbly. Fletcher was one of the most impressive labor organizers of the early 20th century -- a guy who successfully organized the very diverse workforce of the Philadelphia docks into one of the keystone unions of the IWW. If you've heard of Fred Hampton, you should know about him. Enjoy!

Jan 14, 2021
Episode 172 PREVIEW: The Trump Putsch
Jan 10, 2021
Episode 171 - Socialist Freedom

Alexi is out, so Ryan briefly discusses how the coronavirus pandemic blows apart the conservative/libertarian conception of freedom, and illustrates the value of a socialist version of same. Hope you all had a good holiday, and enjoy!

Jan 05, 2021
Episode 170 PREVIEW - America Is Pottersville
Dec 25, 2020
Episode 168 UNLOCKED - The Worst Excerpts from the Obama Memoir

Thanks to popular demand, we are unlocking this one for everyone. We couldn't decide how we wanted to tackle such a gigantic book, so we decided we'd each pick out 10 quotes that drove us furthest up the wall, and talk about them. Enjoy!

Support the show here!

Dec 19, 2020
Episode 167 - The Work of Politics with Steven Klein

Today we are talking with Steven Klein, a professor of political theory at King's College London, about his book The Work of Politics. How does the welfare state interact with traditional conceptions of political activity and struggle? Klein has complex and interesting answers to this question. Enjoy!

Dec 06, 2020
Episode 166 PREVIEW - How Social Security Created the Senior Vote, with Jeff Spross
Dec 02, 2020
Episode 165 - Dehumanization with David Livingstone Smith

Today we've got philosopher David Livingstone Smith on to discuss his book On Inhumanity. We discuss how people can come to believe others are less than human, how that is related to various atrocities, whether the entire idea of "races" should be abolished, and more. Enjoy!

Nov 22, 2020
Episode 164 - The Post-Trump Future with Osita Nwanevu

What happens after Trump? We've got The New Republic's Osita Nwanevu on to discuss his recent article on why the left should take to the streets immediately, broader questions of political possibility, how American democracy might be defended, and more. Enjoy!

Nov 14, 2020
Episode 163 PREVIEW - Bye Bye to the LOSER Donald Trump
Nov 08, 2020
Episode 162 PREVIEW - Greenwald Drama and Election Stakes

Subscribe now to hear the whole thing! 

Nov 03, 2020
Episode 161 - The Fratelli Tutti Encyclical, with Matthew Sitman

Today we've got Matt Sitman, who is co-host of the excellent Know Your Enemy podcast, associate editor at Commonweal, and editorial board member of Dissent, on to discuss the quite remarkable papal encyclical from a few weeks ago. We talk the politics of Catholicism, how Pope Francis relates to his predecessors, how to live well in such a terrible age, and more. Enjoy!

Oct 26, 2020
Episode 160 PREVIEW - Life, Death, and Democratic Socialism, Part II

On this episode we discuss the LARB symposium on Martin Hägglund's book This Life. Subscribe now to hear the whole thing!

Oct 21, 2020
Episode 159 - Oil and the American Empire with Robert Vitalis

Today we've got Professor Robert Vitalis on to discuss his book Oilcraft, and how a mistaken understanding of how the oil supply works has bedeviled both imperialists and anti-imperialists. Enjoy!

PS: Alas, despite our best efforts we once again had a few audio glitches, thanks it seems this time to internet connection problems. Apologies!

Oct 12, 2020
Left Anchor 158 PREVIEW 2: The Trump-Biden Debate

In the second half of our latest bonus episode we discuss the presidential debate, the Amy Coney Barrett nomination, and judicial theories of originalism. Subscribe now to hear the whole thing!

Oct 07, 2020
Episode 158 PREVIEW 1: Trump's Got the Covid

Subscribe now to hear the full episode!

Oct 06, 2020
Episode 157 - Imperial Rollback with Daniel Bessner

Today we've got Daniel Bessner, University of Washington professor and recently inaugurated Foreign Exchanges columnist, on to discuss various foreign policy topics: the motivations and functioning of the American empire, how we should think about China regarding the Uyghur abuses and climate change, and how one might go about rolling back the imperial system. Enjoy!

Sep 29, 2020
Episode 156 PREVIEW - RIP RBG

Subscribe now to hear the full episode! 

Sep 24, 2020
Episode 155 - Socialism vs. Antitrust with Marshall Steinbaum

Today we've got Marshall Steinbaum from the University of Utah to discuss whether socialism and antitrust (or antimonopoly) inherently trade off, or can complement each other. The Gabriel Winant review of Goliath we discuss can be found here. Enjoy!

PS: Unfortunately we had some more technical glitches during recording. Apologies, but everything should be reasonably comprehensible.

Sep 12, 2020
Episode 149 UNLOCKED - The Four Freedoms with Harvey J. Kaye

Today we've got Professor Harvey Kaye on to discuss his book The Fight for the Four Freedoms: What Made FDR and the Greatest Generation Truly Great. We discuss the radical content of this doctrine, how the Democratic Party has forgotten its own history, and how the "Greatest Generation" has been sanitized by morons like Tom Brokaw. Enjoy!

Sep 07, 2020
Episode 153 - Healing Politics with Abdul El-Sayed

Today we've got Dr. Abdul El-Sayed on to talk about his new book, Healing Politics. We discuss the coronavirus pandemic, health care reform, the experience growing up in an immigrant community, what he's learned from his faith, and more. Enjoy!

Aug 29, 2020
Episode 152 - The Thought of MLK with Meena Krishnamurthy

Today we've got political philosopher Meena Krishnamurthy on to talk about her writings on Martin Luther King, Jr. We discuss distrust and solidarity, how individualism strangles American government, how his thought bears on the Black Lives Matter movement, and more. Enjoy!

Her article on the democratic value of distrust can be found here.

(PS: Apologies for the occasionally scratchy audio, there was an unnoticed problem during recording. Alas, bit of an occupational hazard for podcasters during quarantine.)

Aug 23, 2020
Episode 151 PREVIEW: Did Kamala Harris Have to Be Tough on Crime?

We discuss Peter Beinart's argument that black politicians can't be as progressive as white ones in this preview. To hear the whole thing, subscribe here!

Aug 15, 2020
Episode 150 - Monopolized America with David Dayen

Today we've got Dave Dayen of The American Prospect on to talk about his new book Monopolized: Life in the Age of Corporate Power. Enjoy!

Aug 08, 2020
Episode 149 PREVIEW - The Four Freedoms with Harvey Kaye
Aug 02, 2020
Episode 148 - Randian Moochers with Tobi Olowe

Here we've got Tobi Olowe, host of the Impressions of America podcast, on to talk about the life and legacy of Ayn Rand, and her eponymous institute's decision to get on the coronavirus welfare train. Enjoy!


PS: The very funny Whittaker Chambers review of Atlas Shrugged can be found here.

Jul 26, 2020
Episode 147 PREVIEW - Life, Death, and Democratic Socialism

Subscribe here to listen to our full discussion of Martin Hägglund's book This Life.

Jul 20, 2020
Episode 146 -American City Government with Bill Humphrey

Today we've got an interview with Bill Humphrey, a city councilor for Newton, Massachusetts. We ask him about how he got into politics, how he ran his successful campaign, and what it's like being a leftist in government during pandemic times. Enjoy!

You can find Bill's radio show Arsenal for Democracy here.

Jul 10, 2020
Episode 145 PREVIEW - The Coronavirus Resurgence and Democratic Primaries
Jul 01, 2020
Episode 144 - Primarying Bad Democrats with Arati Kreibich

Today we've got Arati Kreibich, who is running in the Democratic primary for New Jersey's 5th District against Josh Gottheimer, one of the most pro-Trump Democrats in the House. (New Jersey voters take note, the primary is July 7.) Enjoy!

Jun 24, 2020
Episode 142 - The Power of Protests and The End of Policing: Part II, with David Kaib

Today we continue our discussion of what a post-police society might look like with David Kaib, who has taught some DC DSA night school classes on the subject.

Links to articles we mentioned: Ryan on the Nordic style of policing, Alex Vitale's book The End of Policing, and this Jacobin article on the abolition of police and prisons. Enjoy!

Jun 17, 2020
Episode 141 PREVIEW - The Power of Protests and The End of Policing: Part I

Subscribe here to listen to the whole episode!

Jun 06, 2020
Episode 140 - Breaking into the Democratic Machine with Nikil Saval

Today we've got Nikil Saval, candidate for the upcoming primary in the Pennsylvania First Senate District on June 2nd. We talk about how he got into organizing and politics, what it's like interacting with the Philadelphia Democratic machine, his advice for others considering a run for office, and more. Enjoy!

May 28, 2020
Episode 139 - The Keynesian Movement with Zach Carter

We've got journalist Zach Carter on to talk about his new book The Price of Peace: Money, Democracy, and the Life of John Maynard Keynes -- an intellectual biography that he's been working on for years. We talk about Keynes' fascinating personal life, the development of Keynesian doctrine, and how "bastard Keynesianism" stripped of most of its interesting elements took root in American economics departments. Enjoy!

May 23, 2020
Episode 138 UNLOCKED - The Coronavirus Death March with David Dayen

We've got David Dayen, the executive editor of the The American Prospect, on to discuss his latest coverage of the pandemic -- the utter failure of the national government response, the timidity of congressional Democrats, why monopolist agribusiness is spreading the virus, and more. Enjoy!

Here are links to subscribe or donate to support the Prospect's excellent work.

May 19, 2020
Episode 138 PREVIEW: The Coronavirus Death March with David Dayen

Subscribe now to hear the full episode!

Also subscribe or donate to The American Prospect to support the great work of David and his colleagues!

May 11, 2020
Episode 137 - Political Religion with Jack Jenkins

We've got religion reporter Jack Jenkins on to talk about his forthcoming book American Prophets: The Religious Roots of Progressive Politics and the Ongoing Fight for the Soul of the Country. We talk about the struggles of the religious left to counter the religious right, whether evangelical Christianity is really a cult of Mammon, why Jeremiah Wright was way ahead of his time, and more. Enjoy!

May 06, 2020
Episode 136 Preview: Why Bernie Lost, Part II

Subscribe here to listen to the whole thing!

Apr 30, 2020
Episode 135 - Why Bernie Lost with David Sirota

We've got former Bernie Sanders speechwriter David Sirota on to talk about why the Democratic establishment ultimately defeated Bernie Sanders. We ask whether he could have done anything differently, how much of it came down to luck, and what lessons the left can take away for the future. Enjoy!

PS: We'll have an extended discussion of this question coming up soon for subscribers, so stay tuned!

Apr 25, 2020
Episode 134 - UBI vs. Job Guarantee with Jeff Spross

Enjoy this preview of our latest bonus episode, where we talk with Jeff Spross about our previous episode with Rohan Grey. To hear the whole thing, subscribe here!

Apr 16, 2020
Episode 133 - The Radical FDR with Harvey Kaye

Today we are talking with Harvey Kaye about his new book FDR on Democracy: The Greatest Speeches and Writings of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. We discuss how Roosevelt's radical politics can be discerned well before he became president, his extraordinary political agility and boldness, how he used history to paint a new picture of America, and more. Enjoy!

Apr 13, 2020
Episode 132 - Tara Isabella Burton & Strange Rites

We've got author Tara Isabella Burton on to talk about her forthcoming book Strange Rites: New Religions for a Godless World, to talk about spirituality and belief in an age when traditional religious forms are collapsing. We discuss the faith-like activities and beliefs of the religious "nones," the blasphemous theology of the Prosperity Gospel, how people might discover collective moral views during the coronavirus pandemic, and more. Enjoy!

Apr 07, 2020
Episode 131 PREVIEW - The Coronavirus General Strike

Subscribe now to hear the whole episode

Apr 02, 2020
Episode 130 - Rohan Grey on #MintTheCoin

We're talking with Rohan Grey today about a proposal he worked on with Rep. Rashida Tlaib on funding massive cash aid to Americans funded with two $1 trillion platinum coins. We talk about the balance of power between the Federal Reserve and the Treasury Department, what it would mean for the Treasury to reclaim the authority to print money, a UBI versus a job guarantee, and more. Enjoy!

PS: This essay Ryan wrote on a similar idea might be useful background.

Mar 28, 2020
Episode 129 - NOlympics with Anne Orchier

This time we've got a bit of an off-beat interview, talking with Anne Orchier about the effort to stop Los Angeles from hosting the Olympic Games in 2028. It's not directly relevant to the coronavirus pandemic, but it does have a lot of the same themes, in that the Olympics have become a locus of disaster capitalism where rich elites wreak terrible social carnage to make a quick buck. Enjoy!

Mar 25, 2020
Episode 128 UNLOCKED - Epidemic Solidarity with Manu Saadia

Once again we're talking coronavirus, with returning guest Manu Saadia. We talk about what is to be learned from the various approaches different countries have taken, how Democrats are bungling the crisis, and how we might seize the moment to change prevailing ideological orthodoxy, and push through vital reforms. Enjoy!

You can find Manu's book Trekonomics here.

Mar 19, 2020
Episode 127 - A.C. Grayling on Democracy

Today we've got A.C. Grayling on to talk about his book The Good State, which provides his model of how an ideal democratic system should be set up. It's a bit off the news but we thought it would be a nice break for people worried about the coronavirus pandemic. Enjoy!

Mar 17, 2020
Episode 125 - The Case Against Joe Biden

Today we do a deep dive into Joe Biden's terrible record in the Senate, and marginally-less terrible record as vice president. Then we turn to electability, and why a Biden nomination would screw up almost all of the strongest arguments against Trump -- on protecting Social Security and Medicare, on trade, on #MeToo, on abuse of immigrants, on corruption, and on mental fitness.

Links to stuff mentioned in the discussion: Corey Robin on Clarence Thomas, Emma Caterine on bankruptcy, Ryan's episode on the bailout disaster, Branko Marcetic on Biden's record, and Jon Walker on Obamacare's technical defects

Mar 08, 2020
Episode 124 PREVIEW - Super Tuesday and Warren Drops Out

In this excerpt we discuss how to help Democratic voters realize that a Biden nomination is the risk it is. Subscribe here to hear the whole thing!

Mar 05, 2020
Episode 123 - Interview with PA-175 Candidate Jeff Dempsey

Today we've got Jeff Dempsey, who is running a progressive campaign in the Democratic primary for Pennsylvania's 175th House district -- our first in-person interview and our first with a live audience! We discuss the characteristics of the 175th (which is part of Philadelphia), why he's running, and the troubles he has had with the local Democratic machine. Enjoy!

You can find Jeff's campaign website here, a donation page here, and a page detailing apparently fishy signature collection-efforts from his opponent here.

Feb 29, 2020
Episode 122 PREVIEW - Nevada Results, the Sanders Coalition, and Pete Buttigieg
Feb 24, 2020
Episode 121 - The American Midwest with Phil Christman

Today we take a break from exhausting primary news to have writer and University of Michigan lecturer Phil Christman on to discuss his upcoming book Midwest Futures (you can pre-order here). We discuss the history and nature of the Midwest, what he learned growing up there, how the Trump era has changed his political thinking, and more. Enjoy!

Also, you can subscribe to Phil's newsletter here.

Feb 22, 2020
Episode 120 Preview - The Bloomberg Menace

Here we discuss why we won't vote for Michael Bloomberg if he is nominated. Subscribe here to hear the full episode!

Feb 18, 2020
Episode 119 - Why It Matters if Bernie Sanders Becomes President

Just Ryan today with a quick pre-New Hampshire episode going through Reed Hundt's excellent book A Crisis Wasted about the presidential transition in 2007-8 and Obama's consequential early decisions as president. We go through how Obama allowed Bush Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson to set the priorities for the bank bailout (thus ensuring Wall Street would not be cut down to size), how Obama allowed his Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner to turn homeowner assistance policy into a quiet backdoor bailout of the banks, and how the Obama administration definitely could have gotten a bigger stimulus but chose not to. Having the right person in the presidential chair matters a great deal.

Links to the episodes and articles mentioned: Eric Rauchway on the Hoover-FDR transition, Carolyn Sissoko on the bailout disaster, and David Dayen on what the next president could do without passing any new laws.

Feb 11, 2020
Episode 118 - Bernie Won Iowa

Ryan is back from vacation so we return with a discussion of the Iowa clusterfuck: How Bernie edged out Pete Buttigieg in the popular vote and tied in pleged delegates, how Biden collapsed, how and why the caucus was bungled so horribly, and what it maybe means for the next few primaries. Enjoy!

Feb 06, 2020
Episode 117 PREVIEW - The Socialist Anti-Imperialism of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Jan 23, 2020
Episode 116 - The Problem with Economics, with Max and Zak Alvarez

Today we have the Brothers Alvarez -- Maximillian and Zak -- of the Working People Podcast on with a crossover episode. We discuss what Zak learned from his time in the University of Chicago economics department, how they were both radicalized by the financial crisis, and more. Enjoy!

Jan 19, 2020
Episode 115 UNLOCKED - The Bernie-Warren Flap

With New Hampshire coming up, we've unlocked our episode on the Bernie-Warren competition.

Jan 17, 2020
Episode 114 - Losing the War, by Lee Sandlin

Bit of a different episode today: Ryan reads a very long 1997 essay about the Second World War by the late Lee Sandlin called "Losing the War" (with permission from Nina Sandlin). Though it takes three hours to finish, it's a remarkable piece about the way the nature of the war was obscured from public view, why wars happen, and what we should remember about it today. Enjoy!

Jan 12, 2020
Episode 113 PREVIEW - The Soleimani Assassination with Derek Davison

Subscribe now to hear the whole thing!

Jan 07, 2020
Episode 112 - The True History of FDR and the New Deal, with Eric Rauchway

Today we've got UC Davis Professor of History Eric Rauchway on to talk the history of the New Deal, particularly the transition period in the winter of 1932-33 covered in his book Winter War. We take apart the common false belief, held by both Republicans and Democrats (including Barack Obama) that FDR deliberately refused to help Herbert Hoover fix the Great Depression so he could get the New Deal passed, when in fact it was Hoover who refused to help in an effort to get Roosevelt to abandon all his campaign promises. We then take down the liberal idea expressed by Jonathan Chait and Jonathan Alter that FDR was really a secret moderate, and talk about how ideological the 1932 campaign really was. Enjoy!

Rauchway's other book The Money Makers can be found here, and his essay in The Presidency of Barack Obama can be found here.

Jan 03, 2020
Episode 111 UNLOCKED - Union Organizing with Max Lyons and Nela Hadzic

Today we've got two professional union organizers on to talk about the state of labor organizing in 2019 -- the tactics of the union busters, the hostility of the Trump administration, and the brushfire labor militancy that has sprung up across the country. 

Read more about Google's union-busting tactics here, and find the essay about progressive union-busters here

Dec 28, 2019
Episode 110 Preview - The Corbyn Defeat and Hope in Dark Times
Dec 15, 2019
Episode 109 - Nicole Fabricant on the Bolivian Situation

We've got Professor Nicole Fabricant from Towson University to discuss what's going on in Bolivia. We talk about Evo Morales' flawed but decent record, the source of right-wing authoritarian sentiment, and the military coup that displaced him. Enjoy!

Her book Mobilizing Bolivia's Displaced can be found here.

Dec 14, 2019
Episode 108 UNLOCKED - Ezra Levin on Political Organizing

Today we've got Ezra Levin, co-author of the book We Are Indivisible (along with his wife Leah Greenberg) to talk about how he fell, by his own account, ass-backwards into leading a national political movement. We discuss the nature of political organizing in the online age, what objectives Indivisible is focusing on, and what lessons others might learn from them. Enjoy!

Dec 05, 2019
Episode 107 - The Baldwin-Buckley Debate

We have on Nicholas Buccola to talk about his book The Fire Is Upon Us, which is a history of the famous debate between James Baldwin and William F. Buckley. We discuss why Baldwin whipped Buckley so handily, how Buckley's rhetoric of racial resentment and anti-democratic views continue to hold sway on the right, and more!

You can watch the debate here, and find Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor's book From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation that was mentioned here.

Nov 30, 2019
Episode 106 Preview - Overworked America

Subscribe now to hear the whole episode!

Nov 20, 2019
Episode 105 - Matt Karp on the Antislavery Movement and Bernie vs. Warren

We've got Professor Matt Karp of Princeton on to discuss his new Catalyst article on "The Mass Politics of Antislavery," his first preview of a new book on the history of the 1850s that is in progress. Then we turn to the debate about Bernie, Warren, and the upper-middle class, starting with another article: "A Socialist Party in Our Time?" by Abbott and Guastella.

Check out his book This Vast Southern Empire here.

Nov 12, 2019
Episode 104 Preview - Jeff Spross on the Warren Medicare-for-All Financing Flap
Nov 10, 2019
Episode 103 - Interview with Texas-25 Candidate Heidi Sloan

Today we've got Heidi Sloan, a DSA member who is running for Congress in Texas' 25th district. We chat about what got her into politics, what it's like running as a DSA member, what is most important to her about politics, what attracted her to the People's Policy Project's Family Fun Pack, and more. (PPP has also endorsed her candidacy.) Enjoy!

Oct 31, 2019
Episode 102 Preview - Emma Caterine on Credit and Utopian Science Fiction

Subscribe now to hear the whole episode!

Oct 26, 2019
Episode 101 - Harvey Kaye on the Promise of America

Today we've got Professor Harvey Kaye on to discuss his upcoming book Take Hold of Our History: Make America Radical Again. We discuss how many of the grim realities of American reality and history are totally at odds with our founding values and aspirations -- but also how on many occasions Americans have made serious efforts to live up to them, and changed this country for the better. Enjoy!

Oct 16, 2019
Episode 100 Preview - Manu Saadia on Piketty's Capital and Ideology, Part II

Subscribe now to hear the full discussion!

Oct 10, 2019
Episode 99 - Jedediah Purdy on the Crumbling American Commonwealth

Today we've got Professor Jedediah Purdy on to discuss his new book This Land Is Our Land: The Struggle for a New Commonwealth. We talk about how he distinguishes a socialist society from a commonwealth, the advanced case of political rot in the United States, what is to be done about climate change, and more. Enjoy!

Oct 06, 2019
Episode 98 Preview: Manu Saadia on Piketty's Capital and Ideology
Oct 05, 2019
Episode 97a Preview: An Exploration of the Little Colorado River Gorge

Here's a little excerpt from a story by Ryan's father about running the Little Colorado during a flood. Find the whole thing here!

Oct 01, 2019
Episode 97 - David Dayen on Presidential Power

If a Democrat wins the White House next year, they will almost certainly not have 60 votes in the Senate, or perhaps even a majority. New bold legislation like a Green New Deal will face a near-impossible uphill struggle.

But hang on -- it turns out there are gigantic reams of statutory authority just waiting to be picked up. We've got David Dayen, executive editor of The American Prospect, on to talk about his fresh magazine issue laying out just some of these tools. The Prospect has Marcia Brown on how the next president can unilaterally cancel almost all student debt, Graham Steele on how they could put chains on Wall Street, Gabrielle Gurley on how they could decriminalize pot, Sandeep Vaheesan on how they could turn an antitrust blowtorch on corporate oligopolies, and much more!

Without exaggeration, what the next president will do with his or her statutory authority is probably the single most important issue in the 2020 primary. A sizable presidency's worth of accomplishments is theoretically possible just by enforcing existing laws. We (and the candidates) should pay close attention!

Sep 24, 2019
Episode 96 Preview: Hannah Arendt on Republican Cheating

In this excerpt we discuss how Republican electoral cheating reveals their lack of power in an Arendtian sense. Subscribe now to hear the full episode!

Sep 22, 2019
Episode 95 - Liza Featherstone on the 2020 Primary

Today we've got on Liza Featherstone to chat about her article on the families of 2020 candidates. From there we move onto a broader discussion of the merits of Bernie vs. Warren, how FDR became a class traitor, whether Lincoln was any good, and more!

Also links to her books: Divining Desire and Selling Women Short.

Sep 18, 2019
Episode 94 UNLOCKED - Dissolving the Blob with David Klion

We've got writer David Klion on to discuss the freshly updated magazine Jewish Currents, Center for American Progress chief Neera Tanden's decision to bust the ThinkProgress union, the prospects for imperial rollback after 2020, how far the new Koch- and Soros-funded Quincy Institute should be trusted, and the evolution of Bernie Sanders' foreign policy thinking.

Here are his Nation articles: on Matt Duss, lefty foreign policy, and the Quincy Institute.

Sep 11, 2019
Episode 93 - Jamaal Green on Slavery and Capitalism

We bring on Dr. Jamaal Green -- otherwise known as the Surly Urbanist -- to talk about the ongoing debate about the role of slavery in early capitalism. Was it necessary to get capitalist development started, or did it actually slow down economic growth? Moreover, why is this an important question, and what does the gruesome history of slavery tell us about the nature of capitalist institutions? Tune in to find out!

Sep 07, 2019
Episode 92 Preview: L'Affaire Bretbug

Listen to Ryan's petty rant about how Bret Stephens has the easiest job on the planet, but can't even enjoy it. Subscribe here to hear the full episode!

Sep 02, 2019
Episode 91 - Interview with John Thornton Jr., Socialist Southern Pastor

We've got a gen-u-ine lefty preacher, Rev. John Thornton Jr., on the podcast to talk about what it's like participating in organized leftist Christianity in 2019. We discuss "The Class Struggle and Christian Love," by Herbert McCabe, plus two of John's articles on the failure of "compassionate conservatism" and why there has so far been no appearance of a serious religious left.

Aug 30, 2019
Episode 90 Preview: The Bernie-Warren Criminal Justice Reform Agenda

Subscribe now to hear the full episode!

Aug 23, 2019
Episode 89 - Brian Fallon on Stomping out BigLaw Corruption

Today former press secretary for Hillary Clinton and spokesman for Chuck Schumer Brian Fallon jumps into the Left Anchor lion's den to advocate for his proposal for all 2020 Dem candidates to promise the following: "[no] more corporate lawyers on the federal bench during the next Democratic administration."

We discuss the plague of corporate lawyer logrolling, how Brian came to believe in the need for stark reform to the Democratic Party (including breaking up its comfortable consultant monopoly), and the need for drastic restructuring of the U.S. courts to defend any possible progressive agenda, should Dems win full power in 2020.

We and Brian obviously do not see eye to eye on everything, but it was still a productive conversation.

Aug 22, 2019
Episode 88 - Chris Hooks on the The Texas Legislature Shitshow

Something is happening in the Texas legislature's Republican delegation ... but what it is ain't exactly clear. We bring on Chris Hooks to talk about his Texas Monthly article explaining how the state's GOP Speaker of the House Dennis Bonnen punched himself directly in the dick through the medium of a loony right-wing crank, and how that bodes for the political future of Texas.

Aug 20, 2019
Episode 87 UNLOCKED - Adam Gaffney on Medicare for All

Adam Gaffney is the president of Physicians for a National Health Program and a doctor at the Harvard Medical School. He talks to us about the prospects for Medicare for All, whether moderate Democrats are serious about reform, and the best way to cut down America's ludicrously high health care costs.

Aug 15, 2019
Episode 86 - Atossa Araxia Abrahamian on the Arctic's Open Borders Island

Svalbard is a huge island about halfway between the north coast of Norway and the North Pole, which has the unusual characteristic of being accessible to anyone in the world without a visa (with some exceptions). Atossa Araxia Abrahamian joins us to talk about her trip there for an article in The Nation, as well as her book The Cosmopolites.

The article in The Intercept about the late Jimmy Aldaoud can be found here.

Aug 09, 2019
Episode 84 - Being a Socialist Judge with Franklin Bynum and Bryan LaVergne

Harris County (home of Houston, Texas) recently entered into a consent decree to overhaul the cash bail process in its courts -- which among other things makes it much harder to lock up poor people for minor offenses. Famed Judge of the Harris County Criminal Court No. 8 Franklin Bynum joins us for the second time, together with his friend, adviser, and fellow organizer Bryan LaVergne, to tell us what it all means and what being a judge is like after 6 months on the bench.

Watch Franklin give a speech advocating for the consent degree here.

Aug 03, 2019
Episode 83 Preview: Rob Larson on BS Economics

In this excerpt, we've got Professor Rob Larson on the podcast to talk about his new book Capitalism vs. Freedom: The Toll Road to Serfdom.

Subscribe now to hear all bonus episodes! 

Jul 30, 2019
Episode 82 - The Liar Josh Hawley

This time we have some actual breaking news on the podcast! After discussing the Pelosi/Squad dispute (TNR article here) and the Mueller testimony today (NR article here), we turn to Senator Josh Hawley's (R-Mo.) speech at the National Conservative Conference a few days ago. We discuss the deeply anti-Semitic overtones of singling out 3 Jewish academics (out of 4 mentioned) to blame for "cosmopolitan elites" who despise patriotism, have no national roots or identity, and sell out the working class to international business.

But then we actually looked up the quotes of the academics he mentioned, and discovered that he had wildly mischaracterized all but one of them. Indeed, one said basically the opposite of what Hawley accused him of.

The discussion of Hawley's deception starts at 40:15, but we'll also include the details below the fold. You can listen to our previous episode about patriotism here.----more----

In his speech, Hawley said the following:

According to the cosmopolitan consensus, globalization is a moral imperative. That’s because our elites distrust patriotism and dislike the common culture left to us by our forbearers.

The nation’s leading academics will gladly say this for the record.

MIT Professor Emeritus Leo Marx has said that the “planet would be a better place to live if more people gave [their] primary allegiance ‘to the community of human beings in the entire world.’”

NYU’s Richard Sennett has denounced what he called “the evil of shared national identity.”

The late Lloyd Rudolph of the University of Chicago said patriotism “excludes difference and speaks the language of hate and violence.”

And then there’s Martha Nussbaum, who wrote that it is wrong and morally dangerous to teach students that they are “above all, citizens of the United States.” Instead, they should be educated for “world citizenship.”

You get the idea. The cosmopolitan elite look down on the common affections that once bound this nation together: things like place and national feeling and religious faith.

In reality, Sennett was the only one whose writing actually fully fits this description (in a 1994 New York Times op-ed). Here's more context from the Nussbaum quote (in a 1994 Boston Review article):

As students here grow up, is it sufficient for them to learn that they are above all citizens of the United States, but that they ought to respect the basic human rights of citizens of India, Bolivia, Nigeria, and Norway? Or should they—as I think—in addition to giving special attention to the history and current situation of their own nation, learn a good deal more than is frequently the case about the rest of the world in which they live, about India and Bolivia and Nigeria and Norway and their histories, problems, and comparative successes?


Once again, that does not mean that one may not permissibly give one’s own sphere a special degree of concern. Politics, like child care, will be poorly done if each thinks herself equally responsible for all, rather than giving the immediate surroundings special attention and care.

Nussbaum is against nationalism and patriotism in general, but not to the sneering extent that Hawley says, and indeed allows that people can take special care for their own surroundings and communities. Nowhere does she disparage place or religious faith as such.

Leo Marx's quote comes from a roundtable response to Nussbaum's article. The quote above comes from the introduction -- but the entire remainder of his piece is dedicated to questioning the quote's premise:

It is one thing to establish the rational and moral superiority of cosmopolitanism, but quite another to get it adopted. If most people really chose their beliefs according to those criteria, nationalism would have disappeared long ago. Professor Nussbaum's case for cosmopolitanism would be a lot stronger if she acknowledged, and somehow dealt with, the deep non- or extra- or ir-rational roots of its triumphant rival, nationalism. As a result of the history of the two concepts of over some three millenia, cosmopolitanism has been -- still is -- associated with urban sophistication, learning, privilege, high status, and a quasi-aristocratic intellectuality and aestheticism; on the other hand, nationalism has been -- still is -- identified with the relatively straightforward, passionate, anti-elitist programs of land-oriented, populist mass movements. When we consider the roles the two actually have played in cultural history, choosing between them becomes a far more intractable problem than Professor Nussbaum suggests. It is bound to generate a deep, discomfitting ambivalence in left-wing intellectuals.

He then goes on to defend the better side of American identity in particular:

Her neglect of historical particularities also mars Professor Nussbaum's views of the American case. She seems to regard American nationhood as indistinguishable from other routine embodiments of nationalism. But the originating concept of the American republic was exceptional in at least two respects. First, unlike virtually all other nations, the United States was founded on precisely defined political principles; and second, those principles, as set forth by Jefferson and his committee, were not selected for their particular local, ethnic, racial, cultural, or geographic relevance, but rather for their putatively universal moral and rational validity. Whatever the record of actual American practices since 1776, the fact is that this nation initially was -- and in principle remains -- dedicated to an Enlightenment brand of cosmopolitanism. When Professor Nussbaum asks why we should think differently of Chinese people when they become Americans, the answer that the founders would have given is clear: these people of Chinese origin are different because they ostensibly have sworn allegiance to the universal principles of American republicanism. Unlike adherents of most forms of nationalism, we Americans have endorsed an exacting set of standards by which we would have our national behavior judged. (Those standards embodied in our founding documents and institutions, incidentally, provide a useful basis for repudiating the cruder, more jingoistic expressions of American patriotism of our constitution.) It is odd that Professor Nussbaum should ignore her own country's unique commitment to the kind of cosmopolitan, supra-nationalistic and eminently rational principles she would have humanity embrace.

One might quibble with that argument, but Hawley's representation of Marx here is simply rank dishonesty.

Worst of all is the treatment given to Lloyd Rudolph. His quote (from the same roundtable as Marx) straight-up does not say what Hawley says it does. On the contrary, Rudolph defends a certain notion of patriotism:

Patriotism is not always and everywhere the same. It lives in different histories and different narratives. Martha Nussbaum seems to neglect these differences: she detests patriotism and admires cosmopolitanism. Richard Rorty and Sheldon Hackney, she says, affirm patriotism. Patriotism for her is aggressive, exclusive, intolerant nationalism; it can lead to the kind of hatred and violence toward the other practiced by Hitler in his time and Slobodan Milosevic in ours.

This is not how I read the Rorty and Hackney effort to recover a common American language, a language that can transcend and inform recognition of and respect for difference in America. Martin Luther King articulated and affirmed American patriotism in his inclusivist, non-violent pursuit of civil rights for African Americans. Today, his legacy helps gays and lesbians, single mothers, and new immigrants to claim civil rights and contributes to the discourse and practice of human rights in world arenas.

Hawley's quote from Randolph is specifically not referring to patriotism as such, but instead bigoted, violent, or criminal versions thereof:

Instead of going after Rorty and Hackney, who share many of her concerns, Martha Nussbaum might do better to go after the scoundrel patriots of our time, the Oliver Norths, Pat Buchanans, Pat Robertsons, and Jerry Falwells. Their patriotism excludes difference and speaks the language of hate and violence.

Emphasis mine. Randolph says patriotism can be a good thing if developed properly, just that it can also have some downsides. But admitting that would jam up Hawley's narrative about the conspiracy of all-powerful (((academics))) bent on destroying Jesus, baseball, apple pies, and America itself. What an abject liar.

Jul 25, 2019
UNLOCKED: (Episode 58): Ilhan Omar and the Patriotism Question

For the free episode this week, we are UNLOCKING a bonus episode from back in April on Ilhan Omar and Patriotism.  We are doing this for unfortunately timely reasons, in light of Trump's bigoted, xenophobic attacks that then were amplified by a chanting crowd at his rally soon thereafter. 

In this discussion from the bonus episode archives, we discuss the ongoing conservative hate campaign against Ilhan Omar, and then turn to the question of patriotism -- is there anything worth salvaging in the concept? Starting with this brilliant lecture "Is Patriotism a Virtue?" from Alasdair MacIntyre, we bring in Kant, Rawls, Charles Mills, and Kurt Vonnegut.

Jul 20, 2019
Episode 80 Preview: Chris Arnade on American Poverty, Part II

Subscribe now to hear the full second half of our interview!

Jul 09, 2019
Episode 79 - Chris Arnade on American Poverty

This time we've got Jeff Spross filling in as guest host to chat with Chris Arnade, author of Dignity, a Studs Terkel-style ethnography of American poverty. We talk about what inspired him to leave Wall Street and start writing about poverty, the varied characteristics of broke Americans, and the real problem with the top 20 percent (hint: it's not their incomes, but their politics).

The interview went long, so we'll be breaking it into two episodes. Stay tuned for part II tomorrow!

Note: Ryan makes an error in discussing the top 20 percent. The bottom half of this group did not experience an absolute income decline from 1980-2014, but rather growth slower than the national average.

Jul 08, 2019
Episode 78 preview - Robert Manduca on 1940s Business Propaganda

Subscribe here to hear the full episode, and you can find Tomorrow without Fear here.

Jul 02, 2019
Episode 77 - David Sessions on Milquetoast Liberalism

This time we've got David Sessions on to talk about the extraordinarily weak tea contained in Adam Gopnik's new book A Thousand Small Sanities. Are liberals responsible for all the good things that have happened in the last 300 years, or is penny-ante moderation the appropriate response to all problems? Tune in to find out!

(Read David's review of Gopnik here.)

Jun 29, 2019
Episode 76 UNLOCKED - Maximillian Alvarez on the Politics of Higher Ed

Max Alvarez joins us again to talk about his experience navigating the treacherous waters of higher education this time. We discuss how he came to end up in graduate school, how the logic of markets has penetrated the university, and the political function thereof. Find some of his writing on this here, here, or here.

Jun 24, 2019
Episode 75 - Carl Beijer on the Global Green New Deal

For once we've got a timely episode! Today we're talking with Carl Beijer, whose People's Policy Project paper on the international financing of climate change policy came out today. Tackling this problem is going to require an eye-watering quantity of international subsidies, and it's worth thinking about how that might happen.

Jun 19, 2019
Episode 74 Preview - The Neocons

Here we discuss a section of Jeane Kirkpatrick's famous essay on why America should support right-wing dictatorships. Subscribe now to hear the full episode!

Jun 16, 2019
Episode 73 - Greg Grandin on the American Frontier

This time we've got historian Greg Grandin on to talk about his new book The End of the Myth: From the Frontier to the Border Wall in the Mind of America, about the history of the American frontier, how it has functioned politically over the years, and how Trump is drawing on that legacy today. (Also listen for an interlude about whether it was appropriate for Bernie Sanders to oppose Reagan's death squad policy in Central America.)

Jun 15, 2019