Planet Money – We Cooked a Peacock

Planet Money – The Cost of Crossing

Planet Money – Buy this Passport

99% Invisible – The Giftschrank

giftschrank-displaysOnce again, 99% Invisible does a remarkable job showing the importance of design. Listening to a lot of ‘conspiracy’ and true crime podcasts can make one feel paranoid, like (to quote the title of a well know podcast) there is stuff they don’t want you to know. However, in Germany there is such a thing as the Giftschrank. Following a copy of Adolf Hitler’s book Mein Kampf, 99% Invisible talks about the vault in the library of Munich houses the copy.

We in America both celebrate the notion of Free Speech and fear it. We defend it and attack it. In Germany, there is an idea that one must study dangerous ideas to understand them to make sure that they can never happen again. This shows the power of ideas. However, such ideas are still dangerous. Therefore, they are allowed to be studied, but only under careful supervision; that is why they are locked up in the Giftschrank.

Skeptoid – Holocaust Denial

Historical denial is one of the most frustrating things about teaching history. While much of what I personally deal with is mundane, more along the lines of “my mom/granddad always told me…,” some of it is truly more malicious.

Holocaust Denial and the bigger Zionist Conspiracy crowd represent a racist line of thinking that is, unfortunately, still more prevalent than I would like to admit. From Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who uses the denial of the Holocaust to attack Israel and get votes (which works better each time the Israelis attack Palestinians or move them), to general American white supremacists and conspiracy mongers.

While this episode of Skeptoid is aimed primarily at Holocaust Denial, a lot of what Brian Dunning describes can be used with almost any form of historical denial.

Between the Liner Notes – Extinguish Lights

Between the Liner Notes is a fantastic podcast on the history of music, with an eye toward storytelling (like 99% Invisible or Radio Lab). In an effort to find the origins of the soundtrack to everyday life, it has followed the origins and stories of acts like Tiny Tim to the song Happy Birthday and the legal implications of it. This story is a good one for many reasons, but first and foremost the idea of this soundtrack of life.

In an almost subliminal way, the bugle calls of the military invoke certain thoughts. If there is a military scene in a movie or show, their absence is more noticeable than their presence. I live near an Air Force base and I can hear the bugle calls on the PA system and they work on me as well as when they were used at scout camp (except that year when the older scouts used a mixture of the songs “Buddy Holly” by Weezer and “Pepper” by the Butthole Surfers to wake us).

The ubiquitous “Extinguish Lights” is the bugle call for the end of the day and played as the casket is lowered into ground during a military funeral. Between the Liner Notes tracks it down.

On the Media – Ghosts


On this, the anniversary of the dropping of the Atomic Bomb, I am sharing the On the Media episode from May when President Obama visited Nagasaki to deliver an address at the Memorial and to place a wreath. As you can imagine, as every subtle thing with Obama, this became a political hot potato.

The fact that President Truman dropped two atomic bombs, one on Hiroshima on August 6th and one on Nagasaki on August 9th in 1945, in an attempt to accelerate the end of World War II is known, but whether or not it should have been done how it was, where it was, and why it was is still debated. Around the world there is much debate around a lot of this decision. While we were the only nation to use nuclear weapons during war on an enemy nation, many nations have used it as a threat, like India and Pakistan who test on each other’s border, North Korea, to threaten the South, and of course the Chinese, Soviets, French, British, and us who used them to raise the stakes of the Cold War. Even this, though, is not the end to the nuclear frustration.

While Israel still does not admit to testing nuclear weapons despite other nations reporting detecting them, legends of missing Soviet nukes, Iranian deals, and slow disarmament in the era of international terrorism have raised tensions.  The effects on ending the war are even denied by large bits of the world with China denying any support in the defeat of Japan and Japan refusing to acknowledge any wrongdoing,  war crimes, or Josef Mengele-like experiments on the Chinese at Unit 731, to the point of the Prime Minister worshiping at a shrine to war criminals.

In this moment, Obama placed a wreath at Hiroshima. I added the hole episode, but I submitted it for part one.

More Perfect – Baker v. Carr (1962)

maxresdefaultThe podcast More Perfect is a Supreme Court podcast helmed by Jad Abumrad of Radio Lab. Inspired by a Radio Lab story on the legal implications of a difficult birth and personhood, he is running this mini-series on the courts. They are filled with the same interesting stories and grey area that Radio Lab is known for. Though the first episode is good, the later have found their stride.

In the simplest terms, Baker v. Carr, 369 U.S. 186 (1962), was a landmark United States Supreme Court case that allows the federal courts to intervene in redistricting and voting cases. This overturned decades of cases that declared that such moves by the courts are attempts to answer political questions, which is what the defendants argued. However, the implications of this, like most major supreme court cases, is overwhelming.

While teaching AP US History and US Government back in the day, I always made sure that the students knew Baker v. Carr, I had never really grasped the implications of it so distinctly as this podcast does.

Planet Money – Larry vs. The IRS

As the elections approach and discourse becomes more and more conspiracy oriented, I wanted to post an older podcast from Planet Money. Since the Federal Government started collecting taxes (the beginning) there has been tax protesters, from the Whiskey and Shay’s Rebellions to the modern legal protester. This episode of Planet Money takes us through some of the historical tax tricks and protests, but mainly focuses on current legal precedent by following one story of a tax evader, but also many of the court cases of tax issues from which flag is flying and more.

The Dollop – The Occupation of Alcatraz

There are a lot of important and interesting stories in history that I know exist, but I don’t fully know. Most of my academic studies have been based around large themes, movements of people and a few key events and figures which time them together and catalyze them. This allows me to contextualize events into the bigger picture. However, the value of this in a survey course is sometimes difficult.

As part of the greater Civil Rights Movement of the 1950’s and 60’s, other groups became mobilized. Women’s groups, Hispanic groups, Gay Rights groups, Environmental groups, all come together during the era and follow the non-violent protest and legal jurisprudence model that the Civil Rights Movement did. Part of the era is the Red Movement, a movement of Native Americans that were fed up with the alcoholism, drug abuse, and general treatment of the Natives on the Reservations.

This part of the movement I talk about in my survey every year, the tensions between the various classes of the groups in play, the urge of the assimilated to stay in the white middle class and the desire of the politically mobilized to strike, all ending with the triumphant metaphor of being pushed off of the continent all together and seizing Alcatraz.  That, at least, was the story I told my classes. However, once again, the Dollop has taught a better lesson, from economics, to politics, to why hippies ruin everything.