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Open Source with Christopher Lydon

English, Political, 1 season, 79 episodes, 2 days, 12 hours, 38 minutes
Open Source is the world’s longest-running podcast. Christopher Lydon circles the big ideas in culture, the arts and politics with the smartest people in the world. It’s the kind of curious, critical, high-energy conversation we’re all missing nowadays. Be part of the action: leave a voice message to be played on the air; get in touch over Facebook or Twitter; or email us – [email protected] with show ideas, advice, requests and high-quality criticism.
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Campus Uproar

We’re sampling the uproar rising from American campuses: it’s a full blown, leaderless movement by now, in an established American tradition, but still contested, still finding its way, looking for its pattern. Columbia and USC ...
5/9/202455 minutes, 19 seconds
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American Disorder

The key battle taking place in this American crisis year of 2024 is happening in our heads, according to the master historian Richard Slotkin. He’s here to tell us all that we’re in a 40-year ...
4/25/202442 minutes, 44 seconds
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Lessons from Hannah Arendt

We’re calling on Hannah Arendt for the twenty-first century—could she teach us how to think our way out of the authoritarian nightmare? Arendt wrote the book for all time on Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s Soviet ...
4/11/202447 minutes, 44 seconds
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Taylor Swift’s Tortured Poets

We’re going to school on Taylor Swift, in the Harvard course. And all we know is, as her song says, we’re enchanted to meet her. Taylor Swift comes out of literature but she’s more than ...
3/28/202450 minutes, 57 seconds
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Of Melville and Marriage

We speak of the mystery of Herman Melville, or the misery of Melville, the American masterpiece man. For Moby-Dick alone, he is our Shakespeare, our Dante—though he fled the writing of prose for the last ...
3/14/202436 minutes, 44 seconds
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Against Despair

The subject, in a word, is despair, both public and private. The poets and spiritual seekers Christian Wiman and his wife Danielle Chapman are back to goad us, each with a new book. Their project ...
3/1/202456 minutes, 40 seconds
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The Rebel’s Clinic

Frantz Fanon is our interest in this podcast. The man had charisma across the board in a short life and a long afterlife. A black man from the Caribbean, he went to France, first as ...
2/15/202444 minutes, 6 seconds
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Algorithmic Anxiety

The question is how digital tech picks and chooses the content that comes to your phones and your brain, or, as Kyle Chayka puts it in a brave new book Filterworld: “how algorithms flattened culture.” ...
2/1/202442 minutes, 37 seconds
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The Humbling of Harvard

Oldest and far the richest among American universities, Harvard is the apex, in some sense, of American intellectualism, and it will be a long time figuring out just how it lost a big game it ...
1/18/202439 minutes, 53 seconds
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The Most Secret Memory of Men

The only way into this podcast is a long leap headfirst into postcolonial French fiction, of all things, and a novel titled The Most Secret Memory of Men. Our guest is the toast of literary ...
1/5/202448 minutes, 17 seconds
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The Revolutionary

On the 250th anniversary of the Boston Tea Party, we’re face to face, almost, with an American political type that’s gone missing in our third century. Check this resume: he’s principled, he’s prepared, a two-fisted ...
12/20/202333 minutes, 39 seconds
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Israel and Palestine Across History

With the historian John Judis we are looking for a longer timeline in the crisis of Gaza, Israel, Palestine. It has been, in fact, a century of layered conflict between Arabs and Jews, two peoples ...
12/8/202344 minutes, 49 seconds
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Time’s Echo

The question that resurfaces in a time of horror may be what remains when memory is wiped out, when the unspeakable is left unspoken, in someone’s hope, perhaps, that it’ll be forgotten? Where does history ...
11/22/202351 minutes, 9 seconds
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Chas Freeman on a Kaleidoscopic Turn

Just a month into the ferociously brutal and reckless war in Israel-Palestine, on what feels like a hinge of history—outcomes wildly uncertain—our refuge is Chas Freeman, the American diplomat, strategist, and historian. We call Chas ...
11/9/202342 minutes, 41 seconds
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Upended Assumptions

In this podcast, two old friends in and out of journalism talk about the Middle East war, which comes to feel more like a contest in war crimes. Steven Erlanger joins us—he’s the New York ...
11/3/202337 minutes, 58 seconds
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War and Dread

We are listening in the dark, after a catastrophe yet to be contained: more than 1,000 Israeli civilians killed in a terrorist invasion from Gaza two weeks ago, thousands more Palestinians dead in a first ...
10/19/202356 minutes, 26 seconds
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George Eliot’s Marriage Story

The question is marriage. The answer in this podcast is Clare Carlisle’s sparkling book, The Marriage Question: George Eliot’s Double Life. George Eliot, born Marian Evans, was the towering novelist of Middlemarch, Silas Marner, and ...
10/5/202341 minutes
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Zadie Smith on The Fraud

Zadie Smith is a writer who matters, twenty years now after White Teeth, her breakthrough novel when she was just out of college. Her new one is titled The Fraud: fiction that pops in and ...
9/21/202331 minutes, 15 seconds
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Henry at Work

It’s Labor Day week, 2023, and Henry David Thoreau is the heart of our conversation. It’s not with him, but it’s driven by his example: American thinking at its best on the matter of how ...
9/7/202336 minutes, 29 seconds
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The Cosmic Scholar

Harry Smith was the oddest duck you never heard of in the art underground: an unsightly, often obnoxious genius. Only the artists knew him, but it was a multitude: Bob Dylan, who sang the roots ...
8/24/202338 minutes, 56 seconds
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Noam Chomsky: American Socrates

It is said about Noam Chomsky that he has been to the study of language what Isaac Newton was to the study of gravity after the apple hit his head. Chomsky had the “aha!” insight: ...
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The Country of the Blind

In The Country of the Blind, where the writer Andrew Leland is guiding our tour, they do things differently. They have their own identity riddles, their network of heroes and not-so-heroes. They have their own ...
7/27/202341 minutes, 44 seconds
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Animal Spirits

This is the vitalism episode, with the passionate polymath Jackson Lears. His new book is beyond category, and gripping, too: it’s titled Animal Spirits: The American Pursuit of Vitality from Camp Meeting to Wall Street. ...
7/14/202334 minutes, 28 seconds
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Happy Birthday to Us

We’re marking the 20th birthday of podcasting in conversation with Erica Heilman, a prize practitioner. Here we are with Erica in Peacham, Vermont, settled in 1776 in the Northeast Kingdom, up toward Canada. We seek ...
6/29/202341 minutes, 12 seconds
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Blyth Returns

We’re back in the pub a year later with Mark Blyth, the outspoken political economist at Brown University—which means he works and talks and thinks at the intersection of big money and big power. In ...
6/16/202339 minutes, 8 seconds
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It Ain’t Over

This week: a show from our archive from The Connection days. “It ain’t over till it’s over.” That’s Yogi Berra’s ageless line, in the title now of a summer hit movie just to prove Yogi ...
6/1/202342 minutes, 36 seconds
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A Working Life with Eileen Myles

The line is intoned now as a sort of chapter heading in our literary-artistic history: Eileen Myles grew up in Boston/Cambridge and moved to New York in 1974 to become a poet. Chris with Eileen ...
5/16/202332 minutes, 24 seconds
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Failing Intelligence

We’re humbled—we’re also scared—by the power of chatbots like GPT-4 to do pretty much everything that word people have ever done, but faster and maybe more to the point. The twist in this conversation is ...
5/4/202353 minutes, 5 seconds
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Frozen Moments with Ed Koren

Here’s a last burst of wind in our sails, a last gentle guffaw, from a listener we came to adore: the cartoonist Ed Koren. You knew Ed Koren, too, for those furry, quizzical characters he ...
4/19/202333 minutes, 25 seconds
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How William James Can Save Your Life

William James, thinker and writer, was known widely in the nineteenth century as the adorable genius who invented American pragmatism. He was a brain scientist, student of war and religion, a philosopher who can feel ...
4/6/202338 minutes, 49 seconds
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Sonny Rollins: Saxophone Colossus

There’s nobody quite like Sonny Rollins in the All-American sound and story of jazz. He was a teenager in Harlem in the 1940s when major players caught on to a rising star. Steadily over the ...
3/23/202339 minutes, 22 seconds
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This Other Eden

Out of the blue a decade ago, Paul Harding won a huge popular following, first, and then the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, for his modern Maine sort of folk tale called Tinkers. His new one ...
3/9/202335 minutes, 7 seconds
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Norman Mailer Turns 100

“Don’t forget” is a mantra in our shop: “don’t forget” specially the characters, the moments that made us. Norman Mailer is the spirit-seeker and sometimes reckless truth-teller we are un-forgetting in this podcast. We are ...
2/23/202337 minutes, 31 seconds
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A Radical American Life

Lydia Moland is reminding us that when present company in American public life comes up short, the ancestors of American democracy and spirit are lurking out there, in abundance and power to reset our judgment ...
2/9/202335 minutes, 1 second
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Thank You, Patrick Lydon

This is family talk in rural Ireland toward the end of an extraordinary life. My brother Patrick was the youngest of six, the saint among us and always the brightest company. Two winters ago he’d ...
1/26/202331 minutes, 46 seconds
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Moonshot Economics

This show first aired on September 16, 2021. It’s hard not to notice that we’re flunking tests, right and left, and running out of strategies against global-size troubles. COVID, we said, was our test for ...
1/12/202351 minutes, 11 seconds
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Mann the Magician

This show originally aired on September 23, 2021. Thomas Mann was one of those cultural giants the world doesn’t seem to make anymore—artists with authority, almost as big as their countries, at the level of ...
1/5/202350 minutes, 51 seconds
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Liner Notes for the Revolution

This show was originally broadcast on July 15, 2021. We know their songs, not so much what they were going through, those Black women artists who wrote and sang so many anthems of American life: ...
12/29/202251 minutes, 25 seconds
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Thoroughly Modern Mozart

This show first aired on September 30, 2021. Who else could be said to make you smarter, just listening to the sound of his music? Only Mozart, that we know. For 300-and-some years now, he ...
12/22/202250 minutes, 41 seconds
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Prudent Statecraft

John Quincy Adams was the model president in the early republic who declared that the United States “goes not abroad in search of monsters to destroy.” But “go abroad” we did, as the republic became ...
12/15/202250 minutes, 44 seconds
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The Maelstrom of Geopolitics

A briefing session this hour from our strategic special branch, which is to say: the mind of Chas Freeman in the maelstrom of geopolitics. If President Obama had been given his first choice to sketch ...
12/9/202250 minutes, 14 seconds
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Silent Spring, 60 Years Later

How’s to rescue the Earth from us people? Rachel Carson’s way – 60 years ago – was to write a book, and call it Silent Spring. She’d been a shy but defiant biologist in government ...
12/1/202250 minutes, 28 seconds
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Origin Stories

This show was originally broadcast on December 5, 2019. Origin stories can be educated guesses, or leaps of collective imagination as to who we are, how we got to this point. The Big Bang is ...
11/24/202250 minutes, 27 seconds
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Our unipolar moment may be remembered as the United States’ turn as “king of the hill,” two decades or so between the collapse of the Soviet Union and the rocket rise of China’s economy. What ...
11/17/202250 minutes, 5 seconds
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The New Right

The hatching of a New Right Republican party, under fire, is the substance of this radio hour. It was simpler in Gilbert and Sullivan when the song said: every boy and every gal that’s born ...
11/11/202250 minutes, 12 seconds
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Finally, there’s a word for it: the polycrisis, to describe the multiple messes we’re in. Our guest the historian Adam Tooze says it’s a polycrisis when old crises like war, weather, and disease are breeding ...
11/4/202250 minutes, 27 seconds
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A Just Cause

Talking time around the war in Ukraine may be approaching. This radio hour may be a moment in that trend: reaching out for strong views we hadn’t heard, in head-on disagreement about the morality and ...
10/27/202250 minutes, 38 seconds
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Taiwan, the World-Class Puzzle

Next on the global agenda comes Taiwan, the island off China once known as Formosa, meaning shapely, beautiful. Today it’s a puzzle with moving parts: a not-quite nation of 24 million people that has two ...
10/21/202250 minutes, 12 seconds
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Humane Wartime

Try a simple riddle, about the time and climate we Americans are living in, today: Do we call it (a) wartime or (b) peacetime? Tense time, for sure, and there’s war in the headlines. But ...
10/13/202250 minutes, 32 seconds
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The Historians’ Diagnosis

The conversation about a world in disarray feels urgent, elusive, etherized. Who will name this crisis and the roots of it: war, tribalism, maldistributed money, and pain, exceptionalism for rich people, maybe, for a rich ...
10/6/202250 minutes, 35 seconds
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Cruel Britannia

This show first aired on May 19, 2022. George Orwell said, “It’s so easy to be witty about the British Empire.” As in the throwaway line that English people had conquered the world in a ...
9/29/202250 minutes, 11 seconds
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Lovecraft Country

This show was first broadcast on October 31, 2019. H. P. Lovecraft’s frightful horror fiction—dated between Edgar Allan Poe’s and Stephen King’s—is the weirdest of the weird. Lovecraft found ravenous, man-eating rats in the walls ...
9/22/202250 minutes, 21 seconds
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We’ll Always Have Casablanca

This show was first broadcast on April 1, 2021. You must remember this, the song says. In fact, it’s hard to forget at Oscar time every April, that Casablanca, the Best Picture of 1942, was ...
9/15/202250 minutes, 5 seconds
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Studs Terkel’s Feeling Tone

This show first aired on May 31, 2018. The Studs Terkel edge on the radio was, first of all, picking guests who would sound more interesting 50, 60 years later: Mahalia Jackson, Bucky Fuller, Toni ...
9/9/202249 minutes, 56 seconds
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DFW, FTW: Life In the Internet Age

This show is a rerun. This week sees the opening of The End of the Tour, an updated My Dinner with Andre about David Foster Wallace’s book tour in 1996 for his immeasurable novel, Infinite Jest. ...
9/1/202250 minutes, 1 second
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The Soviet Symphonist

This show originally aired on August 9, 2018. The Shostakovich story — man and music in the apocalypse of world war and Cold War — seems to get more frightfully irresistible with every remembrance, every ...
8/25/202250 minutes, 17 seconds
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Orwell’s Roses

This show first aired on November 11, 2021. George Orwell rests now with the immortal English writers. But why? For impact and influence, you could argue that Orwell in his novels and essays matched Shakespeare, ...
8/18/202250 minutes, 55 seconds
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A New History of Humanity

This show first aired on December 2, 2021. Giant questions this hour, and a slew of fresh answers: Where do we humans come from? Who are we, after all? Where are we going? Was our ...
8/11/202250 minutes, 51 seconds
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Lenny at 100

This show originally aired on December 20, 2018. A tribute to Leonard Bernstein with Nigel Simeone, Jamie Bernstein, and Augusta Read Thomas. Leonard Bernstein, the multi-musician, did it all in his lifetime. At his 100th ...
8/4/202249 minutes, 57 seconds
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Van Morrison’s Cosmic Accident

This show first aired on March 29, 2018.  In the annals of rock music albums, Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks is one of a kind. In an earthy medium, it’s a masterpiece of abstraction.  Indecipherable. Irresistible. ...
7/28/202249 minutes, 56 seconds
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Walden & the Natural World of Transcendentalism

This show originally aired on July 6, 2017. Henry David Thoreau, our specimen of American genius in nature, wrote famously short, and long.  “Simplify,” in a one-word sentence of good advice.  But then 2-million words ...
7/21/202251 minutes, 16 seconds
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Write Like the Russians

This episode was first broadcast on February 18, 2021. The invitation this hour, or maybe the dream, is to learn how to write short stories with the poignancy and power of the old Russian Masters, ...
7/14/202250 minutes, 14 seconds
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The Joy and Genius of Erroll Garner

This show first aired on December 17, 2020. Erroll Garner, the jazz pianist, is undergoing an upward revaluation of the sort that artists dream of: a reputational transition forty-some years after he died. In his ...
7/7/202250 minutes, 15 seconds
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Hail to Thee, Blyth Spirit

Mark Blyth, the people’s economist, to the rescue. We’ve got tribulations of money and power to be decoded, in what can feel like wartime. Sanctions or penalties for the warfare make economic waves, too. Inflation ...
6/30/202250 minutes, 46 seconds
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Stopping the War

Four months into the war in Ukraine, 20 weeks of radio talk about it, feels like time for a deep breath: an hour to look hard at a painful stalemate, a poisonous war that bodes ...
6/23/202250 minutes, 37 seconds
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Unofficial China

Between the US and China, you can feel that the chill is on among the chieftains, spoiling for a fight over Taiwan or trade or just top billing. But what about the people? Two peoples ...
6/16/202250 minutes, 50 seconds
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Who’s Number One?

The United States and China are both working on something like a separation agreement. It’s the end of something like a marriage over the last 50 years—it produced vast wealth, but something less than democracy ...
6/10/202250 minutes, 52 seconds
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Where Shall Wisdom Be Found?

A moral philosopher and a walking trove of literature’s wisdom walk into a radio conversation together. The question for one hour is the bleak time we’re all living in, this sea of troubles we don’t ...
6/2/202250 minutes, 44 seconds
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Paths of Dissent

Memorial Day can feel different every year, bittersweet at its best. It’s been the last Monday in May since 1868, first as Decoration Day, for marking the graves of our Civil War dead—lest Americans forget, ...
5/26/202250 minutes, 45 seconds
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100 Seconds to Midnight

On the famous clock-face of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, the time now is 100 seconds before midnight. Meaning: humankind is closer to nuclear doomsday than it’s ever been. But it’s worse than that: those ...
5/12/202250 minutes, 50 seconds
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A Dangerous Puzzle

It’s Iran, again, at the center of a tricky, dangerous puzzle. Four years after Donald Trump broke out of the nuclear ban agreement, Iran is just days or weeks away from having enough enriched uranium ...
5/5/202250 minutes, 49 seconds
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Grain War

Try this, to get a fresh grip on the war in Ukraine, and its effects still to come: we’ve got a food war in the breadbasket of the world, on the vast Eurasian prairie that’s ...
4/28/202250 minutes, 44 seconds
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How Do We Look?

We are encouraged to believe, we Americans, that if anything good for the world comes out of the war in Ukraine, it will be that “the US is back,” not shooting but supporting, maybe midwifing ...
4/21/202250 minutes, 11 seconds
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Real Questions for the Realist

Twenty questions this hour on the war in Ukraine. For starters: will the war end in April? May? Maybe June? Who gets to announce the good news? An essay question: Can a war look more ...
4/14/202251 minutes, 6 seconds
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War in Yemen

We’re engulfed by war, rumors of war, videos of war, crimes of war—are we looking at ‘end times’ approaching? Or just the dead end of the forever wars? Our conversation this hour is about the ...
4/7/202250 minutes, 37 seconds
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Moral Realism

The war questions are back, you notice—in everyday America: the talk of risk, the chance of ruin, the push and pull of righteousness, restraint; and all that history in our heads. Who gets it right ...
3/31/202250 minutes, 17 seconds
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How to Stop Burning Things

When Bill McKibben looks at the war in Ukraine, what he sees is a chapter, maybe the very last one, in the chronicle of a planet that we humans are burning unto our own extinction. ...
3/24/202250 minutes, 51 seconds
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Lessons Learned

Big lessons out of the war in Ukraine about “how the world really works” are showing up on the ground, not in theory class. They’re what you can learn just by watching. Example: it’s almost ...
3/18/202250 minutes, 12 seconds
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A New Nuclear Age

Sobering questions: how could this unmerciful war in Ukraine go nuclear? If Russia’s barbaric smashing of cities and civilians finally pushes the US and NATO (past just sympathy) to “doing something”—with their own troops or ...
3/10/202250 minutes, 13 seconds