Tag Archives: Fresh Air

Dark Money and Campaign Finance

Yesterday, NPR’s Fresh Air discussed money in politics and how recent changes to campaign finance laws have made it difficult to track money spent on elections and who is spending it.

Here is a description of the podcast from the NPR website:

Campaign finance rules allow some groups to not disclose their donors. The New York Times’ Nick Confessore says there could be “influence peddling … because we can’t see the money changing hands.”

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The History of Education: Race, Gender and Standardized Testing

In a recent episode of NPR’s Fresh Air, Terry Gross interviewed Dana Goldstein author of the new book The Teacher Wars, a book which chronicle the American history of teachers, which the subtitle states is America’s Most Embattled Profession.  The book discusses how education in America intersects with race and gender as well as the controversial issues in modern education, including the role of standardized testing.  

 Here is a description an introduction to the interview from the NPR website:

As students return to school, the national dialogue on controversies surrounding teacher tenure, salaries, the core curriculum, testing and teacher competence will get more fervent.

In her new book, The Teacher Wars, Dana Goldstein writes about how teaching became “the most controversial profession in America,” and how teachers have become both “resented and idealized.”

In the New York Times, critic Alexander Nazaryan described the book as “meticulously fair and disarmingly balanced.” Although it’s largely a history, it also draws on Goldstein’s reporting on recent controversies surrounding teaching.

“One of the things I noticed, especially after the recession hit in 2008 and coming into President Obama’s administration, was we were having a big national conversation about inequality,” Goldstein tells Fresh Air‘s Terry Gross. “And teaching was something that was discussed again and again as a potential fix — a fix for inequality, something that could help poor children achieve like middle-class children and close these socioeconomic gaps that we’re so concerned about as a nation.”

For the book, Goldstein researched 200 years of teaching in America.

“What surprised me … was that we’ve always had these high expectations,” she says. “This idea that teachers have a role to play in fighting poverty and inequality has been with us since the early 19th century.”


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“Wild Justice”: A History of the Death Penalty in America

Last month, NPR’s Fresh Air featured an interview with Evan Mandery, a professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice and a former capital defense attorney, about his new book–A Wild Justice: The Death and Resurrection of Capital Punishment in America. The interview reflected the book’s title, explaining the strange and fascinating history of the death penalty in the United States. From backroom Supreme Court deals to Mandery’s argument that the death penalty is random and lacks deterrent value, this interview is worth a listen for anyone interested in the death penalty or criminal law.

Here is the introduction to the interview:

In the mid-1970s, Arkansas’ electric chair was being used by the prison barber to cut hair, and the execution chamber in New Hampshire was being used to store vegetables. That’s because in 1972, the U.S. Supreme Court shocked the nation by striking down Georgia’s death penalty law, effectively ending executions in the United States. But the decision provoked a strong backlash among those who favored the death penalty, and within four years the high court reversed course and issued a set of rulings that would permit the resumption of executions.

Evan Mandery, a professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice and a former capital defense attorney, has written a new account of the tumultuous legal and political battles over the death penalty. Mandery is sympathetic to those who tried to outlaw capital punishment, but his account focuses on attorneys for both sides in the battle, as well as the views and deliberations of the justices who decided the cases. His book is called A Wild Justice: The Death and Resurrection of Capital Punishment in America.

A Wild Justice
A Wild Justice

The Death and Resurrection of Capital Punishment in America

by Evan J. Mandery

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October 15, 2013 · 9:11 am

Feel Good Friday: Saul Goodman

Recently, NPR’s Fresh Air interviewed Bob Odenkirk who plays the most popular fictional lawyer currently on television–Saul Goodman of AMC’s Breaking Bad.

Here is a description of the interview:

“When the going gets tough, you don’t want a criminal lawyer — you want a criminal lawyer.”

That’s how meth dealer Jesse Pinkman describes the fast-talking, sleazy Saul Goodman on AMC’s Breaking Bad. Played by Bob Odenkirk, Saul knows how to bend the law, or break it, depending on his clients’ needs. He helped Walter White — a high-school chemistry teacher turned meth cooker — launder money, stay out of prison and get connected with a meth drug lord.

Now, in the final season, even Saul is scared. Walt has plenty of drug money stashed away, but he’s murdered a drug lord. Worse still, a DEA agent (who happens to be Walt’s brother-in-law) may be on to him.

Before Breaking Bad, Odenkirk was best known as the co-founder and co-star, with David Cross, of the HBO sketch-comedy series Mr. Show.

Breaking Bad begins the second half of its final season on Sunday. Odenkirk tells Fresh Air‘s Terry Gross about Saul’s comb-over, the character’s penchant for long-winded speeches, and his own thoughts on playing the most comedic character in a serious drama.

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August 16, 2013 · 11:42 pm

Less Than “Do Nothing” Congress?

Recently Fresh Air‘s Terry Gross interviewed New York Times congressional correspondent Jonathan Weisman about Congress’ coming summer recess and its inaction in the last term.  

Here is a description of the interview: 

Friday is the last day before the 113th Congress scatters for their summer recess. And what has it accomplished so far? Almost nothing, says New York Times congressional correspondent Jonathan Weisman. As he points out in a recent article:

“None of Congress’s 12 annual spending bills have reached Mr. Obama’s desk, and with the House and the Senate far apart on total spending levels, a government shutdown is possible on Oct. 1, when the current spending law expires.

“Once Congress returns on Sept. 9, lawmakers will have just nine legislative days until the current fiscal year ends and large swaths of the government would be forced to close.”

Weisman joins Fresh Air‘s Terry Gross to discuss why this Congress has passed so few laws, and explain some of the conflicts between Republican lawmakers and President Obama.

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August 2, 2013 · 11:09 am

Bioethicist and Her Quadriplegic Husband

Recently, Fresh Air‘s Terry Gross interviewed bioethicists Margaret Battin. Battin, a right to die advocate, now navigates the intersection between theory and practice has she attends to her quadriplegic husband.

Here is a description of the interview:

After writing books and essays about end-of-life issues, and advocating for the right to die, bioethicist Margaret Battin is wrestling with the issue in her own family. Her husband, Brooke Hopkins, an English professor at the University of Utah, where she also teaches, broke his neck in a bicycle accident in 2008, leaving him with quadriplegia and dependent on life support technology. In order to breathe, he requires a ventilator some of the time and a diaphragmatic pacer all the time. He receives his nutrition through a feeding tube.

Hopkins’ living will gives him the right to decline this technology, and although he’s chosen to keep living, there have been times he’s told his wife he wants to die, and she’s had to decide how literally to interpret his words.

In her academic life, Battin has also had to reflect on the positions she’s taken in the past to see if she still believes in them. She and her husband are in their early 70s. She’s a distinguished professor of philosophy and still teaches full time. When Hopkins is doing well, and not suffering from one of the many infections that have plagued him since the accident, he’s able to do some teaching from his home, talk with friends who come to visit, go in his wheelchair on walks with his wife and even occasionally get taken to a concert or museum.

Battin and Hopkins were profiled in the cover story of last Sunday’s New York Times Magazine. Battin tells Fresh Air‘s Terry Gross about what happened right after the accident, and the responsibility of deciding if someone is genuine in their wish to die.

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July 27, 2013 · 7:58 pm

John Roberts Conservative Long Game?

Recently, Terry Gross interviewed The New York Times‘ Supreme Court Correspondant, Adam Liptak, on NPR’s Fresh Air. Liptak and Gross discuss the High Court’s recent term, specifically the gay marriage cases and Liptak’s new e-book about gay rights.  Liptak also argues that Chief Justice John Roberts is playing a conservative long game, allowing liberal short term victories in order to ensure eventual conservative goals.  

Here is a description of the interview: 

Last week, the Supreme Court wrapped up its eighth term under Chief Justice John Roberts, in which it handed down historic opinions on gay marriage, the Voting Rights Act and genetic patenting. Adam Liptak, who covers the court for The New York Times, says that in the years Roberts has led the court, the chief justice’s patient and methodical approach has allowed him to establish a robustly conservative record.

“I see him planting seeds in cases where he may get a large majority, including the court’s liberal wing, to sign on to short-term victories today that could result [in] long-term losses for the left tomorrow,” Liptak tells Fresh Air‘s Terry Gross.

The most notable example of this happened just last week, Liptak says. Drawing on language all eight justices had agreed to in a Voting Rights Act case four years ago, Roberts led the court in gutting a key section of the 1965 law, which addressed voting discrimination. The decision struck down a formula that was used to determine which jurisdictions needed federal approval before changing their voting rules. That freed nine states, mostly in the South, from federal oversight and ostensibly returned the issue to Congress.

On July 9, The New York Times and Byliner will publish an e-book by Liptak calledTo Have and Uphold: The Supreme Court and the Battle for Same-Sex Marriage.

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July 4, 2013 · 12:43 pm