Six podcasts to follow the insanity that is current US politics

1. NPR POLITICS @nprpolitics

I mean, obviously.

NPR is the mother of all politics podcasts. It’s literally the only half-hour you need to keep on top of what everyone will be talking about for the week. It’s also a great insight into how the US political media functions (spoiler: not like in Britain).

Best for: Non-partisan (ish) analysis by super experienced political reporters who know a helluva lot about the complexities of US government.

Hosted by: It varies, but regulars include White House correspondent Tamara Keith and congressional reporter Scott Detrow, with appearances by political editor Domenico Montanaro.

Ignore if: I literally can’t think of a reason. Everyone should listen to this.

2. THE DAILY @mikiebarb

I covered the launch of the New York Times second attempt at a daily politics podcast for Forbes and I have to admit, I was kind of sceptical. It was billed as a sort of sequel to the hugely successful The Run-Up, but I worried it wouldn’t be able to differentiate itself from standard morning radio you might listen to while you get ready for work. Actually, it’s great. More of a deep-dive than a news bulletin, it gives you more information about the issue than you’re likely to pick up anywhere else, leaving you to seek out the rest of the news on your own which, let’s face it, anyone listening probably already has.

Best for: Knowing more than anyone else about the background to the front page stories.

Hosted by: Michael Barbaro

Ignore if: You’re not on EST. I mean, not really, I listen to it anyway, but if it was up at 7am London time that would be much more enjoyable. It just has a morning feel to it.

3. POD SAVE AMERICA @podsaveamerica

The first podcast from Crooked Media, which is basically the Gimlet of current affairs. Hosted by former Obama staffers, they unapologetically side with the Democrats on everything, and refer to the previous administration and the party in the first person. The exclusive and kind of dogmatic vibe (and the fact that it’s hosted by four identical-sounding white men, two of whom have the same name) is offset by its charming nature. It feels fresh, passionate and there’s banter aplenty, plus loads of inside knowledge on the workings of the White House.

*Apparently there’s also an adorable dog

Best for: Reflecting on the current administration in relation to the Obama years. And feeling vindicated in your indignance.

Hosted by: Jon Favreau, Jon Lovett, Dan Pfeiffer and Tommy Vietor.

Ignore if: You think the media should always be objective.

4. BLABBERMOUTH @thestranger

Ah, The Stranger: the reason I got over my Meg Ryan trauma and decided I desperately wanted to visit Seattle, and the publication that gave us Dan Savage, without whom Santorum would still be a politician’s name and ‘pegging’ would conjure up images of cribbage and not… well, google it. Savage is arguably the best part of Blabbermouth. If you like the rants at the top of the Lovecast this one is for you.

Best for: Really good arguments you can file away and use on your weird right-wing relatives next Christmas.

Hosted by: Eli Sanders, associate editor at The Stranger.

Ignore if: You’re planning to listen around kids.


Ah, Nate Silver. Remember him from the 2008 elections? How the mighty have fallen, as polls have become unreliable to the point of irrelevance. To be fair, he still predicted a much higher likelyhood of a Trump victory than any other mainstream analysis, but still gave Hillary a 71% chance of winning. That said, when you take the podcast more as commentary than as prediction, it has interesting insight.

Best for: Understanding the science behind the figures the media keeps referring to.

Hosted by: Nate Silver, technically, although the politics team at FiveThirtyEight often take over.

Ignore if: You’re more into the salacious stories about grabbing people by the pussy than the minutia of political data.

6. THE EZRA KLEIN SHOW @ezrklein

Vox is up there in my top five “new media” (urgh) companies, and its success cements Klein as one of the great digital news content innovators, alongside the likes of Jonah Peretti and Ev Williams (I know, I know, three white men — shoutout to Arianna, who started it all). Regardless, Klein is also a fantastic interviewer, and despite his ideological leanings manages to remain staunchly objective when discussing the White House lunacy with a variety of guests including Hillary Clinton, David Miliband, Ta-Nehisi Coats, Jessica Valenti, Malcolm Gladwell and, perhaps most notably, Barack Obama (yes, that Barack Obama)..

Best for: Listening to stupidly clever people talk about endlessly fascinating stuff.

Hosted by: Ezra Klein (obvs).

Ignore if: You’re short on time — they average at over an hour each.


*NOTABLE MENTIONS: Vox’s The Weeds, Slate’s Political Gabfest, and KCRW’s Left, Right and Centre — also great, not quite I-couldn’t-live-without status.

How to respond to the ridiculous arguments people are making in favour of leaving the EU*

* “Brexit” is horrible. I’m passionately against unnecessary portmanteaus and refuse to use it. Soz.


They say: “We need to control immigration!”

You say: You people may desperately try to argue this isn’t about asylum-seekers fleeing the Middle East, but we all know the truth. The reality is though that the so-called “migration crisis” really wouldn’t be affected by the UK leaving the EU. The reason Germany, Croatia and Austria are struggling with migration levels is because of the Schengen agreement, which allows free movement without the need for passports or visas within the EU.

MEDITERRANEAN SEA (Oct. 17, 2013) Distressed persons are transferred from the amphibious transport dock ship USS San Antonio (LPD 17) to Armed Forces of Malta offshore patrol vessel P52. San Antonio provided food, water, medical attention, and temporary shelter to the rescued. San Antonio rescued 128 men adrift in an inflatable raft after responding to a call by the Maltese Government. (U.S. Navy photo/Released) 131017-N-ZZ999-009 Join the conversation

The UK is not a part of Schengen, so we can refuse entry to migrants and asylum-seekers as it is – and this privilege would not be increased by leaving the EU. In fact, we would be more vulnerable: the Dublin convention of 2003 dictates that if a country in the EU processes an asylum application, they are responsible for the individual, and if they end up in a different country they can be sent back to their original point of entry. This means that if migrants try to cross the Calais border into the UK, French officials have to try and stop them. Were we to leave the EU, this would no longer be the case – we wouldn’t be able to count on the cooperation of the French authorities and we would lose the right to send migrants back.

They counter: “What about Turkey? If they join we’re screwed. I’m sure they want to work, but there are only so many jobs to go around!”

You respond: Nope. Actually that’s the exact opposite of how the economy works. More citizens create more demand for goods and services and hence, more jobs. It’s literally impossible for “them to come here and take our jobs”. And anyway, the UK has a veto which means Turkey will NOT join if we don’t want them to. Not to mention that making the drastic changes to even bother re-applying would take Turkey decades. (more…)

It’s crucial that we let young girls use social media with or without parental consent


A new proposal has surfaced which would force under-16s in Europe to get parental consent in order to access social media, and people are quite rightly outraged. Everyone from the Huffington Post to MTV have reported on the reasons why this would put vulnerable young people at risk.

When I was a teenager we didn’t really have social media. MySpace was a thing in the UK and US but where I grew up (Ibiza – no, it’s not as cool as you might think) there was MSN messenger and a smattering of dodgy chat rooms, and that was about it until I went to university, flirted briefly with Facebook and then fell head over heels in love with Twitter, before discovering the wonders the rest of the social internet had to offer. (more…)

Why I won’t back Jamie Oliver’s sugary drinks tax

Jamie_Oliver_cooking (1)Jamie Oliver’s got a new cause – and about time too. It’s been ten years since his revolutionary movement to improve school meals, and since then we’ve seen Gordon Ramsay do something similar in prisons, James Martin going into hospitals and more recently the likes of Deliciously Ella and Hemsley + Hemsley flying the flag for “clean eating” and convincing us that ditching carbs in favour of spiralisers will save our bodies and souls.

Not to be out-done, everyone’s favourite naked chef recently released Everyday Super Food, yet another beautifully photograhed cookery book that kind of fails to deliver on its premise and requires a ridiculous number of obscure ingredients and expensive, bulky appliances. And he’s got a new nemesis: sugar. (more…)

Ashley Madison hack reactions show we have massive issues with casual sex and non-monogamy

ashleymadisonA reported 37 million “cheating dirtbags” understandably panicked this week, as news emerged that leading “married dating website” Ashley Madison was hacked by a group threatening to release the information of its users.

The rhetoric has been as predictable as it is disheartening: ‘It’s outrageous that people use such services, they shouldn’t do so without expecting some sort of karmic comeuppance, the site itself is damaging to society and should just close down.’

As a progressive society we’re willing to speak out against prejudices on the grounds of race, gender, age and sexuality; we’ve accepted non-binary gender identities and call out the victim-shamers when it comes to rape and sexual assault, yet non-monogamy and the embracing of NSA (no strings attached) sex is still considered blanketly immoral. (more…)

Blame TfL’s grossly unfair working conditions for the tube strike, not the Unions

boris johnson#Unsurprisingly, London is in meltdown. There’s a tube strike for a whole day and a half and all you read, see and hear are outraged comments about the incredible disruption this will cause to every Tom, Dick and Harry’s commute.

It’s hard to blame people for taking out their anger on the workers. The media coverage of TfL industrial action is so incredibly unbalanced and biased against unions that it could make Margaret Thatcher cackle in her grave, and the sad thing is that we lap it up. (more…)

Coolest things to happen during this election campaign

1. Re-democratising parliament

Lucy Hall is standing as an independent MP in Bermondsey and Old Southwark with a pretty original platform: she will re-democratise our parliamentary system so that she’s only ever representing the views of her constituents. It involves direct votes via an app, and scalability notwithstanding, it’s a pretty cool idea. She explained her views here.