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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.

122 Episodes
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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
Why are African Americans getting hit the hardest by the coronavirus? In part, this public health crisis is shining a light on the ramifications of policies and politics rooted in the legacy of racism. And what’s interesting, and what Heather McGhee is writing about for her upcoming book, is the way these racially motivated politics end up creating bad economic policy overall, producing a government that makes everyone worse off. So while we watch scenes of people lining up for miles to get groceries from food banks and hear about unemployed Americans struggling within a broken system to receive some kind of financial relief, Heather McGhee joins to discuss the true cost of a racially divided nation.RELATED LINKSThe Sum of Us by Heather McGhee (available for Pre-order)Watch Heather McGhee's TED talk "Racism has a cost for everyone"Listen to Heather McGhee's call with Gary from North CarolinaHear the volcano suggestion Chris Hayes received on airYOU MIGHT ALSO LIKEWhite Identity Politics with Michael TeslerDying of Whiteness with Jonathan Metzl
Something remarkable is happening. While we must be physically isolated, separated from the world and those we love, people are finding creative ways to reach out and foster community. From sewing masks for strangers to singing with your neighbors to organizing virtual family meals, acts of generosity and grace are breaking through what can feel like an insurmountable darkness. Author Rebecca Solnit spent time studying the aftermath of tragedies like September 11th and Hurricane Katrina for her book, "A Paradise Built in Hell". She found that people often responded to these monumental moments of collective trauma with solidarity, courage, and a drive to make change for the better. RELATED READING:A Paradise Built in Hell by Rebecca SolnitRecollections of My Nonexistence by Rebecca Solnit'The impossible has already happened': what coronavirus can teach us about hope by Rebecca Solnit (The Guardian, Apr 7 2020)
There are still more questions than answers about COVID-19. While the impacts of the virus are felt in every corner of human life, there’s a desire to find a neat and clean explanation for how things got to this point. This search for causality creates an environment ripe for the spread of misinformation – conspiracy theories, premature conclusions, incomplete data-  and it’s crucial to learn how to think critically about the stories being told. We invited biology professor Carl Bergstrom, author of the forthcoming book “Calling Bullshit: The Art of Skepticism in a Data-Driven World”, to talk about what we do and don’t know, what the experts are debating over, and what it means to have the first ever quarantine in the age of the internet. Come for the lesson on thinking critically about data, stay to hear about the shrimp who love to punch.RELATED:Calling Bullshit: The Art of Skepticism in a Data-Driven World by Carl Bergstrom (available for pre-order)Follow Carl Bergstrom on TwitterGo to CallingBullshit.org
What did we learn from the last great pandemic? You don’t have to dig deep into the 1918 influenza before finding eerie similarities to today – be it the White House downplaying the severity of the virus or the social distancing measures recommended by public health officials. Author John M. Barry’s meticulously researched account of the 1918 pandemic in his book “The Great Influenza” was so affecting that it inspired then President George W. Bush to develop a comprehensive pandemic plan after reading it. There’s no one better to discuss the similarities and differences to what played out a century ago – and the far reaching reverberations this moment will have – than John M. Barry.RELATED READING:The Great Influenza by John M. BarryThe Single Most Important Lesson From the 1918 Influenza by John M. Barry
WARNING: This episode discusses violence in war, suicide, depression and drug use.By the time he was 21-years-old, Thomas Burke Jr. had experienced enough trauma for a lifetime. After enlisting in the Marine Corps straight of high school, his deployments exposed him to horrors that dragged him down into what felt like an inescapable darkness. His journey is filled with pain and grief, struggles with depression and addiction, and attempts of taking his own life. He emerged from those depths a pastor, and a fierce advocate for veterans fighting the same battles he did. This is the story of what happened to an 18-year-old sent overseas – and the changed man who came back.RELATEDListen to our episode Facing Trauma with Jason KanderWatch the Trailer for Combat Obscura
As the coronavirus pandemic spreads, we know that there are marginalized groups that are exposed. Those migrants seeking asylum at the southern border are one of those exposed groups, and face even more danger in part due to the Trump administration’s immigration policies. These are policies that are intended to close off the country and deter those who are lawfully seeking asylum. This conversation with Bridget Cambria and Tobias Barrington Wolff about this administration’s policies and the case of a particular family that they represent was recorded prior to the heights of the pandemic that we now live in. It illustrates the hardships that asylum seekers face against a system that is actively working against them, and it is evidence of why they are now more vulnerable than ever. 
Amidst the coronavirus pandemic, the federal government’s catastrophically inadequate response, and the uncertainty that hangs over us all as a result, Chris decided to do something a little different this week. He wanted to revisit a conversation that feels extremely relevant and prescient right now given the state of the country. Prolific nonfiction author Michael Lewis, the man behind “The Big Short” and “Moneyball”, wrote an amazing account of what happens when the keys to the White House are handed over to people who have no idea what they’re doing. Now more than ever, it’s important to hear not only about the Trump administration’s attacks on crucial federal agencies, but also about what becomes of the dedicated civil servants trying to keep the government – and country – running. RELATED READING:The Fifth Risk by Michael Lewis
In April of 1986 a nuclear accident occurred at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in the then Soviet Union. The fallout from the accident and the Soviet government’s response compounded into one of the worst manmade disasters of the nuclear era. In his masterful work of nonfiction, Midnight In Chernobyl, Adam Higginbotham weaves together the stories of the individuals and systems that contributed to the creation of one of the worst disasters in human history. It is not only a sharp eyed and empathetic look at Chernobyl, but it is a particularly timely story about all the things that fall together to create disaster.RELATED READING:Midnight in Chernobyl: The Untold Story of the World’s Greatest Nuclear Disaster by Adam HigginbothamSeeing Like a State by James C. Scott“How the Coronavirus Revealed Authoritarianism’s Fatal Flaw” by Zeynep Tufekci
Enes Kanter is a wanted man in his home country of Turkey. He’s long been a vocal critic of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and it’s come at a high cost. At 6′ 10″, Kanter also happens to play for the Boston Celtics in the NBA. How he came to sit at this intersection is a riveting story, one that involves an NBA draft at age 19, a failed coup d'état, and a system of retribution by the Turkish government that targets not only Kanter but the family he left behind.YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE:The Uneven Playing Field with Howard Bryant (Jan 24)
The future of our courts will be decided in the 2020 election. While the Trump administration grabs headlines with scandal after scandal, gaffe after gaffe, behind the scenes they are quietly chipping away at their central agenda of reshaping the courts. It’s a transformation happening at an historic rate, where one in four circuit judges is now a Trump appointee. They’ve already flipped the balance of the Supreme Court to a 5-4 conservative majority. If given another four years, Donald Trump would lock down the federal judiciary for decades to come. Senior legal correspondent for Slate Dahlia Lithwick has reported on all of this. From the President’s affinity for using the courts as a weapon to the changed dynamic of the Supreme Court in the wake Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation, Lithwick documents what the rule of law looks like in the Trump years. Listen as we discuss exactly what’s at stake this November.RELATED:Why I Haven’t Gone Back to SCOTUS Since Kavanaugh by Dahlia LithwickTrump’s Lawyers’ Impeachment Defense Will Reshape the Office of the President by Dahlia LithwickWhy Trump's Lawyers Should Talk Like Lawyers by Kate ShawSPEECH, INTENT, AND THE PRESIDENT by Kate ShawPlaintiff in Chief: A Portrait of Donald Trump in 3,500 Lawsuits by James ZirinYOU MIGHT ALSO LIKEThe Meaning of Impeachment with Kate Shaw (Jan 6)Trans Rights with Chase Strangio (Sept 23, 2019)The Rule Of Law in the Era of Trump with Kate Shaw (May 22, 2018)Separating Immigrant Families with Lee Gelernt (June 5, 2018)
"What if you were a man, sort of?" In his new memoir, author Daniel M. Lavery remembers how, in the early days of his transition, he would say it was as if a demon ambushed him in the night, whispered this question into his ear, and then disappeared without another word. It was an immediate and instantaneous revelation, but also exceptionally vague on what was supposed to happen next. "Something That May Shock and Discredit You" (published under Daniel Mallory Ortberg - he got married!) is a sprawling collection of essays, pop culture pulls, comedic historical re-tellings, and personal reflections on Lavery's life as a transgender man. It is equal parts hilarious, poignant, weird and beautiful, jumping from the Rapture to transition to Mean Girls to sobriety and then over to Marcus Aurelius, for good measure. Together they form an evocative and personal look at Lavery's own journey, and what happens when you stop letting "I dare not" wait upon "I dare".RELATED READING:Something That May Shock and Discredit You
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Comments (185)

Iain Robb

great episode

Jun 16th
Reply

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

Thehubangie

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
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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
Reply

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
Reply

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
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Tatyana Noyb

I was so happy there was that editorial. Aside of it...Chris gets to remind Mark that Jesus would've helped the homeless. Laughing all along of the role reversal obserdity. Mark gets to talk about Mexicans in racist ways because someone of course should identify nationality when they think others took their jobs, and it's OK as long as they explain their anger reason. Can't even... But the wall is bad. Yes, this helps understanding of a whole lot..

Jan 15th
Reply

Diane Thompson

terrific discussion...thanks much to Chris and Mark Galli...i was one of those Christians who was SO thankful for that article

Jan 14th
Reply (1)

hamptonsjoy

Thank you, Kerry Howley & Chris Hayes for keeping #RealityWinner in the press. Based on what I know, I feel that there are certain things that you got wrong but given the lifetime gag rules that have been put on Reality & her family, this is the best that could be expected. It truly amazes me that people make comments like she broke the rules etc when Flynn was literally committing treason while he was in office & he is getting 6 mos. Better yet, an admitted foreign agent (a spy) working for Russia, Maria Butina, served 6 mos & was returned home to a heroes welcome. And, don't even get me started on Manafort, who literally DID get the Ukrainian president's political opponent " locked up". Something is really wrong w/ the people willing to be so incredibly harsh w/ Reality for alerting us to Russian interference in our elections but so lenient w/ people like Flynn, Butina, Manafort, Papadopoulos & Carter Page. It also truly amazes me that there is not more of a push to get justice for Reality. For more information, please check out https://standwithreality.org/

Jan 13th
Reply

Tatyana Noyb

Meanwhile all the traitors, old white men, are walking around cheerfully and expecting pardons. Ridiculous. "Double standard" doesn't begin to describe the injustice. :( I signed the petition.

Jan 8th
Reply (1)

Bart Stavisky

I understand completely the situation but she broke the oath to the United States of America which she took. What she did was wrong.

Jan 8th
Reply (2)
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