The Ezra Klein Show

The Ezra Klein Show

United States

Ezra Klein gives you a chance to get inside the heads of the newsmakers and power players in politics and media. These are extended conversations with policymakers, writers, technologists, and business leaders about what they believe in and why. Look elsewhere for posturing confrontation and quick reactions to the day's news. Subscribe for the anti-soundbite.


Chris Hayes on whether Trump should be removed from office  

In the aftermath of Trump’s bizarre, dangerous North Korea tweets, I’ve been fixated on a question: Should Trump be removed from office?


The mechanisms we have for curbing a dangerous presidency are limited, at least as we normally think about them. Though legal scholars argue over the founders’ intent, impeachment is thought to be a remedy for executive criminality, while the 25th Amendment is only meant to be used amid physical and mental incapacitation.


But what if neither condition is present? What if the United States of America — a nuclear hyperpower — just puts the wrong person in the job? What if we make a mistake — now or in the future — that is not clearly driven by breaches of law or catastrophic changes in health? What remedies does our system offer? What would the cost of invoking those remedies be?


Chris Hayes is the host of MSNBC’s All In, and he’s also an unusually thoughtful analyst of political institutions and systems. So I asked him back to the podcast to talk about this question, and a few more. We cover the infighting between different factions of the Democratic Party, the signs that congressional Republicans are growing some backbone, and the reports that Trump’s closest aides are conspiring to keep him from doing too much damage to the country.


This is a great conversation about some topics you’re going to hear a lot more from me on soon. Enjoy!


(One note: This conversation was recorded a few days before the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, which is why you don’t hear us cover it. But Trump’s reaction to the rally only underscores many of the points we make in this podcast.)

Sen. Michael Bennet on why this is a dismal, sociopathic era in Congress  

Michael Bennet is an accidental senator. He was unexpectedly appointed to fill an open seat after Ken Salazar joined the Obama administration. He had never run for elected office before, or served in a legislative body. Perhaps that’s why he’s always, in my experience, been appropriately shocked by how the US Congress actually works.

Since joining the Senate (and winning reelection in 2010 and 2016), Bennet has become one of its more effective members. He was part of the Gang of Eight that authored the immigration reform plan that passed the body, and he’s known for working well with both Republicans and Democrats. And yet, he is despairing over the state of the institution in which he serves.

This is a conversation about why Congress is broken, and what broke it. We discuss money, partisanship, the media, the rules, the leadership, and much more. We talk about what Bennet thinks House of Cards gets right (hint: it’s the sociopathy) and whether President Trump’s antics are creating some hope of institutional renewal.

There’s a lot of good stuff in this conversation, and I don’t want to spoil it. Suffice to say, if you care about the US Congress in this age — and you should — this is a discussion worth hearing.


Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond

Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity by Katherine Boo

The Retreat of Western Liberalism by Edward Luce

What’s scary isn’t Trump’s illiberalism but America's acceptance of it  

Yascha Mounk is a lecturer at Harvard, a columnist at Slate, and the host of The Good Fight podcast. He’s also an expert on how democracies backslide into illiberalism — which was the topic of our first conversation on this podcast.

But when Mounk and I last spoke, fears of Trump’s illiberal instincts seemed to have been overblown. This was an administration too incompetent to be authoritarian.

But Mounk made a prediction then that has, I think, been borne out: Trump’s illiberal instincts would be catalyzed by his failures, not his successes. As Trump finds himself frustrated by Congress, and by the FBI investigation, and by Robert Mueller’s inquiry, and by White House leakers, he lashes out at the system he thinks is unfairly, even dangerously, constraining him.

Of late, Trump’s illiberalism has made a comeback — he’s giving speeches calling for more police brutality, he fired an FBI director who threatened him, he’s attacking his own attorney general for doing too little to shield him from investigation, he’s demanding vast changes to congressional rules, he’s calling for administration lawyers to begin exploring the reach of his pardon powers, and he's running a White House where the clear guiding principle is loyalty to Trump rather than loyalty to country. But as Mounk and I discuss in this podcast, that’s not the scary part.

The scary part isn’t Trump’s illiberalism but the political system’s acceptance of it. If you had read off Trump’s list of offenses as a hypothetical 12 months ago, you would’ve been told that neither Congress nor the public would allow any of this to go unpunished. But Trump remains around 40 percent in the polls and his support among congressional Republicans has barely wavered.

This is a lesson that goes far beyond Trump: We’re learning that American politics is much more vulnerable to, and much less offended by, leaders who want to subvert the rule of law than we thought. It may be that Trump is too impulsive and short-tempered to take advantage of that fact. But will that be true of his successors, too?

As you’ll hear in this podcast, as Mounk and I were discussing that question, we got news that Trump had fired his chief of staff, Reince Priebus, and replaced him with Gen. John Kelly. You’ll get to hear us react to that in real time. Enjoy!

Julia Galef on how to argue better and change your mind more  

At least in politics, this is an era of awful arguments. Arguments made in bad faith. Arguments in which no one, on either side, is willing to change their mind. Arguments where the points being made do not describe, or influence, the positions being held. Arguments that leave everyone dumber, angrier, sadder.

Which is why I wanted to talk to Julia Galef this week. Julia is the host of the Rationally Speaking podcast, a co-founder of the Center for Applied Rationality, and the creator of the Update Project, which maps out arguments to make it easier for people to disagree clearly and productively. Her work focuses on how we think and argue, as well as the cognitive biases and traps that keep us from hearing what we're really saying, hearing what others are really saying, and preferring answers that make us feel good to answers that are true. I first met her at a Vox Conversation conference, where she ran a session helping people learn to change their minds, and it's struck me since then that more of us could probably use that training.

In this episode, Julia and I talk about what she's learned about thinking more clearly and arguing better, as well as my concerns that the traditional paths toward a better discourse open up new traps of their own. (As you'll hear, I find it very easy to get lost in all the ways debate and cognition can go awry.) We talk about signaling, about motivated reasoning, about probabilistic debating, about which identities help us find truth, and about how to make online arguments less terrible.



Language, Truth, and Logic by A.J. Ayer

Seeing Like a State by James Scott

The Robot's Rebellion by Keith Stanovich

Dr. Nneka Jones Tapia, the first psychologist to run a jail  

Cook County Sheriff Thomas Dart calls the 8,000-person Cook County Jail the largest mental health institution in the country. Thirty percent of its inmates have diagnosed mental health issues, and the number with undiagnosed conditions is thought to push the true percentage much higher. So perhaps it’s not surprising that Dart chose Dr. Nneka Jones Tapia, a psychologist, to run it.

What is surprising is that Jones Tapia is the first mental health profession to run a jail. In this conversation, we talk about how the justice system looks when you begin with a mental health lens — how you balance punishment and treatment, how you think about personal responsibility versus mental instability, and how you manage the tension between what we use jail for and what we should use jail for.



The Bible

The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander

The Road Less Traveled: A New Psychology of Love, Traditional Values and Spiritual Growth by M. Scott Peck, M.D.

Eddie Izzard on World War I, cake or death, and marathoning  

Now that I've gotten Eddie Izzard to re-derive his famed "cake or death?" routine in real time, I'm ending this podcast. Always good to go out on top.

Okay, maybe I won't actually end it. But this episode was a thrill to do. Eddie Izzard has long been one of my favorite comics. I've watched his specials more times than I can count. And this conversation was a real pleasure. Izzard — whose new memoir, Believe Me, is now on shelves — thinks fast, and not always linearly, so we covered a lot of ground.

Among our topics:

- How he ran 27 marathons in 27 days, and why he did it

- His process for writing jokes

- Why he wants to run for parliament, and how he's taken inspiration from Al Franken's career

- His techniques for borrowing confidence from his future self

- What he learned as a street performer

- Why so many of his routines are based on history and anthropology

- His off-the-cuff and hilarious explanation of World War I 

- The thought process that led to his famous "cake or death?" routine

- His gender identity, and how he integrated it into his act early on

- How he managed being the first transgender person many Americans ever saw

- Who excites him in comedy now

- His thoughts on the recent British election

And much more. Enjoy this conversation. I certainly did. 


Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There by Lewis Carroll

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

Al Franken, Giant of the Senate by Al Franken

Avik Roy and Ezra debate the Senate GOP's health bill  

According to the Congressional Budget Office, the Senate GOP’s health care bill — officially known as the Better Care Reconciliation Act — will lead to 22 million fewer people with health insurance and plans with such high deductibles that low-income people won’t be able to afford them. On the bright side? Massive tax cuts for the rich.

It’s not a widely popular vision — the bill is struggling to attract Republican support, and is polling between 12 and 17 percent. But it does have defenders. Chief among them is Avik Roy, a past guest on this podcast and the co-founder of the Foundation for Research on Equal Opportunity. The bill’s passage, Roy said, would be "the greatest policy achievement by a GOP Congress in my lifetime.”

I am, to say the least, not a fan of this legislation. So I asked Roy to return to the podcast to discuss it. I wanted to hear the best possible case for the bill.

In this conversation, we discuss the Better Care Reconciliation Act, but also the broader health care philosophies that fracture the right. We talk about Roy’s disagreements with the CBO’s methodology, as well as the many, many ways he thinks the Senate bill needs to improve. We talk about the ways the GOP has moved left on health care policy without coming to a consensus about what the policy is meant to accomplish. We talk about Medicaid, about welfare reform, and about how policymakers should think about the needy who are hard to help. We talk about the many ways the American health care system subsidizes the rich, and the way that money could be better used.

Roy, I would say, is a lot more enthusiastic about the Senate bill in theory than in practice. After this discussion, I better understood why he sees the bill as a victory for Republicans who want their party to embrace universal health care, but I left thinking he was underrating the dangers of a party that isn’t united behind that vision implementing legislation like this. We discuss that, too.

If you want to understand the GOP’s internal dynamics on health care, listen to this conversation. I cover this stuff for a living, and I learned a lot.

danah boyd on why fake news is so easy to believe  

danah boyd is an anthropologist and computer scientist who studies the way people actually use technology. Not the way we wish we used technology, or the way we hope we will use technology, but the way we actually use it.
“Technology,” she says, "is made by people. In a society. And it has a tendency to mirror and magnify the issues that affect everyday life.”

boyd is a principal researcher at Microsoft Research, the founder of Data & Society, a visiting professor at New York University, and a fantastically interesting thinker. She packs more insight into a blog post than many authors get into a book. I’ve been reading her and learning from her for a long time, so I’ve been looking forward to this discussion, and it didn’t disappoint.

In this conversation, we discuss why fake news is so easy to believe, digital white flight, how an anthropologist studies social media, the reasons machine learning algorithms reflect our prejudices rather than fixing them, what Netflix initially got wrong about their recommendations engine, the value of pretending your audience is only six people, the early utopian visions of the internet, and so, so much more. Enjoy!


Jean Briggs's "Inuit Morality Play: The Emotional Education of a Three-Year-Old”

Hannah Arendt's "Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil”

Margaret Mead's collection of her Redbook essays

Al Franken on learning to be a politician  

Sen. Al Franken’s new book, Al Franken, Giant of the Senate, is the rare politician memoir that’s actually interesting. And note that I said interesting, not funny (though it is also funny).

Most books by politicians are about how they’re not really politicians — they’re authentic, they’re honest, they shoot from the hip, they still remember what it was like growing up in a mill town raised by feral dogs and subsisting on nothing but hay.

Franken’s book is the opposite: It’s the story of how he learned to be a politician, and even how he learned to respect politicians. It’s about realizing he couldn’t litigate his past comedy, about trusting his staff, about understanding why politicians act the way they do in interviews, about recognizing why the norms of the Senate matter.

So this is an interview about what it’s like to be a politician, why perfectly nice and interesting people end up acting like all those other politicians after getting elected, and the role we as voters (and we in the media) play in it. If you’re interested in how politics actually works, you should listen.


Captured: The Corporate Infiltration of American Democracy by Sheldon Whitehouse

How Children Succeed: Confidence, Curiosity and the Hidden Power of Character by 
Paul Tough

Our Kids by Robert Putnam

Zephyr Teachout on suing Trump, fighting corruption, and breaking monopolies  

Zephyr Teachout is a law professor at Fordham University, the author of Corruption in America, one of the lead lawyers in the emoluments case that’s been brought against Donald Trump, and a former gubernatorial and congressional candidate.

Which is all to say that Teachout is someone who knows a lot about political corruption, and so we dive deep into that topic in this podcast.

We talk about how political corruption was defined by the Founding Fathers, and why, during the Constitutional Convention, they discussed the threat posed by corruption more than they discussed the threat posed by foreign invasion. And we talk about the way today’s Supreme Court — in the Citizens United and related decisions — has narrowed the definition to be almost meaningless.

Teachout is also one of the lead lawyers in the case being brought against Trump on his foreign profits and gifts — “emoluments” that, arguably, are unconstitutional. We go through that lawsuit — and its prospects and potential remedies — in some detail.

We also dig into the role monopolies and related concentrations of industry power are playing in American life — this is an increasingly influential argument on today’s left, and Teachout does a nice job here explaining why.

Finally, we talk a lot about an issue that I think today’s politicians wildly underestimate in importance: not corruption itself, but the appearance of corruption, and the way it’s rotting the public’s faith in the political system. How do you solve that? What are the possible unintended consequences of the solutions that get proposed?

As they say, all that and more!


Middlemarch by George Eliot

The Gilded Age  by Mark Twain

All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren

Masha Gessen offers a plausible Trump-Russia theory  

Masha Gessen is a Russian-American journalist and the author of, among other books, The Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin. Since the election, she has been analyzing Donald Trump through the lens of Russian politics and personalities in a series of viral essays in the New York Review of Books. 

But as the Trump campaign's relationship with Russia has evolved into a dominant storyline of his presidency, Gessen has grown skeptical. She thinks the left has been overwhelmed by conspiratorial thinking on Russia. That doesn't mean, she hastens to say, that there is no conspiracy. But there is also wishful thinking, and lazy thinking, and a hope that the normal mechanisms of politics can be bypassed.

"For more than six months now, Russia has served as a crutch for the American imagination," Gessen wrote. "It is used to explain how Trump could have happened to us, and it is also called upon to give us hope. When the Russian conspiracy behind Trump is finally fully exposed, our national nightmare will be over."

In this podcast, Gessen and I talk about all things Trump and Russia. I ask her for both the plausible and sinister explanations for the many meetings and mysteries that surround Trump's associates. We talk about the ways Trump is and isn't like Putin, how studying autocracies has helped her interpret this moment in American politics, the psychology of Jared Kushner, and much more. Enjoy!


Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism 

Victor Klemperer, I Will Bear Witness

Timothy Snyder, On Tyranny 

Kwame Anthony Appiah on cosmopolitanism  

Few words are as reviled in American politics as “cosmopolitan.” The term invokes sneering, urban, elite condescension. It’s those smug cosmopolitans who led to Donald Trump’s election. It’s those rootless cosmopolitans who’re shipping jobs overseas with no thought for their home communities. Cosmopolitans. Ick.

Kwame Anthony Appiah is a British-born Ghanaian-American philosopher at New York University, as well the writer of the New York Times Magazine’s “Ethicist” column. He’s also the author of the wonderful book Cosmopolitanism: Ethics in a World of Strangers. And this is a conversation I’ve been wanting to have with him for a long time.

“For most of human history, we were born into small societies of a few score people, bands of hunters and gatherers, and would see, on a typical day, only people we had known most of our lives,” Appiah writes. “Everything our long-ago ancestors ate or wore, every tool they used, every shrine at which they worshipped, was made within that group. Their knowledge came from their ancestors or from their own experiences. That is the world that shaped us, the world in which our nature was formed.”

“Now, if I walk down New York’s Fifth Avenue on an ordinary day, I will have within sight more human beings than most of those prehistoric hunter-gatherers saw in a lifetime.”

This, Appiah says, is the challenge we face today: how to live in a world much larger and more diverse than the one we were built for. The answer, he argues, is an ethic of cosmopolitanism — an ethic that honors our moral obligations to each other even as we recognize and respect the differences between us.

In this podcast, we dive deep into Appiah’s philosophy of cosmopolitanism. What do we owe a Syrian refugee? How much more should the lives of our neighbors mean to us than the lives of those in foreign lands? When is difference something to be celebrated, and when is it something to be battled? And how did the term “cosmopolitan” become such a slur anyway?

We also discuss the controversy in philosophy circles over Rebecca Tuvel’s essay on “transracial” identity, what Appiah has learned as the Ethicist, the moral quandary facing Trump staffers who want to make things better from the inside but realize that means becoming complicit in what’s done, and more. Enjoy!


The Philosophy of 'As If' by Hans Vaihinger

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

Any anthology of Thomas Hardy’s poems

Yascha Mounk: Is Trump’s incompetence saving us from his illiberalism?  

Yascha Mounk is a Lecturer on Government at Harvard University, a Fellow in the Political Reform Program at New America, and host of the podcast, The Good Fight. He’s also the author of some of the scariest political science research I’ve seen in a long time.
What Mounk found is that the consensus we thought existed on behalf of democracy and democratic norms is weakening. The percentage of Americans who think it’s important to live in a democracy has been plummeting in recent decades. The percentage of Americans who say they would support a military coup is worrying high.
This is the context in which Donald Trump — a politician with clearly illiberal instincts — won the presidency. And this may help explain why he won the presidency: the political consensus elites thought he violated may not actually be a consensus anymore. 
The good news, which Mounk and I talk about in this podcast, is that Trump may have authoritarian instincts, but he doesn’t appear to have plans, and he definitely doesn’t appear to have the discipline to stick to his plans. We also discuss Trump’s bizarre first few months in office, as well as the challenges democracies face across the western world, and whether diverse societies make pluralist liberal democracies harder to sustain. 
Mounk is scary smart, he’s got an international perspective most commentators on American politics lack, and his story about becoming an American citizen after growing up Jewish in Germany is worth the price of admission on its own (that would be true even if this podcast wasn’t free). Enjoy!

Books:“The Subjection of Women," by John Stuart Mill"A House for Mr. Biswas," by V. S. Naipaul“The Leopard," by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa

Bryan Stevenson on why the opposite of poverty isn’t wealth, but justice  

Bryan Stevenson is the founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative. He and his staff have won reversals, relief, or release for more than 115 wrongly convicted prisoners on death row. He’s the author of the power book Just Mercy, and a winner of a MacArthur “Genius” grant. There are only a few people I’d say this about, but he’s a genuine American hero.

This conversation begins with one of Stevenson’s most provocative arguments. “The opposite of poverty isn’t wealth,” he says. “It’s justice.” In this podcast, he explains what he means.

We also talk at length about his argument — an argument I am now fully convinced by — that the question is not whether a criminal deserves to die but whether the state deserves to kill. We talk about America’s history, our justice system, our prejudices. We talk about what it’s like to be a black man in the South, driving down highways named for Robert E. Lee and attending high schools named for Jefferson Davis. We talk about the value of shame, and the way we honor it in the justice system even as we dismiss it in our national dialogue.

The nature of writing these podcast descriptions is that they lend themselves to hype. I want you to listen, and I use this space to try to persuade you to listen. But that backfires a bit when it gets to a conversation like this one, which left me more changed than perhaps any of the discussions that came before it. This is worth listening to.

Books:“The Brothers Karamazov," by Fyodor Dostoyevsky"Gilead," by Marilynne Robinson“Anna Karenina," by Leo Tolstoy

Death, Sex, and Money’s Anna Sale on bringing empathy to politics  

There’s much talk of “empathy” in today’s politics, but it’s a cramped, weaponized form of empathy — an empathy designed to force us to grudgingly tolerate each other, or an empathy used to explain away the reasons we hurt each other.

You can glimpse something better in the space Anna Sale creates on the WNYC podcast Death, Sex, and Money. Her show is, in this moment, powerful; the empathy she extends to her guests feels real and deep; the conversations she holds are bracingly difficult while still being honest and kind.

Sale, it turns out, developed the idea for Death, Sex, and Money when she was a reporter covering politics, shouting questions at Anthony Weiner, crisscrossing the campaign trail. As we discuss in this podcast, that’s no accident.

Sale and I talk about what she learned covering politics, as well as how she’d cover it if she were to do it again today. We dive into her interviewing technique — you’ll hear her turn it on me more than once — and the wonderful story behind her marriage, in which former Sen. Alan Simpson plays an unexpected but crucial role. We talk about death, about religion, and about what she learned from Bill Withers. Enjoy!

Books:“Goodnight Moon," by Margaret Wise Brown"Everything in Its Path: Destruction of Community in the Buffalo Creek Flood," by Kai T. Erikson“Reviving Ophelia: Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls," by Mary Pipher

Cory Booker returns, live, to talk trust, Trump, and basic incomes  

Senator Cory Booker is back! In this special live episode of The Ezra Klein Show — taped at Vox Conversations — Booker and I dig into America’s crisis of trust. Faith in both political figures and political institutions has plummeted in recent decades, and the product is, among other things, Trump’s presidency. So what does Booker think can be done about it?

We also talk about: Whether Democrats need to be angry to fight Trump The $400,000 President Barack Obama recently accepted for a speech to a bond firm The lecture Booker’s mother gave him when he was sworn into the SenateBooker’s fight with the left over drug reimportation, and how he and Bernie Sanders came to agreementWhat Booker thinks of a universal basic income, single payer health care, political correctness on campus, artificial intelligence as a threat to humanity, and more.Speaking of which, when I asked Booker about a UBI — which he says his staff is aggressively exploring — he responded with an expansive, surprising riff that sure sounded a nascent presidential platform. So don’t miss that!

VC Bill Gurley on transforming health care  

Washington has been gripped of late by the world’s most depressing, least imaginative, debate over health care. The question, as it stands, is whether Obamacare will survive (while being mildly, but persistently, sabotaged by the Trump administration), or whether it will be rolled back and replaced with a system that covers 24 million fewer people in order to fund tax cuts for the richest Americans. Huzzah!

But a better conversation awaits. Bill Gurley is a partner at Benchmark Capital, and an early investor in Uber, Grubhub, Opentable, and more. In 2016, TechCrunch named him venture capitalist of the year. And for the last few years, he’s been studying the American health care system, trying to find an opening where technology can make a difference, and build a business. Now he thinks he’s found it.

This is a conversation about what kinds of health care systems are, and aren’t, possible in this country. As you’ll hear in this discussion, I’m much more skeptical than Gurley is about both the need and the desirability for reforms that push costs onto consumers, but I agree with him that Obamacare has moved the system farther and faster in that direction than people realize. We talk about that, as well as why it’s been so hard for technology to cut costs in health care, the Singaporean health care system and the lessons American can learn from it, the way regulation protects incumbents, the government’s strangely structured investments in electronic medical records, and whether Silicon Valley’s move-fast-and-break-things culture can work for something as personal as medical care. 

We also discuss Gurley’s view that democracy and capitalism will, if given enough time, eat each other, and why he’s looking to China for the next great health innovations. This conversation won’t fix the American health care system, but it was, for me, a refreshing reminder that better, more productive discussions are possible. 

Books:“Catastrophic Care: Why Everything We Think We Know about Health Care Is Wrong," by David Goldhill"Startup: A Silicon Valley Adventure," by Jerry Kaplan“Myth or Magic - The Singapore Healthcare System," by Jeremy Lim"Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike," by Phil Knight

Elizabeth Warren on what Barack Obama got wrong  

Elizabeth Warren is the founder of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the senior senator from Massachusetts, and the author of the new book, “This Fight Is Our Fight: The Battle to Save America's Middle Class.”

You might have heard of her.
Warren is also one of the Democrats most capable of defining the Democratic Party’s soul and message in a post-Trump era. In her book, she says she had at least one big disagreement with President Obama — a disagreement that speaks to the direction she wants to lead the party. Obama told Americans, “the system isn’t as rigged as you think.”

"No, President Obama,” Warren replies, "the system is as rigged as we think. In fact, it’s worse than most Americans realize.”

In this interview, we go deep into Warren’s view on how, where, and why the system is rigged — as well as what can be done about it. We also talk about whether fighting Trump requires matching his tone and tactics, how complex policies and processes create space for special interests to take over, and why Trump’s abandonment of economic populism hasn’t affected his support among his voters.

Warren is an able, thoughtful advocate for one of the Democratic Party’s possible futures: becoming a party that represents the economic populism Trump claimed to champion, but quickly abandoned. But as she’s the first to admit, that won’t be easy.


“Evicted," by Matthew Desmond"Two Dollars a Day," by Kathryn Edin “The Little Engine that Could," by Watty Piper

Cal Newport on doing Deep Work and escaping social media  

I was asked recently to name a book that changed my life. The book I chose was Cal Newport’s “Deep Work,” and for the most literal of reasons: it’s changed how I lived my life. Particularly, it’s led me to stop scheduling morning meetings, and to preserve that time for more sustained, creative work.

Which is all to say that I’m a bit obsessed with Newport’s work right now, and especially his account of how the digital environment we inhabit is training us out of concentration and into distraction in ways that are bad for us, bad for our work, and ultimately bad for the world. 

Most of the conversations on this podcast are how to think about things differently. This one is too, but it’s more importantly about how to do things differently, and why you should do them differently. 

We discuss:
-How Newport defines depth when it comes to work
-Why the information revolution boosted productivity up until the 2000s, but then stagnated
-What he thinks is problematic about the constant accessibility of technologies like email, Slack, and other communication tools
-His perspective about how we’re still in an early age of the internet, and what looking back at periods like the Industrial Revolution can teach us about using new technology to work smarter
-How to take productive breaks, rather than flicking through email and Facebook and Twitter
-How “flow work” and deep work overlap, and how they’re distinct from each other
-Why he consumes and produces information more slowly and more traditionally—through newspapers and radio, and why that might benefit people who work in the knowledge economy
-His vision of the workplace of the future

I hope you get as much out of Newport’s ideas as I have.

-Jaron Lenair, “You Are Not A Gadget” and “Who Will Own The Future
-Douglas Rushkoff’s “Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus”

G. Willow Wilson on religion, comics, and modern myths  

This is a podcast about topics we don’t always cover on this show. Religion. Spirituality. Gender roles. Traditionalist societies. Comic books.

G. Willow Wilson is the author of The Butterfly Mosque, Alif the Unseen, and the Hugo award winning comic book, Ms. Marvel. She’s also lived a fascinating, unusual life: she’s an American who converted to Islam and then moved to Egypt, where she met her now-husband. The hallmark of her work is an empathy and appreciation for societies that are often caricatured or even reviled by Americans.  

This conversation went in some wonderful, weird directions. We talk about Richard Dawkins’ “God gene,” and why Wilson feels she has it, and I don’t. We talk about how sickness can strengthen faith, what happens to spirituality when it’s decoupled from beauty, and why being in Egypt made Wilson feel less free, but more appreciated.

We also talk about writing and comics, about the ways in which superheroes have become modern myths, and how her character, Ms. Marvel, became an surprise commercial success as well as an unexpected protest icon. We touch on Gamergate, representation in comic books, and Mike Pence’s rules for interacting with women who aren’t his wife.

Wilson has a quality you find in the very best writers: an ability to look at the same world you see every day, but somehow discover much more behind it. 


Anya’s Ghost, by Vera BrosgolThe Color of Earth, by Dong Hwa KimFun Home, by Alison Bechdel“A Revolution Undone,” by H.A. Hellyer“Throne of the Crescent Moon,” by Saladin Ahmed“The Meccan Revelations,” by Ibn al'Arabi

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