Uncertain Things

By Uncertain Things

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Description

Everything is broken. Adaam James Levin-Areddy and Vanessa M. Quirk, two jaded journos, interview people far wiser than themselves and ask: "now what?"

uncertain.substack.com

Episode Date
On Honor and Justice (w/ Tamler Sommers)
6177
Tamler Sommers, philosopher and co-host of Very Bad Wizards, joins us just a few days after the insurrection on the Capitol to explain how we got here (spoiler alert: liberalism's over-emphasis on individualism and dignity seriously failed us). He also walks us through some of the controversial arguments in his book — Why Honor Matters — and describes the ways in which honor cultures actually have a lot to teach us (especially in these crazy Covid times) about courage, community, and responsibility.

On the agenda:

Diagnosing Trump's army

Honor: What is it?

Honor v. Religion (see: our interviews w/ Tom Holland and Tomer Persico)

Anti-Maskers: Freedom fighters or Trump tribalists?

Honor's bad rap

What Liberalism Has Wrought — Mass Incarceration

Conflict Resolution in Honor Cultures

Restorative Justice in Theory (See “Can Forgiveness Play A Role in Criminal Justice?” and “Conflicts as Property”)

Vaccine envy, just desserts, and other American depravities

Restorative Justice in Action (Tamler’s inspirations: ”Forgiveness in Justice” & “Conflicts as Property”)

Interrupting violence with honor (and a cameo from The Godfather)

Safety, risk, and damned bicycle helmets

On Covid theater and authoritarian control

Tamler's beef with philosophy

Find us on Apple PodcastsSpotifyPodcast Addict, and Stitcher. Follow @UncertainPod on your social media of choice.

Uncertain Things is hosted and produced by Adaam James Levin-Areddy and Vanessa M. Quirk. For more doomsday thoughts, subscribe to: uncertain.substack.com.

Get on the email list at uncertain.substack.com
Jan 12, 2021
How to Steal Wealth From Workers — With the Best of Intentions (w/ Zohar Goshen)
5500
Columbia University Law Professor Zohar Goshen joins to discuss his provocative new theory about the root causes of American income inequality. His upcoming publication (co-authored with Prof. Doron Levit) goes beyond the traditional explanations — globalization, automation, taxation — and pushes against a few of Wall Street’s sacred bulls. He also puts forth a pretty nifty solution — one that will never, ever happen, of course.

Find us on Apple PodcastsSpotifyPodcast Addict, and Stitcher. Follow @UncertainPod on your social media of choice.

On the agenda:

Corporate Governance 101 [6:29]

Born in the 80s: shareholder primacy and income inequality [13:25]

The conventional inequality explanations [19:10]

What went wrong: the pension problem [27:56]

Strong governance is good [37:25]

Strong governance is bad (the Steve Jobs story) [39:38]

The consequences: Capital gains, workers' loss [46:25]

Why changing corporations won't work [1:01:01]

The big break up we need - and is never gonna happen [1:07:42]

The 2008 financial crisis vs today's [1:16:03]

On ESG - Let's rethink that G [1:25:50]

Get on the email list at uncertain.substack.com
Jan 04, 2021
Post-Colonial Absurdities, Post-Caste Delusions (w/ Yashica Dutt)
6129
Indian journalist Yashica Dutt joins us to talk about her memoir, Coming out as Dalit, where she details her journey from rejecting and hiding her "lower-caste" status to embracing it and advocating for Dalit rights. Weaving between Yashica's personal story and India's political history, we cover everything from pre-colonial inequalities, colonial atrocities, post-colonial absurdities, and current-day injustices (from India to Silicon Valley). Oh, and we get Yashica's not-hot take on Isabel Wilkerson's book, too.

Find us on Apple PodcastsSpotifyPodcast Addict, and Stitcher. Follow @UncertainPod on your social media of choice.

On the agenda:

Hiding my caste and "passing" [7:17]

Reservation and its discontents [21:42]

The absurdities of post-colonial studies [29:13]

Gandhi, not a great guy [39:34]

The backlash to progressive values [52:30]

The conversation about caste vs. race [1:09:09]

Casteism in Silicon Valley [1:22:43]

Isabel Wilkerson's Americanized lens [1:29:09]

Coming out as Dalit [1:35:38]

Uncertain Things is hosted and produced by Adaam James Levin-Areddy and Vanessa M. Quirk. For more doomsday thoughts, subscribe to: uncertain.substack.com

Get on the email list at uncertain.substack.com
Dec 20, 2020
Why Anti-Racism Trainings Fail (w/ Chloé Valdary)
5837
Chloé Valdary is a paragon of paradox — an identity she relishes in. She gained notoriety for creating The Theory of Enchantment (originally a curriculum for young students, now an alternative to corporate Anti-Racism trainings) and for her heroic (yes, heroic!) ability to maintain nuance and compassion on Twitter (yes, it is possible). Chloé tells Adaam and Vanessa how she pivoted her company in the wake of George Floyd's murder this summer, describes her complicated relationship to critical race theory, and tries to convince Adaam that the human spirit will, indeed, endure this dumpster fire of a moment.

Find us on Apple PodcastsSpotifyPodcast Addict, and Stitcher. Follow @UncertainPod on your social media of choice.

For more sanity, follow Chloé on Twitter: @CValdary. If you’re interested in diving into the human condition, consider enrolling in The Theory of Enchantment, or visit her homepage to learn more.

On the agenda:

Born and raised in a state of paradox [7:10]

The Enlightenment and its promise [12:01]

Disenchantment v. Enchantment [15:17]

The pivot to anti-racism training (and becoming oppositional to critical race theory) [21:09]

Power corrupts, twitter power corrupts absolutely [45:39']

When Biden won, the conversation changed [56:10]

On empathy [1:06:50]

The inevitable ends of CRT and cancel culture [1:14:57]

Israel through the American lens [1:27:21]

Massive convergence [1:33:30]

Uncertain Things is hosted and produced by Adaam James Levin-Areddy and Vanessa M. Quirk. For more doomsday thoughts, subscribe to: uncertain.substack.com

Get on the email list at uncertain.substack.com
Dec 14, 2020
Why Empathy's Bad — And Suffering Hurts So Good (w/ Paul Bloom)
5832
Nothing says Christmas is coming like a conversation about dehumanization, moral fuzziness, and the evils of empathy! Moral psychologist Paul Bloom joins us for a fascinating conversation on the above — and even gives us a sneak peek of his new book (coming out next year). And, because this is Uncertain Things after all, there are some fun tangents on Trump, Hitler, and atheism, too.

Find us on Apple PodcastsSpotifyPodcast Addict, and Stitcher. Follow @UncertainPod on your social media of choice.

On the agenda:

Suffering — and why we like it [6:12]

On morals, atheists, and envy [19:48]

Cognitive empathy and the future schools of Trump studies [30:51]

The perils of emotional empathy [35:37]

Journalism: a fundamentally immoral pursuit? [44:01]

Stigma wanted [52:53]

The Empathy defense [59:00]

Inside the dehumanizer's mind [1:06:25]

The objective objection [1:18:15]

Moral fuzziness, clear polarization [1:28:58]

Adam Smith, wise virgin [1:34:09]

Paul Bloom’s books Against Empathy and Just Babies are widely available and highly recommended. You can also follow him on Twitter: @PaulBloomAtYal.

Uncertain Things is hosted and produced by Adaam James Levin-Areddy and Vanessa. For more doomsday thoughts, subscribe to: uncertain.substack.com

Get on the email list at uncertain.substack.com
Dec 07, 2020
Art: WTF Happened? (w/ Ken Goshen)
6652
Listen now | To celebrate Thanksgiving weekend, we talk to classical artist, art educator, and friend of the pod Ken Goshen. We go deep into art history, tracing where it all started to go so terribly wrong, spend too much time hating on Koontz (but loving on Warhol), and discuss how Instagram and social media is changing the art world — potentially for the better.

Get on the email list at uncertain.substack.com
Nov 29, 2020
Chomsky, Katy Perry, and the Algorithm God (w/ Adam Neely)
6180
Listen now (103 min) | YouTube music educator Adam Neely joins us for an oh so welcome respite from politics (sorta). We talk about the importance of storytelling (and click-bait) in YouTube creation; music theory's relationship to white supremacy; the relationship between music, language, and culture; and the absurdity of copyright. And make sure to listen to the end, when Adam takes us along on a mini journey of music creation.

Get on the email list at uncertain.substack.com
Nov 18, 2020
Time to Talk About Secession? (w/ David French)
4060
David French — senior editor of The Dispatch, conservative evangelical, never Trumper, and really nice guy — joins us the day after the election to discuss his new book "Divided We Fall: America's Secession Threat and How to Restore Our Nation." We discuss the reasons why we're so painfully divided, unpack how secessions of yore unfolded, and speculate on the chilling scenarios that could lead to secessions in the not-so-distant future.

And as a bonus (because we’ve all be through a lot this week) we check in on a few past guests — Katie Herzog, Robby Soave, Tomer Persico, and Misha Thomas — to get their post-election day thoughts.

If you haven’t already, please subscribe to Uncertain Things wherever you get your podcasts.

Find us on Apple PodcastsSpotifyPodcast Addict, and Stitcher. Follow @UncertainPod on your social media of choice.

On the agenda:

[4:47] Why David’s mad at himself today

[8:22] The SCOTUS election pattern

[11:00] David French in a nutshell

[13:00] “I went to Iraq, and then I saw what a real enemy was.”

[17:00] The power of testimony

[21:30] Never on the Trump train

[24:33] The Big Sort

[29:02] How gun rights took off

[32:55] Mind the Overton window gap

[33:54] The path to secession (Fake news, 1861 style)

[37:42] Offensive language vs. Dysentery blankets

[38:09] The different demographics of illiberal tendencies

[41:50] What fundamentalists and the radical left have in common

[45:06] A Tale of Two Secessions

[49:52] Each side’s competing narratives of grievance

[53:43] Our doom spiral of escalation

[55:10] Some familiar characters

[56:22] How to embrace pluralism

[1:00:18] An Election Day montage

Uncertain Things is hosted and produced by Vanessa M. Quirk and Adaam James Levin-Areddy. For more doomsday thoughts, subscribe to uncertain.substack.com

Get on the email list at uncertain.substack.com
Nov 05, 2020
Biased Journos, Young Radicals, and Pre-Election Spooks (w/ Robby Soave)
4242
Listen now (70 min) | Reason Magazine senior editor Robby Soave is known for exposing the biases and blindspots of the media. In his book Panic Attack: Young Radicals at the Age of Trump he follows the growing trends of illiberalism in America. In preparation for Nov. 3 madness, we talked about media bias, monopolies, the dangers of revoking Section 230, and — of course — the nightmare that is the 2020 elections...

Get on the email list at uncertain.substack.com
Oct 31, 2020
The Liberal Who Voted for Trump (w/ Misha Thomas)
7821
Listen now (130 min) | Our favorite ex-evangelical Misha Thomas returns to the pod to talk pre-election jitters — and drops a bombshell on us unsuspecting hosts. What follows is perhaps our most honest (and hopefully disarming) conversation yet. If you haven’t already, please subscribe to Uncertain Things wherever you get your podcasts or here: uncertain.substack.com.

Get on the email list at uncertain.substack.com
Oct 26, 2020
You Can Be a Dictator, Too (w/ Bruce Bueno de Mesquita & Alastair Smith)
4588
Ten years ago, NYU political scientists Bruce Bueno de Mesquita and Alastair Smith wrote "The Dictator's Handbook," which posited that all political leaders — from autocrats to democratically-elected officials — are governed by an uncomfortably similar set of rules and incentives. We thought now’s the perfect time to take a fresh look at their model and re-learn the dos and don’ts of political power. We discuss the Trump presidency, the Electoral College, voter fraud, jolly old Putin, and a variety of delectable topics to get you revved up and ready for election day.

If you haven’t already, please join our coalition of essentials by subscribing to Uncertain Things here (or wherever you get your podcasts).

[5:55] The basic principles of the theory

[13:00] Democracies & Dictatorships, a sliding scale

[19:56] It’s a mess, but we’re course-correcting

[23:05] The problem with the Electoral College (it’s not what you think)

[29: 21] All leaders want to shrink their coalition (on gerrymandering, sore loser laws, and Tanzania)

[33:05] The people push back

[35:25] How vote fraud actually happens

[37:45] On social media (the information/disinformation arms race)

[49:21] Universities are not democracies

[54:46] Which companies win, which commit fraud

[1:00:31] What we get wrong about foreign aid (the Petro-State Problem}

[1:006:31] The liberalizing myth

[1:08:44] The issue with inequity in democracy

[1:14:00] A Yang gang post-script

Get on the email list at uncertain.substack.com
Oct 19, 2020
The Revolt Is Justified (w/ Nadav Eyal)
4377
Israeli journalist Nadav Eyal brings an outsider’s eye to American politics (or as he puts it, a perspective from” an outpost of the empire”). Adaam James Levin-Areddy and Vanessa Quirk ask about his new book, Revolt (out in Hebrew here, out in English soon); about what Trump got right and the media got wrong; and what it means to live in a radical moment.

If you haven’t already — please subscribe here (or wherever you get your podcast).

[0:40] An unsolicited window into Adaam & Vanessa’s domestic life

[3:30] Nadav’s career in a nutshell

[4:40] Into Trumpland

[6:00] The first (and weakest) horseman of the apocalypse

[10:40] Standing up to China

[13:30] Amateur Hour at the White House

[16:00] Obama-phoria & the pendulum swing

[17:00] Nick Griffin, a dreadful man with a grasp on reality

[22:50] The failures of the Obama administration

[24:20] Back into Trumpland

[26:20] What a globalist is

[34:02] Nationalism and an empire in retreat

[36:30] The revolt is a sentiment, not an ideology (Or Molotov cocktails in Athens)

[42:00] “The America that we dreaded, we feared, we hoped for is gone.” What’s to be born?

[45:42] Living through a radical moment

[52:10] No progress without struggle

[54:50] The natural order is change, we were just born in a pause

[55:40] The responsibility of journalists

[1:00:20] The journalist’s dilemma

[1:07:00] The advantage of being Israeli (On chutzpah and frank conversations)

Get on the email list at uncertain.substack.com
Oct 10, 2020
Why Everything Is a Culture War Thing (w/ Katie Herzog)
4008
We talk to one of the most (to quote Adaam) inexplicably hated people in media: Katie Herzog. She helps us understand the controversy that's hounded her for the past three years, why you can't escape the culture war (even if you really, really try), and why Americans just can't take/make a joke anymore. We also talk about sex. If you like what you hear, check out Katie's podcast with Jesse Singal, Blocked and Reported (and maybe revisit her old pieces on The Stranger).

If you haven’t already, sign up to Uncertain Things wherever you get your podcasts.

On the agenda:

Everything is a Culture War Thing - [6:46]

Why are you so loathed? [9:39]

Why it’s dangerous to talk to de-transitioners [13:11]

What “platforming” means [17:23]

“What’s wrong with the moment right now.” / Katie’s take on Jordan Peterson [21:20]

The backlash “sparked this change in me.” [24:50]

The right’s strength? Picking up on the left’s weaknesses [28:17]

A liberal in a Navy town [32:01]

Is there wokeness in Israel and is it anti-Israel? [35:37]

People are desperate for community [39:20]

The secrets of podcasting success [44:04]

On humor and the lack thereof [46:46]

“Cuties” and puritanical panic [48:52]

Sex and hysteria on both sides [52:37]

The biggest blindspot on the left and the right [57:19]

The equal and opposite reactions of Trump [1:00:05]

Experimenting with sobriety [1:02:36]

Get on the email list at uncertain.substack.com
Oct 06, 2020
Wake Up, Change the Channel (w/ Michael Smerconish)
3960
Michael Smerconish, host of eponymous shows on CNN and SiriusXM P.O.T.U.S., joins us to talk about why everything is so rotten in political media. We talk about surviving as an independent in a partisan world, about the bad incentives of the news industry, and of course about the Notorious RBG.

On the agenda:

RBG & Scalia - RIP [1:59]

Smitten with media [10:53]

Ronald Reagan among the sausages [11:36]

Becoming an independent (“I wasn’t suited for the party or the party wasn’t suited for me.”) [15:30]

The hunt for the hunt for Bin Laden [16:52]

“I end up pissing off everybody.” [19:43]

Pennsylvania proud [25:00]

RBG’s passing and the fall-out [27:24]

“The polarization of the media has led to a polarization of society.” [32:19]

Trying to prove that you need not be an ideologue [39:28]

All the choices, no decisions [46:42]

“What isn’t keeping me up at night?” [50:25]

Cringe-worthy columns of yore [56:56]

Get on the email list at uncertain.substack.com
Sep 24, 2020
'I'm a Liberal Who Lost His Faith' (w/ Tom Holland)
5376
Listen now (89 min) | Tom Holland, historian and bestselling author of Rubicon and In the Shadow of the Sword, joins us to discuss his latest book, Dominion: The Making of the Western Mind. A certified atheist, Tom puts his own liberal, secular worldview to scrutiny and asks, why do we Westerners believe what we believe? (Turns out we’ve been “breathing in liberal values like radiation from Chernobyl.”) This question embraces everything from human rights to sexuality, from separation of church and state to Black Lives Matters.

Get on the email list at uncertain.substack.com
Sep 19, 2020
P.S. Getting Drunk for Jesus (Persico Revisited)
4489
To celebrate the release of the first episode of Uncertain Things, Vanessa and Adaam got together (virtually) with house expert on all things Christian Misha Thomas to drill further into some of the topics brought up by Tomer Perisco. Consider this part 2 of our “Christianity and the West” trilogy.

Stay tuned — the epic finale is coming soon. And if you haven’t already, subscribe:

On the agenda:

Introducing Misha, our expert on all things evangelical [1:10]

On religion as a literary expression [8:00]

On ritual [12:41]

Attending the college of contradictory ideals [15:35]

How Paul gave us the concept of religion (with a hat tip to Plato, too) [24:30]

Metaphorical tea time with Richard Dawkins [37:30]

Revelation nation [41:00]

God is dead, we’re all Gods [44:00]

Surviving a chaotic universe, 1st century B.C. style [55:35]

On identity, trauma, and resilience [1:00:49]

Primed for compassion, a Misha fable for the future [1:09:15]

Get on the email list at uncertain.substack.com
Sep 11, 2020
How The Image of God Made Us All Atheists (w/ Tomer Persico)
6174
Tomer Persico, religious scholar and Israeli intellectual, talks to us (in our inaugural podcast — woohoo!) about what he considers to be one of the most impactful ideas in the modern world: The Image of God.

On the agenda:

How Tomer found religion [5:16]

What is “The Image of God”? [14:38]

How St. Paul broke Judaism. [29:27]

Let there be atheism. [48:30]

The cult of authenticity and Donald Trump. [56:20]

Identity politics is just another strand of Christianity. [1:14:46]

What’s going on in Israel? [1:31:10]

Uncertain Things is hosted and produced by Vanessa M. Quirk and Adaam James Levin-Areddy. For more doomsday thoughts, subscribe to uncertain.substack.com

Get on the email list at uncertain.substack.com
Sep 01, 2020