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The Racket

English, Political, 1 seasons, 15 episodes, 11 hours 25 minutes
A newsletter about the world for people who weren't born yesterday. By Jonathan M. Katz. (
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A tale of two RICOs (feat. Josie Duffy Rice)

Find all episodes and newsletters at TheRacket.newsAtlanta: Home of Coca-Cola, Jermaine Dupri, and the country’s most open-ended racketeering law. Two very different cases of national importance are headed to trial under Georgia’s version of the RICO Act. One of course involves Donald Trump and eighteen allies for their attempt to steal the 2020 election. The other targets more than sixty activists who tried to stop the construction of a $90 million police tactical training center in a forest outside Atlanta, a project the protesters have indelibly nicknamed “Cop City.”As I tried to think through these very different cases — and what they say about the law and American criminal justice in general — I couldn’t think of anyone better to talk to than Josie Duffy Rice. A journalist and graduate of Harvard Law School, Duffy Rice is the host of the podcast UnReformed: The Story of the Alabama I
15/09/20231 hour 18 minutes 14 seconds
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'If somebody's going to conduct a coup, it is going to be him'

This is a free preview of a paid episode. To hear more, visit theracket.newsLast week, in its story on the latest African coup the New York Times included precisely one line of context about the United States: National Security Council spokesman John F. Kirby saying the “attempted takeover”was “deeply concerning.” What Times readers didn’t learn was that the U.S. has a direct interest in that country, Gabon, as it has been using it as a key staging ground for military operations in wars that most Americans don’t even know we’re involved in. Or that at least fifteen of the leaders of recent coups in Africa were trained by the U.S. military.That last factoid was uncovered by investigative journalist Nick Turse, a historian and reporter who has spent the last decade reporting from ins
08/09/20232 minutes 16 seconds
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The 'world's coolest dictator' and his American fanboys

This is a free preview of a paid episode. To hear more, visit theracket.newsSubscribe and read the full transcript at TheRacket.newsIn his non-apology apology for his just-revealed years of genocidal racism, Richard Hanania made a brief allusion to a foreign leader few Americans have heard of, but who has become hugely popular on the far right.Nayib Bukele has been president of El Salvador since 2019; he has announced his intention to run again in 2024, despite a constitutional ban on reelection. Just 42 years old, Bukele has been referred to as the “first millennial authoritarian”; in a Twitter bio he called himself “the coolest dictator in the world.” Bukele, so far, is most famous for two things: making Bitcoin o
13/08/20233 minutes 7 seconds
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Gangsters Movie Night 5: White Zombie

A break from the war to go back in time, and beyond the grave. That’s right, it’s time for another Gangsters Movie Night — our irregular series where I and a guest talk about a movie about a place or theme I explore in Gangsters of Capitalism.This week we go to a place that’s very close to my heart — Haiti — through the 1932 horror cult classic White Zombie. Starring Bela Lugosi as the mysterious sorcerer “Murder Legendre,” and set during the U.S. Occupation, this was the film that introduced the Haitian zonbi to the American masses. Contained within are all the deep-seated racism and contradictions that infuse zombie movies and literature to this day.To talk about it, I’m joined by Kaiama Glover, a professor at Barnard College and scholar of Haitian and Francophone literature par excellence. At the end of the episode, Kaiama
10/04/202252 minutes 11 seconds
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Gangsters Movie Night 4: Hands of Stone

“Spheres of influence” are hot again these days. Here’s what Secretary of State Anthony Blinken had to say about the controversial geopolitical concept, as it regards the showdown with Russia over Ukraine:But look, the President’s been extremely clear for many, many years about some basic principles that no one is moving back on: the principle that one country does not have the right to change by force the borders of another; that one country does not have the right to dictate the policies of another or to tell that country with whom it may associate; one country does not have the right to exert a sphere of influence. That notion should be relegated to the dustbin of history.And he’s right, it should be! The problem is that when you sift through that dustbin you find that U.S. power was built on all the things Blinken mentioned. That is especially true in America’s original—and still primary—“sphere of influence”: Latin America. (The U.S.’s continued dominance
15/02/202249 minutes 46 seconds
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Gangsters Movie Night 3: Goyo The Boy General

This morning, Russia and China announced a “no limits” strategic partnership against what Reuters summarized as the “malign global influence” of the United States. The reactions of the rest of the world remain to be seen. But if their current public positions are any guide, U.S. policymakers and wonks are likely to be caught flatfooted. How could anyone genuinely think we have historically been anything other than a force for unalloyed good? If only there were some framework we could use to explain why the rest of the globe doesn’t necessarily see ourselves the way we do!Anyhoo … this week on the podcast we’re crossing the Pacific Rim, to the Philippines—America’s longtime colony and the subject of three chapters
04/02/202250 minutes 30 seconds
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Gangsters Movie Night 2: 55 Days at Peking

Folks, the day has arrived: Gangsters of Capitalism is in the world. You can find it at your local bookstore. If you order it online, it will be shipped or appear in your e-reader or audiobook app immediately. Hallelujah. Oorah.Elsewhere, things are rougher. Russia looks poised to invade Ukraine. Voting rights are in deep peril. The pandemic is … well, you know. At moments like this, it can be tempting to look back to earlier moments of crisis for inspiration and comfort—only to find our forebears did the exact same thing, by looking back to their past for examples to follow.This week’s Gangsters Movie Ni
19/01/202259 minutes 23 seconds
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Gangsters Movie Night: Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay (feat. Spencer Ackerman)

Happy belated new year! We are dangerously close to the Jan. 18 release of Gangsters of Capitalism, my book about Smedley Butler and the making and breaking of America’s empire. (Thanks to everyone who has pre-ordered so far—if you haven’t, here’s a link.)Since I’m doing a bunch of interviews around the debut, I wanted to do something a little different with the book here. Gangsters of Capitalism is to a large extent about historical memory—about how the first great wave of U.S. overseas imperialism has (and hasn’t) been passed down through the generations, including through movies. So, we thought, why not watch some movies about the themes and places in the book? And invite interesting people to talk about them? We are calling it “Gangsters Movie Nights.” And we are starting with a banger. Spe
11/01/202244 minutes 56 seconds
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What We Talk About When We Talk About Vaccination (feat. Eula Biss)

Are the unvaccinated entitled, deprived, or just misunderstood? What would be a more effective way of controlling the COVID pandemic—shame or providing healthcare for all? (Or both?)I talked with Eula Biss, author of On Immunity: An Inoculation, for this week’s Racket podcast. We went deep into the long history of debates over inoculation (debates that started even before the first vaccine was invented!), the power of conversation, and our own experiences vaccinating our respective kids.The Racket is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.You can also listen to audio episodes on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you listen to podcasts. Also discussed in this episode:“The Unvaccinated May Not Be Who You Think<
10/11/202142 minutes 43 seconds
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Can a lawsuit stop the Nazis? (feat. Amy Spitalnick and Heidi Beirich)

For the debut podcast edition of The Racket I talked to Amy Spitalnick, Executive Director of Integrity First for America, the organization behind the federal lawsuit against the organizers of the 2017 Charlottesville rampage. I also talked with Heidi Beirich, an expert on global far-right extremism about the bigger implications of the case.You can also get audio editions of The Racket on Spotify, Downcast, or wherever you get podcasts.If you like this, share it. And if you haven’t yet, please subscribe. Thanks as always.Transcript (may contain transcription errors): Jonathan Katz:Hello, and welcome. You are listening to The Racket, a brand new podcast that is piggybacking off the relaunch of my newsletter, which has an old name, which you don't need to worry about anymore because it's now just The Racket. And if you've been reading The Racket at for the last of couple days, you know that I have been coveri
29/10/20211 hour 12 minutes 29 seconds
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Back to Guantánamo

Audio editing by Evan RobertsFor the Biden administration, the arrival of thousands of Haitian immigrants on the southern border has been a telling moment. Instead of rushing relief to and expediting the admission of asylum seekers, the White House focused on the domestic political fallout: trying to appease the nativist right through a massive deportation wave, while defusing criticism from the left by weakly addressing the most visceral actions by border agents caught on camera. Inevitably, no one is happy.An even more dire response was hinted at last week by NBC News. The story by Jacob Soboroff and Ken Dilanian revealed a posted ad by the Department of Homeland Security for a “new contract to o
01/10/202151 minutes 32 seconds
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Audio Edition: The Pandemic Prevention Project Trump Gutted in 2019

Trump has described COVID-19 as a problem that “came out of nowhere.” “Nobody would have ever thought a thing like this could have happened,” he said on March 26, as he steered his country to the worst nightmare of the pandemic so far.That’s a lie. In this audio edition of The Long Version, I talked with Dr. Jonna Mazet, the former global director of the U.S. government project to identify and prevent viruses from jumping into human populations. Trump shuttered that project in September 2019, three months before the virus was first detected in Wuhan, China—by scientists Mazet had been working with until the funding ran out.You can keep independent journalism alive in this time of crisis by signing up for this newsletter/podcast at or using the box below. You can also support it with a paid subscription, or check out my <a target="_blank" href=
10/04/202034 minutes 57 seconds
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Audio Edition: Did Sharpiegate cross a line? feat. Gabriel Snyder

With Trump again threatening war with Iran, last week’s best-known scandal—the president doctoring a hurricane map with a marker—might already seem quaint. But #Sharpiegate was revealing. It showed the depths to which the federal bureaucracy, including Trump’s deeply corrupt Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, were willing cover for the president’s insanity and crimes. And it showed the ways in which the noise from the White House can be used to cover up the damage it causes in the world.Gabriel Synder, the Columbia Journalism Review’s resident New York Times public editor, joined me for a discussion about Sharpiegate, the Stupid Show, and how not to cover the presidency. We talked hurricanes, mushroom
16/09/201934 minutes 27 seconds
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Audio Edition: Is a Trump a Fascist? (Yes.) feat. Prof. Jason Stanley

The president’s authoritarian rhetoric, racist tweets, and tolerance for surging white supremacist violence make one question more urgent than ever: Is Donald Trump a fascist?According to Prof. Jason Stanley, the author of How Fascism Works, the answer is an emphatic yes. In today’s special audio edition of The Long Version, the Yale philosophy professor and I talk about the surprisingly long history of fascism in America, how the president and his Republican allies are unleashing dangerous forces for power, and why institutions from the Democratic Party to the New York Times keep proving themselves so unable to deal with the crisis.Please listen and share widely. And if you haven’t yet, help support independent journalism by subscribing to The Long Version, right now:Transcript [automatically generated, contains errors]Donald Trump (00:00:02):Omar blamed the United States for the crisis in Venezuela.Trump
30/07/20191 hour 7 minutes 6 seconds
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Audio Edition: My visit to the concentration camps, feat. AOC

Happy Friday. Hope everyone had a good — and dry — Independence Day. This week I was on the U.S.-Mexico border, getting as close as I could to America’s concentration camps.I was following a congressional delegation led by Rep. Joaquin Castro of Texas. It featured most prominently Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the freshman Democrat from New York who has done as much as anyone in the country to bring attention back to this issue.After the tour, I sat down for a one-on-one interview with Ocasio-Cortez — much of which I published as a transcript in Mother Jones.I had other thoughts and reporting to share as well. I’ve done that here in the first-eve
05/07/201942 minutes 11 seconds