• If you work hard in the United States, there is no limit to the possibility of what you might achieve. That’s the American Dream. But the reality is that America today increasingly resembles aristocratic societies of the past, which were characterized by little social mobility and dramatic inequality perpetuated in part by the passage of enormous fortunes from one generation to the next. How and why this has occurred in the United States is largely the result of power, politics, and policy choices--choices that enable the coding of wealth in the legal systems that structure not only our economy, but our society and our democracy. The system is rigged--and rigged in favor of the few. Join Sean Morrow on the final episode of the third season of “Who Is?” for a look directly at the money, what it means for the rest of us, and what we can do about it. 

    James Henry, an economist, attorney, tax justice activist, and a senior advisor to the Tax Justice Network

    Paul Krugman, an economist, author, and longtime columnist at The New York Times. His most recent book is “Arguing with Zombies: Economics, Politics, and the Fight for a Better Future”

    Katharina Pistor, a professor at Columbia Law School. Her most recent book is “The Code of Capital: How the Law Creates Wealth and Inequality”

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  • Rebekah Mercer may be the most powerful woman in conservative politics today, and she’s never held--and probably will never run for--elected office. Since 2004, Rebekah Mercer has been the director of the Mercer Family Foundation, which means for nearly twenty years she has been one of the key people who is in charge of how her father Robert Mercer’s vast fortune is spent. And following the Citizens United decision in 2010, millions of dollars of that vast fortune have been dedicated to American politics, and primarily to American politics on the far right. The Mercers have played a major role in the contemporary rise of the far right, and from Cambridge Analytica to Kellyanne Conway, Rebekah Mercer and her father were instrumental in the election of President Donald Trump. But after Trump won, it was Rebekah who was named to his transition team. In 2021, however, Trump’s election almost feels like ancient history, and the real question is what will Rebekah Mercer do next, and what does that mean for the rest of us and our democracy? 

    Brendan Fischer, Director of Federal Reform at the Campaign Legal Center 

    Jane Mayer, Chief Washington Correspondent at The New Yorker, and author of several books, including “Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right”  

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  • Mayor Pete is now Secretary Buttigieg, which means that the former Mayor of South Bend, Indiana, is now a member of the Biden Administration. A surprisingly popular presidential candidate in 2020, Buttigieg has an unusual story, and in just a few years, he’s gone from planning bike lanes and roundabouts to overseeing the nation’s highways, airports, and more. Buttigieg has already run for president once and he’ll almost certainly do it again, so it’s South Bend and beyond on this episode of "Who Is?," for a look at the man who could one day be America’s first (openly) gay president. 

    Sam Centellas, Executive Director of la Casa de Amistad, a community center which has been serving the needs of immigrants and residents of South Bend, Indiana, since 1973

    Beth Osborne, Director of Transportation for America. During the Obama Administration, Osborne served as the Acting Assistant Secretary for Transportation Policy as well as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Transportation Policy 

    Adam Wren, a Features Correspondent at Insider's Washington Bureau

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  • In 2020, Andrew Yang ran for president, and although he never really had a serious chance, he became a familiar name, and a familiar face. In 2021, he’s running for Mayor of New York City, and this time, he might win. If he does, Yang will face an enormous challenge: navigating one of the world’s most important cities through an uncertain recovery. A man with essentially no political experience but a lot of ideas and a lot of charisma, Yang has the opportunity to reimagine how the post-pandemic city functions. But he’ll also have to contend with the day-to-day realities of governing, from policing to public schools to public housing. On this episode of “Who Is?,” Sean Morrow dives deep into Yang himself, examines the policy and the people behind his current campaign for mayor, and explores how a city like New York can build an inclusive economy as it recovers from Covid-19.

    Katie Honan, who covers City Hall in New York City for The Wall Street Journal

    Amy Liu, vice president and director of the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program, which she co-founded in 1996

    Harry Siegel, a senior editor at The Daily Beast, columnist at The New York Daily News, and co-host of the podcast FAQ NYC

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  • Unless you’re lucky enough to live on another planet, you’ve probably heard about the climate crisis. It’s a problem we must address if we want humanity--and the rest of the Earth’s animal and plant population--to continue to survive and thrive. But in order for that surviving and thriving to happen, we must immediately and definitively cut emissions and begin the transition away from fossil fuels. How’s that going? As you’ve probably heard, not so well, and as a result, more radical approaches are increasingly in the mix. Geoengineering is one of these, and while it won’t solve the climate crisis, it may enable us to remove some of the carbon dioxide we’ve emitted and even artificially lower global temperatures while we detox from fossil fuels. The catch? We don’t really know what would happen if we did it, and we may not be able to undo it. On this episode of “Who Is?,” it’s a look at one of the big choices we may have to make in the not so distant future.  

    Elizabeth Kolbert, who has been a staff writer at The New Yorker since 1999. Her most recent book, “Under a White Sky: The Nature of the Future,” was published in February of 2021 

    Janos Pasztor, executive director of the Carnegie Climate Governance Initiative (C2G). Pasztor was previously United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Climate Change in New York under Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

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  • Americans aren’t in agreement about much these days, but there does appear to be one thing that they overwhelmingly support: legalizing the medical and recreational use of cannabis. Across the country, cannabis is winning at the ballot box and in the statehouse, and whether you partake or not, legalization has major implications for civil rights and civil liberties, for social and racial justice, and, of course, for those who see cannabis as an enormous opportunity to make a lot of money. While federal legalization remains distant, how states legalize could play a significant role in determining the type of cannabis economy that may emerge in America. Will it be a market characterized by equity and competition--a small business success story--or a market dominated by politically influential corporate interests: Big Weed? On this episode of “Who Is?,” Sean Morrow takes a look at legalization and who stands to benefit from it.    

    Emily Dufton, a writer and historian. Her first book is “Grass Roots: The Rise and Fall and Rise of Marijuana in America”

    Beau Kilmer, Director of the Drug Policy Research Center and McCauley Chair in Drug Policy Innovation at RAND

    Majority Leader Crystal D. Peoples-Stokes, who represents District 141 in the New York State Assembly 

    Shaleen Title, Distinguished Cannabis Policy Practitioner in Residence at the Drug Enforcement and Policy Center of the Ohio State University Moritz College of Law

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  • In 1851, then Secretary of the Interior Alexander H.H. Stuart wrote the following: “What is to become of the aboriginal race? … A temporary system can no longer be pursued. The policy of removal, except under peculiar circumstances, must necessarily be abandoned; and the only alternatives left are, to civilize or exterminate them.” In 2021, Congresswoman Deb Haaland, a Laguna Pueblo woman, was confirmed Secretary of the Interior. Haaland, a single mother who enrolled in college at 28 and would later experience homelessness, is a remarkable person--and politician--whose presence in the Biden Administration marks a profound assertion of Indigenous political power in the United States.  

    Julia Bernal, Alliance Director at the Pueblo Action Alliance

    John Leshy, who has dedicated much of his career to America’s public lands and the laws that govern them, served as Solicitor of the U.S. Department of the Interior throughout the Clinton Administration. His political history of public lands in the United States, “Our Common Ground,” will be published in late 2021 by Yale University Press

    Jenni Monet, a journalist who writes about Indigenous Affairs

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  • Does the nuclear command authority of the United States protect the world from an ill-considered strike by the Commander in Chief? Short answer: No. Before 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic, many people may have thought that existential risk was the stuff of science fiction. Not anymore. Joan Rohlfing has been working on managing existential risk for decades. From arms control to disarmament, she has had a hand in almost every conceivable aspect of the nuclear portfolio. And while an intentional or inadvertent use of nuclear weapons could conceivably end the human story at any moment, Rohlfing is optimistic. Nuclear is a solvable problem, and the solutions we might imagine and enact--from international cooperation to technology innovation--offer models for mitigating existential risk elsewhere. On “Who Is?” this week, it’s the end of the world, and what we can do to prevent it.

    Joan Rohlfing, President and Chief Operating Officer of the Nuclear Threat Initiative

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  • In 2012, hundreds of fast-food workers in New York City walked off the job to demand higher wages and the right to unionize, in what would mark the beginning of the “Fight for $15.” In 2021, raising the minimum wage to $15-an-hour nearly made it into the American Rescue Plan, the enormous COVID-19 relief package which President Biden signed in March. And from fast-food workers to home care workers and beyond, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) is engaged in the fights that may determine the future of work--and of workers--in the United States. On this episode of “Who Is?,” Sean Morrow talks labor, politics, and power with Mary Kay Henry, International President of SEIU. 

    Mary Kay Henry, International President of the 2 million-member Service Employees International Union

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  • Do you eat food? If you answered yes, you are impacted by the United States Department of Agriculture, and the person who is currently in charge of it: former Governor of Iowa Tom Vilsack. And it’s not just food: from environmental justice, to economic justice, to racial justice, to climate justice, agriculture sits at the nexus of many of the critical issues of our time. Basically, power isn’t always where you think it is, and the Secretary of Agriculture is probably the most powerful cabinet official that you’ve maybe never heard of. On this episode of “Who Is?,” Sean Morrow heads to Iowa, for a look at an agency with changemaking potential that is particularly susceptible to business as usual, and for a glimpse at who’s in charge in the Biden Administration. 

    Chris Clayton, Ag Policy Editor at The Progressive Farmer. Clayton is the author of “The Elephant in the Cornfield: The Politics of Agriculture and Climate Change”

    Navina Khanna, Executive Director of the Health, Environment, Agriculture and Labor (HEAL) Food Alliance, which is based in Oakland, California

    Adam Mason, State Policy Director at Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement

    Kathie Obradovich, Editor of the Iowa Capital Dispatch 

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  • Politicians have been trying to “fix” health care in the United States for nearly a century, and they really never manage to do it. Why? It has everything to do with money, and the moneyed interests--from health insurers to hospitals to pharmaceuticals--which have basically built the system we have today, and which spend more on lobbying to keep it that way than the military-industrial complex spends on defense. The Partnership for America’s Health Care Future, a group led by Hillary for America and Obama Administration alum Lauren Crawford Shaver, represents the latest move by the money to stop overhauls of health care, from a public option to Medicare for All, that a majority of Americans support. 

    Karl Evers-Hillstrom, who covers money in politics at opensecrets.org, the online home of the Center for Responsive Politics  

    Melissa Thomasson, Chair and the Julian Lange Professor of Economics at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, where she studies the economic history of health insurance and health care  

    Dr. Eric Topol, a physician, researcher, and author of many books, including most recently, “Deep Medicine: How Artificial Intelligence Can Make Healthcare Human Again” 

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  • In 2020, Arizona and Georgia, two traditionally red states, turned blue. And while Stacey Abrams has received a lot of credit and media attention for the organizing that led to Georgia turning blue, what happened in Arizona? Is there a Stacey Abrams of Arizona? To find out, Sean Morrow spoke with some of the observers who saw it coming and one of the organizers who made it happen, and discovered that Arizona turning blue is about communities organizing around civil rights, about demographic change, and about activated Tribal Nations who are aware of the unique relationship between Native Americans and the federal government.  

    Patty Ferguson-Bohnee, a Professor at the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law at Arizona State University. Ferguson-Bohnee is director of the Indian Legal Clinic at ASU, and serves as the Native Vote Election Protection Coordinator for the State of Arizona 

    Phoenix City Councilmember Carlos Garcia, a longtime organizer who represents Phoenix’s 8th City Council District

    Terry Greene Sterling, an author and journalist who has been writing about Arizona for many years. Her forthcoming book, co-authored with Jude Joffe-Block, is “Driving While Brown: Sheriff Joe Arpaio Versus the Latino Resistance”

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  • One of the defining characteristics of the modern nation state is that the state has a monopoly on the use of force. In the United States, police officers are a manifestation of this agreement, to which we are all parties--whether we like it or not--and that is perhaps one reason among many why the apparent lack of accountability that seemingly pervades incidents of police misconduct is so troubling: it throws into question the terms of the social contract. There’s a lot to talk about here, but when it comes to accountability, or lack thereof, there’s a story to be told about money, politics, and power, and that story is playing out in cities across the country, and is visible not only in the contracts that police unions negotiate with the cities who employ them, but in the role police unions play in local politics. On this episode of “Who Is?,” Sean Morrow tackles police unions, and goes to St. Louis to see how reform continues to unfold in the metro, nearly seven years after the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson. 

    Phillip Atiba Goff, a Professor of African-American Studies and Psychology at Yale University. Dr. Goff is a co-Founder of the Center for Policing Equity, a research organization that promotes data-informed approaches to police transparency, equity, and accountability

    Stephen Rushin, a Professor at Loyola University Chicago School of Law, where he teaches criminal law, evidence, and police accountability

    Blake Strode, Executive Director of ArchCity Defenders, a nonprofit civil rights law firm based in St. Louis, Missouri 

    Retired Sergeant Heather Taylor, a 20-year veteran of the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department. Taylor was previously President of the Ethical Society of Police, a police association in St. Louis

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  • On April 19th, 1995, Timothy McVeigh detonated a bomb in front of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City; 168 people were killed, and hundreds more injured, in what remains the deadliest incident of domestic terrorism in the United States. Twenty five years later, in 2020, FBI Director Christopher Wray told Congress that the United States had recorded the deadliest year for domestic terrorism since the Oklahoma City Bombing. Then came the January 6th Insurrection. America has a problem, it seems, and the problem isn’t new. But why are Americans attacking America? On this episode of “Who Is?,” Sean Morrow digs deeper into the nature of domestic violent extremism in the United States, and the history we as a nation must face up to if we are to confront—and address—the violence which plagues our democracy. Alina Das, a Professor of Clinical Law at the NYU School of Law, where she co-teaches and co-directs the Immigrant Rights Clinic Roudabeh Kishi, ‎the Director of Research & Innovation at the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project Susan Neiman, a philosopher and Director of the Einstein Forum. She is the author of many books, including “Learning from the Germans: Race and the Memory of Evil”Kari Watkins, Executive Director of the Oklahoma City National Memorial & MuseumLearn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices

  • Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, is one of the most powerful and one of the most enigmatic people in the world. Often positioned as a primary global antagonist of the United States, Khamenei and his regime have endured five American presidents, and his story reveals, among other things, the consequences of American foreign policy. But Khamenei himself is a clever politician, a leader who has maintained the pious economic populism of the Iranian Revolution, and a tactician whose absolute authority is solidified through his relationship to institutions: namely, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard. Little of this, however, has brought any benefit to the people of Iran, who, for nearly 70 years, have found themselves living through one variety of authoritarianism or another. On this episode of “Who Is?,” Sean Morrow contends with absolute authority, the long shadow of history, and the uncertain future of a nation of more than 80 million.    

    Ervand Abrahamian, one of the world’s great historians of Iran. His forthcoming book, "Oil Crisis: From Nationalism to Coup d'Etat,” will be published in 2021

    Mahnaz Afkhami, Founder, President, and CEO of the Women’s Learning Partnership and former Minister for Women’s Affairs in Iran. Her memoir, “The Other Side of Silence,” will be published in 2021

    Maziar Bahari, a journalist, filmmaker, and founder of IranWire, a forum which presents Iranian citizen journalism covering national and local news  

    Trita Parsi, co-Founder and Executive Vice President of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, as well as the Founder and former President of the National Iranian American Council 

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  • Ronald Reagan, a man who was first elected President more than forty years ago, remains one of the most impactful and influential conservative politicians in American history. Reagan, who made it in Hollywood before he made it to the White House, was a towering statesman, a favorite of Republicans and Democrats alike, and a man whose image recalls a past which may never have existed in the first place. How we view Reagan is one way in which America reveals itself, and more importantly, what we leave out of his story are some of the things that we most need to remember. On the first episode of the third season of “Who Is?,” join Sean Morrow, host of “Who Is?,” for a critical reevaluation of Reagan, his administration, and his legacy. 

    Mayor Willie Brown, former Mayor of San Francisco and former Speaker of the California State Assembly

    Maria Foscarinis, Founder and Executive Director of the National Homelessness Law Center

    Jo-Marie Burt, Professor of Political Science and Latin American Studies at George Mason University

    Elizabeth Oglesby, Professor of Latin American Studies and Geography at the University of Arizona

    Monica Prasad, Professor of Sociology at Northwestern University

    Paul Volberding, a physician who has been fighting HIV/AIDS since the beginning of the epidemic

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  • "Who Is?," an original podcast from NowThis News that explores the lives of the powerful, is back for a third season. On "Who Is?," host and NowThis correspondent Sean Morrow dives deep into the stories and backstories of the politicians, donors, media moguls, movements, and ideas that shape our lives, from Ronald Reagan to Inherited Wealth, and Domestic Violent Extremism to Police Unions. Featuring conversations with the reporters, biographers, colleagues, confidantes--and occasionally adversaries--who know these world molders and big ideas best, "Who Is?" is back for another season of sixteen episodes. There's a new guy in the White House, and we're still living through a pandemic. Who knows what could happen next? 
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  • “Nobody would be fighting this hard to suppress the vote—the lie about voter fraud—if the vote was not powerful.” - Reverend Doctor William Barber II

    Bonus episode!

    If you listened to “Who Is Electoral College,” you heard from Reverend Doctor William Barber II. Reverend Doctor Barber is a major civil rights leader, organizer, and also a certified genius: he got the MacArthur grant in 2018, which is unofficially called the 'Genius Grant.' Rev. Barber is the founder of Repairers of the Breach, and runs the revitalized modern version of Martin Luther King Jr.’s Poor People’s Campaign. For a special bonus episode of "Who Is?" we’re sharing our unedited interview with Rev. Barber, as he shares his thoughts on democracy, power, and the importance of voting.

    Rev. Dr. William Barber II, president of Repairers of the Breach and co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign

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  • In 2000 and 2016, the candidate who lost the popular vote was elected president. Somehow, that’s democracy at work, and it’s thanks to a baroque institution called the Electoral College. Born out of the same contentious negotiations in 1787 that gave America the Three-fifths Compromise and the structure of the Senate, which bestows equal representation on Wyoming (the least populated state) and California (the most), the Electoral College remains with us today despite numerous attempts to abolish it. That’s because the Constitution is almost impossible to change, and because the Electoral College ultimately values some votes more than others. But America is changing, and as the composition of the electorate shifts as America grows more diverse, is the Electoral College a symbol of the insurmountable structural problems embedded in our democracy or a distraction from the power we exercise when we all vote?

    Rev. Dr. William Barber II, president of Repairers of the Breach and co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign

    Alexander Keyssar, the Matthew W. Stirling Jr. professor of history and social policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government

    Sanford Levinson, the W. St. John Garwood, Jr. Centennial Chair in Law at the University of Texas Law School

    Mark Hugo Lopez, director of global migration and demography research at the Pew Research Center

    Representative Emilia Sykes, who represents Ohio’s District 34 in the Ohio House of Representatives, where she is Democratic Minority Leader

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  • After a lifetime of firsts--from San Francisco District Attorney to California Attorney General to the Senate--Kamala Harris could become the first woman to serve as Vice President. Born in Oakland, California, and raised in Berkeley, Harris’s groundbreaking career in law enforcement has opened up space for women like Chicago’s Kimberly M. Foxx and Baltimore’s Marilyn Mosby. But it has also on occasion put her at odds with the communities she is first to represent in office, and at times obscured her record on consumer protection, the environment, privacy, LGBTQ+ rights, and more. Nevertheless, Harris represents, in many ways, the future of the Democratic Party, and in just a few weeks, could be on her way to the White House. 

    Senator Barbara Boxer, who represented California in the Senate for nearly 25 years

    Tanya Christian, a New York City-based journalist covering news and politics

    Marisa Lagos, political correspondent at KQED in San Francisco. Lagos is co-host of the podcast Political Breakdown  

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