Podcasts I just listened to

by John Holbo on June 30, 2016

Anyone have podcasts they like? I listen to a lot. Always up for something new and good. Or even something bad, maybe.

I just listened to an interview with Leslie Reagan, on On The Media. She’s a historian of abortion politics (here’s her book). She talks about how the movement to legalize abortion in the US got a double push, first from fear of rubella-related birth-defects, then from fear of thalydomide-related birth defects. (This is the late-50’s, early 60’s.) In a nutshell, ‘dangerous pregnancy’ had to be made vivid – pictorially vivid – as something that could happen to ‘good’ white women. I’m not sure whether this makes a difference to how we think about the politics of abortion today in the US. (There’s a zika virus hook, for the podcast. Will Catholic countries facing zika outbreaks lift bans on abortion?) But I found it very interesting because if you’d asked me about the US politics of abortion in the 50’s and 60’s I would have drawn a total blank. I would have said ‘something about the sexual revolution?’ and then realized, as the words left my mouth, that this didn’t sound right.

Second, I just listened to a Federalist podcast interview with Randy Barnett. Not my cup of tea, usually, but I have an interest in Barnett’s stuff. The guy really has a bug in his ear about John Roberts. A couple months back he was blaming Roberts for Trump and I was like – fine, fine, you lost your Obamacare case. You are a bit bitter, venting steam. But he’s still banging on about how Roberts is the betrayer-in-chief of the Constitution, hence to blame for Trump. This is polemically unfair, in ways I could spell out, but won’t. (If you really want to ask, that’s what comments are for.) But I’ve got to wonder whether this sort of thing isn’t really pissing off Roberts. It would piss me off, if I were Roberts. Barnett isn’t just some guy. He’s like the brain and soul of the Federalist Society, these days. A bit of on-again, off-again grousing about Roberts’ ‘bad’ decisions is one thing. But Roberts is shaping up to be this consistent, vile Judas in the conservative imaginary. Roberts is going to be Chief for a while, I expect. Dale Carnegie would suggest that the way to work the refs effectively is not this. If Roberts actually turns into some flaming Living Constitutionalist slave-to-the-democratic-mob in 20 years, maybe you can give Barnett half credit.



Ed 06.30.16 at 12:27 pm

Apologizes for this being about me instead of the original post, but my view on constitutional interpretation is in the process of chancing. For most of my life, I was in favor of a “text first!” method, that to my knowledge was advocated by Hugo Black and just about no one else. I’m coming to the conclusion that the text is just so badly drafted and sketchy that to all intents and purposes the US really has an unwritten constitution. This is just as eccentric as my earlier opinion. But the relevance to Crooked Timber discussions is that both opinions are so far out of the mainstream that I’m neutral in the Supreme Court wars.

With that background, one of the few positive developments has been the trend with the Supreme Court, which pre-dates Roberts, on issuing opinions on the narrowest possible grounds. I’m pleasantly surprised the Roberts himself has continued or arguably augmented that. The country is more divided than its been in fifty years. A big Supreme Court ruling that tries to Fix Things, which has happened at times in the past, would be less than helpful right now.


Snarki, child of Loki 06.30.16 at 12:35 pm

If the True, Constitutional, Conservatives want to rid themselves of the traitorous presence of John “lawless” Roberts: they have the votes in the House to impeach, if they have the courage and integrity and balls to stand up for their principles.

And they’d probably pick up some Dem votes, to make it bipartisan. But no, they don’t even bother trying.

The only conclusion is that they’re a bunch of whiny little cowardly self-castrated wussies, that just want to bitch and moan and complain, while doing NOTHING.


James 06.30.16 at 12:35 pm

I’m enjoying the new podcast from WNYC called “More Perfect” which examines important Supreme Court cases.


The most recent one was on how test cases came about. I didn’t realize that it was originally illegal to manufacture cases to test bad law. Very interesting stuff.


Dipper 06.30.16 at 12:48 pm

Melvyn Bragg “In our time”
Matthew Parris “Great Lives”
both BBC radio 4


lemmy caution 06.30.16 at 12:51 pm

in the graphic here it looks like roberts is moving to the left



lemmy caution 06.30.16 at 12:52 pm

toward the center but in a leftward direction


Lynne 06.30.16 at 1:02 pm

I listen to Eleanor Wachtel interview writers on “Writers and Company,” CBC radio.


Chris S 06.30.16 at 1:08 pm

The only time I visited the website of the Federalist was when someone recently linked an article about Switzerland. The thesis was that Switzerland was a low-welfare capitalist paradise, it was written by a college junior, who used as her evidence bawlderised quotes from The Economist.

I assume the rest of the site displays similar levels of intellectual rigor.


Chris S 06.30.16 at 1:12 pm

Podcasts I’ve been listening to recently, WYNCs series on gentrification “There Goes the Neighbourhood”.

Novara Media – some of the guests are interesting, even if some of the hosts have the verbal tics of the young.


LFC 06.30.16 at 1:21 pm

in the graphic here it looks like roberts is moving to the left

Perhaps more important than Roberts’s (putative) drift to the left “based on Martin-Quinn scores” is how he has voted in important, or at least highly publicized, cases. And there my impression is that w the exception of a couple of his ACA-related votes, conservatives don’t have that much to complain about w/r/t Roberts. Shelby County alone must be worth about a zillion pts in their column, I wd think.

Speaking of SCOTUS, Sotomayor’s recent dissent in Utah v. Strieff is definitely worth a look. The (overworked) word “impassioned” applies.


kidneystones 06.30.16 at 1:51 pm


Corey Robin 06.30.16 at 1:56 pm

John H: “Dale Carnegie would suggest that the way to work the refs effectively is not this.”

But maybe Dale Carnegie is wrong. Barnett is someone a lot of conservatives — including, I would think, John Roberts — respect. The whole focus on economic inactivity in the Obamacare case, which Roberts entirely accepted (it was his embrace of the tax argument that saved Obamacare), was pretty much Barnett’s baby. Despite the fact that it was born so late in the arguments over Obamacare (not to mention the history of constitutional litigation), didn’t stop Roberts from embracing it. So that tells you something about Barnett’s stature, not just in the Federalist Society, but on the Court itself, including with Roberts. It might piss Roberts off to hear this kind of talk now from Barnett. But it might also make him think twice and wonder whether, in his drive to be the conservative Court’s steward and statesman, he’s not in fact betraying the values and vision he came on the Court to pursue.


b9n10nt 06.30.16 at 2:14 pm

@ 3: 2nd-ing “More Perfect”; very engaging though not about legal theory (yet?).


Sumana Harihareswara 06.30.16 at 2:19 pm

Hrishikesh Hirway’s Song Exploder, which reminds me of the late, great Schickele Mix. “A podcast where musicians take apart their songs, and piece by piece, tell the story of how they were made.” Like “The Sound of Sports,” Song Exploder goes well with my favorite book of 2014, Greg Milner’s Perfecting Sound Forever: An Aural History of Recorded Music. In a similar vein, the “The Sound of Sports” episode of 99 Percent Invisible.

Startup from Gimlet Media, about the behind-the-scenes perils and processes of starting a business. The different seasons are very different; if you don’t like one, try another.

Wolf 359: radio drama that, by the end of the second season, feels like the more dire bits of the recent Battlestar Galactica.


John Holbo 06.30.16 at 2:27 pm

“It might piss Roberts off to hear this kind of talk now from Barnett. But it might also make him think twice and wonder whether, in his drive to be the conservative Court’s steward and statesman, he’s not in fact betraying the values and vision he came on the Court to pursue.”

I think the chance that Roberts doesn’t realize that Barnett is really uncharitably caricaturing Roberts’ position is slight. I don’t really think Roberts is going to move left, but I fully expect him to stick by his guns, and to realize that his guns are actually firing at the Federalist Society now.


Nick Urfe 06.30.16 at 2:32 pm

I listen to a podcast called Filmspotting, available on iTunes and a shortened-for-radio version from WBEZ in Chicago. It features intelligent amateurs discussing recent and classic films, high production values, and it’s perhaps the best source I’ve found for new independent film recommendations. Their marathons on more-or-less obscure directors and genres (e.g. Elaine May, Satyajit Ray, and contemporary Nordic cinema) have been revelatory.


Michel X. 06.30.16 at 2:46 pm

Kernode and Mayo’s film review on BBC 5 Live. Kermode’s a genre critic, so his reviews tens to be bang on the money. You start listening for the rants (one of which woke a coma patient!), but stay for the banter.

The Bugle is a weekly satirical commentary on the news. You start listening for John Oliver, but stay for Andy Zaltzman and his epic pun runs. It’s had a hard time for the last year, but i heartily recommend the back catalogue and it’ll be back on a weekly schedule in September.

Hardcore History. Historical story time, basically, in a long-form podcast. Unfortunately, you only get one episode every few months.

Criminal, whereiin Phoebe Judge does a great job of showing that people aren’t born criminals, that othereise nice people do bad things, and tells us some compelling stories besides.

Mystery Show. A very short-lived podcast in which Starlee Kine tries to solve mysteries that can’t be solved with Google, like the video rental store that disappeared overnight.

Undisclosed. A lot of people listened to the first season of Serial. Undisclosed is an in-depth look at the Adnan Sayed case from three lawyers (one of whom is loosely connected to the case). Serial made for good entertainment but displayed some atrocious critical thinking, and i think it’s exerted something of a pernicious influence. Undisclosed tries to fix those problems, and managed to unearth quite a bit of new evidence in the process.


Glen Tomkins 06.30.16 at 2:57 pm

Roberts won’t be chief for long if Trump wins. Trump will need a pliable SCOTUS in order to rule (and he’s going to have to rule and not just preside to get anything done, and he has to get things done if he wins), because he needs a free hand to prosecute legislators for bribery in order to rule. His best handle to control or get rid of Roberts and Alito will be their involvement with the Federalist Society, which was in turn involved in Dubya’s packing the DoJ with Republican apparatchiks.

The Society seems to have vetted the lawyers that Dubya violated civil service laws to place in DoJ. Even if Roberts and Alito didn’t participate in this vetting, or if their participation wasn’t transparently illegal to them at the time, the right set of prosecutors, judges and juries won’t have a problem convicting them. If Trump wins he controls the prosecutors and gets to venue shop for the right judges. Juries willing to convict won’t be a problem at all.

There are all sorts of obvious problems created by the wide ethical latitude we have come to allow our public officials. We allow bribery as our means of financing political campaigns. We then tolerate these public officials who win by accepting money from business interests setting up programs whose sole effect is to enrich the campaign donors (If they feel the PR need to refer to any program as a “public-private partnership”, that’s a sure sign that it’s a boondoggle. Any govt contract, even for long-standing and obviously real needs, can be corrupted, but anything they call a public-private partnership is a program that is always and essentially corrupt.). The problem with this system that gets all the attention — not undeservedly, it is a problem — is that it results in the 1% having undue influence over public policy. Crony capitalism, regulatory capture, etc. — all very real problems. But the biggest problem created by this systematic tolerance of public bribery, this knee-jerk “looking forward not backward”, is that we have a political system in which almost every actor has committed prosecutable crimes.

We’re just waiting for some person to come along who is willing to look backward not forward, and able to launch the prosecutions, and the whole system comes under this person’s thumb. The actors are either carted off to jail or start cooperating.

Is Trump this person? If he is, can he win the power to start the prosecutions? The answers to those questions are not at all clear. Let’s hope that Trump is just an incompetent clown whose campaign will soon implode. But the vulnerability that a competent would-be dictator could exploit, that seems quite clear to me.


Rich Puchalsky 06.30.16 at 3:00 pm

There is no principled reason that anyone can really figure out for Roberts’ vote on the ACA. Up until the last minute the other justices thought he was going to vote the other way. Anyone can gin up a rationalization after the fact, and training in law is mostly about exactly that.

I think that Roberts is serving an elite that did not really want the ACA to fail. I don’t really see why anyone has to care about the rationalization.


John Holbo 06.30.16 at 4:28 pm

“There is no principled reason that anyone can really figure out for Roberts’ vote on the ACA.”

I think the psychological answer is that Roberts cares pretty deeply about being remembered as a good Chief Justice. That means, he wants collegiality on the Court, with more 6-3 than 5-4 decisions, if possible. He wants to be a custodian of the culture and reputation of the Court like that. (Whether you want to call that ‘principled’ or not I leave to you. I think he wants to do a good job and he thinks that’s it.)


merian 06.30.16 at 4:32 pm

Donald Verrilli tells some stories about the history of some argument in the latest Amicus podcast, including the “taxation”. Overall, I think Dahlia Lithwick does quite a good job with this podcast, and not all her guests are on the “liberal” side of arguments.

As for others, the reporting on Reveal has lately been mindblowing. Slate’s Lexicon Valley has a John McWhorter as a summer host, and he’s much better than the regular guys. (Need I add a disclaimer about not agreeing with McWhorter about everything? But I like what he does here.) I add my vote to More Perfect (better than Radiolab). I tend to find interesting things in the CBC Ideas podcast. Backstory is usually good. Still looking for good feminist stuff, though. I presume you’re less interested in the contents of my knitting and spinning podcast list…


Rich Puchalsky 06.30.16 at 4:45 pm

JH: “I think the psychological answer is that Roberts cares pretty deeply about being remembered as a good Chief Justice.”

If it matters at all, I think that’s totally unprincipled. Justices are either supposed to be concerned about the law or concerned about other people or concerned about the good of the country, depending on whether they have a legalistic, human rights, or “activist” orientation. Being concerned about your personal reputation or about your institution’s reputation as an extension of yours is not following any principle that I can see.


LFC 06.30.16 at 4:47 pm

John Holbo @17
There’s an alternative, though not nec. mutually exclusive, explanation for Roberts’ ACA vote: he thought the Court’s legitimacy wd be undermined if it overturned the signature legislative accomplishment of a reasonably popular President’s first term.

When it came to the Voting Rights Act, though, Roberts had no problem voting to weaken it. Presumably he did not see the same legitimacy problem there — which might be a hard judgment to defend, but it’s necessarily subjective — i.e., there was no direct polling on the issue he cd consult.

It also may be that Roberts did actually think the ACA penalty fell under the congressional taxing power. Anyway, the decision in the Sebelius case on that issue was a 5-4 split (I was just reminded by looking it up). So it was going to be 5-4, presumably, whether Roberts sided w the four more liberal Justices (as he in fact did) or with the others.


LFC 06.30.16 at 4:50 pm

Being concerned about your personal reputation or about your institution’s reputation as an extension of yours is not following any principle that I can see.

The institution’s reputation is something I think most Chief Justices think about. Whether it’s a “principled” concern or not, it is practical: the Court has no v. direct power to enforce its decisions, so its perceived legitimacy is important from that standpoint.


John Holbo 06.30.16 at 4:53 pm

“Being concerned about your personal reputation or about your institution’s reputation as an extension of yours is not following any principle that I can see.”

I’m not a big fan of Chief Justice Roberts, but I can think of worse principles than: do a good job at a job that you think is genuinely worthy and valuable. Preserve the strength and reputation of an institution that you think is very valuable. Obviously the question is: valuable for what? But just because there are deeper questions of principle at stake does mean ‘do right by the institution’ isn’t a principle in itself.

It’s precisely Roberts’ obvious commitment to the institution that must make all this Barnett stuff rankle. Roberts sees himself as doing it the hard way. It’s easy to stand outside throwing bombs in. Standing outside throwing bombs in – like Barnett is – while claiming that all he’s trying to do is keep Roberts from blowing the place up? That must piss him off deeply. Just a guess.


AcademicLurker 06.30.16 at 4:56 pm

Rich@19: Being concerned about the institution’s reputation might not count as a “principle”, but I can see how it could be beneficial. Justices who don’t want the Court’s legitimacy in the eyes of the general public to diminish would avoid deciding cases on a nakedly* partisan basis, for instance.

*Sure you can dress up a partisan decision in legal arguments, but even the need to dress it up imposes some constraints.


LFC 06.30.16 at 5:13 pm

Holbo @17

I think the psychological answer is that Roberts cares pretty deeply about being remembered as a good Chief Justice. That means, he wants collegiality on the Court, with more 6-3 than 5-4 decisions, if possible. [emph. added]

A 6-3 decision in Sebelius on the taxing power question was apparently not possible, as I pointed out @20, since the split on that was: Roberts, Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, Kagan vs. Kennedy, Scalia, Alito, Thomas. So that particular decision was going to be 5 to 4 no matter how Roberts voted. Thus, Roberts may want to avoid 5-4 decisions in general, but it wasn’t possible there and so the desire to avoid 5-4 decisions can’t have been a motive for his position on that point, and that of course was a major decision (and presumably one of the main reasons for Barnett’s unhappiness w Roberts).


bianca steele 06.30.16 at 5:13 pm

I do think calling the reasons “psychological” implies they aren’t principled. I suppose there are alternative possibilities for the definition but those are technical.


Arjun 06.30.16 at 5:13 pm

“Radio War Nerd” is great. Its hosted by John Dolan ( AKA Gary Brecher AKA the War Nerd) and Mark Ames, and they have a real knack for discussing and analyzing geopolitics and wars in an amusing but critical manner.


bianca steele 06.30.16 at 5:18 pm

“New Sounds” from WNYC is interesting.
I also liked “Movie Night” but there haven’t been any new episodes since New Years’.


Raven Onthill 06.30.16 at 6:08 pm

I rather suspect that Roberts made a pro-capitalist decision in Sibelius. Also, he got to write a largely conservative decision and save the prestige of his institution.


RNB 06.30.16 at 6:57 pm

I think John Holbo listens to kidneystones and kidneystones listens to John Holbo.


RNB 06.30.16 at 7:07 pm


LFC 06.30.16 at 7:48 pm

I’m not sure exactly what prompted that comment, but maybe, on balance, I shouldn’t ask. I don’t read Holbo as defending most of Roberts’s substantive views but rather as noting that Roberts has some concern for how the Court is perceived, which sort of goes w/o saying since it’s part of being a Chief Justice, istm. (Though whether *all* Chief Justices have had that concern I guess might be debatable, and IAN a historian of the Ct.)


marcel proust 06.30.16 at 8:06 pm

8: bawlderised quotes from The Economist.

I understand this to mean quotes that are full of bawlderdash. In the case of The Economist, that is redundant and does not serve to narrow the list of possible quotes.


Frank Wilhoit 06.30.16 at 8:38 pm

Trump is getting some complacent ridicule, today (from, as always, the people whom Trump is not talking to), over saying that if Scalia were still alive, the Texas decision would have come out the other way.

He has a (sort-of, backwards) point. Scalia punched above his weight. What we are seeing since his departure is that he was good for about three and a half votes. He is still good for one: Thomas will remain on autopilot for the rest of his career. Scalia was usually able to swing Kennedy, and Roberts about half the time. In Scalia’s absence, Kennedy has gone back to expressing his inner self, which is like a napkin at a picnic in March; and Roberts mostly displays too much situational awareness to be a True Conservative (a low bar, as we know).


LFC 06.30.16 at 8:56 pm

F.W. @31
Disagree. First, Scalia and Thomas did not always see eye to eye; Thomas has his own constitutional/jurisprudential views. Second, Kennedy has been the swing vote on certain key issues for a long time, well predating Scalia’s death.

As far as Trump’s comment (as you report it) is concerned, it’s true that if Scalia were still alive the Texas affirmative action case would have been 5-4, instead of a 4-4 tie. There are a number of reasons to ridicule Trump, but his making a (trivially) true statement would not seem to be one of them.


Maynard Handley 06.30.16 at 10:44 pm

If you’re interested in the politics of abortion in the 70s, and why they reversed course from this earlier 50s/60s stance, you might like the comment written up by yours truly a few years ago on this:


LFC 06.30.16 at 10:58 pm

CORRECTION to my comment @32:
U.S. v. Texas, the 4-4 tie, is the immigration case. The affirmative action case, Fisher v. Univ. of Texas, was not a tie (Kennedy wrote the maj. opinion).


merian 06.30.16 at 11:01 pm

31, 32, well WHICH Texas case? Affirmative Action would have been a tie instead of a 4-3 decision in favour of UT, which would have upheld the lower court decision that UT was in the clear, but not set new law. The abortion case would have come out as a 5-4 instead of a 5-3, same decision. United State vs Texas (the immigration DAPA/DACA case) would probably have been decided against the federal government with Scalia, but the effect for the moment is the same.


LFC 06.30.16 at 11:33 pm

I didn’t see the Trump comment so I’m not clear what case he was referring to. But as you point out, none of the three Texas cases wd have come out drastically differently w Scalia. There would have been a tie instead of an opinion in the Univ of Texas case (in which Kagan did not participate), and there presumably would have been an opinion rather than a tie in the immigration case, but as you say the effect for the moment is the same: the pres’s plan to defer deportation for certain groups is blocked.

So Trump was apparently just blathering and I was wrong @32 to say that he was making a true statement: he was just blowing smoke, as he does most of the time.


Barry 06.30.16 at 11:51 pm

“Barnett isn’t just some guy. He’s like the brain and soul of the Federalist Society, these days. A bit of on-again, off-again grousing about Roberts’ ‘bad’ decisions is one thing. But Roberts is shaping up to be this consistent, vile Judas in the conservative imaginary. Roberts is going to be Chief for a while, I expect. Dale Carnegie would suggest that the way to work the refs effectively is not this. If Roberts actually turns into some flaming Living Constitutionalist slave-to-the-democratic-mob in 20 years, maybe you can give Barnett half credit.”

Barnett is a guy who came of age during a time when SCOTUS was right-wing. He’s likely never had to deal with even a tied Democratic-Republican court, let alone a 5-4 or 6-3 court with a Democratic majority.

He’s got a lot of learning to do, and I for one hopes that he just breaks down crying on right-wing publications.


Clay Shirky 07.01.16 at 1:28 am

On the subject of codpasting, I love Roman Mars’ ‘99% Invisible’ (http://99percentinvisible.org/), which is about design, and became increasingly explicitly about design and society as the format lengthened and Mars hit his stride.

The show is generally excellent, but they have an especial feel for urban infrastructure. “Tel Aviv’s White Elephant”, about their much-unloved bus station, and “Pagodas and Dragon Gates”, about rebuilding San Francisco’s Chinatown into an Orientalist streetscape, after its old Victorian houses were destroyed in 1906, are both terrific.

I also have a lot of love for Jesse Thorn’s Bullseye (http://www.maximumfun.org/shows/bullseye), an interview show that usually has two guests a week, usually drawn from the worlds of standup comedy (Thorn was interviewing Tig Nataro long before she had her breakout ‘Hello! I have cancer!” show), popular music (particularly hip hop), and movies.

Speaking as one old white perfesser who lives in Asia to another, it’s a way to not be totally uncoupled from the more interesting bits of American popular culture.


Flowers 07.01.16 at 3:43 am

Chapo Trap House is great fun for a crude leftist take on American Politics.


Garrulous 07.01.16 at 3:54 am

Sodajerker podcast has in-depth interviews with songwriters. The presentational style occasionally annoys me, but there’s a dynamite line-up of interviewees, nicely understated expertise, and a lot of insight into how music is made.


Meredith 07.01.16 at 5:04 am

As for podcasts, I’ll have to check with my husband for specifics. Most he wants to play in the car are out of Boston. Also, there’s a New Yorker thing. All good, but I prefer silence, or rather, the sounds of the car, the road, the world outside the car. So I am always insisting we delay the podcasts or turn them off after a while. I associate podcasts with car trips. (When I am driving alone on a long car trip, I do appreciate the company of the radio. I want music, mostly, or news, but enjoy the weird talkers the radio gives me.)

As for SCOTUS, enough of that elsewhere. I’m more interested in abortion. The politics of it, well, maybe rubella and thalydomide played a role — plausible. More was up, though (and Reagan may go into this). It’s not like women hadn’t been getting surgical abortions, illegally, for decades and decades in the 50’s and 60’s. Safely, even, when they were prosperous enough. My own grandmother (b. 1898) had several, and her husband my grandmother probably arranged others for friends, family, and his own paramours. In my own pre-Roe v. Wade world , safe abortion could be got, though the energy and money spent in finding how was certainly exhausting. More often, people “had to get married” (and then, more often than not, got divorced). So many things went into the mix of change. Birth control (not just the pill, but condoms way back, in the early 20th century). Desire all around for smaller families (why my grandmother got her abortions in 1920’s NYC). Women’s suffrage and a zillion issues associated with it, like women’s entry into “the work place” in an industrialized world. Just so many things. These so many things convince me: most opposition to abortion really is grounded in men’s desire to control women. It’s pretty simple.


John Holbo 07.01.16 at 5:43 am

Sorry some comments got stuck in moderation, due to links. Thanks for the recommendations all around. Thanks for the Nietzsche link, too, RNB. I am indeed interested.


Leo 07.01.16 at 10:49 am

Radio Open Source (http://radioopensource.org/), hosted by the former New York Times journalist Christopher Lydon, is just about the best podcast out there, in my opinion. My favourite episodes have tended to be the arts ones – for instance on Knausgard, Ferrante, Toibin, Bach’s St John Passion, Schubert’s Winterreise and Louis Armstrong. But some of the episodes discussing politics have been very good too: Mark Blyth on the Eurozone crisis, for instance, or the interview with Arundhati Roy on modern India.


Bill Camarda 07.01.16 at 1:37 pm

I very much enjoy Kevin Stroud’s The History of English. http://historyofenglishpodcast.com/

But the real reason I’m posting is to finally tell you how much I enjoyed your Coursera MOOC awhile back. Coursera pulled down all the MOOCs on its “old platform” 6/30, and I was there retrieving my stuff… remembered how much I enjoyed your take on the Dialogues.


John Holbo 07.01.16 at 1:53 pm

Thanks, Bill! Glad you liked it!


John Holbo 07.01.16 at 1:55 pm

But just so you know: the stuff is still there, although they’ve shifted platforms. You haven’t lost access to anything. (I hope not, anyway!)


Bill Camarda 07.01.16 at 3:40 pm

Thanks! I’m imagining that new instances of your content are available on the “new” platform in connection with later semester offerings? But they did say they were eliminating access to the older discussion forums, assignments, etc. I wanted to make sure I retrieved my comments in fora and my final “Agony Aunt” essay… :)


Anderson 07.01.16 at 7:00 pm

I have a different theory about Roberts.

This is a guy who was a lawyer in the Reagan administration, who’s lived through the GOP’s dominance of the federal bench, & who sees that dominance jeopardized by Democratic presidents. Roberts believes that only Republicans read the Constitution correctly, and that liberals on the bench will set that reading back for generations.

The ACA vote avoided a potentially huge backlash against the Court: striking Obama’s signature 1st-term accomplishment would not so much have helped the GOP win in 2012 as it would have energized the Dems. But even then, Roberts did so while getting five votes to put an extraordinary new limit McCulloch v. Maryland and the Commerce Clause, which in the long game is much more Roberts’ cup of tea. Randy Barnett, who is sort of a Bond villain of constitutional law, didn’t like that, but Roberts is smarter and wiser.

Shelby County v. Holder was a naked move by a GOP Court to help the GOP elect Republicans to the White House (and to Congress) by disenfranchising Democratic-leaning voters, based on an absurdly non-textual theory of “equal dignity of the states” cribbed from John C. Fucking Calhoun. It is difficult to describe how awful, as a purported legal opinion, that thing was. (I recommend that anyone interested read the D.C. Circuit op that was overruled, which cited abundant evidence that the VRA was still very much needed.) As per Roberts’s modus operandi, he had precedent to cite – dicta he’d put in an earlier op that was actually joined by a couple of the liberal justices (just as two of them joined his absurd hobbling of Medicaid expansion in Sebelius). I hope they’ve learned to be more careful reading what they sign when it has Roberts’ name on it.

The long game is controlling the courts. That is Roberts’ game.


LFC 07.01.16 at 10:23 pm

Following on Anderson’s comment: it will be interesting to see how Roberts deals w the situation following what I’ll assume, for purposes of this comment, will be HRC’s election in Nov. and the subsequent replacement of Scalia w someone who may not be a liberal but will prob be a ‘moderate’ in the Garland mode (if it’s not Garland himself). Obvs. the changed alignment on the Ct will make this more partisan aspect of Roberts’ project, or ‘game’, more difficult. I also think he may have, as JHolbo suggests, an ‘institutional’ concern about not wanting to see the Ct too fractured or obvs divided along political lines, but achieving that may also become more difficult.


bjk 07.01.16 at 11:08 pm

It’s amazing that ten years later NPR still can’t find a decent replacement for Lydon. You would think out of a country of 320 million people they could find a decent radio host who had actually read a couple books.


Plarry 07.02.16 at 4:36 am

This thread has had some fantastic recommendations in it so far. I was unaware of 99% Invisible, Radiolab More Perfect, Wolf 359, and Song Exploder, but they look fantastic. Lydon is a bit too hit or miss for me – too many of his episodes are duds.


pnee 07.02.16 at 6:23 am

For what it’s worth, Sissy Spacek did an HBO original movie in 1992, A Private Matter about a famous thalidomide-related abortion case, Sherri Finkbine — a Phoenix area Romper Room host. As I recall, it was pretty good.



JHW 07.02.16 at 12:38 pm

Here’s an unfashionable opinion: Roberts voted for the government in the Affordable Care Act case because he decided that the mandate-is-a-tax argument was right on the merits. The fact that he appears to have changed his mind doesn’t make his ultimate position unprincipled. (Is the principled thing to never change your position?)

I am not convinced that Roberts has ever voted contrary to his merits view in an important case in the interest of protecting his own reputation or that of the Court. For an example of a case where he clearly did vote his merits view despite the likely damage to his reputation and the Court, see Obergefell v. Hodges. The real difference between Roberts and some other conservatives, both on and off the Court, is that while Roberts is solidly ideologically conservative, he is not a deeply partisan guy. He is not driven by the particular short-term desire to thwart the Obama Administration. And he is more likely to be offended than persuaded by criticism whose clear subtext (or, sometimes, just text) is that he ought to have helped destroy the Affordable Care Act simply because it is the Affordable Care Act.


Anderson 07.02.16 at 3:15 pm

58: Shelby County.


Sumana Harihareswara 07.02.16 at 5:59 pm

I just (yesterday) started listening to and loving the new W. Kamau Bell & Hari Kondabolu podcast, Politically Reactive, which is indeed funny.

And I am loving the History of Philosophy in India podcast, a collaboration between Jonardon Ganeri and Peter Adamson. It’s so clear and kind and thoughtful and explanatory!

merian: some of the episodes of Popaganda have been pretty good.


RNB 07.02.16 at 6:39 pm

Thanks Sumana!
I have met Kamau Bell walking around town. Very nice man. I love Ganeri’s work and immediately listened to the podcasts on Kautilya and Ashoka (Thomas Trautman has recently published an abridged Arthashastra) and the one on non-violence when I found this podcast. This is a great piece on Ashoka’s edicts


engels 07.02.16 at 6:53 pm

Just want to put in an anti-plug for the New Yorker poetry podcast which has been made unbearable due to incessant, annoying ads


JHW 07.02.16 at 7:22 pm

Anderson at 59: I think Roberts is a Shelby County true believer. Like I said: solidly ideologically conservative. (Shelby County, while utterly indefensible, is broadly in accordance with conservative constitutional commitments: resistance to broad federal power and “anti-anti-discrimination.”)


LFC 07.03.16 at 1:06 am

Thks for mention of the hist. of philosophy podcast (listened to a couple of ‘episodes’; not in the India sequence, though might do that too).


Anderson 07.03.16 at 1:15 am

63: I can’t believe Roberts is that stupid, so I respectfully disagree. It’s a faux judicial opinion, merely going through the moves. (And to be clear, four justices joined it, including Kennedy, who is a much worse human being than he’s usually given credit for.)


JHW 07.03.16 at 2:36 am

Anderson: Lots of smart people sincerely believe, in good faith, foolish and wrong things. Shelby County is a case where that is especially likely (for reasons pretty far afield from this discussion). For a contrast, note that no one on the Court, not even Alito, voted to support the Evenwell v. Abbott challenge to apportionment of electoral districts by total population rather than voting-eligible population, which was a pretty blatant example of attempting to use constitutional law to boost Republican electoral prospects.


RNB 07.03.16 at 6:33 pm

@64 Well LFC I note that you are one of the few commentators here to look at things from a non-Western point of view as when you shared your review of the book on India’s “humanitarian” intervention in East Pakistan/Bangladesh when we were discussing R2P.
Perhaps it’ll be widely recognized one day that Ashoka’s rule marks a world historical moment in human culture just as ancient Greece does? The piece I linked to, is worth a read.


LFC 07.03.16 at 6:42 pm

The piece I linked to, is worth a read.

noted (and bookmarked) — thanks.

p.s. have special interest in Bangladesh for personal reasons I won’t go into here. Recent events there distressing.


LFC 07.03.16 at 6:44 pm

are distressing
(accidentally hit ‘submit’ too soon)


RNB 07.03.16 at 7:07 pm

Really tragic in Bangladesh.
Kaushik Basu ‏@kaushikcbasu Jul 1
Sad what a few people do. A year ago Bangladesh graduated from a low to a lower middle income economy, a country friendly & full of hope.


stephen 07.04.16 at 12:29 pm

For podcasts, I enjoy the Always Already Podcast, which focuses on critical theory understood pretty widely. They choose good readings for discussion, have some charm, and when it works especially well it’s like sitting in on a good seminar. And Partially Examined Life is a go-to philosophy podcast.


Sancho 07.05.16 at 7:24 am

Here favourites of mine, in no order:

– The Cracked podcast is smart and funny, and covers some interesting topics. Good for mixed audiences, say on a road trip, when everyone gets bored of music.

– The Nostalgia Trap is David Parsons interviewing American leftists. Often entertaining. Corey’s been on a couple of times.

– Futility Closet is a great little show about weird history, worldly oddities and unsolved questions.

– Reuters War College covers some interesting stuff about (obviously) war, but the interviews are sometimes extended sales pitches for a guest’s new book. Plus it’s Reuters, so everything starts from the position that neoliberal interventionism is wise and just.

– The Slate Working Podcast does day-in-the-life-of stuff about people in unusual professions. Quality depends on the interviewee, but often engaging.

– The Joe Rogan podcast sometimes has interesting guests, but it always has Joe Rogan. Weigh up the cost:benefit on any given episode before downloading.

– Tank Riot updates infrequently, but it’s a fun beer-and-chips show that covers interesting cultural and political stuff.

– The Life of Caesar podcast is a fun and thorough treatment of its topic, though the presenters try a bit too hard sometimes (IMO). The hosts have separately done podcast histories of Napoleon And WW2, which I haven’t tried but could be good.

– Maybe not a CT topic of interest, but Heavy Hands is the most analytical and cerebral MMA podcast out there.

– Oh, and Welcome to Nightvale probably needs a better description than I can give, but well worth a listen.


Jameson Quinn 07.06.16 at 11:30 am

The Center for Global Development’s wonkcast is consistently worth a listen, and I say so as a non-expert on global poverty issues.


GHG 07.06.16 at 7:24 pm

Agree with Kermode and Mayo’s Film Review, 99% Invisible, Song Exploder (although I feel like it could be better, pushing more into the technical stuff); Radiolab and Radiolab More Perfect; Untold.

I would add: 2 Dope Queens (standup comedy); You Must Remember This (great old-Hollywood history, gossip, insight); The Frame (excellent daily culture podcast from Los Angeles); Stop Podcasting Yourself (great wittering from two Vancouver comedians and changing comedian guest); and finally, my absolute favourite these days, Our Debut Album. Same hosts as Stop Podcasting Yourself (Dave Shumka and Graham Clark), and they have set the task of composing a hit song in under an hour. The process is hilarious and the results surprisingly hit-song-like. Now onto their third song; I think the whole album will be killer.


RNB 07.07.16 at 3:30 am

Just to see whether I am still blocked.

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