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Why Is This Happening? with Chris Hayes
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Why Is This Happening? with Chris Hayes

Author: Chris Hayes, MSNBC & NBCNews THINK

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Every week Chris Hayes asks the big questions that keep him up at night. How do we make sense of this unprecedented moment in world history? Why is this (all) happening?


This podcast starts to answer these questions. Writers, experts, and thinkers who are also trying to get to the bottom of them join Chris to break it all down and help him get a better night’s rest. “Why is this Happening?” is presented by MSNBC and NBCNews Think.

133 Episodes
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Did we learn the right lessons from the Iraq war? Before we can answer that, we must understand why we went into Iraq in the first place. Author and journalist Robert Draper’s new book “To Start a War” chronicles with incredibly painstaking research and reporting how the most consequential foreign policy disaster of our time came to be. Listen to him detail why 18 months after September 11th, we invaded a country that had nothing to do with the attacks, resulting in tens of thousands dead, trillions of dollars spent, and a destabilized middle East. And how tied to this legacy is an increased level of public distrust in institutions, experts, and insiders, which paved the way for the biggest outsider of them all.RELATED READING:To Start a War by Robert DraperDead Certain by Robert Draper
What does it take to keep a restaurant alive in the time of coronavirus? In March, restaurants across the country closed their doors in order to combat the spread of Covid-19. Left behind is an industry that is largely made up of small business owners scrambling to figure out how they can stay afloat. This week, Tony Bezsylko, co-owner of the local Chicago restaurant Cellar Door Provisions, sits down to talk about his passion for baking, how he started his own restaurant, and how he and his partners are managing to keep their restaurant alive in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. Cellar Door Provisions Is the Perfect Restaurant That is Positive It Could Be Better (Bon Appetit)
How did America’s modern conservative movement come to power? Historian and author Rick Perlstein’s prolific work has traced the arc of modern electoral politics, and specifically has laid out how modern conservatism arose. This week, he sits down to talk about his newest book “Reaganland” and how the ideological shifts and circumstances that lead to the 1980 election of Ronald Reagan helped set the stage for the conservative embrace of Donald Trump today.Related:Reaganland: America’s Right Turn 1976-1980 by Rick PerlsteinThe Invisible Bridge: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan by Rick PerlsteinNixonland: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America by Rick Perlstein Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus by Rick PerlsteinThe Grand Old Meltdown (Politico)
Whether it’s refrigerating your food or turning on the lights or connecting to the Internet, having access to power is what makes modern society possible. And yet, you likely have no choice in which company you get your power from. Whether the service is bad or they lobby against your own policy interests, it doesn’t matter – if you want power, you give them your money. It’s a sweet deal for those companies and, as Leah Stokes recounts in captivating detail, they’ll go to extreme lengths to ensure you remain a captive customer. So, who are these utility companies, how do they work, and what are they doing with your money? And oh, by the way, what will it take to reorganize this sector to transition to clean energy so we can continue to have a habitable planet? Lucky for us, Leah Stokes is an expert in all the above and answers all the questions you never thought to ask but absolutely need to know.RELATED READING:Short Circuiting Policy by Leah Stokes
Originally Aired April 2019Did you know there are roughly one million people currently held in internment camps in China? One million people detained against their will, facing no criminal charges, cut off from the outside world. This is the story of the Uyghurs, a small insulated ethnic minority in Western China. The predominantly Muslim group has faced growing levels of Islamophobia and paranoia from the Chinese government. Right now, roughly ten percent of the Uyghur population has been ‘disappeared’, held indefinitely in re-education camps where they are subjected to totalitarian indoctrination in an attempt to erase their identity, their language, their religion and their culture. Rian Thum, who has spent his career studying the Uyghurs, joins us to explain everything we know about the camps and how they came to be – including the prison-like surveillance state that Uyghurs outside of the camps are forced to live in.LINKSThe Sacred Routes of Uyghur History by Rian ThumHow China Turned a City Into a Prison"Eradicating Ideological Viruses”: China’s Campaign of Repression Against Xinjiang’s Muslims
Does the United States have a caste system? In her research on the Jim Crow South, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author Isabel Wilkerson found that the word ‘racism’ fell far short in capturing the depth and totality of oppression people existed under. In her powerful new book, “Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents”, Wilkerson uses caste as a lens to reexamine ourselves and the arbitrary brutality centered in the founding of America.Caste: The Origins of our Discontents by Isabel WilkersonThe Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel WilkersonHitler's American Model by James Q. WhitmanIsabel Wilkerson’s ‘Caste’ Is an ‘Instant American Classic’ About Our Abiding Sin (NYTimes)
Did Donald Trump hijack the Republican party, or is he the party’s logical conclusion? Having spent decades as a political operative putting Republicans in office, Stuart Stevens argues it’s the latter. His new book “It Was All a Lie” sifts through the party’s decades-long march that led to the election of President Trump and reckons with what remains of the Republican political project. RELATED READING:It Was All a Lie by Stuart StevensI Hope This Is Not Another Lie About the Republican Party by Stuart Stevens (NYTimes July 29)
How did wearing a mask become a polarizing issue? If you’re paying close attention, the arguments against masks might sound familiar: denying the science, cherry-picking data, cries of infringing on personal freedoms. It’s a page out of the Republican establishment’s playbook for weaponizing climate change denial. Back in 2018, Chris spoke with Vox writer David Roberts about the crisis of information cultivated by the current conservative movement and it's a conversation that seems, if possible, more relevant than ever.
Who should we be building monuments to in America? Few figures have pushed for a truly fair and equal society in this country like Frederick Douglass. A man who saw the full promise of American democracy even years before the start of the Civil War. This week Chris sits down with professor and historian David Blight to talk about his Pulitzer winning book Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom. The two discuss the life of the freed slave, orator, and writer whose words would go on to push America toward the multi-racial, multi-religious, multi-ethnic democracy that we still are striving for today. Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom“There’s a Chance to Tell a New American Story. Biden Should Seize It.”
How do you unseat a 16-term member of Congress? Ask Luke Hayes who is fresh off his role as campaign manager for Jamaal Bowman, a middle school principal poised to defeat New York Congressman Eliot Engel. Now, Luke’s here to talk about the nuts and bolts of campaigning and it absolutely doesn’t come up at all that Luke is also Chris’s younger brother. Let’s say you want to run for office – what happens next? Luke starts on day one and walks us through what your campaign needs, what your day-to-day looks like, and why Chris once punched out Luke’s front tooth.
Dr. Carl Hart wants to challenge the way you think about drugs. As a neuroscientist studying the effects drugs have on the brain, a lot of Dr. Hart's research undercuts some of the most pervasive stories we’ve been told about drugs. How much of our reaction to illicit drug use is based in the pharmacological facts versus social coding and moral judgement? And how have those narratives played into the cultural representation of drugs, the war on drugs, and how the drug market is policed? Dr. Hart draws on both research and personal experience to tease out our preconceptions of drug use and addiction and they ways they relate to things like race, poverty, and crime.RELATED LINKS“We Know How George Floyd Died. It Wasn’t From Drugs.” By Dr. Carl Hart (NYTimes June 2020)High Price by Dr. Carl HartDrug Use for Grown-Ups by Dr. Carl Hart (Available for pre-order)
As protesters across the country continue to march in the wake of the death of George Floyd, a new scrutiny has been placed on our current policing system. Public sentiment has largely swung in favor of police reform, and many would recognize that the current system is in serious need of fixing, if not broken. So, what should be the role of police in society? Brandon del Pozo has a view from the inside, having started his career in the NYPD and spending 4 years as chief of police in Burlington, Vermont. He joins Chris to talk about the limitations and serious problems within our current system and what reform could look like going forward. Watch this Protest Turn from Peaceful to Violent in 60 Seconds by Brandon del Pozo
What are you prepared to dismantle? What are you prepared to build? As we witness this nationwide reckoning on racial disparities in America, these are the questions Sherrilyn Ifill, President of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, wants us to ask ourselves. In her work, she sees how the strength of each movement is built atop the ones that have come before. It’s slow and painstaking work, but to be a participant in this country means that you must figure out your role in making change. Sherrilyn Ifill joins Chris to discuss the continued push for progress and her dogged work fighting for voting rights.
If you want to understand the conversation around abolishing the police, you should start here. We can’t think of a better time for an encore presentation of this 2019 episode with Mariame Kaba on how to radically rethink our approach to public safety and what it would look like if we got rid of the criminal justice system as we know it.What if we just got rid of prisons? The United States is the epicenter of mass incarceration – but exactly what is it we hope to get out of putting people in prisons? And whatever your answer is to that – is it working? It’s worthwhile to stop and interrogate our intentions about incarceration and whether it enacts justice or instead satisfies some urge to punish. Prison abolitionist Mariame Kaba wants us to explore some truly radical notions that force us to inspect those instincts towards punishment. Hear her dismantle what she calls the current "criminal punishment system" and instead employ the ideology of restorative justice.RELATED LINKSThe Color Complex by Kathy Russel, Midge Wilson, and Ronald HallLocking Up Our Own by James Forman JrCircles and CiphersProject NIA
If you listen to anyone about this time of rage and grief and action, make it Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist Trymaine Lee. From his origins reporting on police and crime in Philadelphia to his nights covering Ferguson in 2014 to his Emmy Award-winning work on the lasting trauma of the violence in Chicago, Lee offers a raw and insightful perspective on this national moment. Subscribe to "Into America" wherever you get your podcasts
Who thought the Electoral College was a good idea? In two of the last five presidential elections, the candidate who lost the popular vote still managed to win the White House. So why are we still electing the most powerful position this way and what are the alternatives? Jesse Wegman, author of the new book “Let the People Pick the President”, gives amazing insight into the slapdash construction of the Electoral College. Hear him make the case that the institution we ended up with is divisive and undemocratic and ought to be done away with once and for all.Let the People Pick the President: The Case for Abolishing the Electoral College by Jesse WegmanIntelligence Squared U.S.
What is the toll of becoming one of the most recognizable figures in the world? What are the downfalls of that level of fame? This week, we thought we'd try something a little different and discuss one of the most popular pieces of pop culture to come out in the era of physical distancing: ESPN's docuseries on Michael Jordan. "The Last Dance" paints a compelling portrait of the corrosive nature of fame and what's left when you get everything you want. Joel Anderson's article in Slate titled "Michael Jordan Is Exactly Who I Thought He Was" and David Roth's work recapping the series for Vulture both caught Chris' eye, so he brought them on to discuss the life and legacy of #23.RELATED LINKS:Follow David Roth on TwitterFollow Joel Anderson on TwitterListen to Joel Anderson host Season 3 of Slow Burn: Biggie and Tupac
What does education look like in the age of the coronavirus? What will it take for schools to reopen? The education system is in uncharted territory, with students isolated from their peers and guardians tasked with navigating the technological demands required by remote learning. Like everything else in this moment, there are more questions than answers about what comes next. Education reporter Dana Goldstein joins to discuss what she’s hearing from students, how other countries are adapting, and what long-term implications this disruption could have.Plus, Goldstein shares her personal story of becoming one of the first pregnant women in the country to be diagnosed with COVID. She describes the scariest moments in her battle with the disease, quarantined in her New York apartment with her husband and young daughter.RELATED READING:Read more of Dana' Goldstein's reporting hereThe Teacher Wars by Dana Goldstein
How is the pandemic playing out in jails and prisons? Insufficient health care, a lack of protective gear, and the fundamental inability to physically distance have created inescapable outbreaks. Those incarcerated are at the center of some of the top coronavirus hot spots in the country. And as lawyer and president of The Appeal Josie Duffy Rice points out, these systems are porous; an outbreak in a jail could mean an outbreak in the community. So what can and should be done for the incarcerated populations? And what broader inequities are we seeing with the criminal justice system in the midst of this pandemic?  Listen to Josie Duffy Rice to find out.
Are we doing enough to keep the economy alive through this crisis? So far, economic relief efforts have been messy, convoluted, and inequitably distributed. But while we talk about the steps taken to save the economy, we first need to know the structures in which that recovery originates. Who decides where the money goes, how are those decisions being made – and can these mechanisms be more effective? Not just in this current pandemic-induced economic contraction, but on a more permanent institutional level. How can we ensure our financial system is stable enough to weather these types of crises? After dedicating her academic career to answering these types of questions, law professor Saule Omarova joins to discuss her proposal for what that new type of institution can and should look like.RELATED READINGUnsanitized: Why We Need a National Investment Authority by Saule Omarova
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Comments (190)

Adam Schexnaydre

There is some misinformation in some of this podcast. Maybe talk to someone in the industry?

Aug 26th
Reply

Don McKinnon

like, like...like. Please learn how to speak without having to say "like" all the time. Disgusting to listen to and had to stop.

Aug 18th
Reply

Bella BabyGirl

Love Max Rose, my Husband and I voted for him last time and will be voting for him again this November!

Aug 18th
Reply

K H

Totally enlightening!

Aug 14th
Reply

Jeanne LaTerza Jordan

Thank you, Chris, for bringing this conversation to us. As a white woman, I continue to try to learn more and more about the struggles and realities of American life for Blacks. My public education left huge gaps in my understanding of the history of Africa Americans so I'm catching up.

Jul 8th
Reply

Iain Robb

great episode

Jun 16th
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Jeff B

I get the impression that they either were distracted during watching or viewed it through a bias.

May 27th
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Robert Tolbert

It would be great if you had Dan Heath on the podcast.

May 27th
Reply

Andre Pawlowski

yeah, not going to feel bad for anyone who can get whatever they want at the drop of a dime.

May 26th
Reply

Norma Powell Byron

Dr. Omarova lays out truly enlightened and well-conceived thinking to recreate and improve modern investment and banking. Wow.

May 23rd
Reply

Hamish Lamont

Superb interview. I immediately grabbed the book on Audible.

May 13th
Reply

Nellie Fly

Jon is so listenable. I dig his voice and style. I'd like to see a deep dive into why boy-wonder speechwriters, advisers, pundits are all Jesuit-educated! Is it just me? Get David Brooks' people on the blower😆🤙

May 8th
Reply

Laurie Holcomb

I have been witnessing at the border for several months, until the pandemic forced us to suspend. This needs to be a national conversation. Everything you and your guests have stated was what we already new. Mass deportations continue. People have now been transported to the southern Mexican border to start their journeys back to the countries from which they fled. Hyperbole aside, this is almost certain death for the majority of the folks.

Mar 26th
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Michael Kennedy

Really like your Podcast. I quit listening for while because I couldn't take how you use my Lord Jesus name in vain. I just thought maybe I'd try the Podcast again and I listened to your latest podcast and you did it again. Please respect all your listeners views (beliefs) and conduct yourself as you would on your TV show and it's podcast. Please refrain from that kind of talk, I'm sure I'm not the only listener that considers that language offensive. Thank You

Mar 22nd
Reply (1)

Sasha Anne Lyn

I REALLY hope Michael Lewis writes the 26 part HBO series on this disaster POTUS.

Mar 19th
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Lila Klopfenstein

Chris Hayes keeps interrupting....c'mon man let the man talk!

Mar 17th
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Proskuneo

Amazing conversation Chris, as a Christian I really appreciate your understanding attitude and gracious tone

Feb 12th
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Tatyana Noyb

I know little about sports, but have been thinking the revisit of what happened to Kaepernick is lost in the onslaught of news about desentigration of America. Thanks, this was insightful. Racism is the foundational element.. Was listening to Moore's podcast on MLK on Monday....racism, militarism, and economic injustice, pillars of capitalism. But only in the dark one can see the stars. Let's dream big.

Jan 23rd
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scott daiss

great podcast.

Jan 19th
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Sasha Anne Lyn

How do you measure that? We measure you by your actions which have supported the worst version of the United States of America. Blaming troubled immigrants for struggling under a wealthy-for-the-few political parties policies is decidedly unchristian. It makes me wonder what version of Jesus these people have in their hearts? It must be the version that looks just like them. If anything, everyone I know and everyone they know has lost all respect for Evangelicals. All.

Jan 19th
Reply
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