KPFA: Letters and Politics [Program Feed]

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  • Letters and Politics – January 21, 2019
    A look at burning political issues and debates and their historical context within the US and worldwide, hosted by Mitch Jeserich.
  • Diderot and The Art of Thinking Freely
    A conversation on eighteenth-century philosopher Denis Diderot and the battle over his encyclopedia which was considered to be full of subversive stuff.  Diderot challenged virtually all of his century’s accepted truths, from the sanctity of monarchy, to the racial justification of the slave trade, to the norms of human sexuality.  He is considered a prophetic philosopher  who helped build the foundations of the modern world. Guest: Andrew S. Curran [1] is the William Armstrong Professor of the Humanities and Professor of French at Wesleyan University.  He is the author of The Anatomy of Blackness: Science and Slavery in an Age of Enlightenment, and Sublime Disorder, Physical Monstrosity in Diderot’s Universe.  And his latest, Diderot and the Art of Thinking Freely.   [1]
  • What Does it Mean for a Government to Shutdown
    The government shutdown is today in its 26th day.  The longest shutdown in US history and it will likely go longer.  Shutdown the government is a tactic that has been used to obtain a political end in times and places since ancient Greece. Today we talk explore the question of what does it mean for a government to shutdown. Guest: David Reeve, is Delta Kappa Epsilon Distinguished Professor of philosophy at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His books include: Philosopher-Kings; Socrates in the Apology;  and Substantial Knowledge: Aristotle’s Metaphysics among others.
  • The Role of an Attorney General and the Issue of Executive Power
    The Senate Judiciary Committee began the confirmation hearing for William Barr to become the next Attorney General. Today we are in conversation about the historic role of an attorney general and the long standing controversial issue over executive power. Guest: Peter M. Shane is the Jacob E. Davis and Jacob E. Davis II Chair in Lawat Ohio State University’s Moritz College of Law. He is author of several books and articles. His latest writing on Slate magazine is William Barr’s Ahistorical View of the Constitution Would Give Donald Trump All the Power.    
  • Beyond Brexit: A History of the European Union
    The British parliament is scheduled to vote on a withdrawal agreement with the European Union as the UK is trying to leave the EU by March 29th of this year.  A political crisis has been set up in London as well as in Europe over this vote and what could happen afterwards.  Professor Desmond Dinan argues that the European Union is in crisis and the crisis extends beyond Brexit. Guest: Desmond Dinan is professor of public policy at George Mason University. His numerous publications include Ever Closer Union: An Introduction to European Integration, Europe Recast: A History of European Union, The European Union in Crisis. He is editor of Encyclopedia of the European Union.
  • The Truth About Mike Pence
    Mike Pence’s drive for power, perhaps inspired by his belief that God might have big plans for him, explains why he shocked his allies by lending Christian credibility to a scandal-plagued candidate like Trump. We are in conversation with author Michael D’Antonio about the history of Mike Pence and his role in the Trump administration. Guest: Michael D’Antonio is a long time journalist and the author of numerous books, including The Truth About Trump. His latest book The Shadow President: The Truth about Mike Pence is co-authored with Peter Eisner.  
  • A History of Presidential Impeachments
    We talk to Legal scholar Alan Hirsch about historical lessons and how the Constitution provides context during times of political uncertainty and crisis.  We dive into two presidential impeachments in U.S. history. The first one on Andrew Johnson in 1868, and the second on Bill Clinton in the late 1990’s. Guest: Alan Hirsch is the chair of the Justice and Law Studies program at Williams College.  He is the author or co-author of several books, including For The People: What the Constitution Really Says About Your Rights, A Citizen’s Guide to Impeachment, and his latest, Impeaching the President: Past, Present, and Future.  
  • A History of Government Shutdowns
    We talk to Professor Thomas E. Mann about the history of the government shutdowns including the current one. Professor Mann explains the politics and the implications of the shutdowns. Guest: Thomas E. Mann is Senior Fellow in Governance Studies at The Brookings Institution and Resident Scholar at the Institute of Governmental Studies at UC Berkeley.      
  • The First Clash Over the New Deal
    When Franklin Roosevelt defeated Herbert Hoover in the 1932 election, they represented not only different political parties but vastly different approaches to the question of the day: How could the nation recover from the Great Depression? Professor Eric Rauchway join us to talk about the months before the hundred days, FDR and Hoover battled over ideas and how the divisive politics of the twentieth century were shaped. Guest: Eric Rauchway is a distinguished historian and expert on the Progressive and New Deal eras at the University of California, Davis. He is the author of several books on the subject, including The Money Makers, The Great Depression and the New Deal, Blessed Among Nations and his latest Winter War: Hoover, Roosevelt, and the First Clash Over the New Deal  
  • Violence in Congress and the Road to Civil War
    Congress has never been so divided than it is now but there’s a long history of fierce division in Capitol Hill. Today we talk about the decades leading to the civil war. Guest: Joanne B. Freeman, is a professor of history and American studies at Yale University, is a leading authority on early national politics and political culture. She is the author of The Field of Blood: Violence in Congress and the Road to Civil War.
  • Against the Grain: A Deep History of the Earliest States
    The common notions of the beginning of civilizations is that it was remarkably better than a nomadic hunter and gather type of existence. Anthropologist James C. Scott argues that early cities an cities throughout the history were so miserable that these early states went to war in order to capture slaves to keep the cities operating and that’s a big reason why slavery was so endemic to the so called civilized world. Guest: James C. Scott is Sterling Professor of Political Science and co-director of the Agrarian Studies Program at Yale University.  He is the author of the book Against the Grain: A Deep History of the Earliest States.
  • The Gay Revolution: The Story of the Struggle
    The Gay Revolution begins in the 1950s, when gays and lesbians were criminals, psychiatrists saw them as mentally ill, churches saw them as sinners, and society victimized them with hatred. Against this dark backdrop, a few brave people began to fight back, paving the way for the revolutionary changes of the 1960s and beyond. Today, we are in conversation with Lillian Faderman to discuss the protests in the 1960s; the counter reaction of the 1970s and early eighties; the decimated but united community during the AIDS epidemic; and the current hurdles for the right to marriage equality. Guest: Lillian Faderman is an internationally known scholar of lesbian history and literature, as well as ethnic history and literature.  She is the author of The Gay Revolution and Surpassing the Love of Men and Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers.    
  • Democracy: A Life
    Ancient Greece first coined the concept of “democracy”, yet almost every major ancient Greek thinker-from Plato and Aristotle onwards- was ambivalent towards or even hostile to democracy in any form. The explanation for this is quite simple: the elite perceived majority power as tantamount to a dictatorship of the proletariat. Paul Cartledge talks about the variety of democratic practices in the classical world as well as the similarities and dissimilarities to modern democratic forms, the American and French revolutions and the contemporary political thought. Guest: Paul Cartledge is A.G. Leventis Professor of Greek Culture Emeritus at the University of Cambridge.  He is an honorary citizen of modern Sparta and holds the Gold Cross of the Order of Honor awarded by the President of Greece.  He is the author of The Cambridge Illustrated History of Ancient Greece, The Spartans, Alexander the Great, among others and his latest Democracy: A Life.
  • Who Was The Real Atticus Finch?
    The literary character Atticus Finch from Harper Lee’s classic To Kill A Mocking Bird, has influenced scores of young people to pursue legal careers.  Atticus Finch, who defends a wrongly accused black man of raping a white woman in the deep south, became an iconic symbol for the person with a strong moral compass.  So it came with much surprise and debate when an old Harper Lee manuscript was published into another book in 2015 that features Atticus Finch as an older man who had joined a White Citizens Council and was critical of civil rights.  These are not two Atticus Finches but the same one. Both modeled after Harper Lee’s father.  Prize-winning historian Joseph Crespino join us to talk about the man behind the legend Guest: Joseph Crespino, the Jimmy Carter professor of history at Emory University and author of Atticus Finch The Biography: Harper Lee, Her Father, and the Making of an American Icon.    
  • The Collapse of Western Civilization: A View from the Future
    A conversation with historian of science Naomi Oreskes, co-author of the book The Collapse of Western Civilization. The book is a work of science-based fiction that presents a deeply disturbing account of how the political and economic elites of the so-called advanced industrial societies failed to act, and brought the collapse of Western civilization by climate change. Naomi Oreskes is professor of history of science and affiliated professor of Earth and planetary sciences at Harvard University.  Her 2004 essay “The Scientific Consensus on Climate Change,” cited by Al Gore in An Inconvenient Truth (2006), led to Congressional testimony in the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works.  With Erik Conway, she is the author of Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming.  And theirs latest, The Collapse of Western Civilization: A View from the Future.    

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