Behind every news headline, there’s another, deeper story. It’s a story about power. In Deep Background, Harvard Law School professor and Bloomberg View columnist Noah Feldman will bring together a cross-section of expert guests to explore the historical, scientific, legal, and cultural context that help us understand what’s really going on behind the biggest stories in the news.iHeartMedia is the exclusive podcast partner of Pushkin Industries.
Noah Riffs: The January 6th Committee
In this week's episode, Noah discusses the differences between congressional commissions and select committees and explains how they will impact the the ongoing January 6th Select Committee.
Nikole Hannah-Jones on the Power of The 1619 Project
Nikole Hannah-Jones is a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, a staff writer for the New York Times, a MacArthur Genius, and the creator of The 1619 Project. In this conversation, Noah and Hannah-Jones dive deep into the myth of journalistic and historical “objectivity.” They also discuss the intense political and social criticism of The 1619 Project.
Power in Publishing with Chris Jackson
Chris Jackson, publisher and editor-in-chief of Random House’s One World imprint, discusses the new literary movement he’s building with writers like Bryan Stevenson, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Nikole Hannah-Jones and Ibram X. Kendi. Jackson explains the power and perils of challenging the dominant narrative.
Noah Riffs: Court Packing
Noah talks about his work with President Biden's commission on court reform and when court packing is justified.
Introducing our new, subscriber-exclusive bonus content, “Noah Riffs.” Every other week, we’re releasing bonus episodes where Noah dives deep into a topic from the news. This summer on Noah Riffs, Noah analyzes Supreme Court rulings. In this first episode, Noah explains the implications of the SCOTUS case that could effectively overturn Roe v. Wade.
These episodes will be available via PushNik, our new subscription program on Apple Podcasts. To listen to these bonus episodes, visit our show page in Apple Podcasts and start your free trial.
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Vitalik Buterin’s Plan for Legitimating Crypto
Vitalik Buterin, co-founder of the blockchain Ethereum, argues that cryptocurrency’s scarcest resource is legitimacy. Ethereum is the second-largest blockchain ecosystem, making Buterin one of the most influential individuals in the cryptocurrency world. Buterin and Noah delve deep into the nature of legitimacy, social contracts, and what they mean for the reliability of cryptocurrency and the blockchain.
Amazon and Inequality
Overall, I love Deep Background. So much of our daily news diet is superficial, and Noah Feldman really digs into a topic and asks very insightful questions of his guests. His multi-part episode series “Deep Bench” on the rise of the Federalist Society was fascinating and revealing.
The rest of this review is feedback on a specific episode.
Because the overall quality is so high, that’s why I was disappointed in his recent episode on “Amazon and Inequality”. I’ll bring up two examples of why this episode left me feeling uninformed. Amazon is many businesses: a retailer; an advertising agency (one of the 5 largest in the world); a cloud hosting provider (AWS); and a logistics provider.
Most of the focus of the episode was on the last, emphasizing the dehumanizing nature of the work. But when talking about alternatives, the suggestion was buying from other vendors such as local physical bookstores. Those books aren’t walking to those bookstores by themselves; there are logistics networks of warehouses and trucks that provide fulfillment to all those stores too. Are the workers in those warehouses notably better off than Amazon warehouse workers? I don’t know, and the show didn’t explore that at all. So I’m left wondering is Amazon being used as a way to explain a broader problem (logistics industry mistreats workers), or is it really just Amazon? Is it the nature of highly vertically integrated businesses to be like this? What about Walmart, another large, vertically integrated retailer?
The second thesis is that Amazon (and tech companies in general) are increasing regional inequality by where they choose to locate their operations. Amazon doesn’t see like an ideal candidate for making this argument: even though they have a large tech workforce, that must be dwarfed by the number of employees in their logistics operations (warehouses, delivery). Hasn’t Amazon been building and opening warehouses all over the country to be closer to their customers to reduce delivery times? Wouldn’t that actually be creating new employment opportunities in many more places?
Similarly, the pandemic has resulted in many tech and other knowledge workers who can work from home to relocate from expensive, crowded centers like Silicon Valley or Seattle and move to other areas of the country, including the midwest. How would that trend affect the author’s thesis?
I haven’t read the book so perhaps author Alec MacGillis makes this all clear. But the interview left me more confused than informed.
Thank you for this interview. Greatly appreciated.
Regarding Palestinian and/or Arabs and/or Israelis…
Terrific episode! Just one bone to pick. Noah talked about Hamas launching “a handful of rockets.” It is my understanding that Hamas launched hundreds to thousands of rockets. Hardly a handful, if true?