Episode 23: Progress, Religion, Steve Albini, and the Kinks

Shadi quizzes Damir about his belief in the possibility of progress and social change, before the conversation spins off into a discussion about the creative process, selling out, and the nature of success. (Plus bonus material for Patreon supporters.)

Reading (Listening) List:
How a Great Power Falls Apart” by Charles King (Foreign Affairs)
The Problem With Music” by Steve Albini (The Baffler)
Atmosphere” by The Oranges Band

Episode 22: Activism and Its Discontents (Live)

On June 23, Shadi and Damir went live on Periscope to discuss Shadi’s latest piece for the Atlantic, the tension between political change and negative externalities, their new Patreon account, and plans for a newsletter. Listen, or watch the video of the Periscope livestream below!

Episode 21: A How-To Guide to Thinking Through the Apocalypse

Shadi talks through his inner conflicts. Damir responds by minimizing the reality of what is happening. Also: why Americans are all fundamentalists (whether secular or religious), the appropriateness of activist-journalism, the empty symbolism of woke politics, and whether the New York Times should(n’t) be our lodestar. Relax, it’s all (probably) going to be OK.

Reading List:
Our Deathwish” by Jacob Siegel (Tablet)
The Coronavirus Killed the Revolution”, by Shadi Hamid (The Atlantic)
Waverley, by Sir Walter Scott

Episode 20: Fixing Things in Fragile Democracies, with Mikheil Saakashvili

The former President of Georgia joins Shadi and Damir to talk about how tricky reforms—such as police reforms—can succeed (and fail), about how identity is a slippery thing in the post-Soviet space, about liberalism, illiberalism, and Western haughtiness, and about his encounters with Donald Trump when he was just another rich guy with a political itch.

Episode 19: Cry Havoc. Really, Really Cry.

Very special guest Michael Signer joins the podcast to talk about his new book recounting his time serving as mayor of Charlottesville during the violence of August 2017. With America in upheaval, it’s an appropriate time to revisit that sad bit of recent history, but also an opportunity to think about what’s gone wrong with our politics, and what, if anything, can be done to fix it. A rich discussion.

Reading List:
Cry Havoc: Charlottesville and American Democracy Under Siege, by Michael Signer

Episode 18: Live, Amidst the Flames

Shadi and Damir live-streamed an episode as a weekend of violent protests around the country wound to a close. Our episodes are never scripted or prepared, but in this case we are interacting with our audience on Twitter’s Periscope in real time to help guide the conversation. Also, please excuse the audio quality.

Episode 17: How The Expert Fetish Might Re-Elect Trump

Shadi and Damir discuss how Trump’s unabashed contempt for expertise has encouraged his opponents to latch onto expert opinion—and how this could boost Trump if the economic opening goes even tolerably well. Also, there’s a lot of talk about salad bars, cruise ships, and democracy. Be warned.

Reading List:
What a Maskless Trump Says About His Re-Election Strategy” by Henry Olsen (WaPo)
In Search of Lost Time” by Peter Pomerantsev (The American Interest)
Pandemics Kill Compassion, Too” by David Brooks (New York Times)

Episode 16: The Folly of Individuals

Shadi and Damir talk about their conflicted feelings about recording the previous episode in a room together, the dangers of optimism about the recovery, what the “new normal” in successful South Korea looks like, why America in all likelihood won’t ever be able to get there, and why that might or might not be OK.

Reading List:
Shadi’s tweet thread about why America can’t be like South Korea.
Michael Kim’s tweet thread about the reality in South Korea.
Man lectures BoJo in a park.

Episode 15: Trump Versus Coronavirus and the Elites

The Atlantic Council’s Benjamin Haddad joins Shadi and Damir to talk social distancing, the coronavirus response on both sides of the Atlantic, and how elites’ ever more fervent love of experts could lead them to political disaster.

Reading List:
Le paradis perdu: L’Amérique de Trump et la fin des illusions européennes, by Benjamin Haddad (Grasset)
The Coronavirus Killed the Revolution,” by Shadi Hamid (The Atlantic)
Social Distancing Isn’t Going To End Soon. So How Do We Live With It?” by Gaby Hinsliff (The Guardian)

Episode 14: The Dangerous Temptation of Ideals and Anti-Politics

In the third week of lockdown, Shadi and Damir talk about the Beatles versus the Stones, how the 1960s represent a kind of dangerous idealism grounded in universal values, and how there’s no escaping politics.

Reading List:
“The Coronavirus Killed the Revolution” — Shadi Hamid (The Atlantic)

“It’s imperative for the U.S. and China to work together on the coronavirus pandemic” — Michael McFaul (Washington Post)

Jennifer Rubin’s Political Mathematics (Twitter)

“National Identity is Made Up” — Max Fisher and Amanda Taub (The New York Times)