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Things That Go Boom
25 minutes | Aug 2, 2021
S5 E4 - Amtrak and the End of the Free World
Washington and Beijing have been increasingly at odds -- over human rights, trade, maritime boundaries, you name it. Does this tension help Biden at home? And what does it mean for Asian Americans? GUESTS: Samuel Chu, Hong Kong Democracy Council; Nina Luo, Writer and Organizer; Adrian De Leon, University of Southern California; Rui Zhong, Wilson Center ADDITIONAL READING: The American Victims of Washington’s Anti-China Hysteria, Nina Luo, The New Republic. Why Is China Coming After Americans Like Me in the US? Samuel Chu, The New York Times.
30 minutes | Jul 19, 2021
S5 E3 - Alright Dom, What's Next?
Here in the US, we’re just catching on to the idea of creating a foreign policy that lifts up our middle class, but China’s been at it for decades. On this episode, we dig into China’s rise. What’s worked, what hasn’t, and where it might go next. GUESTS: Ethan Lee, Stanford University (Student); Ali Wyne, Eurasia Group; Scott Rozelle, Stanford University; Peter Lorentzen, University of San Francisco. ADDITIONAL READING: The World China Wants, Rana Mitter, Foreign Affairs. Invisible China: How the Urban-Rural Divide Threatens China’s Rise, Scott Rozelle, University of Chicago Press. Foreign Policy Lessons From Brown v. Board of Education, Ali Wyne, Inkstick Media. 'Mulan' and China's Approach To Soft Power Through Hollywood, Ethan Lee, Inkstick Media.
25 minutes | Jul 5, 2021
S5 E2 - Out From Under the Leaking Roof and Into the Rain
One of Biden's biggest foreign policy moves so far has been sticking with Trump's Afghanistan withdrawal plan. The move comes after 20 years of war, which killed more than 241,000 people on all sides according to Brown University estimates. But how does it fit into Biden's foreign policy for the middle class? And what does our exit mean for the lives of middle-class Afghan women who fear a Taliban resurgence? GUESTS: Metra Mehran, Institute of Diplomacy at Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Kabul; James Traub, Foreign Policy ADDITIONAL READING: Biden’s ‘Foreign Policy for the Middle Class’ Is a Revolution, James Traub, Foreign Policy. The People We’re Leaving Behind in Afghanistan, Steve Coll, The New Yorker. US Troops Are Packing Up, Ready or Not, Thomas Gibbons-Neff, Najim Rahim and Fatima Faizi, New York Times.
29 minutes | Jun 21, 2021
S5 E1 - Cheers to the American Middle Class
Quick, give me the first answer to this question that comes to your head: What TV character is the archetype of the American middle class? Archie Bunker? Homer Simpson? Roseanne Conner? What about Cliff Huxtable? Dre Johnson? Or Jane Villanueva? On this episode, we dig into the huge, diverse swath of people that make up America’s middle class. And we ask if it’s possible to create one overarching policy that makes life better for them all — especially if you, yourself, only represent a small piece. Or may even have fallen out of touch entirely. GUESTS: Emily VanDerWerff, Vox; Anne Helen Petersen, Culture Study; Mari Faines, Physicians for Social Responsibility; Lori Latrice Martin, Louisiana State University ADDITIONAL READING: What TV Says About Race and Money, Salamishah Tillet, New York Times 10 Episodes That Show How Cheers Stayed Great for 11 Seasons, Emily VanDerWerff, AV Club America’s Hollow Middle Class, Anne Helen Petersen, Vox America in Denial: How Race-Fair Policies Reinforce Racial Inequality in America, Lori Latrice Martin, SUNY Press
3 minutes | Jun 14, 2021
The Biden administration says it’s focused on creating a “foreign policy for the middle class,” But what does that really mean? Keeping on keeping on with the way things have always been done? Slapping a little lipstick and climate change on Trump’s, “America First” agenda? Or creating something truly revolutionary? Ask around in Washington, and you’ll get ten different answers to the same question, if you get an answer at all. So this season, Things That Go Boom set out to decide for itself: What even is the middle class? What does it have to do with foreign policy? And, are we sitting on the precipice of a major change in the way we live our lives?
21 minutes | May 3, 2021
S4 Bonus - A Very Hokey 100 Days
April 29 marked President Biden’s 100th day in office. So we thought it was about time to pop back in with a special bonus episode — before we’re back officially with season 5 — to take a look at what Biden’s done so far in terms of foreign policy, and what that might signal about his priorities going forward. On this episode Things That Go Boom: A very candid conversation with Nahal Toosi. What has Biden already accomplished, what can we learn about his goals, and what are analysts watching for on the horizon? GUESTS: Nahal Toosi, Politico ADDITIONAL READING: We're All 'Omnipolicy' Experts Now, Nahal Toosi. Biden’s ‘Foreign Policy for the Middle Class’ Is a Revolution, James Traub. 7 Ways to Track if Biden’s Omnipolicy Works, Nahal Toosi.
26 minutes | Mar 1, 2021
S4 E9 - Baby Nukes: When a Little Boom Is All You Need
Over the course of our nuclear history, smaller (potentially more usable) nuclear weapons have come in all shapes and sizes — from so-called backpack bombs to the Davy Crockett nuclear rifle... And last year, the US deployed a new one. But, what exactly are these things? Do we need them? And what does the deployment of a new generation of them reveal about the US’s nuclear posture? On this episode of Things That Go Boom, we talk about low-yield nuclear weapons -- or what we’ve affectionately termed, “baby nukes.” GUESTS: Matt Korda, Federation of American Scientists; Rose Gottemoeller, Stanford University ADDITIONAL READING: The Littlest Boy, Adam Rawnsley and David Brown. Nuclear Notebook: United States Nuclear Weapons, 2021, Hans Kristensen and Matt Korda. After the Apocalypse: US Nuclear Policy, Heather Williams, Vipin Narang, Beatrice Finh, and Togzhan Kassenova.
25 minutes | Feb 15, 2021
S4 E8 - Aliens Among Us
Conspiracy theories are as old as time. And, they’re not all bad. Sometimes they bring us together for a subpar party in the desert. Take, for example, that one time in 2019 when more than 2 million people RSVP’d to ambush Area 51. But when they take a turn to the dark side, conspiracy theories can be as dangerous as any other threat we face. On this episode of Things That Go Boom, we talk about how the internet has fueled a rise in that dark side, and how it caught the US government by surprise. GUESTS: Elizabeth Neumann, Former Assistant Secretary for Counterterrorism and Threat Prevention at the Department of Homeland Security; Oumou Ly, Fellow, Berkman Klein Center, Harvard Law School ADDITIONAL READING: Leaving Trump in Office Now Will Just Encourage White Nationalists, Kathleen Belew and Elizabeth Neumann. When Disinformation Becomes a Political Strategy, Who Holds the Line?, Oumou Ly. QAnon Believers Are Obsessed With Hillary Clinton. She Has Thoughts., Michelle Goldberg.
25 minutes | Feb 1, 2021
S4 E7 - Why One Congresswoman Wore Tennis Shoes on Jan. 6
When a violent pro-Trump mob stormed the legislature on Jan. 6, it caught the Capitol Police completely off-guard. But there was one woman in the House Chamber who was not surprised. In fact, she wore tennis shoes that day — Rep. Barbara Lee. We speak with Lee about the greatest terror threat inside the United States today, white nationalism, as well as a more general trend toward political radicalization. We also revisit her lonely vote in the wake of 9/11, when Lee was the only lawmaker in both chambers to take a stand against granting broad war powers to the president in response to the attack. Twenty years later, those powers have been stretched to cover drone strikes and military interventions across the globe. But with President Joe Biden in the White House, Lee seems closer than ever to getting that authorization repealed. GUEST: Rep. Barbara Lee, of California’s 13th congressional district, is a member of the Democratic Party. Besides her efforts to reign in presidential war powers, she’s advocated to end poverty and fight HIV. ADDITIONAL READING: 60 Words And A War Without End, BuzzFeed White Supremacist Domestic Terror Threat Looms Large In US, The Guardian Lone Wolves Connected Online: A History Of Modern White Supremacy, NYT
24 minutes | Jan 18, 2021
S4 E6 - Saving the World With 50-Year-Old IT
In December 2020, the company FireEye noticed that it had been the victim of a cyber intrusion. And it wasn’t the only one. About 18,000 companies and government agencies were breached, everything from the agency that controls America's nuclear weapons to the agency that regulates the electric grid, to a company whose products you probably use every day: Microsoft. So, what did they have in common? They were all using the same software monitoring service: a platform called Orion, from the company SolarWinds. The breach leaves the US open to nightmare scenario after nightmare scenario. So how did we get here, and how can we prevent similar attacks in the future? GUESTS: Mieke Eoyang, Senior Vice President for the National Security Program and Chairperson of the Cyber Enforcement Initiative, Third Way; Juliet Okafor, Founder and CEO, Revolution Cyber ADDITIONAL READING: Cybercrime vs. Cyberwar: Paradigms for Addressing Malicious Cyber Activity, Journal of National Security Law and Policy. To Catch a Hacker. A Moment of Reckoning: The Need for a Strong and Global Cybersecurity Response, Microsoft.
27 minutes | Jan 4, 2021
S4 E5 - Duluth, Not as Cold as You Think!
Darlene Turner is an Inupiaq Eskimo living on a battle line. Not the military kind, the climate change kind. With less sea ice to buffer storms, the ocean is washing away chunks of her village and its residents have made a difficult decision to relocate. “Would you relocate?” she asks. Experts believe stories like Darlene’s are just a precursor to a massive migratory trend that could have millions of Americans on the move before mid-century, as wildfires rage and floodwaters rise. And the consequences could be far-reaching— affecting our economy, our social fabric and even our foreign policy priorities. On this episode, we examine how ‘climigration’ could play out here at home, and how climate change can become a threat multiplier. GUESTS: Jesse Keenan, associate professor of real estate at the Tulane School of Architecture specializing in climate change adaptation: Francesco Femia, co-founder of the Center for Climate and Security, and the Council on Strategic Risks; Darlene Turner, library skills teacher; Jonathan Foret, executive director of the South Louisiana Wetlands Discovery Center. ADDITIONAL READING: The Great Climate Migration, ProPublica. ‘We’re Moving to Higher Ground’: America’s Era of Climate Mass Migration is Here, The Guardian. How Russia Wins the Climate Crisis, NYT.
33 minutes | Dec 21, 2020
Reissue: The Slog
Over the past few weeks, the president-elect, Joe Biden, has been rolling out announcements about his new cabinet. And in one of those announcements, he revealed that the subject of one of our favorite interviews over the years, Jake Sullivan, would be named national security advisor. The announcement made sense to us, since tensions between the US and Iran seem to have reached a new boiling point in the wake of President Trump’s decision to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal. Jake, you might remember, led the backchannel negotiations that ultimately brought us the deal. And, in this episode, which originally aired in 2019, Jake takes us back to the moment when those negotiations began. GUESTS: Jake Sullivan, National Security Advisor-designate; Wendy Sherman, former Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs; Ernest Moniz, former Secretary of Energy ADDITIONAL READING: The Inexorable Rise of Jake Sullivan, Politico. Iran’s Rouhani Says ‘No Doubt’ Biden Will Rejoin Nuclear Deal, Lift Sanctions, Washington Post.
29 minutes | Dec 7, 2020
S4 E3 - A Forward-Looking Foreign Policy
Just after President Dwight D. Eisenhower assumed office on January 20, 1953, deep in the middle of the Cold War, his greatest adversary died. The speech that followed is considered one of his best, though not his most well known. Today, the US is sitting on the precipice of another great moment of potential change. One in which it’s not hard to imagine Eisenhower standing up before us and making the same case he did almost 70 years ago. So on today’s episode, we sit down with someone in a position to help us realize the perhaps forgotten potential of Eisenhower’s “Chance for Peace.” Someone who's given a lot of thought to the cost of violence, both at home and abroad. Senator Chris Murphy. GUESTS: Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) ADDITIONAL READING: Principles for a Progressive Foreign Policy; Chris Murphy, Brian Schatz, and Martin Heinrich. Rethinking the Battlefield; Chris Murphy. How to Make a Progressive Foreign Policy Actually Work; Chris Murphy.
29 minutes | Nov 23, 2020
S4 E2 - The Blob
Things That Go Boom is launching its very first fundraiser! Please consider giving just $5 a month. It’s convenient for you, provides ongoing support for Things That Go Boom and Inkstick Media, and you’ll feel good knowing you’re helping make Things That Go Boom freely available to everyone. Always. If Things That Go Boom is something that you’ve come to rely on over the course of the past two years, please go to inkstickmedia.com/donate and make a donation today. ————————— In 1958, a movie about a man-eating, bloodcurdling mass from outer space introduced the world to "The Blob." But in recent years, that term has taken on a whole new meaning among foreign policy professionals in Washington. What exactly defines this Blob can be as amorphous as the movie monster, so we reached out to three people to explain who exactly belongs in this group. The term, we learned, describes a perspective that transcends party lines and has remained relatively unchallenged for decades. In this episode, we'll explore the moment that all changed, and the Blob came face-to-face with... the anti-Blob. GUESTS: Ben Armbruster, Managing Editor of ResponsibleStatecraft.org at The Quincy Institute; Emma Ashford, Senior Fellow at the New American Engagement Initiative in the Scowcroft Center of the Atlantic Council; Van Jackson, professor of International Relations at Victoria University of Wellington. ADDITIONAL READING: Build a Better Blob, Emma Ashford The Blob Strikes Back, and Misses, Patrick Porter. More, Less, or Different?, Jake Sullivan. Policy Roundtable: The Future of Progressive Foreign Policy, Van Jackson.
24 minutes | Nov 9, 2020
S4 E1 - Fee-fi-fo-fear
2020 has been a scary year. In an effort to get to the root of why we’re all feeling the way we are, the first thing we did was something we probably should have done a long time ago... we reached out to a psychiatrist. We also asked all of you — our listeners, our friends, our family — to tell us the answer to what might seem like a pretty simple question: How safe do you feel? But the answers didn’t feel simple at all. GUESTS: Arash Javanbakht, MD; Bunmi Akinnusotu, Host of What in the World?; You guys! ADDITIONAL READING: Sex and Death in the Rational World of Defense Intellectuals, Carol Cohn. The Politics of Fear: How Fear Goes Tribal, Allowing Us To Be Manipulated, Arash Javanbakht. When Mask-Wearing Rules in the 1918 Pandemic Faced Resistance, Becky Little. As the 1918 Flu Emerged, Cover-Up and Denial Helped It Spread, Becky Little.
2 minutes | Oct 26, 2020
Things That Go Boom will be back November 9th, and we’ll be there to hold your hand while you weep, or party, all the way to the inauguration, a coronavirus vaccine, an accidental nuclear war (?!) … and beyond. In the meantime, go vote!
32 minutes | Aug 24, 2020
S3 E8 (The Wrong Apocalypse) - After the Apocalypse
Can the country rebound from the social, cultural, and economic toll of COVID-19? Now we know what happens while we’re sleeping; have we woken up? And what will it take to right the ship? GUESTS: Gigi Kwik Gronvall, Senior Scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security and Associate Professor in the Department of Environmental Health and Engineering at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health; Sherri Goodman, former Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Environmental Security and a Senior Fellow at the Wilson Center and the Center for Climate Security; Travis L. Adkins, lecturer of African and Security Studies at the Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University; Marissa Conway, Co-founder of the Centre for Feminist Foreign Policy. ADDITIONAL READING: Foreign Policy Begins at Home, Council on Foreign Relations. At the Intersection of Domestic and Foreign Policy, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Is American Foreign Policy the Key to Economic Growth?, The Washington Post. The Legacy of American Racism at Home and Abroad, Foreign Policy. The Scientific Response to COVID-19 and Lessons for Security, Survival.
27 minutes | Aug 10, 2020
S3 E7 (The Wrong Apocalypse) - Future Wars
Why did the US Naval Academy reinstate celestial navigation as part of its curriculum a few years ago? Well, you can’t hack a sextant. In this episode, we look at some of the vulnerabilities that come with an over-reliance on high-tech defense systems. Our guests are Peter Singer and August Cole — national security experts who have taken to writing futuristic techno-thrillers to sound a few alarms. Among their warnings: The opening battles of WWIII won’t happen on a battlefield, and they will probably be silent. GUESTS: Peter Singer, strategist and senior fellow at New America; August Cole, non-resident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. ADDITIONAL READING: Burn-In, Forbes. Ghost Fleet, The Diplomat. China Uses AI To Enhance Totalitarian Control, The Atlantic.
29 minutes | Jul 27, 2020
S3 E6 (The Wrong Apocalypse) - Inner Decay
Disinformation and misinformation have been blurring the line between fantasy and reality since the start of communication itself. But over the last decade, they’ve posed an increasing threat to democracy in the United States, with the 2016 presidential election becoming a major flashpoint in Americans’ understanding of the consequences of fake news. The false information flooding the internet and spreading like wildfire on social media pose risks not just to national and election security, but even to our health and safety. With its bots, troll farms, and vested interest in certain election outcomes, Russia has become America’s public disinformation enemy. But experts say that the power of foreign actors to sow discord rests, first and foremost, right here at home, and the solution may be different than you think. GUESTS: Mike Mazarr, Senior Political Scientist at RAND Corporation; Cindy Otis, Author, Former CIA Analyst, and disinformation investigations manager; Camille Stewart, Head of Security Policy for Google Play and Android; Russell Jeung, Professor of Asian American Studies at San Francisco State University ADDITIONAL READING: True or False: A CIA Analyst's Guide to Spotting Fake News, Cindy Otis. Vote and Die: Covering Voter Suppression during the Coronavirus Pandemic, Nieman Foundation. Combating Disinformation and Foreign Interference in Democracies: Lessons From Europe, Margaret L. Taylor.
27 minutes | Jul 13, 2020
S3 E5 (The Wrong Apocalypse) - Democracy! (Yawn)
As the US reckons with systemic racism and a less-than-democratic past, China is doubling down on its authoritarian ways. Meanwhile, research on the health of democracy from across the globe indicates the patient is not well. We trace China’s rise from the 1990s, when American pop music held a place alongside patriotic education, to its more recent political assertiveness-- not to mention its chokehold on civil rights in Hong Kong and Xinjiang. As China moves to assert itself on the world stage, is democracy losing? GUESTS: Connie Mei Pickart, writer and educator; Yascha Mounk, associate professor at Johns Hopkins University and senior fellow at the German Marshall Fund ADDITIONAL READING: How the World Views American-Style Democracy, Eurasia Group Foundation. Nationalism Ruined My Chinese Friendships, Connie Mei Pickart. In Hong Kong, Defiance Gone Quiet, The New York Times.
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