Episodes

  • What happens when human beings take control of their own evolution?

    · The Ezra Klein Show

    Over the past decade, scientists have developed what was once just the subject of dystopian fiction: gene editing technology.It's known as CRISPR. Jennifer Doudna, a professor of molecular and cell biology and chemistry at the University of California Berkeley, was a key member of the research group that developed the technology. She's also the co-author of the recent book A Crack in Creation: Gene Editing and the Unthinkable Power to Control Evolution.A straightforward description of CRISPR is mind-boggling in what it suggests. As Doudna writes, “the genome — an organism’s entire DNA content, including all its genes — has become almost as editable as a simple piece of text.” It is possible that when the history of this era is written, most of our obsessions — Trump, tax rates, cybersecurity, Obamacare, NFL protests — will be forgotten, and CRISPR will be where historians focus.With great power comes great responsibility — and genuine terror. Doudna had a nightmare as her lab and others started to use CRISPR to make heritable changes in genes. She dreamed that her colleague wanted her to meet someone interested in her research — and it was Adolf Hitler with a pig face, waiting to take notes on the technology she developed. She awoke from that dream in a cold sweat. And the concerns that dream represent pushed her to discuss the implications of CRISPR technology publicly. CRISPR could do enormous good or tremendous harm — or both. In this conversation, Doudna and I discuss its possibilities, its dangers, its technical obstacles, the regulatory questions it raises, and much more. Books:The Double Helix by Jim WatsonSapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah HarariThe Making of the Atomic Bomb by Richard Rhodes

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  • Ta-Nehisi Coates is not here to comfort you

    · The Ezra Klein Show

    “It’s important to remember the inconsequence of one’s talent and hard work and the incredible and unmatched sway of luck and fate,” writes Ta-Nehisi Coates in his new book, We Were Eight Years in Power.Coates’s view of his career flows from his view of human events: contingent, unguided, and devoid of higher morality or cosmic justice. He is not here to comfort you. He is not here to comfort himself. "Nothing in the record of human history argues for a divine morality, and a great deal argues against it," he writes. "What we know is that good people very often suffer terribly, while the perpetrators of horrific evil backstroke through all the pleasures of the world."It’s this worldview that makes conversations with Coates so bracing. His philosophy leaves room for chaos, for disorder, for things to go terribly wrong and stay that way. In this discussion, I asked him what would make him hopeful, what it would mean for America to live up to its ideals.  Closing the 20-to-1 white-black wealth gap, he replied. But what would that take, he asked? “Maybe something so large that you find yourself in a country that's not even America anymore.” Maybe, he mused, it’s something that he couldn’t even support. "It's very easy for me to see myself being contemporary with processes that might make for an equal world, more equality, and maybe the complete abolition of race as a construct, and being horrified by the process, maybe even attacking the process. I think these things don't tend to happen peacefully." This is a discussion about race, about luck, about history, about politics, but above all, about how the stories we tell ourselves are often designed to carry comfort rather than truth."For me, my part in this struggle, my part to make a better world, is not simply to have people pick up my work and say, 'Well, all the facts seem correct. I think this is right,' and, then move on with their lives," says Coates. "My job is to bring across the emotion, to make them feel a certain way, to haunt them, to make it hard to sleep."

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  • How the Republican Party created Donald Trump

    · The Ezra Klein Show

    Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein have studied American politics for more than three decades. They are the town’s go-to experts on the workings of Congress. In 2012, they rocked Washington when they published It’s Even Worse Than It Looks, a book that marshaled their considerable authority to argue that the dysfunction poisoning American government was the result of “asymmetric polarization,” notably a Republican Party that “has become an insurgent outlier in American politics — ideologically extreme; contemptuous of the inherited social and economic policy regime; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.”This was a controversial diagnosis then. After Trump, it’s closer to the conventional wisdom.E.J. Dionne is a columnist at the Washington Post, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, and the author of the classic book Why Americans Hate Politics. He’s one of the sharpest political observers alive.And now, like a Canadian indie-rock supergroup, the three of them have come together to write One Nation After Trump, a dive into how the Republican Party created Trump, how Trump won, and what comes next. As Dionne says in this interview, the American system was "not supposed to produce a president like this,” and so a lot of our conversation is about how the guardrails failed and whether they can be rebuilt. Mann, Ornstein, and Dionne may be political sages, but they're also a lot of fun, and they have a lot of fun together. You'll hear that in this conversation.Books:Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal by William LeuchtenburgStrength to Love by Martin Luther King, Jr.The First Congress by Fergus BordewichThinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel KahnemanDemocracy for Realists by Christopher Achen and Larry Bartels

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  • Reihan Salam wants to remake the Republican Party -- again

    · The Ezra Klein Show

    In 2008, Reihan Salam co-wrote Grand New Party: How Republicans Can Win the Working Class and Save the American Dream with his frequent collaborator Ross Douthat. After nearly eight years of President Bush, Salam wanted to remake the Republican Party to appeal to the working-class voters it needed. The vision was idea-driven: tax policy that helped the middle class, healthcare ideas that would mean more insurance for more people, and a generalized effort to remake the safety net to support modern families.In 2016, Donald Trump managed to make the Republican Party more popular among working class whites. But he didn’t do it the way Salam hoped.Today, Salam is executive editor at the National Review, and he’s trying to puzzle his way towards a new synthesis on the questions fracturing American politics. In this episode, we talk about the future of the Republican Party, the healthcare debate, and how he would reform our immigration system (and upend the whole way we talk about it). Salam is a fast, original thinker, and he packs a lot into this conversation. Enjoy!Books:Greater Than Ever: New York's Big Comeback by Dan DoctoroffHow Change Happens -- Or Doesn't: The Politics of US Public Policy by Elaine KamarckThe British Dream: Successes and Failures of Post-war Immigration by David Goodhart

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  • David Remnick on journalism in the Trump era and why he hires obsessives

    · The Ezra Klein Show

    For the past 19 years, David Remnick has been the editor of the New Yorker, perhaps the greatest magazine in the English language. Under his leadership, the New Yorker has received 149 nominations for National Magazine Awards and won 37. It’s also, perhaps more impressively, been consistently profitable in an era where many august journalism organizations have seen their business models collapse.And Remnick keeps writing. He’s the author of six books, including Lenin’s Tomb, which won a Pulitzer Prize, and The Bridge, a fascinating biography of Barack Obama, and he churns out a steady stream of deeply reported profiles of musicians, athletes, and politicians. Oh, and he hosts the New Yorker Radio Hour.He’s a busy guy. Remnick started his career as a beat reporter at the Washington Post. In 1988, the Post sent him to Moscow, an auspicious time for a young reporter to land in what was then the Soviet Union. There, he witnessed the fall of the USSR and the creation of modern Russia — a journalistic background that has become startlingly relevant in recent years. In this wide-ranging discussion, the New Yorker editor discusses Russia’s meddling in the US election, Russia’s transformation from communist rule to Boris Yeltsin and Vladimir Putin, his magazine’s coverage of President Donald Trump, how he chooses his reporters and editors, and how to build a real business around great journalism. Whether you care about politics or journalism or just the role of truth in society today, there's a lot of wisdom here. Books:Homage to Catalonia by George OrwellMiddlemarch by George EliotThe novels of Vladimir Nabokov

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  • What Hillary Clinton really thinks

    · The Ezra Klein Show

    On page 239 of What Happened, Hillary Clinton reveals that she almost ran a very different campaign in 2016. Before announcing for president, she read Peter Barnes’s book With Liberty and Dividends for All, and became fascinated by the idea of using revenue from shared natural resources, like fossil fuel extraction and public airwaves, alongside revenue from taxing public harms, like carbon emissions and risky financial practices, to give every American “a modest basic income.”Her ambitions for this idea were expansive, touching on not just the country’s economic ills but its political and spiritual ones. “Besides cash in people’s pockets,” she writes, “it would be also be a way of making every American feel more connected to our country and to each other.” This is the kind of transformative vision that Clinton was often criticized for not having. It’s an idea bigger than a wall, perhaps bigger even than single-payer health care or free college. But she couldn’t make the numbers work. Every version of the plan she tried either raised taxes too high or slashed essential programs. So she scrapped it. “That was the responsible decision,” she writes. But after the 2016 election, Clinton is no longer sure that “responsible” is the right litmus test for campaign rhetoric. “I wonder now whether we should’ve thrown caution to the wind, embraced [it] as a long-term goal and figured out the details later,” she writes.What Happened has been sold as Clinton’s apologia for her 2016 campaign, and it is that. But it’s more remarkable for Clinton’s extended defense of a political style that has become unfashionable in both the Republican and Democratic parties. Clinton is not a radical or a revolutionary, a disruptor or a socialist, and she’s proud of that fact. She’s a pragmatist who believes in working within the system, in promising roughly what you believe you can deliver, in saying how you’ll pay for your plans. She is frustrated by a polity that doesn’t share her “thrill” over incremental policies that help real people or her skepticism of sweeping plans that will never come to fruition. She believes in politics the way it is actually practiced, and she holds to that belief at a moment when it’s never been less popular.This makes Clinton a more unusual figure than she gets credit for being: Not only does she refuse to paint an inspiring vision of a political process rid of corruption, partisanship, and rancor, but she’s also actively dismissive of those promises and the politicians who make them.On Tuesday morning, I sat down with Clinton for an hour on the first official day of her book tour. It is a cliché that stiff candidates become freer, easier, and more confident after they lose — see Gore, Al — but it is true for Clinton. Jon Stewart used to talk of the “buffering” you could see happening in the milliseconds between when Clinton was asked a question and when she answered; the moments when she played out the angles, envisioned the ways her words could be twisted, and came up with a response devoid of danger but suffused with caution. That buffering is gone.In our conversation, she was as quick and confident as I’ve seen her, making the case for her politics without worrying too much about the coalitional angles or the possible lines of offense. And she says plenty that can, and will, offend. In our discussion, she lit into Bernie Sanders’s single-payer plan, warned that Donald Trump is dragging us down an authoritarian path, spoke openly of the role racism and white resentment played in the campaign, and argued that the outcome of the 2016 election represented a failure of the media above all. This was Clinton unleashed, and while she talked about what happened, it was much more interesting when she talked about what she believed should have happened.

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  • Dan Rather thought he'd seen it all. But then came President Trump.

    · The Ezra Klein Show

    Dan Rather has covered the most momentous events of the modern era. He was in Dallas, Texas, during President Kennedy's assassination. He was in Vietnam, embedded with US troops, in 1965 and 1966. He reported on Watergate, stood at the Berlin Wall as it fell, and interviewed young Chinese dissidents as tanks rolled into Tiananmen Square.Rather has seen it all. So when I sat down with him a few weeks back, I wanted to know how he compared our current political climate to all of the contentious moments he's covered."I am an optimist by experience and by nature," he told me. And yet, he continued, "this is a very difficult period. This is a test of our whole democratic system."Rather and I discuss the Trump presidency and what it means for the Republican Party's future, our fractured media landscape, and Rather's own evolving career in media. Books: Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor FranklAll the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy

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  • From 4Chan to Charlottesville: where the alt-right came from, and where it's going

    · The Ezra Klein Show

    Angela Nagle spent the better part of the past decade in the darkest corners of the internet, learning how online subcultures emerge and thrive on forums like 4chan and Tumblr.The result is her fantastic new book, Kill All the Normies: Online Culture Wars From 4Chan And Tumblr to Trump and the Alt-Right, a comprehensive exploration of the origins of our current political moment.We talk about the origins of the alt-right, and how the movement morphed from transgressive aesthetics on the internet to the violence in Charlottesville, but we also discuss PC culture on the left, demographic change in America, and the toxicity of online politics in general. Nagle is particularly interested in how the left's policing of language radicalizes its victims and creates space for alt-right groups to find eager recruits, and so we dive deep into that. Books:Civilization and Its Discontents by Sigmund FreudThis Is Why We Can't Have Nice Things: Mapping the Relationship between Online Trolling and Mainstream Culture by Whitney PhillipsThe Net Delusion: The Dark Side of Internet Freedom by Evgeny Morozov

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  • Why prosecutors, not cops, are the keys to criminal justice reform

    · The Ezra Klein Show

    Angela J. Davis is the former director of the DC public defender service, a professor of law at American University, and editor of a remarkable new book titled Policing the Black Man, which pulls together deeply researched essays on virtually every aspect of how black men and black boys interact with the criminal justice system.It is a revelatory, comprehensive tour of the subject that’s often in the news but rarely treated in a thorough way.We cover a lot of ground in this podcast, looking at everything from disparities in crime rates to sentencing to policing. But perhaps the most important point we cover — which is also the subject of Davis’s chapter in the book — is that the conversation around criminal justice reform often misses the key actors. The debate tends to focus on police, but as Davis writes, "prosecutors are the most powerful officials in the criminal justice system, bar none. Police officers have the power to arrest and bring individuals to the courthouse door. But prosecutors decide whether they enter the door and what happens to them if and when they do.” Books:Just Mercy by Bryan StevensonThe Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace by Jeff HobbsMy Beloved World by Justice Sonia Sotomayor

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  • Chris Hayes on whether Trump should be removed from office

    · The Ezra Klein Show

    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.)

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

    · The Ezra Klein Show

    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. Books:Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew DesmondBehind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity by Katherine BooThe Retreat of Western Liberalism by Edward Luce

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

    · The Ezra Klein Show

    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!

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

    · The Ezra Klein Show

    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.Enjoy!Books:Language, Truth, and Logic by A.J. AyerSeeing Like a State by James Scott The Robot's Rebellion by Keith Stanovich

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

    · The Ezra Klein Show

    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.Enjoy!Books:The BibleThe New Jim Crow by Michelle AlexanderThe Road Less Traveled: A New Psychology of Love, Traditional Values and Spiritual Growth by M. Scott Peck, M.D.

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

    · The Ezra Klein Show

    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 electionAnd much more. Enjoy this conversation. I certainly did. Books!Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There by Lewis CarrollGreat Expectations by Charles DickensAl Franken, Giant of the Senate by Al Franken

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

    · The Ezra Klein Show

    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.

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  • danah boyd on why fake news is so easy to believe

    · The Ezra Klein Show

    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!Books: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

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  • Al Franken on learning to be a politician

    · The Ezra Klein Show

    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.Books!Captured: The Corporate Infiltration of American Democracy by Sheldon WhitehouseHow Children Succeed: Confidence, Curiosity and the Hidden Power of Character by Paul ToughOur Kids by Robert Putnam

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

    · The Ezra Klein Show

    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!Books:Middlemarch by George Eliot The Gilded Age  by Mark TwainAll the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren

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  • Masha Gessen offers a plausible Trump-Russia theory

    · The Ezra Klein Show

    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!Books:Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism Victor Klemperer, I Will Bear WitnessTimothy Snyder, On Tyranny 

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